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Couples in no rush down the aisle as average age of grooms is now at its highest on record at 36.8 years old

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Reluctant grooms are leaving it even longer to walk down the aisle and are now on average 36.8 years when they take the plunge - the oldest on record.

And it seems brides are in no rush either to say 'I do' and are now on average 34.8 years when they tie the knot.

New data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) also shows that same-sex couples are leaving it even later to marry.

The average age of grooms in same-sex marriages last year was 39.8 years, while brides were on average 39.3 years.

There were a total of 20,313 marriages registered in Ireland last year, 640 of which were same-sex marriages.

The age of couples tying the knot has fluctuated over the past 50 years, but has been climbing steadily since 1979.

In 1969, grooms were on average 28.1 years and brides 25.3 years. A decade later this dropped to 26.5 years for grooms and 24.3 for brides.

Since then couples have been steadily getting older when marrying. In 2014, grooms were on average 35 years and brides 33. By 2017 this had risen to 36.1 years and 34.1 years respectively.

Almost 87pc of opposite-sex marriages last year were first-time marriages for both the bride and groom

Unsurprisingly, the warmer months of June, July and August were the most popular for weddings.

Friday and Saturday continue to be the most popular days to wed for opposite-sex couples, while Friday was the most favoured day to wed for same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, the number of Catholic weddings continues to fall.

In 2010, the Catholic Church performed the lion's share of marriages, with 67pc of the 20,594 couples opting for the traditional ceremony.

Church of Ireland weddings accounted for 2pc of the total, with the same share for other religions, meaning religion played a key role for almost three-quarters of couples tying the knot in Ireland that year.

But figures for 2019 paint a very different picture.

Some 43.6pc of weddings in 2019 were Catholic - a fall from 47.6pc in 2018, 50.9pc in 2017, and a massive drop on the 2010 figure.

The figures paint a picture of a changing Irish society.

However, church weddings were still the largest single category of those recorded, with civil marriages (31.6pc) next in line. Just 1.7pc were Church of Ireland weddings.

Of opposite-sex couples, 60.2pc opted for a religious ceremony with the percentage almost flipped when it came to same sex couples, with 62pc having a civil ceremony.

How the CSO has collected the figures has also evolved. In 2010, there were four categories - Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, civil and 'other religious'.

Now those categories have evolved to include 'spiritualist union' (8pc in 2019) and Humanist Association (9.4pc), following changes in 2012 to give legal recognition to such weddings.

Philip Byers, spokesperson for the Humanist Association of Ireland, said the number of ceremonies has continued to grow since the government legislated for them in 2012.

"Even between 2015 and 2018, the numbers we have been doing, it's gone up well over 50pc," he said.

"Couples want to get married in a way that reflects their non-religious belief.

"They want something that's maybe a bit more intimate," he said.

Mr Byers said some people feel their personalities are stifled by church weddings.

"It's a very personal thing that these people are doing."

Fr Gerry O'Connor, of the Association of Catholic Priests, said the declining church figures were not surprising.

"We have a new confident generation of Irish youth who might have chosen to get married in a church but decide if they don't believe, or faith isn't part of their life, it would be contradictory," he said.

Irish Independent