He said it was “absurd and dangerous” to think that the virtues of marriage should not be extolled out of fear that it would stigmatise the unmarried.
With marriage still a common aspiration among young people, Mr Duncan Smith said it was important to ask what was stopping many of them from making a lifelong commitment to their partners.
The Government should not try to lecture people on their relationships, he said, but it was however “quite legitimate to ensure people have the opportunity to achieve their aspirations”.
He contrasted the ease with which society lauds celebrities, footballers and pop stars, whilst marriage is largely overlooked.
“Today through our celebrity focussed media we give awards to so many different groups, film stars, soap stars, pop stars and football stars,” he said.
“Yet the most basic institution, which nurtures each generation and from which so many of us draw our strength and purpose, goes unnoticed and unrewarded.
“The commitment of two people to put selfish interest to one side for the sake of each other and the children they raise is simply the very best of us as human beings.
“Marriage is perhaps the best antidote to the celebrity obsessed culture we live in, for it is about understanding that our true value is lastingly expressed through the lives of others we commit to.”
The theme of Marriage Week this year is ‘Eat, Talk and Play’ and couples are being encouraged to have a meal together and talk about their relationship, whilst also setting aside time to have fun.
The week has the strong support of Church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
He said: “Marriage nourishes our society and it’s only natural that couples should nourish themselves by making sure they have a proper helping of leisure time together.
“We know there’s no greater communication than in breaking bread together and I hope Marriage Week will serve to remind those of us who are married that we should be making time to eat and talk and play together all year round.”
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, said the week provided society with an opportunity to focus on the “vital” institution of marriage.
“Marriage and family is the bedrock of society. This week offers couples the opportunity also to celebrate their marriages and strengthen their love,” he said.