“I do”… but in a few

Who gets married by age 23 these days? The painfully romantic stories of our parents and grandparents, who got married at sickeningly young ages, were a social norm for their generations. Now, when it’s encouraged to push off engagements until our late 20s, or even, gasp, into our 30s, at first glance, it seems we have evolved into a more mature marriage-seeking age.

But then, the question still remains: Has our perception of marriage or opinion of appropriate matrimonial age really evolved? Similarly, have we reached a point where we find marriage less important until we’re older? And if so, why?

Maybe we’re holding off because we’re supposed to get that travel bug out of our systems and see the world, while single.  Or, maybe it’s because we desire to get through college and start our big careers, working long hours and getting that desired position and paycheck, while single.  Perhaps it’s because we’re expected to stay out all night with friends – spending our hard-earned cash at the bar – just being young-twenty-somethings, while single.

Accomplishing many of those goals by age 23 is not uncommon for Millennials, as I have tackled a few myself.  Of course, there’s plenty more on our lists of things to do in life, but I’ve lived in southern France for six months, I have a cool job that I love (thanks to my hard-earned degree)  and I also go out with friends on a regular basis.

So, having reached the various ambitions we’ve set before taking the plunge of marriage, does that mean we’re ready for rings and wedding gowns? For me, at age 23, the answer is no.

Although we may not yet be ready, many of us anticipate marriage, to a degree. Yes, I have planned (many details of) my wedding, although I am not currently seeing anyone. But does that really matter?  As a young professional watching her family members and co-workers plan their weddings, it’s only normal to get creative.  And that I have done.  But, that’s not to say that I’m ready for that 2.5 carat ring I’ve designed.

Really though, if we have evolved, marriage wouldn’t even cross our minds until our late 20s. But for some of us, the curiosity and allure of settling down lingers somewhere in the depths of our minds.

A friend (let’s call her Jane) who was in a sorority at a southern college begrudgingly told me of the all-too-well-known phrase down there, “Ring by spring.”  Of course, this implied that graduating senior girls would tote diamond clad ring fingers across the stage as they picked up their diplomas.

Jane also said that she and her friends owned a handful of fake engagement rings that they would casually wear when out on the town.  Sometimes they’d flash these knock-off jewels for fun, but sometimes, they did so for the special treatment that inevitably followed.  Once, while out at the grocery store, she had forgotten that she was wearing one of these said rings, and actually received far better service because of it.

Though it may have just been a joke to Jane, for other girls out there, “earning” a ring by graduation time was just as important as earning that degree.  Some may say this concept is outlandish, but for Jane et al., this trend signified the means by which they achieved feeling a part of a group, fulfilling tradition and fitting in with the southern culture.  As for wearing the rings when not pursuing special treatment, well, perhaps that was just wishful thinking.

While we’re known as the generation who believes it’s logical to wait until we’re older to get married – sparing ourselves of the unappealing divorce rate statistics – the idea isn’t something that escapes our minds. Rather, we consider marriage at all ages, but don’t follow a simple check-the-box list before we’re ready to cash it all in for “the one.”

Furthermore, a recent New York Times article that’s gotten a lot of buzz explains how we’re (allegedly) slower at accomplishing the five main milestones of growing up: graduating, moving out of our parents’ house, financially supporting ourselves, getting married and having kids. Perhaps we do progress at a slower rate, or, maybe we’re reinventing the order by which we reach our milestones.

Our evolution lies in our ability to stand out as a group of unique individuals, each progressing at his or her own pace, deciding an appropriate marriage age – if we ever decide to get married, that is. We disregard any stereotypes and marital expectations, and it’s okay.

Photo by Jeff Belmonte

Ashleigh Rainko I’m not a drama queen; life's more exciting with exaggeration. I’m not high maintenance; I just know what I want. Mobile apps, innovation, reinvention – and generally all technology – never cease to amaze me. I’m a PR pro, iPhone addict, UMich grad, Jackie O-aspiring metro-Detroit native, who has the gritty, true perspective on our millennial culture. And while you’ll likely find me wearing seersucker, you can feel free to take me seriously.

View all posts by Ashleigh Rainko

4 Responses to ““I do”… but in a few”

  1. Kaitlin Maud

    I’m sure you expected a comment like this: I’m 23 and married.

    I realize, though, I am NOT the norm. Although I just got married in May, it was definitely the right choice for me. I have been financially independent and living on my own since I was 17, which I suppose contributed a lot to my maturity level. I wasn’t looking to settle down and get married, but when I met the right person it was the right choice & time for us and I think THAT is what sets me apart from brides of earlier generations. There was no cultural pressure, no parental approval needed, no tradition… It was a personal choice we made and we got married our way! Our ceremony was close friends and family in our favorite restaurant, we were married by our gay friend, we had a 4 person bridal party, we had a drinks & dancing only reception for 150 (no sit down dinner)… We did it the way we wanted and I think THAT is really what is setting Gen Y apart in the marriage department. Doing things the way WE want to some may mean waiting until you’re older to settle down… for us it meant committing to each other in a way that was personally significant at a time that was good for us.

    And, in case you were wondering, Gen Y ladies- it IS possible to have both personal and professional success. Marriage does require making certain sacrifices, but not success or happiness- it only enhances it! Two heads really are better than one sometimes.

    Nice article, Ashleigh, a lot of great talking points!

  2. Mom Erdely

    Currently being on my third marriage, I think taking your time to know who you are and what you want out of life and out of a partner is important and most likely will lead to a longer term successful marriage. I say most likely because I personally have not reached this point in any of my marriages.
    Partnerships where two people benefit from being together and have a better life because of it is most important. Life is hard and being with someone who helps when it gets rough is really nice! Friends help, but a great partnership helps hold you together even better. Life needs to be fun, marriage should make it more fun, not less.

    Great article, Ashleigh!


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