As summer approaches its end in the Barents Region, the wedding season takes over to keep the temperature up. These are the facts you didn’t know about marriage in the Barents Region.
Statistics show that people in the Barents Region tend to get married more often than people in the European Union. According to Eurostat, the average marriage rate in the European Union was 4.2 per 1000 inhabitants in 2011. The equivalent figure for the Barents Region that year was 6.5 marriages per 1000 inhabitants, shows data from Patchwork Barents.
What are the regional trends and characteristics of family formation in the four Barents countries? We decided to explore these things in more detail bringing you eight facts you didn’t know about marriage in the Barents Region.
1. Russians get married earlier and more often
The high marriage rate in the Barents Region is largely explained by figures from Russia, which traditionally has had a higher marriage frequency than the other Barents countries.
Also, Russians tend to get married at a younger age than Finns, Swedes and Norwegians. The average age at first marriage in Russia is 25.7, shows data from MapsofWorld.com. In Finland, the average age at first marriage is 31.1, in Sweden 32.5, and in Norway 32.9.
Last year, the average marriage rate in Barents Russia was 8.3 per 1000 inhabitants, while in 2011 it was close to 10 marriages per 1000 inhabitants.
In comparison, the Swedish and Norwegian Barents regions registered 4.6 and 4.4 marriages per 1000 inhabitants in 2014. Barents Finland had the lowest average marriage rate last year: 4.1 marriages per 1000 inhabitants.
The average age at first marriage is 25.7 in Russia, 31.1 in Finland, 32.5 in Sweden and 32.9 in Norway.
2. Norway has a different marriage trend than its neighbors
Over the last decade, marriage rates increased significantly across the Barents Region. Particularly the period between 2001 and 2011 saw a big growth in marriages in all parts of the region except for Norway, where the rate actually decreased. While in Russia, Sweden and Finland, the rate increased by respectively 3.1, 1.6 and 0.5, in Norway it decreased by 0.8.
After 2011, there seemed to be a switch in this trend, as numbers began to decrease in all parts of the Barents Region. The exception was, again, Norway, where the figures went up this time.
3. Economic crises lead to fewer divorces
The number of divorces has also been the largest and most fluctuating in Barents Russia. The divorce rate created a “pit” in the late 1990s, as it dropped dramatically from 5.3 to 3.3 in just four years, and then shot up to 5.8 in the next four years. This trend can be explained by the challenging economic situation in Russia during that decade. A similar pit also appeared in the marriage rate in Barents Russia, although the change was not as sudden as the divorce rate.
Between 2000 and 2014, as the economic situation improved in Russia, the divorce rate has been more stable but overall increasing. In 2014, Barents Russia had an overall rate of 5.5 divorces per 1000 inhabitants. The highest divorce rate in 2014 was registered in Murmansk Oblast (6.2). Murmansk also had the highest marriage rate (8.9) last year.
Murmansk Oblast has the highest marriage rate and the highest divorce rate in the Barents Region.
The Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish figures have stayed relatively stable over the past decades. In Barents Finland, the average rate is around 2.2 divorces per 1000 inhabitants. The equivalent average rates for Norway and Sweden are 1.9 and 1.8 (2014). The visualization below shows the average divorce rate in the Barents Region between 1990 and 2014.
4. Nenets went from first to last place
In the last twenty-four years, Nenets AO has gone from having the highest marriage rate in Barents Russia to having the lowest. In 1990, the region registered 9.7 marriages per 1000 inhabitants. By 2014, the rate had dropped to 7.3 marriages per 1000 inhabitants.
5. Last year, Barents Norway had the biggest marriage growth
In 2014, Barents Norway registered the biggest increase (+0.2) in the number of marriages per 1000 inhabitants. Finnmark County had the highest marriage rate (4.5) in Northern Norway that year, followed by Troms (4.4) and Nordland (4.2).
6. Less “I do” in Kainuu
Despite an increase of marriages in 2014, Kainuu’s marriage rate is the lowest in the Barents Region. The Finnish province registered 3.7 new marriages per 1000 inhabitants last year.
Overall, Barents Finland has had a relatively stable marriage frequency in the last 24 years. A slight increase was registered in the period between 2004 and 2012, followed by a decline in all three provinces in 2013.
7. More “I do” in Barents Sweden
The last decade has seen a mild but noticeable increase of marriages in Barents Sweden. Between 2000 and 2010, the average marriage rate increased from 3.6 to 4.9 in the two northern Swedish counties. After 2012, however, the rate dropped similar to Barents Finland.
8. The role of saunas in Barents wedding traditions
What characterizes a Barents wedding? Because of its cultural diversity, the Barents Region also has a rich variation of wedding traditions. Here are a few examples of wedding traditions commonly found in the four Barents countries.
An old tradition in Russia is the breaking of glasses and dishes during the wedding. A broken clay pot symbolized happiness, and the number of pieces it broke into symbolized the number of years the couple would spend together. Also, big pieces meant that the couple’s firstborn child would be a baby boy, whereas small pieces meant the upcoming child would be a girl.
In Finland, a bridal sauna was taken by the bride and other girls the day before the wedding to banish the evil spirits of the bride’s former fiancés.
In Norwegian weddings, the bride and groom have to cut the wedding cake together. An old tradition says that this ensures the couple’s fertility. Finns have a similar tradition, but in Finland, there is a competition involved. When the knife reaches the plate under the wedding cake, whoever stomps their feet on the floor first, becomes the boss of the household.
Saunas are a big part of the Finnish culture, and weddings are no exclusion. It is an old Finnish tradition to have a so-called “bridal sauna” before the wedding. A bridal sauna was taken by the bride and other girls the day before the wedding to banish the evil spirits of the bride’s former fiancés.
In Sweden, it is not uncommon that the bride and the groom walk down the aisle together. Unlike many western cultures where the bride is “given away” by her father, Sweden has no tradition for that. Many Swedes do not like the idea that a woman is owned by one man and then given away to another. Also, in Sweden the groom often wears an engagement ring too.
Last, but not least, it is interesting to mention the indigenous wedding traditions of the Barents Region. In the Sami culture, weddings were traditionally held around Easter time, before the reindeer moved from inland pastures to coastal summer pastures. The social aspect of the wedding has always been important. Many Sami weddings can gather over a thousand guests, including family members, friends or an entire village. These weddings can fill an entire sports hall and last for two or three days. Food is an important part of the tradition, and many Sami weddings include “Bidos”, a traditional reindeer soup, followed by a cloudberry dessert.