Census data expected to shed light on shrinking marriage stats

Many couples feel less pressured to marry by factors such as traditional religious beliefs, a societal disapproval of sex outside marriage, and financial necessity.

Results of 2016 census will be released Wednesday

Numbers slated to come out Wednesday will paint a picture of how many couples are getting married and at what age. (MNStudio/Shutterstock)

Over a 37-year relationship that has brought them three children, Hélène Gauvin and her partner have never formally tied the knot.

While they've talked about getting married from time to time, they've always decided they're too busy or would rather spend their money on a vacation.

"Emotionally, I don't need it, legally neither,'' Gauvin, 58, said in an interview. "It wouldn't bring anything to my life that I don't already have.''

New numbers on families, households and marital status from the 2016 census to be released Wednesday by Statistics Canada will likely show that more and more couples are reaching similar conclusions and seeing no reason to tie the knot.

Times have changed

According to Nora Spinks of the Vanier Institute of the Family, the decline in marriage is largely because the factors that traditionally pushed couples to marry are less and less present.

Those factors included traditional religious beliefs, a societal disapproval of sex outside marriage, and financial necessity, all of which have eroded over time.

Furthermore, many adults now in their late 20s and early 30s experienced their own parents' separation during the 1980s and 1990s when divorce rates were high, Spinks says.

But just because people aren't rushing down the aisle doesn't mean they aren't committing to each other, she says.

"We should not confuse those numbers to mean people are not forming long-term, committed relationships,'' Spinks said in a phone interview.

Marriage happening later in life

Couples who do want to marry are choosing to do so at an older age.

Data released in Quebec last month revealed the average age of a first marriage for a man in the province in 2016 was 33.4 years and 31.9 for women — a rise of 7.8 years for men and 8.5 for women since 1971.

Across Canada, the proportion of young adults aged 25 to 29 who were never married has been steadily rising.

Katayoun Khatami, a Montreal-based wedding and event planner, says most of her clients are in their late 20s or early 30s, have established careers and have already lived together.

She says most of them eschew the traditional church wedding, choosing instead to celebrate their commitment with a personalized, non-religious celebration with family and friends.

"They just want a day to have the people they love gathered around them,'' she said.

Wednesday's release will include data about families, how much longer Canadians are waiting to start families, and how many families live under different roofs — be it because one parent is working in another part of the country or because they are choosing to live apart.