Jan 3, 2010
I am getting married in the morning,
Get me to the church on time!
The spirit of this popular song is going to be outdated considering the way prospective marital couples preferring the marriage registrar to the church altar where couples traditionally sailed in to make marital vows “to have and to hold…till death do us part”. Now, eager couples are likely to take a taxi to the marriage registrar’s office than have decorated deluxe Cadillac drive them to the church porch, to be received with applause, kisses and hugs from close relatives and friends. But, first the facts.
As Hetal Vyas reported in The Times of India (2-1-1011), after seven years of knowing each other, Farrah D’Souza and Kanishk Singh tied the knot on January 1, 2011 at Mumbai’s suburban marriage registrar’s office in Bandra (east). They were the first couple to sign on the dotted lines around 10.30 AM, and were followed by fourteen other couples from the western and central suburbs of Mumbai on the first day of the new year and decade. The South Mumbai office of the marriage registrar handled ten marriages on the first day of the New Year.
The beeline of eager couples to get knotted from the church altar to the Marriage Registrar has been observed also at the global level. Take, for instance, France. In an article in The New York Times titled “For many French couples, bliss is less marital than civil”, authors Scott Sayare and Maria de La Baume note that just 2,50,000 couples married in 2009, while in 1970, almost 4,00,000 couples wed.. “Some are divorced and disenchanted with marriage; others are young couples ideologically opposed to marriage, but eager to lighten their tax burdens. Many are lovers not yet ready for old-fashioned matrimony. Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.”
When France created a system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between strait couples. It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes – and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter.
As with traditional marriages, civil unions allow couples to file joint tax returns exempt spouses from inheritance taxes, permit partners to share insurance policies, ease access to residency permits for foreigners and make partners responsible for each other’s debts. Concluding civil union requires little more than a single appearance before a judicial official, and ending one is even easier. Even the Roman Catholic Church, which initially condemned the partnerships as a threat to the institution of marriage has now relented. saying civil unions do not pose a real threat.
Traditional church marriages are on the decline in Europe. While the civil unions have exploded in France, church marriages have continued a long decline – as across Europe. Just 2,50,000 couples married in France in 2009, with fewer than four marriages per 1,000 residents; in 1970, almost 4,00,000 French couples wed. Germany, too, has seen a similar plunge in marriage rates. In 2009, there were just over four marriages for 1,000 residents compared to more than seven per 1,000 in 1970.
In France, marriage is still viewed as a ‘heavy and invasive’ institution with deep ties to Christianity. It traces of religious imprint, often anathema in a country where secularism has long been treated as a sacred principle.
For some, civil unions are simply a form of pre-marital engagement. For instance, the article quoted Anicet, a student, saying that she and her boyfriend would probably be married already traditionally were it not of different religions – she a Catholic and he a Jew. In the first registered marriage cited at the start of this article, they would follow up with a church wedding on January 3 and a Hindu wedding on January 5 so that extended families can also bless the couple.
In India some registered marriages are because of inter-cast/religion bonding which are not approved by parents initially. Some register marriages for urgent visas - often followed by religious wedding ceremonies.
Registered weddings have the advantage of not being burdened by the serial advice on how to be successful in marriage from the nuptial sermon to the toast master. At the last wedding reception I attended, on December 30, at Radio Club in downtown Mumbai, a bishop, while called upon to bless the banquet, exhorted the newly-wed couple to read a chapter of the Bible every night – stating from the honeymoon night. Chew on this and choose your mode of wedlock!
For the quote-phobia readers, I have a New Year relief. Please don’t bother to count the quotes!
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).
John Monteiro - Recent Archives: