ROME - Italians are less likely than ever to get married, according to new official figures released Wednesday which revealed that the number of weddings per year fell below 200,000 for the first time in 2013.
A record low of 193,057 weddings were celebrated last year, down 13,081 from the previous year and by 53,000 over five years.
Social commentators ascribe the trend to a gloomy economic backdrop - Italy is now in its third recession in barely seven years - and chronic unemployment among the under 35s is seen as having forced many couples to delay getting married and setting up home together. Some parts of the country have also been hit by a return to net emigration which may also have swayed the figures.
Italy already has one of the lowest birthrates in the world and the latest figures will only enhance the idea that the country, which also enjoys one of the highest figures for life expectancy, is headed for a demographic crunch.
In other signs of changing times, figures released by the national statistics institute (Istat) on Wednesday indicated that a higher proportion of couples who do get wed are opting for non-religious ceremonies.
While the number of church weddings fell nearly 30 per cent to 111,545 in 2013, the number of civil weddings was down only nine per cent at 82,512.
A total of 18,273 - just under 10 per cent - of Italy's weddings last year involved an Italian and a foreigner. In 78 per cent of these cases, the groom was Italian and the bride a foreigner and there was a one in two chance that she came from Eastern Europe.