Canadians are increasingly noncommittal about marriage

According to a new poll, 53 per cent of Canadians now say tying the knot ‘is simply not necessary’

The dress, the flowers, the upwards of $30k bill — who needs to get married anyway?

That’s the kind of side-eye Canadians are now giving one of society’s longest-held traditions, according to a new poll published today by Angus Reid, which drills down on current attitudes toward marriage. In fact, a slight majority of Canadians (53 per cent) now say getting hitched “is simply not necessary” at all.

The survey of 1,520 adult Canadians, taken online in January, showed some gaps between generations, genders and minority groups when it comes to feelings about whether tying the knot still plays a key role in the fabric of society. Young women, for example, were more likely than men their age (18–34) to disagree with the notion that “marriage is as relevant today as it has ever been,” with 60 per cent of them responding with a hard no, compared to 48 per cent of their male peers. (Less surprisingly, older Canadians were more likely to think marriage was important, at 55 per cent.)

“While popular and consumer culture may continue to cling to the mystery, romance and timelessness of marriage, increasingly, almost all but the oldest cohorts of Canadians are of the view that the legal or religious joining of two people who are committed to each other is not necessary,” says Shachi Kurl, Executive Director of the Angus Reid Institute.

READ: A dozen Canadian facts about marriage, religion and modern life

The respondents’ own reported marital status revealed how times truly have changed: Nearly three-
quarters of 18–34-year-olds (73 per cent) who responded have never tied the knot, and one in six in this group say they really don’t plan on legally locking down a relationship. Consider this compared to similar survey results from 1971, when 56 per cent of Canadians in this age group were married.

The broader trend of placing less value on marriage doesn’t, however, jibe with the views of minority Canadians: Sixty-three per cent of Canadians who identify as a visible minority agreed it was very or somewhat important that a couple get married if they planned to remain committed for life, as compared to 44 per cent of Canadians who don’t identify as a minority.

But hold up — how do Canadians feel about staying together forever? There could be some double standards at play: While that slight majority of Canadians say they feel marriage isn’t all that important, most also see common-law partnerships as a “lesser form of commitment,” Angus Reid reports, with 57 per cent of respondents agreeing with the statement: “Marriage is a more genuine form of commitment than a common-law relationship.”

And while 40 per cent of Canadian adults have never been married, most of them say they wouldn’t *not* walk down the aisle in the future — four in 10 said they’d indeed like to, while 33 per cent said they weren’t sure but also wouldn’t rule it out.

READ: In return to tradition, more young women taking husband’s names

“For women, this shift could be as simple as no longer feeling like marriage is necessary for financial stability,” the poll authors write, in an attempt to explain why the majority of Canadians don’t see the altar as the ultimate goal. Then there is, of course, that gigantic price tag that can accompany a wedding, which most respondents said was the biggest reason they wouldn’t walk down the aisle — they didn’t yet feel financially able to handle the cost (39 per cent of women 18–34 said this was the case, as did 47 per cent of men in the same group).

So, what if weddings were a hell of a lot cheaper and less stressful than they are now — would that make a difference? Most respondents said yes, with roughly 70 per cent of young people (18–34) agreeing (though men were slightly more likely to agree than women), and 61 per cent of all respondents nodding their heads to that.

Heads up, wedding industry — could soon be time to rethink all those up-sells and frills and let Canadians get married in their own way.

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