It’s becoming increasingly unusual in the 21st Century to hear of people in their twenties getting married. In 2014 the average age for couples to enter into opposite sex marriages was 37 years for men and 34.6 years for women according to the Office for National Statistics. The age of couples entering into marriage has been on the rise since the 1970s.
Stefan and I got married almost 9 months ago, both at the age of 23. We were met with quite a range of reactions when we first announced our engagement in November 2015. From the whispered gossip of a possible pregnancy mixed with confusion over why anyone would get married today; others reacted with joy and happiness at receiving such happy news in a sad world.
The negative reactions took me by surprise. We’d been a happy couple for almost 5 years when we decided to marry. Sure, we were young, but you only needed to spend 5 minutes around us to know that we were a gloriously happy match. Marriage isn’t for everybody, or for every couple, but it was the best decision for us at our young age. Here’s just a few reasons why we decided to take that step:
1. We were realistic about married life
The build up to our engagement was filled with conversations about the meaning of marriage and the potential difficulties that would be faced along the journey. We were acutely aware that the wedding day does not magically create some fairytale ending to our love story, instead marking the beginning of an obstacle course!
In the 5 years we’d been together the amount we’d changed as individuals was huge. Growing together and changing who we are is a fundamental part of the marriage journey – I didn’t marry one version of Stefan (the one aged 23 who plays in jazz bands and is an eternal student) but I married Stefan the Father, the Grandfather, the bereaved and the unwell. We recognised that we were willing to be on that journey together. In preparation we went to a local church marriage course to discuss the big topics and how we’d work together to overcome the expected and unexpected challenges of living life as a two.
2. Pledging our love publicly was important to us
Modern traditions of cohabiting and shunning marriage didn’t appeal to us. We liked the idea of declaring the start of our life together in a public ceremony with our family and friends. It created a real moment of beginning our lives intertwined as a family of two instead of living as two independent people. The most beautiful moment of our ceremony was having our family and friends also pledge to “support and uphold them in their marriage now and in the years to come.” To have our family and friends share a part of our love and family life together was an important part of our decision to marry. It defined our relationship in a new and public way, allowing us to gain support from others to tackle the challenges of life.
3. Eternity wasn’t scary
The turning point in our relationship was admitting that the idea of being eternally together didn’t scare us. It already felt like an accepted part of our relationship. We’d been together through lows and highs, we were completely comfortable with each other and being together felt like home. There was no question anymore that we would ever end our relationship, so marriage felt like a natural and more public step.
4. “You’re too young to settle down” – Who’s settling?
A constant phrase from others was that we were “settling down” and how scary that must be. If we’re honest the phrase confused us at first, revealing how the modern world still thinks about marriage. Neither of us felt the phrase applied to us. Yes, we were getting married, but there were no imminent plans for children, buying a house, settling into “forever” jobs or any other “grown up” steps.
Instead we saw marriage as the beginning of a brand new adventure that allowed us to make big decisions and enjoy the world with our best friend and partner in tow. We’re still living in a rented apartment and plan to flee the big city in the next few years – it’s exciting that we don’t know where we’ll end up, what we’ll be doing or what our lives will look like. The one thing we know for sure now is that whatever happens we’ll have each other.
Finally, getting married at 23 was the greatest decision I’ve made so far. Having Stefan in my life everyday is indescribably great and making huge decisions together is amazing. Marriage has it’s challenges but knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with the one person who knows me the best is the greatest reward.