Courtship and Marriage

Both males and females have a relatively free choice in whom they can marry, and widows or widowers and divorcées are free to remarry. The typical pattern under Communism was that a couple would date for some period of time, become pregnant, and set a date for the wedding (Fialova et al., 2000; Nash, 2003). Rates of marriage and birth both fell during and after the Communist takeover in 1948 and again after the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968. In response, the Communist government promoted a strong pronatalist policy during the 1970s, under which nearly all men and women eventually married and more than 94% of women had at least one child (Vecernik & Mateju, 1999, p. 110). Marriage was also desirable because married couples with children received preference in housing and larger families were eligible for larger apartments. Love was a major factor in choosing a spouse, because economic potential was roughly equal for everyone and class differences were minimal (Vecernik & Mateju, 1999, pp. 99-101).

With increased opportunities for single individuals to work, travel, and study since the end of Communism, and with decreased government benefits for children, the age of first marriage and first conception are rapidly rising. Extended cohabitation has become more common, with the decision to marry often precipitated by pregnancy or the decision to have children (Fialova et al., 2000). In the 1980s, Czechs had some of the youngest brides in Europe, with an average age of 21 (with husbands about 3 years older); in the late 1990s the age had risen to 26.

Traditional weddings before Communism were large affairs, involving large extended families and an entire village, with a Catholic (or more rarely Evangelical) religious ceremony and a large wedding feast afterwards, in which the two families would be seated and symbolically joined around a U-shaped table. Under Communism and since, partly as a decline of extended community ties and partly through a decrease in material resources (and a disinclination to conspicuous consumption), urban weddings in particular tend to be smaller events, with immediate relatives and close friends at a reception following a civil ceremony.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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