Why are there fewer couples tying the knot in Suffolk?

Bury seems to be a popular place to get married. Bury Bridal Rooms have said they have had a busy st

Bury seems to be a popular place to get married. Bury Bridal Rooms have said they have had a busy start to the year. Pictured is owner Debi Reidy-Bond - Credit: Gregg Brown

The number of couples tying the knot in Suffolk may be dropping but that does not mean many people do not see it as a significant part of their lives.

Bridie Collins from Marriage Care

Bridie Collins from Marriage Care - Credit: Archant

That is the message from one charity leader after figures for the county show fewer couples are getting married now than they were three years ago.

A request for statistics from Suffolk County Council showed the number of weddings taking place in Suffolk has dropped by around 8% since 2011.

The 2013-14 financial year saw a total of 3,462 marriages registered across the county compared to 3,780 for the same period in 2011-12.

But Bridie Collins, director of relationship support at charity Marriage Care, says she doesn’t expect the decline to continue at the same rate.

The Very Revd Martin Thrower, of St Mary's Church in Hadleigh, has said people still get married in

The Very Revd Martin Thrower, of St Mary's Church in Hadleigh, has said people still get married in churches because many have a personal connection to them. - Credit: Su Anderson

Marriage Care supports couples about to get married as well as those needing relationship counselling and Mrs Collins said sometimes the decision not to marry may not be a conscious one. There has been a general decline over the years,” she said. “Once upon a time it was a conventional thing to do.

“Now with cohabiting, couples don’t have to get married so they get into a relationship and get the mortgage and have children and there are no social barriers to that, so they don’t have the wedding.

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“An American researcher calls it sliding rather than deciding. When couples slide into a long term relationship, maybe they haven’t made that decision that their partner is ‘the one’.”

Mrs Collins added she didn’t think marriage was dying out but people who had more positive experiences of it growing up were more likely to have a wedding themselves.

Director Richard Curtis and his wife Emma Freud arrive at the premiere of About Time at Somerset Hou

Director Richard Curtis and his wife Emma Freud arrive at the premiere of About Time at Somerset House in London. - Credit: PA

While overall marriage numbers may be dropping those taking place in churches appear to have stayed at similar levels.

In fact there were more church weddings recorded in 2013-14 and the preceding 12 months (1,086 and 1,109 respectively) than in 2011-12, when 1,073 took place.

The Very Rev Martin Thrower, rector of Hadleigh, Layham and Shelley, said: “For us here we are doing more baptisms than we used to and certainly with funerals in Hadleigh we are hardly doing any at all just in the crematorium. I think that’s a pretty similar thing when it comes to weddings as well.”

Mr Thrower added the variety and flexibility offered in a church wedding may have contributed to the figures holding steady.

“We have not seen any decline here,” he said. “We have really intimate weddings where there have been only 10 people or we might do the whole traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles.

“There’s a sentence that gets used here quite a lot: ‘The answer is yes, now what is the question?’”

Brides love Bury as a picturesque backdrop for their nuptials

While the number of weddings taking place may be falling it seems picturesque Bury St Edmunds is still a popular location in which to get married.

Between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014 there were 415 ceremonies carried out at Suffolk County Council’s register office in the town, more than at any of its other locations in the county.

Debi Reidy-Bond runs Bury Bridal Rooms in St John’s Street and said business has started to pick up this year.

“We only started three years ago and really the weddings took a decline in 2013,” Mrs Reidy-Bond said. “But this year it has taken off really well.

“Last year was a bit better but it wasn’t amazing, but now we’re probably up on our fittings by about 50% and the wedding fairs are much busier.

“There’s still so many girls that want the traditional wedding so that won’t change. I think it’s going to come back.”

Mrs Reidy-Bond said a number of reasons could have put couples off tying the knot.

One of those could be more people starting families before getting married, meaning the wedding gets put on the back burner.

Another reason was simply the cost of arranging the big day.

“I think it’s related to finances with the recession and everything,” Mrs Reidy-Bond said.

“It’s a big purchase but I think there’s more positivity out there now.”

The majority of business at Bury Bridal Rooms seems to be related to the all important wedding dress with Mrs Reidy-Bond adding few customers wanted to engage a wedding planner as well.

“We tell people that we do it but they don’t book it,” she said. “Most brides just want to do it themselves.”

Walking down a church aisle is still a popular choice

In the Very Rev Martin Thrower’s experience it is often because people have a link with a church that they choose to get married there.

While the number of weddings in the county has declined those taking place in churches have stayed fairly constant.

And Mr Thrower, rector of Hadleigh, Layham and Shelley, said people will often travel long distances to get married in the right place for them.

“I guess it’s something to do with the fact that people have some kind of connection with a church,” Mr Thrower said.

“Quite often we have people who say ‘I was baptised here’ or ‘My parents were married here’.”

Mr Thrower added he thought as much as 70% of the people getting married in Hadleigh were people coming back to the town because of such a connection.

He also said the venue itself could be the draw for couples rather than their religion.

“People say marriage is a really important marker in their life,” Mr Thrower added.

“Whether they say they want to do that in front of God I’m not sure, but because it is such an important thing in their life they want to do it in that space.

“I think subconsciously it is because it is religious but I’m not sure people want to use those words.”

Richard is lost for words

One couple who have famously remained unmarried are Richard Curtis and Emma Freud – despite the former’s best (or worst) attempts.

Four Weddings and a Funeral writer Curtis, who penned the hit 1994 film to try and explain to his mother why he hadn’t tied the knot, let slip last year on a radio show he might propose to Freud.

But his partner of more than 20 years decided romance was decidedly lacking from his attempt at popping the question when it appeared in a newspaper a day ahead of the broadcast.

She tweeted: “Whaaaat? First I’ve heard about it. Is this what you call a proposal? In the telegraph???” and said it was the worst ever marriage proposal.

According to Curtis the pair, who have a house in Walberswick near Southwold and have four children together, became an item after repeatedly meeting at other people’s weddings.