How have drinking habits changed over four decades of royal weddings?

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Drinking habits: since Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles tied the knot in 1981 drinking habits in the UK have changed significantly.
Drinking habits: since Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles tied the knot in 1981 drinking habits in the UK have changed significantly.
Ahead of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding on 19 May, Portman Group analysis of UK alcohol trends shows how the nation’s relationship with booze has changed since Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles tied the knot in 1981.

While yearly alcohol consumption per head stood at just over seven litres in 1981, by the time of Prince Charles’ second wedding, in 2005, consumption per head reached a peak of roughly nine and a half litres.

Since then, alcohol consumption has been in steady decline.  

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When Prince William married Catherine Middleton in 2011, the figure had dipped to 8.2 litres, just shy of the figure when Prince Edward wed Sophie Rhys-Jones twelve years prior.

By 2016, alcohol consumption was back below eight litres per person.

The coincidence of this season's FA Cup Final and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding has led to speculation that around 50m pints of beer will be sold on what is expected to be the busiest trading day of the year​. 

Since Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles’ wedding there has also been a shift in what we drink.

In 1981, the most popular drink in the UK was beer – 59% of alcohol consumed.

By 2011, 32% of the drinks raised aloft to toast Prince William and Catherine were wine, 22% were spirits or ready-to-drinks, and 9% were cider.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser​, the sparking wine to be served on the day is being kept under wraps​. 

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Between Prince Charles’ second marriage in 2005 and Prince Harry and Meghan imminent nuptials, the proportion of people in Great Britain drinking five days a week has fallen.

In 2017, more than 9 in 10 reported having three or more alcohol free days in the last week according to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) lifestyle survey.

Since 2008, Britain’s adults are more likely to be teetotallers than binge drinkers.

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Portman Group CEO, John Timothy, commented: “While wedding styles may have changed since the eighties, it seems that as a nation our alcohol consumption has nearly fallen back down to the same levels as at the end of that decade.

“With many of us looking forward to raising a toast to Prince Harry and Meghan tomorrow, the good news is that we are much more likely to be drinking sensibly than when Harry’s father Prince Charles married Camilla in 2005.”

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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