Fewer say 'I do' as marriage rate in city at record low

Michael Ferguson and Annette Weir are set to get married at First Church in Dunedin next month ,...
Michael Ferguson and Annette Weir are set to get married at First Church in Dunedin next month , bucking a trend of fewer people getting hitched in the city. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Fewer Dunedin people are saying "I do'' as the city's marriage rate plummets to a record low.

Stats NZ spokesman James Weir said the number of marriages and civil unions in Dunedin had "steadily decreased'' from 732 in 1991 to 450 last year - its lowest number since records began 28 years ago.

"The numbers have generally stayed between 500 to 600 for most of the years since 1991.''

Fewer people were getting hitched despite more people aged 15 or older living in Dunedin.

More than 110,000 Dunedin people were in that age bracket last year - 15% more than in 1996.

A person must be at least 16 to get married in New Zealand.

The marriage rate in New Zealand last year fell to 10.8 couples per 1000 people eligible to marry or form a civil union. The marriage rate has declined since its peak in 1971, when it was 45.5 couples per 1000 people eligible.

Dunedin couple Michael Ferguson (32) and Annette Weir (37) are bucking the trend as they prepare to get married at First Church in Dunedin next month.

The pair met at Aotea Electric in Dunedin, where he works as a fire alarm technician and she is an administrator.

A relationship started about three years ago when both were celebrating Tradies Day - the last day of work in the year for many in the trade sector.

"We had a Tradies Day romance ... We were the last two standing,'' Miss Weir joked.

The couple bought a house in Glenross nearly two years ago.

While they were on holiday in the United States in October last year, Mr Ferguson arranged a helicopter trip from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park and got down on one knee and proposed.

Miss Weir said the proposal was a surprise despite her "giving him enough hints'' to ask.

"I've always wanted to get married.''

She was looking forward to taking his surname so when they had children, everyone would have the same last name.

Another benefit would be getting a listing nearer the front of the White Pages, she joked.

Mr Ferguson said a reason to get married this year was so his mother, who was battling cancer, could attend. Having his mother see him get married was important to him.

Miss Weir said people might be avoiding getting married because of the cost.

"People can't afford to get married and we are just very lucky we can.''

Mr Ferguson said he had friends in long-term relationships he expected would never get married.

"I don't think they see the point.''

Mr Weir said the median age of people tying the knot in Dunedin was getting higher.

The median age of grooms in Dunedin last year was 33.3 and the median age of brides 31.2.

In 1991, the median age of grooms in Dunedin was 28.5 and for brides it was was 26.3.

SHAWN.MCAVINUE @thestar.co.nz

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