Marriages

Fewer marriages since the 1970s, more and more marriages in summer since WWII

Population
Fewer marriages since the 1970s, more and more marriages in summer since WWII

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes for the first time a historical series on the monthly marriages in Belgium from 1850 until now. The figures used in this press release are based on the civil registry forms up to and including 2013; from 2014 onwards, they come from the National Register[1].

In 2019, there were 44,270 marriages in Belgium; that is 3.9 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants. In the year 2020, this was a lot lower (2.9) because of the Covid-19 crisis. 90 years before, in 1929, 71,811 Belgian couples married, i.e.9.0 marriages per 1000 inhabitants. In the years immediately after both world wars, the number of marriages peaked: for example, 14.1 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants in 1920 and 10.9 in 1946.
The graph below also shows that since the 1970s, the number of marriages per 1,000 inhabitants has been steadily and systematically declining.

Marriages in the past and now

Until WWII, marriages were much more spread out over the whole year, with a small peak during the months of April and May. After the war, this changed and the months of July and August became increasingly the favourite wedding months.

Since the 1970s, there has also been an increasing tendency to marry in June and/or September, with fewer weddings taking place in the month of April. Finally, it is noteworthy that during the war years 40-45, there were temporarily more weddings in October, November and December...


[1] During the First World War, the data were not produced.

Visualisation
Content
Table
Content
  2014* 2015* 2016* 2017* 2018* 2019* 2020*
Belgium 44.858 45.005 44.725 44.319 45.059 44.270 32.779
Brussels-Capital Region 4.019 4.118 4.046 4.022 3.997 4.271 3.325
Flemish Region 24.619 24.774 24.948 24.982 25.509 24.483 19.145
Walloon Region 11.092 10.993 11.042 10.901 10.940 11.019 7.620
Source: Statbel (Directorate-general Statistics - Statistics Belgium)
Downloads

Purpose and brief description

The statistic contains all marriages that have been contracted before the civil registrar of the Belgian municipalities, but not the marriages that have been contracted abroad. All these marriages are broken down by the municipality of the marriage but also by the municipality of residence of both spouses before the marriage. This way, we know the marriages of people who live abroad. The various tables present the evolution of the number of marriages since 1990 as well as the annual figures broken down according to the place of marriage per region and per province and according to the place of residence per month, per region and per province. They also show the evolution of the number of persons involved in a same-sex marriage per province. But this statistic has another source...

Population

All marriages

Frequency

Annually

Timing of publication

Results available 8 months after the reference period.

Definitions

The gross marriage rate is the ratio between the number of marriages contracted during the year where at least one person was living in Belgium on the day of the marriage and the average total population (on 30 June) of the same year.

The gross divorce rate is the ratio between the number of divorces registered during the year and relating to at least one person residing in Belgium at the time of the divorce and the average total population (on 30 June) of the same year.

Municipality of marriage: Municipality where the marriage is contracted and registered in the civil register.

Month of marriage: Month of the marriage, from the date of the marriage.

Place of residence of the first spouse: Municipality (or country) of residence of the first spouse at the time of marriage.

Place of residence of the second spouse: Municipality (or country) of residence of the second spouse at the time of marriage.

Age of the first spouse: Age of the first spouse at marriage, expressed in completed years, calculated as the difference between the date of the marriage and the date of birth.

Age of the second spouse: Age of the second spouse at marriage, expressed in completed years, calculated as the difference between the date of marriage and the date of birth.

Nationality of the first spouse: Country of the first spouse’s nationality.

Nationality of the second spouse: Country of the second spouse’s nationality.

Civil status of the first spouse: Civil status of the first spouse before the marriage.

Civil status of the second spouse: Civil status of the second spouse before the marriage.

Remarks

In the framework of the administrative simplification and in application of the Law of 5 May 2014 on the establishment of the principle of the unique data collection (Only Once), the Directorate-General Statistics – Statistics Belgium decided in 2015 to no longer use the bulletins of the FPS Home Affairs to produce statistics on marriages and divorces, but to use data from the National Register (RNPP) for this purpose. As a result of this source change, the marriage and divorce forms could be abolished (Royal Decree of 19 February 2016). But it also brought about important changes in the statistic produced:

  • Registration of the gender of spouses, allowing a distinction to be made between types of marriages and divorces;
  • Processing in a statistic in law of the events that took place abroad concerning persons residing in Belgium;
  • The identification of divorces that have been granted and registered in Belgium and that put an end to the marriages that have been contracted abroad gives a better approach to divorces.

2016 is the first year in which the RNPP is the exclusive source of the statistic. But using the RNPP also makes it possible to produce comprehensive statistics for 2015, as well as a large number of data for 2014, which makes a comparison with previous statistics on civil status possible.

In the case of divorces, the use of the RNPP makes it possible to identify those divorces that put an end to a marriage that was contracted abroad. The large majority of these marriages are registered in Brussels-Capital. In 2016, 3,666 divorces were granted in Belgium or abroad (15.5 % of the total), which put an end to the same number of marriages contracted abroad. They are therefore included in the calculation of the gross divorce rate, which has fallen slightly (2.1 ‰, for 2.2 ‰ in 2015); but they are excluded from the calculation of the total divorce rate.