Our changing society is behind the dramatic drop in the
number of New Zealanders tying the knot, and getting
divorced, relationship experts say.
Statistics New Zealand figures released today showed 19,237
marriages were registered to resident New Zealanders last
year - a figure fewer than 20,000 for the first time in more
than 12 years.
Jill Goldson, director of the Family Matters Centre in
Auckland, said New Zealand is following similar social trends
shown in the UK and US.
Young people are under less pressure to get married in an
increasingly secular society where de facto relationships now
have the same legal status as marriage when it comes to
children and property, she said.
"Social change has changed the meaning of marriage for the
current generation," said Ms Goldson.
"Gone are the days of contested divorce and assumptions about
"Being born 'out of wedlock' no longer frames children's
lives in the way that it did."
Ms Goldson said her practice saw "a lot of people dealing
with the reality of the rearranged family system".
"The main focus of my research and work is how to help people
navigate the new social structures that statistics such as
those released today have demonstrated," she said.
But Family First NZ said the drop in weddings should act as a
"warning bell to society" over the benefits of marriage.
"The question we must ask is whether the decreasing rate of
marriage has been good for society. The evidence suggests
that it has caused untold harm and cost," said national
director Bob McCoskrie.
The annual figures also reveal people getting married later
Pablo Godoy of Relationships Aotearoa, a not-for-profit
professional counselling and family therapy provider,
believes the trend for more mature brides and grooms could be
behind a continuing drop in divorce rates.
Last year, 8279 married couples divorced, compared to 10,491
"In the past 10 years there has been a pretty consistent
trend of reducing divorce numbers overall. We're not looking
at an anomaly," Mr Godoy said.
Older couples are more likely to engage in "courageous
conversations" around finances and life goals, he said, which
tends to bode better for successful long-term relationships.
"I'm betting that [maturity] is one of the main contributing
factors to the dropping divorce rate."
New Zealanders are also getting better at talking through
relationship issues, and in seeking professional help before
the divide gets too wide, Mr Godoy said.
In 2013 there were 209 same-sex marriages and 187 civil
unions registered to New Zealand residents, with an
additional 46 to overseas residents.
Since same-sex marriage became legal in New Zealand last
August, the number of same-sex civil unions was almost halved
compared with 2012.
One Auckland gay celebrant Barry Davis said 2013 was a quiet
"I didn't have many same-sex marriages last year, and no