AbstractThis article focuses on the two well-known mechanisms of marriage restraint in Europe. The leading question is whether permanent celibacy is an unintended consequence of delayed marriage or can be conceived of as a more or less independent phenomenon. We use a nationwide sample of the Dutch birth cohort 1890-1909 and compare the life courses of persons who never married and those who married at an advanced age. This analysis shows how in various regional and social sub-populations different combinations of permanent celibacy and age at marriage existed. Permanent celibacy was not simply the result of late age at marriage. We have encountered every possible combination of age at marriage and proportion single. The statistical analysis shows that each of these combinations had its own logic for the sub-population involved.