Weddings and Marriage - Statistics & Facts

Worldwide, the countries with the highest annual rates of marriage are West Bank & Gaza, Fiji, Egypt, the Bahamas, and Uzbekistan, each with over nine marriages per 1,000 people. West Bank & Gaza heads the ranking with ten marriages per thousand people as of 2018. In contrast, the lowest annual marriage rates are found in Qatar, French Guiana, and Peru. Not only do these countries have the lowest marriage rates, but have also some of the world’s lowest divorce rates. It is important to note that the countries mentioned are found in various regions of the world, and marriage can have very different characteristics, legal status, and ways of celebration across the globe.

Demographic data regarding married populations can also reveal social factors or customs that vary by region. For example, despite international conventions defining the minimum age of marriage at 18 years, child marriage remains a global problem. Some areas of the world are particularly impacted by this, most notably Africa, South Asia, and Central America. Niger has the highest rate of child marriage in the world. In this West African country, 75 percent of girls aged under 18 were married, with 36 percent of them under the age of 15 years. However, in terms of absolute numbers India had the largest number of child marriages, despite having a legal marriage age of 18 years. Additionally, the legal age in many countries is higher for males than for females; for example, by Nigerien law, females must be at least 15 years before marriage, whereas males must be 18. In Guinea, the legal ages are closer at 17 for females and 18 for males, however, 20 percent of young girls are married before the age of 15.

The right to marry is also not guaranteed to everyone in the same measure. Gay marriage is legal or recognized in relatively few countries worldwide, although a number do permit civil unions. As of 2021, 29 countries worldwide allow gay marriage nationwide or in some jurisdictions. Costa Rica became the latest country to have legalized same-sex marriage in 2020. Another factor which relates to laws and rights of marriages is polygamy, which is generally where one male has two or more wives (females taking multiple husbands is rare and prohibited in most religions). Polygamy is legal in 58 countries, most of which are found in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. It is estimated that approximately two percent of the world’s population are in a polygamous marriage, the highest rates of which are recorded in West Africa, particularly Burkina Faso and Mali, where 36 percent and 34 percent of people respectively live in a polygamous household.

When it comes to the celebration of marriage, methods of celebration vary across the globe; a common factor, however, is that weddings are usually expensive. A recent study found out that couples in the United States spend the most on weddings, at an average cost of 29.2 thousand U.S. dollars in 2018. Spain and Italy followed, with 23.4 thousand and 22.5 thousand U.S. dollars, respectively. In the United States, the largest expenses are generally the venue and engagement rings, with the lowest expenditure on food, with the catering price per person being around 70 U.S. dollars.


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