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Sunday 21 September 2014

Irish couples are now dragging their heels saying 'I do'

Published 26/08/2014 | 02:30

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Forced marriage has not become a criminal act in Britain. Photo Thinkstock
Forced marriage has not become a criminal act in Britain. Photo Thinkstock

Compared with our European counterparts, Irish men and women are dragging their feet when it comes to saying 'I do'.

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According to new statistics, we are lagging behind Scandinavia, Germany and Poland when it comes to getting married young.

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the average age of an Irish groom in 2012 was 34.7 years, up from 33 in 2004. The average age of a bride is now 32.6, up from 30.9 in 2004.

Apparently the heel dragging is at its worst in the Wicklow and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown areas. Men there are refusing to get married until the age of 36 and brides are similarly reluctant at 33.8.

Whereas in Monaghan they're all mad keen to tie the knot, with grooms sprinting up the aisle, barely out of short pants at 33.1, with their blushing brides a mere 30.7.

Why are couples these days so reluctant to tie the knot? Why are they waiting until their 30s to get married? Why the delay in saying 'I do'? Peter Lunn of the Economic and Social Research Institute says that the latest figures are showing us that the trend in delayed marriages - evident since the 1970s - is just continuing to grow.

Lunn notes that the main reason for the delay in marrying is the growing level of co-habitation, which has risen strongly since the 1990s. "Up to the age of 28, Irish adults are more likely to be cohabiting than married," he says.

Apart from living together, another reason for the delay is the fact that people now live alone more and for longer periods. They date different people and only feel the need to get married if and when they meet 'the one'.

With the introduction of birth control, choosing not to get married no longer meant abstinence or an unwanted pregnancy.

Another reason for the delay in getting married is the fact that the number of people going to college has risen steadily. Increasing numbers of men and women are choosing more years of education and don't want to settle down in their early 20s. They want to have careers and use their education to get good jobs and rise through the ranks.

Another change has been the social acceptance of couples having children outside marriage. Getting pregnant no longer means an immediate sprint up the aisle. Shotgun weddings are no longer forced upon young couples who find themselves expectant parents.

The other reason is that people are having smaller families. With the average number of children per family in Ireland now only 1.38, couples feel less pressure to get married early to have big families.

Another explanation for couples putting off getting married is because of the expense.

There is a lot of pressure to have a big wedding, especially in Ireland where weddings are traditionally big and boisterous.

It's not surprising that couples find the cost alarming, with the average Irish wedding bill coming in at between €20,000-€25,000. It's a wonder anyone gets married at all.

But the good news is that marriage is still alive and well in Ireland with on average 20,000 marriages registered each year.

In fact, the figure rose to 21,770 last year, which was the highest it's been since 2008. Maybe romance is back in the air.

The 2014 Irish wedding survey by Mrs2Be.ie found that one in four couples do not get married in a church.

They also found that engagements are getting shorter - that can't be a surprise.

If you don't pop the question until you're 36, a three-year engagement would seem a little unnecessary.

December is the most popular month to get engaged in, with February following closely 
behind.

The preferred number of bridesmaids at wedding is three. The typical number of guests is between 100-150.

One thing that hasn't changed is that most couples still choose to tie the knot during the summer months, while January remains the least favourite month to get married in.

One welcome change in Ireland has been the introduction of civil partnerships. Almost 2,000 gay or lesbian people have entered civil partnerships since the legislation was put in place in April 2011.

It's good to see that romance is still alive and that although Irish couples may be slower than others to get married, they get around to it eventually.

Perhaps we should take the advice of one of Ireland's longest married couples, John and Bridget Hegarty, who celebrated 70 years of marriage this year.

The secret to their success, they both agreed, was "putting up with each other".

Sinead Moriarty

Irish Independent

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