Ever more Slovaks shying away from marriage

While young Hungarians may be clinging to tradition - their neighbours in Slovakia are abandoning traditional ways. At least they're not marrying as much as they once did. Slovakia is seeing a rise in the number of unwed couples even though 80 percent of the population claims to have Christian values. So what's with weddings in Slovakia?

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Wedding bells are a sound we tend to hear less and less in Slovakia. Over the past 50 years the marriage rate has fallen by half and the 1990s saw a massive decrease in the number of wedding rings exchanged.

"It's been already four years that I have been living with my partner, out of wedlock."

"Well, we thought about getting married, but in the end, it's not that important to get married. It's just a formal thing, a piece of paper."

...say Ivana and Jana, both living with their partner for several years now. Both already have a baby, but are not married. They are well in line with the current trend. But what is behind this "fashion" or shift in habits? Sociologist Zora Butorova from the think tank Institute for Public Affairs gives a few reasons:

"Modernization, opening of our country, more freedom to choose the way of life you want to live. Young people can experiment with their lives, study longer, and travel and work abroad."

Another contributing factor to these lifestyle changes are the tougher economic conditions that many young people face. High rents for apartments in Bratislava or in other big cities pose a very serious problem.

From the psychological point of view ending a relationship between two people that only live together is often easier than a divorce. However, there are more reasons why people are choosing not to tie the knot. Psychologist Barbora Mesarosova from the philosophical faculty of the Commenius University says:

"Many media are showing examples of young people living as a couple and unmarried. They do not feel that responsible for each other."

And there is another reason for fewer weddings. As sociologist Zora Butorova says, the social control is not as strong as in the past. The term comes from the era of socialism. In those days an unmarried woman over 25 was the exception.

Most weddings in Slovakia take place in church because more than 80 percent of the population claims adherence to Christianity. A strange paradox: a country with so many believers, 3 political parties in the ruling coalition strongly based on the Christian faith and yet the rate of marriages in decline. Sociologist Zora Butorova looks for an answer:

"These deeply believing people, who in fact are the strongest supporters of these traditional values, there are about 10 to 15 percent of them in our population. And the rest of the people, who declare they are believers, they do not attach their beliefs to the very strict rules of how they should live. So from this point of view, our population is becoming more and more liberal"

Although a liberal society, Zora Butorova says, Slovaks have a strong tradition of close family ties. Butorova:

"For most Slovaks, marriage is very important and for raising their children they imagine family to be the best place to do it."

"If we decide to get married it will be easier for our son, because he won't have to constantly explain why his parents are living together but are not married."

... concludes Jana, explaining their reasons for possibly getting married in the future.

Traditional weddings are not dying out, although unofficial weddings carried out in very exotic places are beginning to appear. This, as well as the growing number of people living unofficially together, reflects a growing diversity within our society and ever greater tolerance of these differences.