Moving to put a dent in the high number of common-law unions across the country, non-profit organisation Family Life Ministries on Saturday night treated some 50 inner-city couples to a belated Valentine's dinner on its compound in Kingston.
The couples, some of whom have been living together for the past 20 years, were encouraged to tie the knot and play their part in reducing the number of informal unions that exist throughout the country.
Family psychologist and head of Family Life Ministries, Barry Davidson, in a counselling session with the couples, said that in a time when the society is "falling apart", working to establish healthy relationships must be given priority.
"Marriage makes a lot of sense because in a society such as ours that is falling apart, we are recognising that the reason why it is falling apart is because our families are so dysfunctional," Davidson said.
"The foundation for a healthy family is a healthy marriage, and that's the reason why marriage makes sense. We need to recognise that we must work towards getting people married."
Organiser of the event, Major Neil Lewis, in commenting on the initiative which is now in its second year, pointed to some frightening statistics as the driving force behind hosting the event.
"Our aim is to work with as many partners as we can to drive marriage and family life in Jamaica because we can't continue the way we are with more than 86 per cent of our children being born out of wedlock, with half of those not knowing their fathers' name and having it on their birth certificate," Lewis said.
"It is crippling to our society and if we can change that statistic and have men, in particular, think of family as a dynasty, thinking long term other than short term, I think we can change this nation fundamentally."
He said the organisers were looking to expand the event to include the entire family in a workshop setting.
Trevor Edwards, who is a member of the Trench Town group, Fathers United for Change, described the event as priceless. He turned up at the event with his girlfriend, Kamisha Chin, with whom he has been living for the past 14 years.
Other inner-city communities that were represented at the event include Majesty Gardens, Rose Town, Trench Town and Common Sense.