LOVELY day to get married,” we said, driving past a church where a wedding party was gathered in the sunshine.

The happy couple posed for photographs and, as we passed by, my sister and I admired the bride’s vintage dress.

It was a blissful scene that got me wondering... “Of all the people getting married today, how many do you think will end up divorced?”

“90 per cent,” came my sister’s reply. She was only half-joking.

When you’ve been through a divorce, as she has, I guess you take a rather cynical view of marriage. And since so many marriages fail, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that many couples tying the knot today will probably split up at some point.

Divorce is a fact of life, but it’s a nasty business, often with a traumatic, long-lasting impact. I never married (more interested in a career than a marriage, until it was too late) but if I had, chances are it wouldn’t have lasted. Let’s face it, the odds aren’t great. Both my siblings are divorced, as are many of my friends.

What is changing, it seems, is that marriage isn’t as attractive a prospect as it once was, particularly for women. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics reveal that the proportion of people getting married in England and Wales has declined over the past decade, while the number of single people, across all ages, continues to rise. The proportion of women who are married is now below 50 per cent, and married men are down to 51.5 per cent.

The ONS data shows that the number of people aged 16 and over who are single and have never married rose by just under 370,000 from 2017 to 16.7 million people in 2018 - a third of the adult population. And the number of people who live with a partner but have never married continues to increase.

So why are marriage rates falling? Could it be that many people have grown up in families hit by divorce, which has put them off getting married? Is living with a partner preferable to being bound together by a marriage certificate? Is being single better than sharing your life with someone you’ll probably end up detesting?

Despite being quite cynical (and realistic) about marriage, I think it’s a shame it’s declining.

There is something very special about a long and happy marriage, and I admire and envy people who share that

journey. This week I met an old chap who’s been married 65 years, his face lit up when he talked of his wife. “She’s the boss,” he smiled.

Because I was always of the view that people should live a little and see the world before settling down, I was dismissive of anyone who married under 30, especially to teenage sweethearts. But the older I get, the more I think there’s probably a lot to be said for marrying young. Nearly all the couples I know who are happily married met young.

My cousin got married aged 17 - she’s now 60, still with her husband, and they adore

each other. Friends who met in their first week at university recently celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary. And two couples I know who got together at school, aged 14, are still happily married, several decades later.

Marrying later on can bring emotional baggage, particularly if there’s a “one who got away” forever lurking in the Failed Relationship/Lost Love section of your psyche. If you meet ‘The One’ young, I say go for it. Marriage is a risk, like anything else, and it’s not all plain sailing.

But surely it’s more fulfilling to go through life with the love, companionship and security of marriage than without it.

* BACK in 1994, as a young reporter, I wrote a rather dismissive preview of a new US sitcom about to hit UK TV. Something along the lines of "another corny show about people with perfect teeth...even the title is rubbish".

What did I know? Friends went on to be one of TV's best-loved shows and, 25 years later, it's enjoyed by a new generation of viewers. Yes, it's dated and some lines/gags don't sit well in today's climate, but it broke boundaries in its portrayal of female sexuality and had one of the first same-sex weddings on mainstream US TV. Best of all it was, and still is, warm and funny.

* IN his words, Christopher Eccleston is a northern working-class bloke, not someone you’d expect to have suffered anorexia most of his life. But in his autobiography, I Love The Bones Of You, he reveals just that. Like many actors, he has lived with anorexia and body dysmorphia, and still sees “imperfection” when he looks in the mirror.

There aren’t many actors, male or female, who would open up about that, yet it’s a condition that must be rife in the industry. When I meet actors I’m often shocked by how hollow-cheeked they are.

Well done to Eccleston for speaking out. As he says, if 11 and 12-year-old boys and girls at risk of anorexia see that he has struggled with it, hopefully “it will make them feel a little less isolated and more inclined to talk about it”, because, he adds, “I never felt I could.”