In winter you are more likely to see a pregnant bride and men sometimes really take their time proposing.
These are just some of the observations made by Zuza Speckert, the writer of the Just Married column in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.
Every week the Sunday newspaper’s Society section outlines the stories of three recently wed couples. It’s a concept that’s familiar to the readers of the New York Times, for example.
The column, relatively new to the Zurich-based NZZ am Sonntag at only four years old, has, by all accounts, proven to be a success.
“I don’t know why because it’s always a bit the same,” laughed Speckert. “Maybe because it’s on Sundays, and it’s not bad news to accompany your breakfast. It’s a bit of voyeurism but you don’t feel too bad. It’s uplifting like when you eat chocolate.”
After learning something about the happy couple, what they do, where they live and how old they are, readers quickly come to what is probably the most popular part of the story – how they met.
This can be at dinner parties, at work or out clubbing. “What’s new is that people meet in internet platforms, they chat, play games or meet on dating platforms,” Speckert told swissinfo.ch. “Quite a lot of people, even younger ones, meet this way, which is quite astonishing.”
The couple start getting serious, perhaps move in together. However, reading Just Married every week, it is easy to get the impression that a proposal does not always come quickly.
“They usually live together for years and the woman waits and waits and the proposal doesn’t come,” says Speckert. “Then they get pregnant and the proposal comes.”
Speckert estimates that for around 60 per cent of her featured couples, getting down on one knee is prompted by – albeit very happy – circumstances rather than being a big romantic gesture.
Nevertheless, the men, for it is usually men who do the proposing, usually like to plan the deed very carefully. The location has to be beautiful or an expensive restaurant. Rose petals and candles often feature. This, says Speckert, is what the women expect.
She is not sure why some men wait so long and it is not just Swiss men because many of the couples featured are multinational. Perhaps they just get too comfortable, she says.
Those tying the knot tend to be older than in earlier times – the Federal Statistics Office puts the average age at 29 years for women and 31 years for men, which is four years older than in 1970.
The exception are very religious people and second-generation foreigners.
Speckert has noticed that the religious couples often meet in evangelical churches and Bible study groups, rather than in the state-recognised Protestant or Catholic churches.
There are also seasonal differences. “In winter almost all the brides are pregnant, and the wedding is usually just before the birth. In summer this is less common because usually the couple have been planning for two years and it is a big wedding,” the columnist said.
Speckert has many more weddings to choose from in the peak times between May and September, with people sending in their plans. In winter she often has to go the registry office – couples in Switzerland legally have to marry there before any church nuptials – and ask people if they wouldn’t mind being featured in Just Married.
Overall, Speckert says that it seems to be “in” to get married among the younger generation, possibly as a reaction to their 1968-generation parents. “I think it’s a wave, it’s always cool and then not cool and probably the current generation’s kids won’t think it’s trendy to get married,” she observed.
In any case, people generally like a big white wedding with a beautiful dress, a romantic atmosphere and lovely music. Some choose to wed abroad in, for example, Italy.
Ivana Vujevic from Baar near Zug and her fiancé Srecko Susilo from Zurich are both 25 years old and are getting married in September. A friend told them about the column and suggested that they should take part.
“We thought it was lovely that despite the present divorce rate so many people are still getting married and that the column supported and reported on this,” Vujevic told swissinfo.ch.
Indeed, almost one in two marriages now end in divorce in Switzerland.
Vujevic and Susilo knew each other as teenagers, but Vujevic wasn’t really interested in 16 year old boys then. It was only later that they contacted each other over Facebook and decided to meet for a coffee to talk about old times. Out of this resulted some dates and then a relationship.
The proposal, which came ten months later, was a lovely one. “It was very romantic (and nervous) on a stunning balcony in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast. Our time in Italy was unforgettable and will always be a wonderful memory,” said Vujevic.
The wedding will take place in Zug and the party in Zurich. As the couple both come from Croatia, the event will be a traditional one. “With lots of guests, lots to eat and a long night of celebrating,” said Vujevic.
She and her fiancé are looking forward to getting married and a quiet honeymoon after the busy festivities. “And of course our joint future as a married couple,” she said.
The course of true love
As for Speckert, she really enjoys her job reporting on so many different and varied weddings, with couples young and old, Swiss and international. “I’m always surrounded by happy people and this rubs off on you,” she said.
One story in particular sticks in her mind. “It’s about this couple who are now around 60 years old, who met when they were around 22 but were both in relationships. They got married to different people and had children.”
“Thirty years later they met again and the woman was going through a bad divorce and the man was divorced for a second time. They fell in love and got married.
“I’ve never seen a couple as happy as these people. They have grown up children and they enjoy life. That’s true love.”
Valentine’s Day (or St Valentine’s Day) is held on February 14. The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs and was established in the year 496 by the then pope.
It is traditionally a day upon which lovers offer each other presents such as flowers and chocolates and send valentine cards. The holiday first became associated with romance in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love was popular.
The United States Greeting Cards Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent a year around the world, making it the second most popular card-sending day after Christmas.
In 2008, there were 41,534 marriages, up 1.3% on 2007.
Couples now marry at average age 29.1 for women and 31.4 for men, four years older than in 1970. Since 1950 men have been 2.2 to 2.6 years older than women on their wedding day.
On a less happy note, the total divorce rate in Switzerland has increased since 1970 when it was 13%. Nowadays the rate is 48.4%, the rise mainly coming from changes in the divorce law of 2000. There were 19,613 divorces in 2008.