In this (wedding) day and age, average groom now 35

People are still getting married but the institution has changed in the past 20 years

In 1994 men aged 40 and over accounted for just 5.4 per cent of grooms but is now at 18.4 per cent. Photograph: iStock

In 1994 men aged 40 and over accounted for just 5.4 per cent of grooms but is now at 18.4 per cent. Photograph: iStock

 

They say love is timeless and it is a philosophy borne out by numbers. More and more older people are getting married every year in Ireland as ageing demographics meet with cultural shifts.

The true picture of those walking down the aisle in the later stages of life is reflected in both average-age increases and in the actual numbers of weddings.

In 1994 men aged 40 and over accounted for just 5.4 per cent of grooms but this rose to 12.7 per cent in 2006 and is now at 18.4 per cent, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) .

Brides in the same age group made up 2.8 per cent of total marriages in 1994 and now account for 12.2 per cent.

In 2005, 232 men aged 60 and over got married and in 69 of those weddings, the bride was in the same age bracket. Many of these were people who had already been married. Just 21 of the nuptials made up of both a bride and groom who had never been married before.

Fast forward 10 years and the numbers have almost doubled. In 2015 there were 420 men tying the knot aged 60 and over, with 156 brides in the same age range. Just 19 of these matrimonies involved couples who were never married before, an indication that the level of people getting married for a second time is on the increase.

Of those 420 men over 60 getting married , 236 of the men were divorcees who found love in later life; 90 were widowers and 94 had never been married. By comparison, there were 95 female divorcees. This is a clear reflection of the influence of divorce in Ireland and how it has come to be accepted.

There are other societal variables too – younger people are soaking up a new age of opportunities and turning their backs on an outdated social trend of settling down and starting families in their 20s.

Changing institution

Diane Payne, head of the School of Sociology at University College Dublin (UCD) says romance is far from dead; people are still getting married but the institution has changed in the past 20 years, with a particular mindset shift since the 1980s.

This is particularly noticeable for older generations.

“People are living longer and they are also healthier and our perceptions of what it is to be old are changing as well,” she said.

“As younger people’s rights and expectations change I think older people’s rights and expectations change.

“If you fall in love with someone in your late 50s or 60s why shouldn’t you get married? Several generations ago that would have been considered inappropriate but now there is more openness to the idea that older people have the right to happiness and to get married,” she said.

It is all part of a seismic shift. The average age of grooms in 2015 was 35.3 years, a record high in Ireland having risen from a low of 26.2 years in 1977.It was 33.2 years for brides, another record.

For older couples, 2015 found the majority of grooms aged 60 and over worked in “professional occupations” with skilled trades just behind. For brides, the most common category was “unemployed, retired, student or unknown occupation”, followed by administration or secretarial work.

The highest number of marriages by people in that age group were held in Dublin city, followed by Cork County and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, keeping close to high population centres.