Where Do Europeans Go to Get Married?

I don’t feel like digging up a cite at the moment, but I’m sure most of us are aware that church attendance in Europe is staggeringly lower than it is in the US (or it’s staggeringly higher in the US than it is in Europe, depending on how you want to spin it). Anyway, does that mean that most secular Europeans opt for the courthouse (or magistrate or whatever you call it), or are church weddings still the norm?

Here in Ireland, plenty of non-religious people still go for religious weddings but civil ceremonies are increasingly common.

Same in France. Civil ceremony is mandatory, so people who go to go to the church also go at the civil hall.

In Germany you can only marry in a church if one person of the couple is a churchmember. And they still need a civil ceremony. So they are getting married twice.

In the UK and I believe Ireland, the same process as in America applies – you may contract a legal marriage in a church, the clergyman acting as agent of the state to officiate over your wedding and signing the marriage license. In Germany and France, and I believe most of the rest of Europe, the civil ceremony is the legal wedding; you can have a church service if it is called for by your beliefs, but what counts at law is what you do in front of the registrar, prefet, or whoever is legally empowered to officiate by the state. So religious people would have two ceremonies, one matter-of-fact but legally binding before the legal officiant, and one at the church with no legal significance but important to their own beliefs.

I read an interesting article in the New Yorker a while back about how Israelis, especially Russian-born Israelis, increasingly go to Cyprus to get married. Apparently the rabbis who run the Jewish marriage authority are real a-holes about Russian Jews who can’t prove their Jewishness. They can’t get married in Israel, but Israel recognizes out-of-country marriages, so they get around it that way.

You are correct about Ireland.

The majority of marriages in Ireland are conducted in church, even, as An Gadaí pointed out, where the people getting married are not religious. There are various reasons including family and social expectations, the marrying couple’s idea of what constitutes a “proper” wedding, and so on. I got married in a register office, but I am in a minority in that respect.

In the UK, previously the choice was a church ceremony or a civil ceremony at a register office.

Quite recently (in 1995), there was a big change in that other venues could apply for licences to hold civil ceremonies. You still couldn’t marry outdoors or in a “temporary or moveable structure”, but I believe that is also changing (or has very recently changed).

So yes, lots of people get married in country houses, hotels, fancy restaurants etc, whereas the tradition would have been to marry in the church then go on to such a venue for the reception.

I am not religious and would have felt hypocritical getting married in a church, but equally register offices seem a bit spartan. So I got married here.

When Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowls his original plan was to have the civil ceremony in a room at Windsor Castle, but then someone pointed out that they’d have to apply for a licence to conduct the wedding their and open the castle up to anybody who wanted to get married there for 3 years. AFAIK it’s still illegal to hold a wedding in a private hom in England (barring exception circumstances like one party is housebound or on their deathbed).

In the US there are no legal restrictions on where a wedding can be held at all. One of my sister’s weddings was in our grandparents’ backyard. Also anybody can get ordained on the Internet and officiate at a wedding. I think British authorities use a much stricter defination of “clergy”.

All over the place - registry offices, churches or other religious venues, and random venues like castles, country houses, football stadiums, the London Eye, etc.

Since 1992, there have been more civil ceremonies in England and Wales than religious ceremonies. In 2008, civil ceremonies accounted for 67 per cent of all ceremonies, an increase from 61 per cent in 1998. The increased proportion of civil ceremonies coincides with a rise in the number of premises licensed for weddings.

I’m assuming that the extra 6% of civil ceremonies is mostly at places other than registry offices; I guess some people who would have otherwise chosen a registry office would go for a different civil venue instead, so 6% might be an underestimate, but not by a significant amount.

A lot of the non-religious side of my family still have their weddings and funerals in churches, anyway, and the religious side don’t go to church every week either.

In France, you’re married at the town hall. That’s the only valid marriage (priests, pastors, etc… don’t have any license to marry, so a religious marriage has no legal value).

