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Specialist insurer Ecclesiastical publishes report on the state of matrimony in the nation’s leading television dramas

A divorce rate roughly four times the national average; a one-in-five chance of being jilted at the altar or having your spouse die, and a one-in-eight chance of having to interrupt your Christmas holiday to walk up the aisle. The statistics are real but the weddings, thankfully, are not – because this is the picture of modern marriage presented by the nation’s leading soap operas.

The figures have been drawn from the last five years of TV dramas Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale by leading church and wedding insurer Ecclesiastical Insurance.

Ecclesiastical mounted its study of soap weddings to understand how the depiction of marriage in television dramas differs from the experience in real life. The details of every marriage ceremony between 2003 and the present in each of Britain’s three most-watched soap operas were recorded and analysed.

Key findings from the study, entitled Divorced from Reality?, were:
from 2003 to March 2008, there were 48 marriage ceremonies in the three soaps.

• 11 of the marriages (23%) were called off by either the bride or groom during the wedding ceremony itself
• 36 weddings were completed successfully
• Only 11 (30%) of those 36 marriages remain intact today
• 39% have ended due to separation or divorce
• 5% were annulled (The national rate of annulments is roughly 0.07%)
• 5% were subsequently found to be invalid
• 22% have ended with the death of the husband or wife
• 13% of all ceremonies took place during the Christmas/New Year period

The study also revealed significant differences between the different dramas and their respective treatments of marriage:

• EastEnders’ weddings are most likely to end before they begin: 39% are called off at the altar compared with 7% in Emmerdale and 19% in Coronation Street.
• EastEnders also provides the highest likelihood of becoming a widow or widower
• Most civil wedding ceremonies take place in Coronation Street; Emmerdale has the least
• Coronation Street has the greatest number of Christmas/New Year weddings
• The divorce rate across all three soaps is very similar, although considerably higher than in reality. 39% of the soap weddings ended in divorce over the five year period; the nearest approximation of an equivalent real life divorce figure would be 6-10% of marriages over five years. The average length of marriage at which divorce occurs is 11.6 years.

Commenting on the results of the study, Chris Pitt of Ecclesiastical Insurance said:
“As a specialist in wedding insurance, we were interested to see how much television’s portrayal of marriage diverges from reality. While we all accept and understand that the soaps have to accentuate events for dramatic purposes, we were interested to see just how much skewing was being done.

While many viewers innately know that the rate at which marriages fail in soaps is going to be high, what we’ve found anecdotally is that people don’t realise how low the UK divorce rate actually is. They believe the soaps are more representative than they really are.

We were also struck by the findings that some aspects of marriage in the soaps are quite accurate. For example, the percentage of weddings in Coronation Street which are civil ceremonies is virtually the same as the national figure.

A wedding is one of the most stressful times in any couple’s life together and many things can and do go wrong – even in the real world. All it takes is a couple of mishaps and it’s not long before a real wedding starts to feel like a soap opera.”

According to Ecclesiastical’s own data based on the weddings it insures, around one-in-10 marriage ceremonies is cancelled in advance – although not at the altar, as occurs in the soap operas. Once cancelled many real life weddings will go ahead at a later date.

The five most common claims on Ecclesiastical’s wedding insurance policy are:
1. Damage to wedding dress, jewellery or other items of clothing
2. Cancellation of the wedding
3. Problems with the venue
4. Problems with suppliers e.g. caterers
5. Loss of/damage to wedding photographs

According to official BARB viewing figures, Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale are the nation’s top three television soap operas by size of viewing audience. In March this year, viewing figures ranged from 10 million-11 million for Coronation Street, 9 million-10 million for EastEnders and 7 million-8 million for Emmerdale.


For more information please contact:

Adrian Beeby, FWD PR
Tel: 020 7623 2356
Mobile: 07879 403564

Chris Pitt, PR Manager, Ecclesiastical Insurance
Tel: 01452 334984
Mobile 07730 068821
Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester, GL1 1JZ.

About Ecclesiastical

Ecclesiastical is a specialist insurer offering charity insurance, schools insurance, care sector insurance, churches and historic buildings insurance.

Founded in 1887 to provide insurance for the Anglican Church, it now offers a wide range of commercial insurances, as well as home, travel and wedding insurance, selling through brokers and direct.

Ecclesiastical also provides a range of financial services through IFAs and direct, including a range of ethically screened investment funds.

Ecclesiastical has been insuring weddings since 1998 and is one of the country’s leading specialists in this field.

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