More divorces and fewer getting married across the EU

The number of couples across Europe choosing to tie the knot has dropped dramatically over the course of the past 40 years.

Figures for the 28 member states show there has been a steep decline in marriages – 40 per cent fewer than in 1970.

In France and Spain, there are fewer couples saying “I do” than ever before and ceremonies have also slumped in Poland, Portugal and Italy.

The decline has been put down to a number of factors, including the fact that marriage is no longer as important from a civic or religious point of view – even in countries with a strong Catholic tradition.

In debt-ridden Greece, the treacherous state of the economy has only compounded a change in attitudes. Simply put, the next generation don’t attach the same significance to holy matrimony as their parents did.

Only in a few states, such as Germany, has the institution of marriage managed to hold on to its old allure.

At the same time, the divorce rate has doubled. Although Eurostat, who compile the figures, say that the increase may be, at least in part, down to changes in the law of a number of countries.

For many years, divorce was not possible in countries including Italy and Ireland. It was only legalised in Malta three years ago, following a public referendum.

The general trend of fewer marriages and more divorces was mirrored in Britain until very recently. The latest figures, from 2012, show that marriages actually increased by 5.3 per cent to 262,240, up from 249,133 the previous year.