Love is...

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Love is all around but the changing face of love in all its many forms and just how these are represented in today’s world, is what helps mould society in Australia and beyond.

Whether it’s following a traditional marriage path or choosing a different way to express the love of a partner and commitment to a family, many people still choose to share their lives with others.

Many couples are still choosing to marry, and while it may be less than in previous years, it is still a favoured way of expressing a bond to another person.

In fact, while marriage rates have been in decline over the years, there are still more weddings each year than the year before and fewer people are getting divorced.

Both men and women are waiting longer and tending to marry when they are a little older with the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) putting the average age for a woman marrying for the first time at 28 years and for a man, 30 years.

In 2013, there were 118,962 marriages in Australia. The crude marriage rate was 5.1 per 1000 people. And although the number of marriages has increased consistently between 1950 and 2013, the crude marriage rate has declined - 9.2 in 1950 compared to 5.1 in 2013. (The crude marriage rate is the number of marriages registered during a calendar year per 1,000 estimated resident population at 30 June of the same year.)

And now there are many options when it comes to how people partner up. 

The rise of de facto relationships and the increasing incidence of blended families and gay parents, shows the many variations of what love and family can look like.

Since as far back as the  1970s, the number of people living together before getting married has increased dramatically. Now almost 80 per cent of men and women live together before getting married.

And while gay marriage has not yet been legally recognised in Australia, increasing numbers of couples are going through ceremonies pledging their commitment.

Another significant change has been the way people choose to tie the knot. Where previously most marriages were held in churches, celebrants are now the preferred choice for couples in conducting marriage vows. By 2013, 72.5 per cent of all marriages were conducted by civil servants, compared to 27.4 per cent by ministers of religion. 

There is also more attention being paid to ensuring the match is a good one from the start, with more than one third of couples going to premarital relationship education before they get hitched. 

This has all led to changes in the family make-up and also a rising number of couples, who are choosing not to have children. There are as many couples without children in Australia as there are couples with dependent children and the number of couples without kids is expected to grow. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) predicts that couple families with children will decrease from 44.1 per cent in 2011 to 40.2 per cent in 2036; couple families without children will increase from 37.9 per cent in 2011 to 41.1 per cent in 2036 and couple families without children will outnumber couple families with children by 2030.