The increased number of civil weddings, which was 331 higher in 2016 than in 2015, while, the number of church weddings dropped by 379 between 2015 and 2016, according to Statistics Norway figures.
The trends point towards an imminent levelling of church and civil weddings in Norway, writes newspaper Dagen.
In 2016, there were 285 more church marriages than civil marriages, compared to 2,647 in 2010.
The difference has dropped from over 7,000 at the beginning of the 2000s, and is the smallest since Statistics Norway began recording civil weddings in 1986.
Norwegian Humanist Association (Human-Etisk Forbund) press manager Jen Brun-Pedersen told broadcaster NRK that the figures reflect the fact that there are now just as many people who do not believe in God in Norway as there are people that actively practice a religion.
“Many Norwegians probably take the church seriously enough to choose to marry somewhere else if they don’t believe in God. That also indicates greater respect amongst people – the church is not just used as a pretty space, detached from faith and belief,” he said.
The trend may also reflect the fact that civil marriages are more flexible, Brun Pedersen added.
“People can then go to their respective religious communities afterwards to be given blessings, with priests contributing with speeches or ceremonies afterwards,” he said.
Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien told NRK that the church had long been aware of the development, and said that there were many reasons for the changes in marriage trends.
“One reason could be that many people are getting married later, or are marrying for the second or third time, so might want a more simple ceremony, rather than one that is big and ceremonious,” she said.
Haugland said that the church could meet the challenge by offering weddings with simpler premises and more personalisation.
Church weddings will soon be available outside of the churches themselves, should priests agree to conduct them, according to NRK’s report.
“But the content will remain important nonetheless. We would like to offer a wedding that includes everything the church conveys, with blessings, prayer and the Christian message of love,” Haugland told the broadcaster.
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