Weddings are back in the diary as the country opens up from lockdown. But the traditional fairytale narrative would have us believe that love is a young person’s game. Passion is the preserve of youth while all midlifers can look forward to is boredom and routine.
At Studio10, we’re here to bust that myth. Lots of the wedding questions we’re asked don’t come from mothers of the bride and groom, wanting to look their best for their kids, but women in their forties, fifties and beyond who are getting married – many of them for the first time.
Back in 1972, the average age of a bride was 24.7. In 2017, it was 35.7 – while marriages among the over-65s increased by 56%. What are the reasons driving this uptick in mature unions?
First – and entirely unromantically – it’s a question of finances. Since the 1970s, the rise in numbers of co-habiting couples and better-educated women with an independent income mean the social pressure to wed earlier has lessened. Many women are having children later and no longer feel the need to race down the aisle in their early twenties, while both men and women want to build a career before “settling down”.
By the time those same women reach their late fifties and early sixties, their priorities have changed. Although we are working later, there isn’t the same focus on career as we age: companionship and love become our goals.
It’s particularly poignant when you realise that the average lifespan for a woman is now approaching 83 – which for some of us could mean 20 years with no work and no partner. The prospect of a long, lonely stretch is a wake-up call for many.
Our culture celebrates youth – and young people value immediacy. No one saves when they can buy on credit, or reads when they can scroll. Temporary fixes, material gain and aesthetic pleasure are all highly valued.
But as we age, and begin to think about our life and our legacy, we realise how fleeting time is, and we begin to focus on what’s really important. For many of us, it comes down to love and companionship. As we mature, we learn how to communicate, we learn the value of patience and the importance of compromise in a healthy relationship.
Our obsession with appearances also wanes. Even the most beautiful among us are aware that our looks, while important, aren’t the only thing that matters as we reach our fifties and beyond. Personality, shared interests and experience all become much more significant.
With later-life divorces also on the rise, lots of older women find themselves back in the dating game, potentially seeking a new long-term partner. Many report enjoying a newfound freedom as singletons, but can often miss the social ease that comes with a settled marriage.
Andrew Newbury, partner at Hall Brown Family Law, tells the Independent: “One thing many women in their fifties and sixties 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 this changing period in their life – and focus on replacing the social opportunities they’ve been missing.
But passion comes into it, too – even later in life. Dr Kate Davidson, of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender and a co-author of Intimacy in Later Life, reminds The Guardian that even for octogenarians, the power of love is paramount.
“Older men and women who 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.”
It is lovely – and that’s the important bit. As we get older and fleeting enthusiasms become less significant, we prioritise something else: being loved and cared for, and loving and caring for someone in return.
Passion and romance aren’t just the preserve of the young, they’re there for all of us; they make life worth living – at any age.
So, if you’re considering getting married in midlife or beyond, then go for it. Enjoy every minute of your life together – and don’t forget to invite me to the wedding!