'I do' doesn't mean I don't

50 years ago, living with someone meant getting married. Today, living with someone has its own, not unrespectable status.

Fewer people are getting married, it's official.

Fewer than one in 50 women in England and Wales went through a wedding in 2008. The marriage rate - the proportion of the single population who married - was the lowest in a non-war year since records began in 1862.

Of 228,204 marriages in England and Wales in 2008, just 147,130 were people marrying for the first time.

A frighteningly numerical start to the day, I know, but the falling numbers are not my fault although I didn't marry in 2008 and statistically, I assume, I am one of the 48 out of 50 women who didn't wed in that year. I compounded this by again failing to marry in 2009 and, so far, I haven't called the Banns for 2010.


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In fact I have only managed to marry once in 55 years and there's no way I'm going through that again. (My friend Jane and I have decided we'll move in together if things don't work out with the boys).

With son Mark and prospective daughter-in-law Caitlin due to marry next April, I have been reflecting on marriage and can understand why a non-contractual living arrangement might be less stressful… and less expensive that the full traditional thing.

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The lovebirds are marrying in a barn near Stowmarket on April 16. It is booked. It is happening.

Caitlin has just about made up her mind on a wedding dress and has already asked around 40 friends to be bridesmaids. My son is fretting over the choice of a best man.

I was not being very helpful, he said tersely, when I gave him my list of suggestions. I retorted that it was quite likely either George Clooney, Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp would be available that weekend because they often have gaps between filming.

I have decided… um... we have decided, that Mark and his male ensemble (ushers, best man, dads) will wear tails. No, not furry squirrel tails, that would be a bit too kinky even for a civil wedding. I mean, of course, elegant tail-coats as worn in the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady.

The theme, we're told, is “spring” which is, presumably, green for new growth and yellow for primroses, cowslips, daffodils etc.

Yellow doesn't flatter me so I thought I might go with bluebells and grape hyacinths. It will be a bit of a departure from my usual all-purpose black. Normally, I find black can be accessorised to suit most occasions but probably not at your son's wedding.

Anyway, it's far too soon to worry about outfits because I have only lost two ounces of my three stone target and I think that might be down to the hair cut I had last week. At the risk of repeating myself, it's too soon to panic; it's too soon to panic; it's too soon to panic.

Now the deposit for the venue is paid, it looks as though Mark and Cate will be easing the marriage statistics for 2011 and this is sure to please Dave Percival, pro-marriage campaigner who said “Living together and marriage are increasingly seen as the same… yet the outcomes are radically different. Two thirds of all the first marriages in 2008 can be expected to last a lifetime. Less than 10 per cent of cohabiting relationships last even to their tenth anniversary.”

Well that's one reason to marry (or is it?). Here are my own 10 good reasons for a wedding.

1. Chances are there'll be at least one good photograph of you among the 1,000 plus that will be taken on the day.

2. The vows enshrine certain marital rights that are probably enforceable under common law - such as the right to demand a cup of tea; the right to wear stubble (girls legs, boys chins); the right to wear white underwear that got washed with the pink T-shirt.

3. Your parents get to see you looking smart for once.

4. You are the centre of attention for a whole day except when at about 4.45pm when the football results are broadcast and there is a general exodus as people leave the reception to sit in their cars and listen to the radio.

5. You won't have to pay for your drinks.

6. You will be on a promise (hopefully from your new spouse, not some oily second cousin who sidles up and offers you a night to remember).

7. Lots of presents.

8. You can safeguard your potential future assets with a pre-nup which sets out in detail the principle of “what's yours is mine and what's mine's my own”.

9. A rare chance to wear suspenders (usually girls only).

10. You can offload that embarrassing surname. “Do you Sue Slugg take Cyril Anby-Dammed to be your lawful wedded husband?”

Or here are 10 good reasons not to marry:

1. Your towering love has no need of such affirmation.

2. No reception means you don't have to be nice to chavvy relatives who bring doggy bags, whippets and unwashed, monosyllabic teenagers.

3. It's cheaper to have a honeymoon without the precursor of marriage.

4. There will no anniversary to remember each year.

5. Divorce is not an issue, you can just go apparently.

6. You can outrage maiden aunts by living in sin.

7. You are saved the angst of the bit where the vicar/registrar invites people to speak now if they know of any reason why you should not be married and you wonder if the deranged husband/wife you've had tied up in the attic for five years has escaped to scupper your chances of happiness

8. No one takes offence because they are sitting at table 15, furthest from the top table.

9. No one is upset because the John Lewis wedding present list has been ransacked by the time they look at it and they're left with a choice of one teaspoon, a garlic crusher and a pickled onion fork.

10. No one gets trashed at the stag/hen do and ends up regretting what they did next for the rest of their life.

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