Monday, May 20, 2013

Yo Quiero = I Do: A Look at Marriage in Spain Today

Marriage in Spain is a pretty popular state. Indeed, over half of all Spanish adults are married. However, marriage rates have been falling since the financial crisis began in 2008. The year before saw the country's marriages dip below 200,000 for the first time in ages -- to 199,660 marriages to be exact -- and the rate has been falling ever since. The most recent statistics available are from 2011, during which 158,220 Spaniards married.

Wedding Costs

Weddings in Spain have traditionally been huge affairs, with massive parties held after the ceremony to allow all the friends and family of the happy couple to celebrate their big day. In this time of recession even wedding budgets are facing cutbacks though, and last year the average amount spent on the whole wedding fell by 8.3% to €13,190. There is a lot of variation between the most and least expensive weddings, with Madrid weddings costing most, and those in the Canary Islands being among the least costly. The areas where most savings are being made tend to be honeymoons and receptions, with many couples choosing not to take an expensive holiday after their wedding. Today, with recession hitting Spain hard and unemployment rates soaring to over 27%, it’s unsurprising that wedding budgets are feeling the pinch. Another possible result of the financial hardship in Spain at the moment is that the average age for women to marry for the first time has risen from around 25 years in 1991 to nearly 30 in 2008.

Wedding Tourism

Spain is also a popular destination for overseas weddings, its beautiful scenery and historic cities attracting many couples from all over Europe and the rest of the world. Many people come to Spain to marry for the sake of the traditions and customs as much as the location and weather. There are numerous overseas wedding companies who can arrange weddings tailor-made to a couple’s needs, as well as guiding them through the red tape and legal documentation. The requirements vary depending on whether a Catholic or civil ceremony is held; for a civil ceremony the requirements can be complex, and two years residency is needed. Most overseas couples opt for a Catholic wedding, or have a civil wedding in their home country and receive a blessing in Spain. Marrying abroad is often less expensive than marrying at home and couples can combine the costs of honeymoon and wedding. Special wedding insurances are available to protect the couple from disaster and are probably necessary in addition to travel insurance, which is unlikely to cover costs such as wedding dress replacement.

Same Sex Marriage
Spain legalised same-sex marriage in 2005, the third country in the world to do-so. The first same-sex couple to marry in Spain, Emilio Menendez and Carlos Baturin German, tied the knot just outside Madrid on July 11th 2005. In the first year of legality approximately 4500 couples married. There was some conflict at the time of legalisation, many Roman Catholics particularly disapproved of non-heterosexual unions, and the Pope called them ‘unnatural, immoral and harmful’; however the law was supported by around two thirds of the population, despite 80% of Spaniards identifying themselves as Catholic. Since 2005 there have been some legal challenges to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, notably in 2007 when the Spanish Family Forum attempted to formally define marriage as the union of a man and a woman; the motion was rejected by the Spanish Congress. Today gay couples come from all over the world to marry in Spain.

Wedding traditions

Spanish wedding traditions include the groom being escorted by his mother up the aisle, where he waits for his bride, who will be led by her father. After the vows the groom traditionally gives his bride thirteen coins in a purse; to represent a dowry and symbolise his intention to provide for her. The bride gives her unmarried female guests small pins in the shape of flowers; these are worn upside down and if they become dislodged and fall out during the reception it is said that the wearer will soon be married.

Divorce laws

Divorce was only legalised in Spain in 1981, over a century after the UK. Since then divorce laws have been reformed to rid them of the notion of a ‘guilty party’ in the marriage. Divorce rates have grown since legalisationin 2002 around 15% of Spanish marriages ended in divorce, higher than Italy but much lower than the UK, where the figure was 42.6%. Divorce rates seem to be stabilising now, possibly due to the recession making divorce too expensive for some couples. Rates of marriage have fallen sharply over the same period; halving between 1970 and 2011. This trend is mirrored throughout Europe, with similar falls in the UK. Many more Spanish couples now are choosing to live together, rather than marry, which is borne out by the numbers of babies born out of wedlock, which have soared from under 2% in 1970 to around a third of live-births in 2011. The stigma historically attached to babies born to unmarried mothers has lessened materially.

So, who knows -- once the economy straightens out, there may be quite a boom in marriage ceremonies, as couples who put off 'making it legal' for financial reasons decide to formally tie the knot.

By Melissa Hathaway (mostly) and Carloz (very little)

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