The number of Britons tying the knot has collapsed to a record low, it has emerged.
The proportion of men and women getting married is below any level found since figures were first kept nearly 150 years ago.
And the number of weddings held in 2006 was the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level.
The evidence that marriage is withering away at an increasing pace was met with a furious response from critics of Labour's benefits system, which disregards the status of husbands and wives and pays parents extra to stay single.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis claimed the Government had "fuelled family breakdown" and researcher Patricia Morgan, who coined the phrase "marriage lite" to describe cohabitation, said Labour had succeeded in "eradicating" marriage.
"This is what they have tried to achieve and they should be congratulating themselves," she added.
"But it is a disaster for children, families and society."
The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, said that in 2006, fewer than ten in every 1,000 single adults in England and Wales were married.
Among men the rate was 22.8 in every 1,000, among women 20.5. When marriage-rates were first calculated in 1862 the level was 58.7 for men and 50 for women.
Full story here.