If you believe the Hollywood hype, love is a young person’s game. Romance and passion are the preserve of youth while old folks can look forwards to staid and boring routines.
I noticed in the work that I do with Studio10, the reality of the matter is quite different, particularly (and ironically) as divorce rates rise in those who are 50+.
Suddenly many of the bridal questions we’re asked aren’t by mother of the brides wanting to look their best on such a special day, but women in their 40s, 50s and beyond getting married themselves.
Go back to the 1970s and the average age of a bride was 25 or less. By 2012 that was in the mid-30s and climbing. A 2017 report has now shown that marriage for the over 65s has grown by 56%.
What are the reasons driving this increase in mature marriages? Firstly, and entirely unromantically, finances are being cited.
Since the ‘70s, the rise of co-habiting couples and better-educated women with independent incomes means the social pressure to be wed earlier has lessened. Many women are having children later and no longer feel the need to race down the aisle in their early 20s, and both genders prefer to build careers before settling down.
By the time those same women reach their late 50s and early 60s, priorities have changed.
While women are working later, there isn’t the same focus on careers. Even in ambitious, singular times, as we get older, companionship and love become our key goal when it comes to our twilight years.
It’s particularly poignant when you realise that the average lifespan is rapidly approaching 90. Which could mean thirty years with no work and no partner. That’s a very lonely stretch of time for many, and it does make you think.
Interestingly the number of people getting married rose by 2.7% in 2014. Largely put down to older people making financial choices, and with good reason as there is a 40% tax break for married people following death, I think there’s a more emotional reason at play alongside it.
We’re a youth driven culture. Young people now (and for the last few decades) have celebrated immediacy. No one saves when they can buy on credit, they don’t read, they search and aesthetics and materialism are valued highly.
But as we age, and begin to question our legacies, our lives, we realise the value of time and begin to focus on what’s really important (love and companionship). I think as we mature we’ve learnt how to communicate better, are more patient and happier to make the compromises needed for a good working relationship.
Our preference for the visually appealing also wanes. Even the most beautiful among us tend to be aware that our looks, whilst important, aren’t the only things that matter as we get to our 50s and beyond.
Character, experience, shared interests – suddenly when you have no work to distract you and your children are grown – those things take precedence and become very important.
Another factor is the rise of late-in-life divorces. Many report enjoying some time as single people from that point on, but often miss the social ease that comes with a settled marriage.
Andrew Newbury, partner at Hall Brown Family Law, suggests that women are particularly likely to review marriage and commitment in this way as they get older, telling the Independent:
"These figures underline how women appear to be the driving force behind marriage.
One thing which many women in their 50s and 60s have mentioned to me while going through a divorce is the degree to which their social lives have been dependent on their partner's circle of friends or business colleagues.
When that’s taken away, they notice how lonely their lives have become."
Many of these women then seek a new partner, perhaps one who suits a different time in their lives and focus on replacing the lost social opportunities as quickly as possible.
It’s heartening though that when such clinical views abound, many experts also remind us of the power of passion, even later in life. In a piece for the Guardian, Dr Kate Davidson, a senior visiting fellow at the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender and co-author of Intimacy in Later Life, says what should not be forgotten, even for octogenarians, is the power of love.
"Older men and women who had embarked on a new relationship made such poignant remarks to us as, 'I've lost weight just with the energy of thinking about her all the time.' And 'I had terrible butterflies. I thought I had stomach problems but I realised I was in love.' They never thought they would feel like that again, and it was lovely."
And that’s, I suppose, the important bit. Yes, the money helps, but by that stage in life it’s rarely priority number one. The true reason is that as we got older and surface distractions get less, we prioritise the most important thing to us.
Being cared for, loved, and feeling the same for someone special. Proving once and for all that passion and romance are so much more than a young person’s fancy – they’re the base elements that make us human, and that make life worth living, at every age.
So, if you’re older and considering walking down the aisle – go for it. Enjoy every minute of your day, and your lives together and send me an invite, I love a good wedding!