MADRID, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- A study published by Spain's National Institute of Statistics has showed that people in the predominantly Catholic country were turning their backs on getting married in church.
The study on Tuesday showed there were a total of 68,560 weddings celebrated in the first six months of 2016, but of those, just 22 percent were carried out by a priest.
"People look at you strangely when you say you are getting married in a church," Alejandra Corsini commented in an article in El Pais newspaper.
Jaen, in the south of Spain, was the only province in the country with a majority of church weddings, while in areas such as the Basque provinces of Vizcaya and Gipuzkoa, the level was well below 20 percent.
This represents an historical low for church weddings for a country where as recently as the year 2000, three quarters of matrimonies were still being celebrated in a Catholic church.
Just 52,255 civil marriages were held in 2000, compared to 163,636 Catholic weddings, but the last 16 years have seen the number of civil ceremonies rise steadily where church weddings have fallen.
By 2008, the number of Catholic weddings was slightly higher than civil ceremonies, but that changed in 2009 when the number of non-church weddings was higher than that of church weddings for the first time: 94,097 civil services compared to just 79,130 couples choosing to tie the knot in church.
These figures may be due in part to the economic crisis, as people opted for cheaper ceremonies or to delay their weddings, but the trend has not altered since then and in 2015 there were 49,208 weddings held in churches around Spain, compared to 115,141 civil weddings and now the data for the first half of 2016 implies that last year will again see a record low in Catholic wedding ceremonies.
An unemployment rate of 34 percent among under 30's may have some share of the blame.
Sociologist Alfonso Perez-Agote summed up the current situation in his comment in El Pais: "Young people today are the children of people who are uninterested in religion. When they think about getting married, they don't think about the church as it is something that is very distant from them," he concluded.