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FAMILY

Spain is the second most expensive country in the world to get married

Getting married in Spain is now twice as expensive as it was a decade ago, but the spike in prices has done little to slow the post-pandemic rush to the altar.

Spain is the second most expensive country in the world to get married
Photo: Pixabay.

Despite its reputation as one of Europe’s more affordable countries, Spain certainly isn’t a cheap place to get married.

In fact, according to data from Statistica, it’s the second most expensive place on the planet to tie the knot, following the United States. In Spain, the average wedding now costs almost €22,000, with many events costing as much as €30,000, depending on how extravagant the bride and groom are willing to go.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to Spanish wedding etiquette

According to figures from The Knot Worldwide’s ‘Essential Book of Weddings‘, the average price of a wedding in Spain has increased by around €1000 compared to 2019, reaching around €21,500.

Spain leads countries including France (where the average wedding costs €16,500), England (almost €18,000), Italy (third on the list with €21,000) and Canada (€20,500), despite all these countries surpassing Spain in almost all economic indicators, and especially in terms of average salary.

Yet Spaniards seem to have no problem splashing out on their wedding day.

In fact, according to Holidu.co.uk’s ‘Wedding Price Index‘, Seville is the 4th most expensive location in the world to tie the knot, trailing only the exclusive Hamptons in the US, Positano in Italy, and Fogo Town in Canada. In the famously romantic Andalusian city, a wedding with 100 guests can cost a whopping €34,000.

Prices on the up

But the trend is much deeper than the recent inflationary shocks and goes back a decade. Ainara Regueira, a wedding planner, told Spanish outlet La Sexta that “ten years ago a wedding could cost between €10,000 and €12,000 and now it’s around €22,000”. 

And it seems that nowadays Spaniards want more extravagant weddings, with some events taking on a festival-like feel, rather than the traditional service and reception. “Now they want lights, lasers, [something] known as ‘crazy hour’,” Regueira says, adding that it’s almost more like “being at a party in Ibiza than at a wedding”. 

Lights and fireworks shows, drone camera footage, classic cars and costume changes, weddings in the social media age aren’t what they used to be, and are getting more and more expensive as a result. Roberta Orta from Infinita Viajes explained to La Sexta that some Spanish weddings have even become like concerts: “The bride and groom are looking for a DJ with a lot of street cred, and professional musicians…that can cost up to €30,000”. 

Post-pandemic boom

Despite the rise in costs, weddings are actually booming in Spain, particularly after the pandemic. After weddings were cancelled throughout 2020, in 2021 weddings in Spain increased by 60 percent compared to 2020, according to a recent INE report, and the boom has continued into 2022 and 2023.

READ ALSO: Civil union or marriage in Spain: which one is better?

Perhaps love is in the air. Perhaps the pandemic forced people into action. Perhaps people managed to save up enough money during the lockdowns to actually be able to afford a wedding.

Whatever the reason, and despite the recent surge in costs, in reality, expensive weddings are nothing new in Spain, and Spaniards have never been particularly frugal when it comes to celebrating. As you might have noticed when it comes to baptisms or first communions, the Spanish are not shy about going big for these events. Nor are they concerned about splashing the cash and making it a day to remember.

In fact, very few countries celebrate these milestones with such extravagance and decadence while simultaneously disregarding their own personal finances. Simply put, for Spaniards no cost is too much on their big day.

Cultural explanation?

Luis Ayuso Sánchez, professor of Sociology at the University of Granada, explained to El País that traditionally this extravagance comes from the importance of family in Spanish society. “When two people got married, their family network expands. That’s why it was important for the whole town to go to the wedding, for everyone to find out. It was a way to show society the support network.”

Generally speaking in Mediterranean countries, Ayuso adds, societies are more family-oriented than in northern Europe. “In Spain, the support network has been fundamental historically, because there was no welfare state, and that was replaced by the family. This is very much within our culture and to some extent, it is still maintained, as we have seen with the crisis, unemployment, covid… The family is still very important. Hence, the ritual of marriage, which symbolised relational support, remains strong in Spanish society.”

Inviting all those aunts and uncles and cousins is, of course, more expensive.

But the upward trend in weddings (their frequency that is, not the price) is likely a short-term trend. Looking at broader trends, marriage rates have been in near free fall since the 1990s, according to a study ‘The Evolution Of The Couple in Spain’ by the BBVA foundation.

