Taking a more mature approach to marriage can still be fun
The thought of getting married can be daunting at any age, but the good news is, if you’re over 50, you’re more likely to know what you want and have the confidence to make it happen.
And while the marriage rate for over-50s is tiny (3.3 per 1000 for men and 2.2 per 1000 for women, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data), for those who do choose to walk down the aisle, it is all about the love.
Brisbane couple Maria and Dave Harvey tied the knot late last year, after 10 years living together. At ages 52 and 55 respectively, it was the second marriage for both.
“We got engaged fairly early on … and we just decided after the 10th year together that we really wanted to make that marriage commitment,” Maria says. “I particularly wanted to have Dave’s name. I just wanted to tell the world that he was my husband.”
Dave, ever the joker, says it was because they were sick of living in sin.
Nevertheless, they were still nervous about telling Dave’s adult children turned out to be very happy with the plan. Other family and friends were somewhat bemused, asking: Why bother?
“My father asked me that question and I said to him: No.1, ‘I love him; and No.2, because I want to take Dave’s name and I want to be married to him’,” Maria says.
Dave contends it’s because he’s a good catch.
Despite the end of her first marriage, Maria had no qualms about doing it again. “I didn’t think I’d ever trust again – for a lot of women it’s a trust thing – but from the moment I met Dave, I’ve never not trusted him. That’s why I knew he was the man for me.”
“Couples should also discuss their financial goals, update their will and reassess their superannuation”
Others raised misgivings about financial circumstances and inheritances.
“You just have to be true to yourselves and talk,” Maria says. “Make sure that you’re really open with each other. We were together for so long it didn’t really matter. We knew each other and we knew what we were getting into.”
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s MoneySmart agency recommends couples organise their finances before marriage – deciding whether to have joint or separate accounts and who pays which bills.
Couples should also discuss their financial goals; update their wills; make sure insurance policies reflect their new status; and reassess their superannuation.
And then there are wedding costs to consider. MoneySmart says the average Australian wedding costs $36,000.
But for many older couples, an expensive wedding is not a priority.
Brisbane-based marriage celebrant Laurie Pollard of The Wedding Wanderer says older couples tend to prefer a low-key ceremony where adult children are very much part of the day.
“They still want their friends and family around to celebrate, and they still want to say ‘I love you, you’re mine forever’,” Laurie says. “If anything it’s probably a little bit more emotional because usually if there’s a second marriage – a marriage doesn’t end for good reasons. I’ve found it’s a huge weight lifted off their shoulders.”
Laurie says older couples tend to be more grounded with life experience and less superficial. And they’re smarter with their money, opting for backyard weddings or choosing smaller venues, with less lavish meals.
“It might be just having a ceremony and a little cocktail afterwards, not necessarily the big buffet,” he says. “If they’re in their 50s, too, they’re quite financial so they tend to spend the money on their honeymoons instead. They know the value of a good holiday.”
Some prefer to combine their ceremony with their honeymoon, opting for a modern-day “elopement”.
Natalie Skye, of Noosa-based Fancy & Free offers elopement packages for up to 20 guests at outdoor locations.
She has a range of packages, including a bohemian-style teepee; Champagne; chocolates; witnesses; a mobile hair and make-up artist; a 1.5-hour photo shoot; bouquet and music.
At just under $3000, it’s about a tenth of the price of the average wedding.
“A lot of people are actually opting to go with the elopements. They’ve already got children, a mortgage, and they’re being a bit smarter and savvier about how they spend their money,” Natalie says.
“They realise it’s about the commitment of their love and their union, as opposed to putting on the show for their family or friends.
“When they pick Noosa, it’s a destination holiday for them. They bring along their nearest and dearest family and friends, and everyone tends to have a holiday over a period of a week or so. That’s actually their honeymoon as well. They have a beautiful time with their families in paradise and they’re getting married.”
Natalie says a ceremony that incorporates the whole family, including children and grandchildren, is very important for older couples, adding that adult children with mortgages cannot always afford to jet off overseas for a wedding, so Noosa is a nice compromise.
Most elopement ceremonies tend to be held during the day, followed by a lunch reception.
“They have a long, lazy lunch where they can just sit there and watch the surf roll in and enjoy the family and wine and food with a great view,” she says.
“The grandchildren can get to bed on time, and everyone can get up early the next morning for a surf.
“The majority of people over 50 are fairly relaxed. They’ve done it before so they’re not really too fussed on having everything absolutely perfect. Most are really wanting it to be about them and about their love.”
For Maria and Dave, the emphasis was on fun. They had a garden wedding in their backyard, in contrast to Maria’s full white wedding, and Dave’s registry office wedding the first time around.
“It is more about family celebration. This time we knew what was important to us,” Maria says.
Family members each had a special part in the day, although they did not have formal roles.
“We didn’t have a buck’s night, we didn’t have a hen’s night, we didn’t have to worry about bridesmaids dresses and shoes and all the other kerfuffle that people go through.”
After the ceremony, they cut the cake, had Champagne and afternoon tea – and more Champagne – then everyone piled off into Fortitude Valley for a teppanyaki feast.
“It wasn’t expensive, but it was perfect.”
They saved their hard-earned cash for a honeymoon in Tahiti.
Maria has this encouragement for older couples considering marriage: live life.
“Just because we’re older, why can’t we get married? We really had the best time,” she says.
“Why not have fun, why not have a laugh, why not enjoy life?”
Registry weddings enter a stylish new era
Another inexpensive option, favoured by 87 couples aged over 50 in Brisbane last year, is a registry wedding, which costs $549 or less.
The Brisbane Registry has recently moved to new premises in Ann St, featuring a marble backdrop, modern chandelier, and sprawling views of Brisbane City and surrounding suburbs. We asked registry celebrant Tuaa Laumoli what a registry wedding involves.
What do you most like about the weddings you have conducted?
I like being at the beginning of the couple’s journey, where they commit themselves to each other, as well as having fun by making it memorable because they have chosen the registry to do their wedding.
What’s involved in a registry wedding?
A couple will contact the registry either via phone, email, in person or online to book a time to discuss with a registry officer about a registry wedding. Couples are sent confirmation of their interview time/date with a fact sheet and a Notice of Intent to Marry form to complete prior to the interview.
Couples are advised of the legal 30-day cooling-off period. This means the notice must be lodged with the nominated celebrant, at least 30 days prior to their wedding date.
At the interview, couples are asked if lodging your notice at the registry is an indication you are wanting to marry here. First, we assure them they are not locked into any obligation with the registry. We discuss the legal ramification of getting married in Australia and provide a link to the Attorney-General’s website that lists all appointed civil celebrant/religious ministers that can perform ceremonies anywhere in Australia.
If they choose the registry, the interview continues with the lodging of their notice and securing a date/time.
The couple return on the day of the ceremony, bringing two witnesses (aged over 18); arriving 15 minutes prior to their ceremony to finalise paperwork. They are allocated a 30-minute ceremony time with music and an option of two rooms: one to accommodate up to 20 guests and another room up to 60 guests.
What are the new facilities like?
Great reviews from all. It’s modern and the view from a high-rise location is spectacular. People are pleasantly surprised that it’s not sterile and there is an element of comfort.
Why do you think people choose registry weddings?
- Having/had a celebration ceremony overseas.
- Having been married before and don’t want the hype.
- Non-religious factor.
- Location and costs.
In your experience, how do later-in-life weddings differ from other age groups?
They’re more relaxed and couples are experienced in life lessons.
What tip do you have for people over 55 who want to get married?
May the force be with you!