Four weddings and a civil union

We lift the veil on the latest facts about New Zealanders tying the knot.
  • Image, two individuals stand together holding hands.

    The princess bride

    It was the wedding of the decade. When Kate Middleton married her prince in 2011, fans around the world had been waiting for years with breathless anticipation for this day to finally come.

    While it’s unlikely we’ll see a wedding on the same scale as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s here in New Zealand, the one thing the royal couple have in common with ordinary New Zealanders is the time they took to finally make it to the altar. They’d been together since university days and eventually married at age 28 (William) and 29 (Kate).

    The wedding planners

    New Zealanders aren’t in a hurry to take that short walk up the aisle (or up the paddock, or down the beach). In fact, we’re taking longer than ever. In 2012, the median age at first marriage in New Zealand was 28.5 years for women and 30.0 years for men. This was up from 24.9 and 27.0 years in 1992.

    However, although the median age at first marriage has increased over the last 20 years, this mostly happened before 2004 and the median age has remained similar since then. In 1971, when marriage rates peaked, the median age at first marriage was a youthful 20.8 years for women and 23.0 years for men.

    By 2012, the median age for all marriages (first and remarriages) had risen to a more mature 30.2 years for women and 32.3 years for men.

    Marriage age at marriage, 1961–2012.

    It’s a nice day for a white wedding

    In the southern hemisphere, we’re not as keen on spring weddings as Kate and William were. The warmer months of January, February, and March remain the most popular for marriage. In 2012, 4 in 10 marriages were celebrated in the first three months of the year. In contrast, just 1 in 10 couples married in the cooler months of June, July, and August.

    And the most popular day to marry in 2012 was 25 February, when 491 couples said “I do” up and down the country.

    Saturday is the most popular day of the week to wed; just over half of marriages are on this day. Friday is the second most popular day – about 1 in 5 couples marry on a Friday. In contrast, only 1 in 25 marriages are celebrated on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

    My big fat Kiwi wedding

    Although the general marriage rate is well down from its peak in the early 1970s, there were still 20,521 marriages registered to New Zealand residents in 2012. This included 14,214 first marriages and 6,307 remarriages. A further 2,422 marriages were registered here to overseas residents.

    The highest number of marriages in any year was in 1971, when 27,199 couples tied the knot.

    The general marriage rate (number of marriages per 1,000 not-married population aged 16 years and over) was 11.8 per 1,000 in 2012 – just over one-quarter of the 1971 peak, when the rate reached 45.5 per 1,000.

    Factors contributing to the fall in the marriage rate include growth in de facto unions, a general trend towards delayed marriage, and more New Zealanders remaining single.

    Runaway bride

    Civil unions are much rarer than marriages. In 2012 there were 87 civil unions to overseas residents and 303 civil unions to New Zealand residents.

    This means that around 1 in 5 civil unions in New Zealand were registered to couples from overseas, compared with 1 in 10 for marriages.

    Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage

    Opposite-sex couples made up only 22 percent of civil unions in 2012. The rest were to people in same-sex relationships.

    The first civil unions were celebrated in New Zealand in 2005. Back then, the median age of people entering into a civil union was 40.3 years for men and 40.8 for women. In 2012, the median age was 35.2 for men and 35.7 for women.

    The first same-sex marriage ceremonies could take place on 19 August 2013. Statistics NZ is working on how to meet the future data requirements from this historic change.

    It must have been love, but it’s over now

    Sadly, love doesn’t always last forever. In 2012, 8,785 married couples divorced. Just over one-third (35 percent) of couples who married in 1987 had divorced before their silver wedding anniversary (25 years).

    In New Zealand, an application for divorce can be made by either partner on the grounds that the marriage or civil union has broken down irreconcilably, provided a two-year separation requirement is satisfied. However, couples may be separated for longer than two years before divorcing or may separate and never formally divorce.

    In 2012 there were 10.1 divorces for every 1,000 estimated existing marriages.

    Source: Statistics New Zealand

The most popular day to marry in 2012 was 25 February.
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