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SCHOOLS

Why parents and teachers in Spain are at loggerheads over school hours

A split or continuous school day? That is the debate pitting teachers against parents as children across Spain head back to school this week, with studies suggesting the schedule can have significant consequences for families.

Why parents and teachers in Spain are at loggerheads over school hours

Whether to start and finish school early (continuous) or to start and finish a little later with a break for lunch (split) can have an impact on kids both in and out of the classroom, according to recent research.

An OECD report looking into Spanish school dropout rates concluded that adjusting teaching timetables would reduce dropout rates among Spanish students, one of the highest in Europe.

And now, just a few days before school starts again after the summer holidays, the results of another study have found that pupils following an intensive school day schedule (that is to say, with all their classes stacked up in the morning with no break for lunch) are found to sleep less, spend more time using screens, have a worse diet, and do more homework than those on a split school day.

This translates into poorer health, poorer performance at school and a more difficult work-life balance, according to the study by a researcher at the University of Valencia, Daniel Gabaldón.

Spanish school schedule

Generally speaking (though there some regional variances) schools in Spain start early in the morning, around 8am or 8.30am, and classes go continuously (with a short half hour break) through to around 2pm or 2.30pm, when the kids then go home for lunch — and that’s it, school day over.

As such, for many Spanish kids the school day is a short, intense burst of learning followed by almost the entire afternoon and evening free. This has its downsides.

The OECD’s report states that “in Spain many schools operate with an intensive timetable focused on mornings,” and that, as a result, “around 47 percent of households pay for extracurricular classes for their children.” Clearly, it is easy to see which side of the debate teachers and parents respectively fall on.

As such, the OECD report calls for an “extension of learning time” in Spanish schools, but concedes that doing so would be neither easy or cheap: “a feasible transition would require investment in subsidies for school food and infrastructure and adequate remuneration for school staff, among other things.”

READ ALSO: What are the laws on homeschooling in Spain?

Parent-teacher clashes

The split vs continuous school day debate is pitting teachers and parents against one another in some parts of Spain, with parent associations and teachers unions publicly at loggerheads.

The OECD report (and many parents) favours the split schedule because it would remove the parent’s responsibility for organised extracurricular activities, classes and care in the afternoons, and believe that these should be integrated into school timetables.

Spanish parents association CEAPA is “against” the intensive school day because “pedagogically it is not beneficial,” its spokesperson, María Sánchez, told Spanish news website 20minutos.

Though the intensive schedule is the “the trend in Spain”, she said, “there are still strongholds” in Madrid and the Valencian Community where there are “many clashes between teachers and families.”

In both regions the continuous school day is less common in urban areas and particularly in areas of higher socio-economic standing. “Families with greater cultural capital tend to be more resistant to teachers’ attempts to implement the continuous school day because they tend to seek more information and discuss the school’s arguments,” Gabaldón says.

Clearly, a continuous school day means that teacher’s finish their working day earlier and have less care responsibilities. Teacher’s unions say changing their member’s work schedules would be “undemocratic.”

READ ALSO: Spain’s new leave of absence schemes to care for family members

Extracurricular consequences

Gabaldón’s study also found that the intensive school timetable has extracurricular consequences and causes students to get up earlier and go to bed later. The study points to napping as a possible cause of this imbalance.

“It’s better to have a split day, with spaces for socialising between classes and a slower school rhythm. We are experiencing a problem of excess. In Spain we are at the top of the list in terms of the number of teaching hours, but also in terms of private revision classes,” he says.

READ ALSO: Almost half of Spanish families pay for private classes for their children

Time zone to blame?

But some of the negative consequences of the intensive school system could be, in part, down to Spain’s time zone. More specifically, that Spain has been in the wrong time zone for over seventy years following Franco’s decision to put the clocks forward an hour in an act of solidarity with Nazi Germany.

READ MORE: Why Spain is in the wrong time zone because of Hitler

Spain has remained in the Central European Time zone ever since, in line with countries as far east as Poland. The decision has had a lasting impact on Spanish culture and society that underpins everything from Spaniard’s sleep cycles and meal times to the country’s birth rates and economic growth.

Gabaldón favours not changing the clocks in summer in order to bring Spain back in line with the time zone that corresponds to its geographical location. “Children would go to school later, they would rest more and better and we would have fewer activities in the morning and more in the afternoon”.

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