Same-sex marriages boosting tourism

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 06/05/2014

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Same-sex marriage tourism is on the rise, with nearly half of gay couples who tied the knot in New Zealand last year coming from other countries.

There were about 21,650 marriages last year, including 2400 involving international visitors, according to Statistics NZ's latest marriage numbers. Same-sex marriages made up 355 of those, and 146 couples had come from another country to wed. 

Auckland celebrant Sheryl Mungall has officiated at the marriages of about 15 same-sex couples since the law came into effect in August, and most of them had come from overseas.

"They deeply appreciate they can do this in New Zealand and they're appreciative that New Zealand is so open compared to other parts of the world," she said.

Australian couples made up the majority, but others had come from as far as Israel and Britain.

"It's good for the New Zealand economy because they're coming here and they spend money and they have a honeymoon. A lot of them go down to the South Island or go up to the Bay of Islands."

Melbourne couple Rob Grimmer and Ron Curwood had been together for 22 years before they decided to tie the knot in New Zealand.

"I needed to get to know him a bit first," Grimmer joked. "We were both turning 70 and we thought, well, instead of having a party let's marry - in New Zealand, where we can."

They had a beach ceremony in Russell, in the Bay of Islands, in February and brought 31 people with them for a week-long celebration.

Grimmer said that, with Australia still without a law allowing same-sex couples to be married, it was a market to be tapped.

The 2013 marriage statistics show people are getting married later - a median age of 32.4 for men and 30.4 for women - that marriages which end in divorce are lasting on average about 14 years, a year longer than they were a decade ago, and the divorce rate is down. 

Relationship Services spokesman Pablo Godoy said the trends could be interconnected.

"I'm wondering if people are more mature and in a space to be having those courageous conversations with each other about what is important and how they're going to navigate through their difficult and also good times."

GETTING HITCHED

26,624 New Zealanders married for the first time in 2013

30.4 was the median age for brides last year

32.4 was the median age for grooms last year

9.4 divorces per 1000 marriages

14.2 years is the median number of years a marriage that ends in divorce lasts

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6289 children affected by their parents' divorce last year

187 New Zealanders opted for civil unions last year

2416 weddings involved international visitors in 2013

11 per cent of weddings were in Wellington

Source: Statistics NZ

- The Dominion Post

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