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Where Are the Wedding Belles and Beaus?

Doesn’t the saying go like this: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage?” These days, many partners are no longer sticking to this three-step formula. In fact, for a growing number of couples, marriage is no longer a part of the equation.

A shocking and new study finds that many more people are sticking to their “I don’ts” rather than to the standard “I do.” Marriage was something to look forward to in days gone by, but in the 21st century, it seems that this is no longer the case.

In a study by The Pew Research Center, only 51 percent of American adults ages 18 and over are currently married. In 1960, things were much different. Compared to today’s 51 percent, 72 percent of American adults ages 18 and over were married. It is a little over half a decade now and the tides of change for marriage are turning.

It is easy to assume that this new discovery can be related to the rise of blended families, single parenting, and co-habitation among couples.

However, in a 2001 Population Reference Bureau article by Bill O’Hare, “Over the last five years, it appears that the yearly increases in single-parent families that defined the U.S. landscape for more than 40 years have ended. The share of children born to unmarried mothers has stabilized, the divorce rate continues to fall, and the share of children living in single-parent families has stabilized and inched downward.”

Eleven years later, while the rate of unmarried mothers is stabilizing, the rate of unmarried people in general is taking a noted and significant increase.

This issue is not only occurring in America, it is also happening in the United Kingdom. According to  the Economist, marriage has become very unpopular in England and in Wales.Ironically, it is reported in the 2011 article that “the statistics from the Office for National Statistics on February 17th [showed that] the number of divorces in England and Wales fell again in 2009, by 6.4% from the previous year.” In America, this is also the case. In an article by USA Today’s Chuck Raasch, “Despite the tabloid travails of the rich and famous, the overall divorce rate has fallen since the 1980s.” On a positive note, the people who do decide to take this risky leap of faith and commitment are staying together despite the odds.

Also, for those who are saying “I do,” they are becoming a growing minority in the western hemisphere. People who decide to rehearse their vows and to take the plunge (or so it seems) are taking longer to get married. The Pew Research Center reported that the average age for a woman to get married these days is 26.5. The average age for men is 28.7. Across the Atlantic Ocean, many first marriages occur at “just over 32 for men and just under 30 for women in 2008,” according to the Economist.

What is bringing about this sudden aversion to “’til death do us part?” Are the alternative ways of living, (such as the co-habitation option mentioned earlier) proving to be a better, realistic, and more practical alternative? What does this mean for the institution of marriage in the United States? Is the modern family evolving and taking on a new shape? Fifty years from now, will marriage be a thing of the past?

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