Humanist Marriages Less Likely to End in Divorce

Humanist marriages are less likely to end in divorce, according to new Scottish statistics

New figures show that Scottish couples who get married in a non-religious ceremony have a greater chance of staying together than those who marry in a Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic or civil ceremony.

Divorce rate by type of marriage in Scotland

In response to a freedom of information request, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Services (SCTS) released statistics on divorce in Scotland by duration and type of marriage in the 2017-18 financial year. The data found couples who married in humanist ceremonies were:

  • More than two times less likely than couples married in Church of Scotland ceremonies to divorce,
  • Three times less likely to divorce than Roman Catholic marriages,
  • Almost four times less likely than couples in civil marriages to divorce.

Divorce rate for marriages under 5 years

A breakdown of divorce rates by duration was also provided in the study. For marriages that happened in the last five years, humanist weddings had the lowest divorce rate of 1.7 in every 1,000. This compared with civil ceremonies (7.3), Church of Scotland marriages (5.8), and Roman Catholic weddings (5).

For all divorce recorded (0-5 years, 5-10 years, and 10-15 years after the wedding), humanist weddings consistently had the lowest divorce rate, averaging at 2.5 in every 1,000. Civil ceremonies, on the other hand, had the highest rate of divorce, at an average of 9.6 in every 1,000.

What is a humanist marriage?

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is conducted by a humanist celebrant. Humanist marriages have been legally recognised in Scotland from 2005, when the Scottish Registrar General felt that refusing to do so would be a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Since then, humanist marriages have grown in popularity in Scotland, from 85 ceremonies in its first year to 5,702 in 2017-18. This compares with 3,166 Church of Scotland ceremonies and 1,182 Roman Catholic weddings in the same period. The most common type of marriage was a civil ceremony (14,702 during 2017-18).

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