A bishop has warned the Government that more needs to be done to encourage couples to wed as official figures revealed that marriage rates have dropped significantly.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the number of co-habiting couple families increased by 25.8 per cent from 2.7m in 2008 to 3.4m last year.
The ONS claimed the rise may be explained by an increasing trend to cohabit instead of marrying or to cohabit before marriage. In 2011, more than 85 per cent of newlywed couples lived together before marriage.
The Bishop of Wakefield, Tony Robinson, claimed ministers needed to do more to persuade couples to commit to marriage.
He said: “I think it does demand action by the government - whether there are any benefits in getting married financially. Sometimes it doesn’t seem as if there are. That used to be the case.”
The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, acknowledged there had been a trend for marriages rates to decline, but maintained he was not overly concerned.
He said: “Clearly if you look at the stats over the last 30 or 40 years there’s been a rate of decline but rumours of the demise of marriage are grossly exaggerated.”
He said one factor was the financial burden of organising a wedding, with the average cost now about £20,000.
“The cost of weddings is certainly increasing,” he said. “Because there seems to be this social pressure to put on a big do.”
In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, less than quarter of marriages were religious ceremonies for the first time.
A Treasury spokesman said a marriage allowance for income tax was introduced in 2015 to “recognise the importance of marriage”.
He said married couples also benefit from exemptions for their spouses for inheritance tax and capital gains tax.