What is the reason for the increased number of marriages in Cyprus? The answer is simple because couples of mixed religion can have a civil ceremony in Cyprus that, though not allowed back home, will still be recognised by law. Now, Cyprus has become the civil wedding destination for Middle Eastern couples.
In 1980, 61 Lebanese brides and 78 Lebanese grooms were married in Cyprus, as well as 98 Israeli grooms and 99 Israeli brides. In 2013, there were 2,131 Israeli weddings, 581 Lebanese ones, and 35 Syrian unions. Some municipalities, such as tourist-friendly Livadia, report even more startling figures; last year, of the 1,000 or so weddings it recorded, 350 were Lebanese, 425 were Israeli, and 20 were Syrian.
Cyprus's appeal for unconventional Middle Eastern lovers’ choice is simple: in Israel and Lebanon, non-religious weddings are impossible, but both countries recognise civil marriages conducted abroad.
"Once the war in Lebanon ended in the early 90s, mixed marriages between the various communities and religions started increasing gradually in Cyprus," says Maisy Khoury, a Cypriot wedding planner with Lebanese heritage. "For the past ten years, it's been a rising trend."
Dan Cristal, a wedding celebrant from Tel Aviv, describes a similar tendency, albeit with different causes. In the 90s, the USSR allowed its Jewish citizens to emigrate to Israel. "A lot of these new arrivals weren't recognised as proper Jews by the rabbinical institutions," Cristal explains. "It was difficult for them to marry in Israel, so they chose to wed abroad." Today, parties from opposing nations fly into the coastal city of Larnaca peacefully.
Registering marriage in Cyprus is indeed becoming popular, and there are also rising marriages from Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere.