Civil Ceremonies Surpass Church Weddings for First Time in Iceland Skip to content

Civil Ceremonies Surpass Church Weddings for First Time in Iceland

By Ragnar Tómas

Hallgrímskirkja lutheran church in Iceland
Photo: Photo: Golli. Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík .

In 2023, more Icelanders were married by officiants at the offices of the District Commissioner (43%) than by priests belonging to the National Church (33.9%), according to Registers Iceland. This is the first time that marriages conducted by District Commissioners outnumbered those performed by the National Church.

2,095 individuals married via District Magistrate

In 2023, of the 4,870 individuals who entered into marriage according to Registers Iceland, 43% (2,095) were married by the offices of the District Commissioner, surpassing the 33.9% (1,650) who were married by the National Church. This is the first time in history that the number of marriages conducted at the offices of District Commissioners outnumbers that of the National Church. Additionally, 12% of marriages were conducted by other religious groups, and 11% of individuals chose to marry abroad.

Regional data also reveals that per 1,000 residents, East Iceland saw the highest number of marriages, followed by Northwest and Northeast Iceland.

(The data used in the report were derived from marriage registrations in the national registry; marriages involving an individual without a national ID number [kennitala] were not included in the statistics.)

Briefly concerning marriage in Iceland

As noted on Registers Iceland, authorised marriage officiants in Iceland include district commissioners, priests of the national church, and heads of registered religious and secular philosophical organisations (lífsskoðunarfélög). If a marriage ceremony is conducted at the offices of the district commissioner, a fee of ISK 11,000 [$78 / €73] is charged. The specific district commissioner’s office where the marriage takes place determines where the payment should be made.

In civil marriage ceremonies, it is not necessary to exchange rings. Guests may be brought along, subject to the capacity of the premises at each location. The district commissioner’s office can usually provide witnesses for the ceremony, if requested.

According to Icelandic legislation, prospective spouses must be at least 18 years old, must be legally competent, and must have concluded any financial settlements, divorces, or estate distributions if they were previously married. Additionally, one prospective spouse cannot be a descendant of the other, and they must not be siblings. The same applies to stepparents and stepchildren unless the adoption has been legally annulled.

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