A Brief History of Marriage: 1960s-Present

history of marriage
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Marriage has a long history, originating before written records, possibly during the Stone Age. However, as cultural norms shift, so too has the definition and nature of marriage. It wasn’t until the fall of the Romans that the Catholic Church elevated marriage to a holy sacrament. Unlike these early forms of marriage, couples now marry based on love. However, the last 50 years has seen the institution decline, with divorce rates up. This makes marriage counselling more important than ever. Here’s how marriage has evolved over the last century.


79% of over 18s were married during the 60s and these marriages tended to happen at a young age. The average groom was 23, while the average bride was just 20. The role of women growing up in the 40s/50s was to become a mother and homemaker.

While marriage was still a union based on love, it was also an essential provider of income for women. The divorce rate in 1960 was only 22%. However, attitudes towards marriage were starting to shift and in 1967, divorce laws were relaxed, which began an upward trend in marital problems. This is why the role of marriage coaching has become more important in the last few decades.


The 1960s sparked a cultural revolution, with the rise of feminism and sex positivity. By the 1980s, body shapes were changing, due to a change in lifestyle habits such as eating and exercise. By the end of the 80s, the average groom was now 26 and the average bride was 23.

Despite a tendency to marry later in life, divorce rates continued to climb to over 50%. The institution of marriage was still popular, however, being the basis of a strong family unit and a majority of US residents dreaming about their wedding day. The role of the couple was also changing, with men spending more time with children and women spending more time at work.


Despite a clear decline in marriage rates over time, the divorce rate dropped between 2013 and 2016, while marriage rates increased. However, as the role of husband and wife change, it is important that couples use coaching to better understand each other, being open about what they want from a marriage.

3.5% of married men are now stay at home dads, up from less than 2% in the 1970s. Furthermore, in 2015, the definition of marriage was changed once more to allow same sex marriages throughout the United States. Marriage has become more diverse, meaning that couples need to work harder to understand what their union means to them and how they can become a better spouse.

Married couples are regularly surveyed to be both happier and wealthier than single couples, even if only half over 18s are now married. The average age for a groom is now 29 and for a bride, it’s 27.

Marriage is a constantly evolving institution. The liberation of women has changed the roles of couples, but marriage continues to be a significant part of our society. Thanks to advances in marriage coaching, the divorce rate is starting to decline again, but we should recognize that each couple is on a unique journey and require a bespoke solution to marital issues.

Article provided by: Jackie Edwards, Freelance Contributor