More than twice as many resident marriages were registered last year than there were marriage dissolutions.
Statistics New Zealand figures released yesterday show there were 10,100 dissolution orders in the year to December, and 21,500 resident marriages. The number of marriages was higher than the 2005 figure of 20,500.
Acting Government Statistician Dallas Welch said the increase was due to a rise in first marriages. In both 2006 and 2005 the same number of marriages - 2000 - were registered to overseas residents.
This figure was made up of wedding tourists and expatriate New Zealanders returning to celebrate the big day with family and friends, Ms Welch said.
There were 397 civil unions registered to New Zealand residents in 2006. Of these, 319 were same sex unions - 131 male and 188 female. There were also 33 civil unions registered to overseas residents.
Ms Welch said same-sex couples registering civil unions were roughly eight years older than opposite-sex couples.
Because civil union registrations were relatively new, the current age characteristics might not reflect long-term trends, Ms Welch said.
The warmer months of January, February and March still proved the most popular for marriages.
"In 2006 40 per cent of marriages were celebrated in the first three months of the year.
"In contrast, only 12 per cent of marriages registered in 2006 took place in June, July and August."
The trend towards later-in-life marriages was continuing, with 33 the average age for men and 30 for women.
Fewer New Zealanders are marrying in their teens or early 20s. In 2006, 520 teenage girls got married, compared with 8700 in 1971. Teenagers comprised 32 per cent of all women who married in 1971 but only 2 per cent in 2006.
Women still tend to marry men older than themselves but the gap between their median ages at first marriage has narrowed, Ms Welch said. "In 1966 this gap was 2.7 years but by 2006 it had narrowed to 1.8 years."
Although the number of marriages has been relatively stable, the marriage rate has dropped.
Ms Welch said many factors had contributed to the fall in the marriage rate, including the growth in de facto unions, a general trend towards delayed marriage and increasing numbers of New Zealanders remaining single.
The Family Court granted 10,100 marriage dissolution orders in 2006, consistent with the annual average for the past decade.
Ms Welch said analysis of divorce statistics by year of marriage showed that about one-third of New Zealanders who married in 1981 had divorced before their 25th wedding anniversary.
About half of divorced people who remarry marry another divorced person.