National Post

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Friday, October 29, 1999

Canadians waiting longer to get married: StatsCan
Andrew Duffy
Southam News

OTTAWA - The average Canadian bride is now more than 30 years old, federal statistics show.

Statistics Canada reported yesterday that the average age of a Canadian bride, which includes first-time brides and previously divorced women, was 30.9 in 1997, up from 28.4 a decade earlier.

Grooms, too, are getting older. The average man was wed at 33.5 years old, while in 1987, the average groom was just over 31.

Statistics Canada analyst Patricia Tully said the marriage data reflect a trend toward the postponement of life-altering decisions.

More than one-third of mothers are now waiting until they are 30 years of age or older to have their first child. At the same time, the number of adults living with their parents is higher than at any point in the last 15 years.

"People are clearly delaying some of their major life decisions," Ms. Tully said.

Robert Glossop, director of the Vanier Institute of the Family, said the trend toward older marital partners also reflects the growing popularity of common-law relationships.

"Although marriage rates have dropped and although people wait longer to get married, it doesn't mean they're waiting longer to establish conjugal unions," he said. "People are just waiting before they formalize that union, a common-law relationship, through marriage."

Since common-law relationships are widely accepted, there's no longer any particular rush to the altar.

"More and more people are waiting until they've finished their educations and feel relatively secure in a job before they make these life-shaping decisions," Mr. Glossop said.

"Slowing down what was once the typical life course is also a function of the fact young people need to prolong their educations and establish themselves in the labour market."

According to the study released yesterday by Statistics Canada, the popularity of marriage is in decline.

The number of marriage ceremonies conducted in 1997 fell to 153,306, down 2% from a year earlier and down 24% from the peak year of 1972.

More than two-thirds of the marriages in 1997 involved partners who were going to the altar for the first time.

The average age of first-time brides was 27.4, while previously divorced brides averaged 39.8 years of age. First-time grooms averaged 29.5 years of age, while those going to the altar for a second time, or more, averaged 43.4 years of age.

Mr. Glossop said the decision to marry or remarry, once scripted by societal mores, is now a very personal one. And he expressed hope that more stability will be brought to Canadian families as a result.

"It may be that people who are choosing to wait longer to make these decisions may also reflect longer and harder on the commitment they're making and might therefore be better prepared to understand its consequences."

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