The study of marriage behaviour is an interesting subject. Statistics on marriage enhance our understanding of changes in trends and patterns of marriage. We experienced a downward trend in the number of registered marriages. In 1996, there were 37,000 marriages registered in Hong Kong. This constituted a fall of 15 per cent, as compared with 43,300 registered marriages in 1986. In analysing the changes in the marriage trends, it is useful to look at statistics on 'marriage rates' as the number of marriages is affected by the age and marital composition of the population. The marriage rate is defined as the number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried men and women aged 16 and over. In 1996, the marriage rates were 38 for men and 35 for women. The corresponding rates for men and women were 42 and 45 in 1986, a fall of 10 per cent and 22 per cent respectively. As regards the timing of marriage, as increasingly more men and women stayed longer in education and started to work later, the median age at first marriage for both bachelors and spinsters increased in the past 10 years. The median ages at first marriage was 30 years for bridegrooms and 27 years for brides in 1996. The median age at first marriage is the age such that 50 per cent of the total number of bridegrooms or brides at first marriage are above this age while the other 50 per cent are below it. Although there is a declining trend in marriage rates, the remarriage rates for the widowed and divorced men and women increased during the past years. It is interesting to observe there is a prominent seasonal pattern in marriage in Hong Kong as Chinese customs play an important role in the timing of marriage. More people get married in the months of November and December, reflecting the strong preference to get married before the Chinese New Year. There is, however, a decline in the number of marriages in January and February which is the timing of the Chinese New Year festival. July and August are unpopular months for marriage. This is because July and August usually fall in the Chinese lunar months of June and July. Lunar June splits the Chinese lunar year into two halves and this is customarily viewed as an unlucky month for marriage. Similarly, lunar July is the month of the Chinese Ghost Festival and is also considered as inauspicious for marriage. For more information on this series of articles, please write to the General Statistics Branch (2) of the Census & Statistics Department at Wanchai Tower, 12 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, or call 2582-4732.