Illustration by Capitoni
Getting married in Spain: in figures
If you’re thinking of getting hitched, the statistics are not on your side. Marriage rates in Spain are at an all time low, and people are getting married later in life. According to a recent study by the Instituto de la Mujer, the average age to get married (for the first time) has now risen to 34.5 years from 25.8 in 1976, while marriage rates have halved in the last four decades.
There has also been a shift in the way people get married, with civil ceremonies now favoured over religious ones. A large number of marriages are doomed for divorce—between 1998 and 2011, there was an average of 116,365 marriage dissolutions per year. Divorce was only legalised in Spain in 1981, and the ‘express divorce bill’, introduced by the Socialist government in 2005, saw a 74.3 percent increase in the divorce rate in a single year.
This has resulted in the widespread belief that marriage seems to be weakening as a social institution, and in modern post-industrial societies there has been a rapid changing of family structures. One of the causes of this variation is the rise of cohabitation, especially among young people. Public opinions about the institution of marriage are diverse—while some people think that it is clearly obsolete, others believe that it is a life goal; and those with a more practical point of view opine that it is just some paperwork that needs to be signed to attain a better relationship with Mr. Taxman.
In 2005, Spain became the third nation to allow gay couples to tie the knot, following in the steps of the Netherlands (2001) and Belgium (2003). When Pope Benedict XVI visited Barcelona in November 2010 to consecrate the Sagrada Família, he also condemned Spain for legalising marriage for gay and lesbian couples. This provoked a ‘kiss in’ protest, where members of the LGBTQI community greeted the popemobile by kissing for five minutes.
Under the amendment to the marriage law, the first legal marriage in Spain between two men (Emilio Menéndez and Carlos Baturín) took place on July 11th, 2005 in Madrid. However, the country boasts a much longer history of same-sex couples tying the knot. A homosexual marriage took place between Pedro Díaz and Nuño Vandilaz in Galicia way back in 1061, while there was a wedding between two women—Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sánchez Loriga—in 1901. Elisa had to pose as a man, ‘Mario’, for the marriage to take place, and the pair were excommunicated and driven out of Spain when it was discovered that Mario was in fact Elisa. The marriage was never anulled and remains valid.
—You can still get married at the age of 14 in Spain, although the parliament is currently debating whether to change the minimum age to 16.
—Spaniards wear their wedding rings on their right hand but Catalans wear theirs on the left.
—18 percent of British weddings take place abroad, with Spain being the fifth most popular destination.
—The cost of a Spanish wedding dropped by 8.3 percent from 2011 to 2012.
—The Huevos de Santa Clara is a tradition that sees brides carrying a basketful of eggs to any convent of Santa Clara to secure fine weather for the big day.