It doesn’t consist in just signing some papers in front of a public servant. Either the mayor or one of his deputies celebrates it (the smaller the place and the most well connected you are, the most likely it will be to be married by the mayor himself. Being married by the mayor in a large city is rare, obviously). All the guests attend the ceremony, besides reading the mandatory statutes, the mayor/deputy generally makes some small speech, the couple kisses, and so on. Sometimes there’s music, it’s organized in a nice hall when the place has one, etc… In small villages, there’s sometimes a “vin d’honneur” (lit. “honour wine”) where everybody can come to have a drink.

In other words, a civil marriage in France is a ceremony in itself, even though not as long and ceremonial as in a church.
Following that, most people go to church for the religious marriage. Even though, as you mentioned, people aren’t very religious, marriage is an instance when people will still go to church, if only to please their families if they aren’t religious at all. Two of my brothers, as atheists as their spouses, went to church, even though they passed on the full mass, and opted for a benediction. For one of them, there was a massive cover-up by all the guests so that my sister-in-law’s very religious grand-mother wouldn’t know that they have been married for months before the church ceremony (typically, the religious ceremony immediately follows the legal marriage, on the same day).

This is true. There is no such thing as civil marriage in Israel. All weddings must be officiated by a religious official. And the religious authorities can be very strict about whose weddings they will officiate. This makes things like interfaith marriages virtually impossible. Russian Jews (ie, people who were born in the former Soviet Union, who make up about a sixth of the population of Israel) have a lot of problems, as do Ethiopian Jews. In order to get married, most rabbis will require that members of those two groups formally convert to Orthodox Judaism, since the Orthodox have a monopoly of state recognition of Judaism. Years ago, it used to be that the rabbinate in Tel Aviv suburb of Netanya was the only one in the country that recognized Ethiopian Jews’ Judaism, and would perform marriages without a conversion, so lots of Ethiopian-Israelis had their weddings there. Not sure if that’s still the case.

It’s complicated. I’m eligible for Israeli citizenship, but I’m not considered Jewish by Orthodox standards, so I could immigrate to Israel, but unless I converted to Orthodox Judaism or one of the other religious groups recognized by the state, I could not get married there, period. Going to Cyprus is the popular alternative.

Fascinating. I literally had no idea.

How do Christians and Muslims get married in Israel? Does Israeli law allow such marriages to be performed there, or do Israeli non-Jews have to leave the country to marry?

They can be married by their own clergy.

Israel recognises some Christian sects (9 or 10, I think), Islam (don’t know if they count all or some of the different sects), and Druzeim as official and able to perform marriages. Baha’i may be recognised too, but I’m not sure on that one.

The rules are basically the same, a member of that faith’s clergy says you’re that faith and you get married. And just like with Judaism it’s as hard or easy as they want to make it to prove that you really are that faith.

Other religions or atheist will have to head outside Israel, as far as I know.

I got married in a hotel, making a hard choice beween that and a castle. The hotel had better amenities, although the castle would have looked damn cool.

In Denmark, I believe it’s similar to France and Germany with the need for a registry wedding, but a whole lot of people have a church wedding as well, whether they ever set foot in a church otherwise or not. The event is frequently combined with the baptism of their child too.

My wife and I are both atheist but we got married in her home village church for aesthetic reasons.
It is a lovely little place looking out over the North Yorkshire moors (St. Giles in Bowes if anyone knows it)
We also had both our children baptised there as it gives them the option of marrying there too.

Hypocritical? possibly. No-one died and we’ve all done similar if we are honest.
And no-one actually ever asked us if we believed in god. plus everyone had a nice day and that is really what matters.

If you were an impatient Brit back in the day, you ran off to Gretna Green, Scotland: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gretna_Green

You seem to be implying that you think nearly all marriages in the USA take place in churches. They don’t; in fact I believe that about 1/3 are strictly civil ceremonies. So that’s probably not all that different.