Marriages in Spain

Yesterday, after a few months, we went out for drinks after work. However, it wasn’t a normal drinking session; we were drinking to celebrate the upcoming marriage of one of our colleagues. In fact, he is probably getting hitched as I write this. We visited the same bar we used to earlier, and there was quite a turnout-close to 10 people. The occasion got me thinking about the concept of marriage in Spain and how it is different from other parts of the world.

My colleague decided not to host a grand wedding. Instead, he chose to get married in a simple 10 minute civil ceremony with no more than 2 guests, although the truth is they are witnesses and are legally required to be there. There was also another “grander” 30 minute option also available. I asked him about why he chose to forgo the traditional wedding ceremonies and the answer was straightforward and simple: to save his money, and avoid the emotional stress and chaos.

Somehow, the traditional concept of marriage and weddings is fast losing momentum in Spain, even though it is a predominantly Catholic country. Increasingly, Spaniards simply co-habitate or opt for the pareja de hecho option, meaning domestic or common law partnership. It is a recognition by the state of the stable relationship between 2 individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. It does not bestow all the same rights as marriage, but does give a certain level of legal recognition and protection to the relationship and the persons involved. The increasingly popularity of forgoing marriage is evident in the statistics. In the year 2011, the number of consensual unions stood at close to 15%, more than double the 6% of 2001.

According to Eurostat, the Official Statistical Organization of the EU, the incidence of marriage in Spain has reduced over the past 30 years, going from 5.3 marriages for every 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 to 3.3 in 2013. In fact, it goes on to point out that “the average age at first marriage has increased by 8 years from 1981 to 2013, going from 25.2 to 33.2 years.” In the same vein, the average number of children per woman has dropped down from 2.03 in 1981 to 1.27 in 2013, and the average age of motherhood in Spain has increased from 25.2 years in 1981 to 30.4 years in 2013.

Another interesting fact is that although people are not getting married, or getting married much later in life, the laws are still playing catch up. Believe it or not, until very recently Spain had the lowest marriage age in Europe. Boys and girls could get married as early as 14, with the consent of a judge. The age has now been raised to 16, and is on par with most European countries. You can read more about it here.

Back to the topic at hand, there are still those that do go the traditional route of getting married and maybe even have a wedding ceremony. Even here, something really impressed me for its forward thinking. The traditional wedding registry/gift list is going out of fashion, and it is becoming increasingly common (even expected) to gift money to help the couple start out their lives together. In fact, couples now even include their bank account number on the invitation cards so that attendees can conveniently transfer the gift amount online!

I’ll keep this post short and end here, leaving you to digest this food for thought.

Have a great weekend!