Even though the vast majority of couples have lived together for some years, most brides still want diamond engagement rings, wear white dresses on their wedding day and walk up the aisle with their fathers to be “given away” to their husbands.
The cultural power of marriage extends to gay couples, who have kept many of the same traditions in their civil union ceremonies.
The study, by Auckland University sociologists Professor Maureen Baker and Dr Vivienne Elizabeth, helps explain why gay couples have pushed so strongly for the right to marry even though they have been able to have civil unions since 2005 and have been treated the same as heterosexual couples under relationship property law since 2002.
“One of the puzzling questions is why long-term cohabiting couples bother to legalise their relationships,” the study says.
“In New Zealand, these couples are considered by the state to be in a ‘marriage-like relationship’ after they share a residence for three years, or earlier if they reproduce together.