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Marriage rate drops to a historic low
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  17 June 2011

Marriages, Civil Unions, and Divorces: Year ended December 2010  –  Media Release

The marriage rate was 12.5 marriages per 1,000 unmarried adults in 2010, Statistics New Zealand said today. This rate is less than one-third of the peak of 45.5 per 1,000 recorded in 1971 and one-half  the 1987 rate (25.0 per 1,000). Factors that have contributed to the falling marriage rate include the growth in de facto unions, a general trend towards delayed marriage, and more New Zealanders remaining single.

"There were 20,900 marriages registered to New Zealand residents in the December 2010 year," Population Statistics manager Andrea Blackburn said. "A further 2,200 marriages were registered to overseas residents. The highest number of marriages in any year was in 1971, when 27,200 couples tied the knot." 

Statistics NZ estimates that just over one-third (35 percent) of couples who married in 1971 had divorced by 2010.

Other statistics on marriages, civil unions, and divorces released today indicate that in the December 2010 year:

  • Saturday, 20 February was the most popular day for a wedding, with 600 marriages celebrated.
  • Sunday, 10 October, or 10/10/10 was also popular, with 260 marriages compared with an average of 30 on other Sundays in October.
  • 273 resident civil unions were registered, of which 73 percent were same-sex unions.
  • 65 civil unions were registered to overseas residents, of which 86 percent were same-sex unions.
  • Wellington residents were more likely to register a civil union than couples in other areas of  New Zealand. Between 2005 and 2010, 20 percent of civil union couples were resident in the Wellington area. In comparison around 11 percent of couples marrying were resident in the Wellington area which is consistent with their share of New Zealand's population.
  • 8,900 orders for dissolution of marriage were granted in New Zealand, up from 8,700 in 2009. The 2009 figure was the lowest number of divorces since 1989.
  • There were 10.2 divorces for every 1,000 estimated existing marriages in New Zealand, the same as in 2009, and the lowest rate since 1980.
 Dallas Welch (Mrs) 17 June 2011
 Acting Government Statistician   


For media enquiries contact:
Anne Howard
Christchurch 03 964 8700

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