Dawn is a reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Never too late to marry

1 comment
Couples in long-term partnerships may have extra incentive to get engaged this month. Not only is Valentine's Day approaching, but since 2016 is a Leap Year, tradition says a woman can propose to a man on February 29. Regardless of the season or reason, Kiwis are marrying at older ages than in the past. 48 Hours reporter Dawn Picken spoke with couples tying the knot after years ... even decades ... together.
Elisabeth Chambers and Shannon Clifford will marry on their Te Puna property next month, eight years to the day they got engaged. Photo/John Borren
Elisabeth Chambers and Shannon Clifford will marry on their Te Puna property next month, eight years to the day they got engaged. Photo/John Borren

Herbie Edmonds says he and fiancee Penny Rolpon decided to get married at their Pyes Pa home a couple of weeks ago.

"We sat down and thought maybe we should. It was sort of a spur of the moment thing."

A spur of the moment that has evolved over 36-odd years. Herbie met Penny playing pool in 1979 or '80. They've lived together almost ever since, although Herbie says that until now, the idea of marriage didn't appeal.

"I'd seen too many relationships break up. A lot of my friends, family ... so I thought, 'Nah, it's not for me.' I've never been one for that sort of thing, anyway." Herbie is a 56-year-old truck driver and Penny is a deli assistant in her 60s.

Their celebrant, Christine Grant, works full-time officiating life events in the Bay of Plenty. Grant says she's performed more than a thousand weddings in the past 16 years, often marrying long-term couples.

It happens at all ages. Some have been together since they met at uni at age 18; they travel around the world, come home, buy a house, have two or three children and then think, 'Perhaps we should get married'.
Christine Grant, celebrant

Bay of Plenty celebrant Christine Grant says she officiated at more than a thousand weddings. She says it's never too late to say 'I do'.
Bay of Plenty celebrant Christine Grant says she officiated at more than a thousand weddings. She says it's never too late to say 'I do'.

"It happens at all ages. Some have been together since they met at uni at age 18; they travel around the world, come home, buy a house, have two or three children and then think, 'Perhaps we should get married'."

Grant says reasons and ages vary wildly, but that desire for commitment is the common thread. Elisabeth (Lis) Chambers will marry fiancé Shannon Clifford exactly eight years after getting engaged. The Tauranga Police constable, 40, met her senior sergeant fiancé, 36, on the job in Auckland.

"He proposed in Mutton Cove Park in Abel Tasman National Park with a bottle of Moet chilling in a local stream," she says. But the couple never set a wedding date.

"All the excitement of getting engaged was enough to cope with at the time. Then I fell pregnant ..."

Their first child, Ollie, 7, was born in 2009. Millie, now 5, arrived in 2011 and Ruby, 3, in 2012.

"I didn't want to get married while I was pregnant or with a new baby so we just decided to have children. That was the priority and then we'd get married one day."

That day will come on March 5, when Shannon and Lis tie the knot in front of 85 adults and 30 children in the garden of their Te Puna home.

"It's important to us and to our children, too, because they were always asking us 'Mum, Dad, when are WE getting married', and 'when is OUR wedding?'

"They've come on this journey with us and have been very much a part of what we do on the day and how it will happen."

Janet Bremner and Bill Singleton married in Ohauiti last July after living together for 20 years. She's 57 and he's 64. Janet says they'd both been married before and have a 16-year-old son together. From her home in Bristol, UK, Janet tells 48 Hours she and Bill decided to get hitched while visiting his Kiwi family.

"Several months before, it occurred to us it would be a good opportunity to get married quietly, away from having to do a big production thing."

Janet Bremner and Bill Singleton used a holiday in New Zealand as the impetus to get married after 20 years together. The couple travelled from the UK last July and married in Ohauiti. Photo/supplied
Janet Bremner and Bill Singleton used a holiday in New Zealand as the impetus to get married after 20 years together. The couple travelled from the UK last July and married in Ohauiti. Photo/supplied

She says that as the couple got older, they started to see marriage as sensible and a wedding as fun. Janet phoned her 94-year-old mother with the news: "'Hey Mum, Bill and I decided it's about time we got married, so we're going to do that today. By the time you wake up tomorrow, the deed will have been done'. "

Janet and Bill's celebrant, Wendy Barton, says that 100 years ago, marriage was a business proposition where "the man provided income and women provided children and the laundry".

The literature says couples who are married are happier and more successful. Part of it is announcing your commitment in front of family, and then you get the reflection of family back to you. Some weddings ask if everyone will support the couple - it's an important question.
Wendy Barton, celebrant

These days, she says New Zealand law recognises marriage as an equal partnership.

"It's never playing one off the other. There are three people in a marriage. One partner, the other partner, and then the marriage."

Barton says in our culture, marriage provides no tangible social or economic benefits, it's a personal choice affecting couples and their families.

"The literature says couples who are married are happier and more successful. Part of it is announcing your commitment in front of family, and then you get the reflection of family back to you. Some weddings ask if everyone will support the couple - it's an important question."

Janet and Bill told friends on Facebook they'd gotten married by posting a photo of their wedding rings. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Janet and Bill told friends on Facebook they'd gotten married by posting a photo of their wedding rings. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Long-standing couples choosing a church wedding want a different kind of imprint on their relationship, says Mount Maunganui Anglican Parish Vicar Richard Vialoux. The reverend, who's been officiating weddings for ten years, says he can't recall a single couple who weren't living together before marriage, yet the event still matters deeply.

"There are people who come to us and say, 'I've been married before, but this time I want our marriage to be blessed by God because we didn't have it the first time around.' To them, it was something that was missing ... the sense of the spiritual component that they come together as a couple is quite important to them."

Celebrant Christine Grant says it's never too late to say I do. "I've married couples in their 70s. I often say the most honourable title people can have is husband and wife. Love is ageless."

Herbie and his fiancée plan to tie the knot at their home next month. He says, "I don't know what'll change. I can't see it, to be quite honest. I will still be the same person and so will she. The only difference is we'll have a ring and a bit of paper that says 'you're married'."

Elisabeth Chambers calls marriage "the final commitment. We didn't have to. We love each other, we've got our children, we've got a solid relationship. It just seems the right thing to do and our family and friends keep asking us when we're getting married. For them, the day will be a real celebration because we finally got ourselves organised enough to get married. "It's something I always dreamed about that I never thought would happen."

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 04 Dec 2016 13:17:18 Processing Time: 613ms