Fewer couples are choosing to tie the knot in a church, synagogue or other religious venues in Leeds, new figures reveal.
For the first time ever, across England and Wales, less than a quarter of marriages were religious ceremonies.
In Leeds, there were 617 religious weddings in 2016, compared with 804 five years earlier, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. That is a drop of 23 per cent since 2011.
A quarter of weddings in Leeds are religious, in line with the rest of England and the ONS says these figures only include opposite-sex marriages.
Across England and Wales, three in four religious weddings were Anglican, while a further 11 per cent were Catholic. Non-Christian ceremonies only amounted to four per cent of the total.
Canon Sandra Millar, who heads the Church of England’s work on weddings, says many couples might think they have to be regular parishioners to get married in a church.
She said: “We want to reassure couples that they don’t have to be churchgoers to have a church wedding.
“They don’t need to be christened, and we welcome couples who already have children.
“We’re working hard to encourage couples to ‘just ask’ at a church about getting married and all the creative possibilities that there are for their service.”
In 2016, 2,527 couples got married in Leeds, four per cent more than in 2011.
Across England, the number of marriages has remained steady over the last five years, with 236,238 in 2016.
Kanak Ghosh, from the ONS, said: “Marriage rates remain at historical lows despite a small increase in the number of people who got married in 2016.
“Most couples are preferring to do so with a civil ceremony and for the first time ever.
“Meanwhile, the age at which people are marrying continues to hit new highs as more and more over 50s get married.”
Of the weddings held in Leeds, only 3.8 per cent were between same-sex couples – 46 between men and 51 between women - which was a 39 per cent increase on 2015.