Tying the knot

By Dawn Picken

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I DO: Udai Sarin and Patricia Meng tied the knot at VR Rotorua Lake Resort on the shores of Lake Rotoiti earlier this month. PHOTO/FILE
I DO: Udai Sarin and Patricia Meng tied the knot at VR Rotorua Lake Resort on the shores of Lake Rotoiti earlier this month. PHOTO/FILE

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.

UDAI SARIN married Patricia Meng at the hotel he runs, VR Rotorua Lake Resort, on February 7.

The couple got engaged three months ago, but have been together nearly seven years after meeting at one of the hotels Udai runs in Auckland.

"I happened to be at reception for a minute and Patricia happened to be driving past. I showed her a room, we went on a date, and that's it."

Udai says he and Patricia never lived together before marriage. And coming from different backgrounds meant getting to an 'I do' would take a while.

"I'm from an Indian culture and Patricia's from a Chinese culture, so it was a matter for both of us to get comfortable and have our values adapted to each other. Love is one thing, but having it work for a long period of time is a different thing. I felt it was the right time and she felt it was the right time as well."

Udai is 30 years old. Patricia is 26. It's the first marriage for both.
Patricia's mum and relatives came from China for the wedding; Udai's family lives in New Zealand.

They had a civil ceremony and European-style wedding in the morning and a traditional Indian wedding the same day, with a reception and party afterwards.

"It came together okay because my mum took charge of the whole thing and Patricia's family helped and we kept it quite simple."

Their celebrant, Peter Duncan, runs a Rotorua-based business called The Wedding Guy, which has performed 600 weddings over 15 years.

Duncan says his clients tend to spend three or four years together before marrying.

"Unlike the 1960s where you made that decision quickly, we see longer engagements on the premise that the couple is settling in. They have financial aspirations or children together; either a blended family or a child before the wedding day. That can have a huge bearing as to when and how to set that date."

Duncan says money matters, too. He has married couples with a total budget (including rings) of less than $2000, while his biggest-ticket wedding was $250,000 for an overseas inbound couple's extravaganza.

Herbie Edmonds says he and fiancée Penny Rolpon decided to get married at their Tauranga 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 evolved over 36-odd years. Herbie met Penny playing pool in 1979 or '80.

They've lived together almost ever since, though Herbie says 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 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.'"

Grant says reasons and ages vary wildly, but there is a common thread.

"They want to make that commitment to each other."

Janet Bremner and Bill Singleton married in Ohauiti last July after living together for 20 years.

She's 57 years old 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 says as the couple got older, they started to see marriage as sensible, and a wedding as fun. Janet phoned her 94-year-old mother to announce the news: "'Hey, Mum, Bill and I decided it's about time we got married, so we're going to go off and do that today. By the time you wake up tomorrow, the deed will have been done...' I didn't change my name and in some ways, it doesn't change a lot of things...people choose to do it because they want to."

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

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 saying we're committing 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."

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 that of 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 still will 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."

Udai says getting married is "quite exciting, but not too exciting, because we've already been together. I think seven years is not that long. We knew four years into it that we'd do it, maybe I delayed it a bit too much, but eventually it happened, which is the most important thing."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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