CNN's The Wonder List with Bill Weir devoted a large portion of its latest episode on Sunday to Iceland's high rate of unwed mothers and "unique sexual politics" that include a significant decline in marriage. [video below]
"Everywhere you turn, there are couples like Bryndis and Siggie. Together, they have four kids from three other partners, and not a drop of guilt or regret," Weir explained.
Bryndis explained to Weir that it's common in Iceland for couples to live together for a long time and have children before getting married.
When Bryndis explained that Icelanders are "pretty conventional" about monogamy, and said it wasn't "one big orgy," Weir joked, "that's too bad."
Weir described Iceland as "the most feminist country in the world," and noted that although it has Lutheran roots, the country is not very religious, so there's "no moral judgment about how a family comes together or breaks apart."
Weir interviewed single mothers, a man who's been in a relationship for nine years but hasn't considered getting married, and the creators of an app that lets singles find out if they're related before hooking up (it's worth noting that this is more likely a reflection of Iceland's small and homogenized population, not necessarily Iceland's marriage culture).
Weir also interviewed the lead engineer of Iceland's biggest geothermal plant, who he described as a "living example of Iceland's unique sexual politics." The engineer explained that her mother has three children with three men:
She did marry two of them, and I have half siblings of those half siblings, so I'd say my family tree is more like a family star. There isn't pressure to get married. You get married because of love, or you want stability. For instance, I'm married and I married before I had my children, but my mother-in-law was asking about grandchildren way before—she never asked about marriage.
A college professor who Weir interviewed noted that Iceland has strong daycare system and support for single parents. This — combined with a lack of stigma, she said — makes it easy for single parents to raise children, although she acknowledged that "it's easier and more fun" to raise children in a stable relationship.
Weir also highlighted a couple named Tinna and Hallur, whose wedding was featured on The Wonder List:
Statistics tell us that Iceland leads the developed world in unwed mothers, so technically, Tinna here is a statistic. But today, she becomes a bride. After seven years and two kids with a soccer coach named Hallur, his proposal was a pleasant surprise. The coach has four kids with three women, all of them happily in attendance. In America, this is a recipe for a reality show catfight. But in Iceland, this is just another family.
Weir laughed, "that's a lot of love right there!" when Hallur's daughter Saga described her family as two brothers, one sister, and two mothers and two fathers.
Ironically, Weir ended the segment by proclaiming, "They may not believe in marriage the way others do, but they are big believers in nature, and magic, and love. Here's hoping all three last forever."