THEY are just your average couple really. For all the knitting patterns designed in their likeness and streets closed for celebration of their nuptials, Kate Middleton and Prince William fit neatly into the profile of the typical Australian newlyweds. At 29, Middleton matches exactly the median age of all brides in Australia.
When first marriages only are taken into account, however, it appears she may have been a little long on the shelf. The median age of first-time brides comes in at 27.7 years.
Our Wills, by contrast, at the tender age of 28, appears a year or two too young to have made the leap, according to the opinion of the typical Australian groom, who marries at a median age of 31.5. But again, because the median age of first-time grooms is somewhat lower at 29.6, his choice seems a little more understandable.
Kate and William’s decision to wait until their late 20s to wed also reflects the choices of a new generation. A Bureau of Statistic’s survey of marriages and divorces in 2009 suggests we are increasingly a nation of waity Katies. In the late 1980s, the median age of first-time brides was much lower at 24 years, and also for first-time grooms at 26.5 years. Even against this benchmark, the marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981 appears an outlier for their times. Diana was just 20 when she dragged her almost eight-metre train down the aisle to meet her 31-year-old husband-to-be.
Kate and Wills are also much more on trend with their decision to live together before marriage. Despite the howls of many a mother, the proportion of Australian newlyweds who co-habit before marriage has reached 77 per cent. For some reason, however, NSW couples seem more chaste, with just under 70 per cent living together before marriage, by far the lowest proportion of all states and territories. This could be due to the different ethnic or religious profile of the state’s young couples, or because of more purely economic reasons such as it takes longer for young couples in NSW to afford a home of their own.
Yesterday’s royal wedding ceremony did however buck one important trend, not because of the horse-drawn carriages and millions of people lining the streets, but the choice of a religious ceremony. In Australia today about 67 per cent of couples opt for a marriage performed by a civil celebrant. Civil marriages have outnumbered religious ceremonies since 1999. Of those religious ceremonies still performed, the most common rites used are Catholic (one third) and Anglican (one fifth).
So what is next, statistically, for our royal newlyweds? ABS data shows that if a couple are headed for divorce in the future, it will take them an average of 8.7 years before the cracks start to appear and they separate. They’ll be divorced, on average, 12.3 years after initially saying “I do”.
The average length of marriage before divorce has, however, been rising over the past two decades, presumably reflecting the better quality of potential matches as young couples take longer to make up their minds.
May I take this opportunity to wish the happy couple the very best of luck.
THE IRVINE INDEX
Estimated cost to the British economy of the extra public holiday for the royal wedding, reduced to £5 billion when stimulus to retail and hospitality activity is included..
Price of Knit Your Own Wedding, a book by Fiona Goble published by Ivy Press. Also includes tips on how to knit the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Age of Kate Middleton. Princess Diana was 20 when she wed.
Median age at marriage for Australian women in 2009. Median age for men was 31.5.
Number of applications for street closures for royal wedding street parties in England and Wales.
Median length, in years, of the marriages of Australian couples who divorced in 2009.
Median years before they had separated.
Per cent of Australian couples who wed in 2009 who lived together first.
Per cent of NSW couples married in 2009 who lived together first, the lowest of all states and territories.
Sources: guardian.co.uk, bbc.co.uk, abs.gov.au Marriages and Divorce Australia 2009, lga.gov.uk, guardian.co.uk/data, Confederation of British Industry