Italians are saying ‘Arrivederci’ to church weddings as civil ceremonies overtake religious ones for the first time in the country’s history.

Driving the news

In 2018, 50.1% of weddings were conducted in town halls, registry offices or other civil ceremony locations, while 49.9% took place in churches, according to new figures from Italian national statistics bureau Istat.

The majority civil weddings number reflects the ongoing secularisation of Italy, where just under half a century ago, in 1970, civil ceremonies made up just 2.3% of all unions.

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Although nearly three-quarters of all Italians still identify as Catholics, less than a quarter say they still attend Mass on Sundays.

Fewer and fewer Italians, too, are abiding by the Church’s teaching on marriage.

A greater demand for divorces and second marriages mean couples often have no other choice than to opt for a civil ceremony.

“The meaning of marriage has changed. In the past, it was religion that sanctioned all the rites of passage of people’s lives, from baptism to marriage, which marked the entry into adult life”, Caterina Tabasso, a psychoanalyst from the Italian Association of Psychologists, wrote in Italian paper La Repubblica.

“But these days, marriage has become a more private and personal affair, where there is more freedom.

“Given that young people leave home at a later age, they feel less constrained by family pressures.

“Marriage has become something that should more closely represent the couple.

“That explains the choice of many to choose a friend as the celebrant”.

Why it matters

Another interesting conclusion from the Istat numbers is that Italy is divided into two as far as its Catholicism is concerned.

In the poorer, more traditional south, civil ceremonies make up just 30% of all marriages, but that figure jumps to 64% in the industrialised, more secularised north.

The average age of Italians entering into their first marriage also recorded an increase last year, with the number now at 33.7 years old for men and 31.5 for women.

Italians are more frequently marrying foreigners as well, with multicultural marriages up from 15% ten years ago to more than 17% in 2018.

Last year there were also just over 2,800 same-sex civil unions in Italy, with two-thirds of them between men.

Despite the ups and downs, Italians’ faith in the institution of marriage remains strong, with a 2.3% increase in the number of total ceremonies in 2018 after a decade-long decline.

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