If a man wants to live a long life he should marry an intelligent woman, according to scientists.

London - The number of marriages has gone up for the second year in a row, partly thanks to a growth in couples in their late 50s and 60s getting hitched for a second or third time.

But younger couples choosing to marry are turning their backs on church weddings, opting instead for “approved premises”, such as stately homes and hotels.

Church of England white weddings have fallen by more than a half in the last 20 years.

The transformation of the institution of marriage was set out in figures for 2011 released by the Office for National Statistics.

They showed that in England and Wales there were 247 890 weddings, up 1.7 percent from the 243 808 the previous year, and more than 15 000 up on the historic low for marriage recorded in 2009.

But the rise among older couples was far greater. There was a 6.9 percent increase in the number of weddings among women aged 55 to 59 and a 6.5 percent increase among men over 60. This contrasted with falls among some younger age groups.

Many of the older brides and grooms were getting remarried, having been through divorce from an earlier marriage.

The figures show that 15 percent of all weddings involved a husband and wife both marrying for the second time.

The ONS said it was too early to tell whether the two-year jump was a blip or a permanent reversal of the decline in marriage that has been happening since the early 1970s. But it said the rise could be linked to the recession and the squeeze on people’s pockets. “The increase in the number of marriages could be due to a reduction in the number of residents of England and Wales marrying abroad,” its report said, adding that surveys at ports and airports suggest the number of people marrying in resorts such as those in the Mediterranean or Caribbean has dropped by 40 percent to 55 000 in 2011.

The marriage boom among older couples mirrors a rise in divorce among those age groups revealed in figures last year.

There was speculation that the spread of online dating may have made it easier for middle-aged divorcees to start new relationships.

Family lawyer Vicki McLynn of Pannone Solicitors said: “Life now is not necessarily over just because you reach the age of 55.

“We are seeing more middle-aged couples who choose to divorce and these latest figures confirm that men and women do not see their age as a bar to marriage either.”

Weddings in approved premises accounted for 58 percent of all marriages, 143 220. But there were only 73 290 religious ceremonies held in churches, mosques, synagogues or temples, down by more than half since 1992.

The decline of marriage means that a third of men now reach their 40s without ever having been married, the report from the ONS said. The average marriage is expected to last 32 years, the report said. It found that just over one in three marriages end in divorce before the 20th anniversary. - Daily Mail