Catholic weddings down 60% since 1971: ABS

Catholic weddings declined from 9784 in 1971 to 4075 last year and only 40 per cent of Australians now choose to marry in a religious ceremony, newly released Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show.

As recently as 1971, 91 per cent of Victorians married in churches, the Age reports.

But between 1971 and 2005, the number of weddings celebrated in Anglican churches dropped from 7230 to 1682, Catholic weddings from 9784 to 4075, and those of other Christian denominations from 12,370 to 4127.

At the same time, the number of civil weddings has quintupled, growing from 2815 to 14,535, while those carried out by ministers of other religions have quadrupled from 187 to 794.

According to The Age, the number of brides born in Britain or East Asia, in particular, are accelerating Australia's drift away from the tradition of marrying in a church or other place of worship, Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday show.

More than 10,000 Australian brides last year were migrants from China, Vietnam, the Philippines or elsewhere in East Asia, and only 23 per cent of them chose to marry in a church, temple or mosque.

Another 5500 brides were born in Britain, and only 25 per cent of them opted for a religious wedding, whereas 44 per cent of Australian-born brides did so.

Lebanese-Australians, often the implied targets of Australian values debates, are the traditionalists when it comes to weddings: 82 per cent of Lebanese-born brides chose to be married by a religious celebrant, whether Christian or Muslim.

By contrast, only 10 per cent of brides born in China chose any kind of religious ceremony for their wedding, easily the lowest proportion of any group.

Apart from the Lebanese, only brides born in other Middle East countries, Greece or South Africa generally chose a religious wedding.

Twenty years ago, 60 per cent of marriages were still held in churches and other places of worship; even five years ago, almost 50 per cent were.

NSW has the highest proportion of religious weddings, at 45 per cent, partly because most Australian weddings celebrated in mosques or temples are held in Sydney.

Victoria was second on 42.5 per cent, while the Northern Territory is the most irreligious, with just 26 per cent.

Brides shun religious nuptials (The Age, 14/12/06)
Marriages 2005 (Australian Bureau of Statistics)

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Australian Bureau of Statistics

14 Dec 2006