Call it "marriage season," call it growing up, call it whatever you like. The fact of the matter is we all hit a certain age, often in our mid-to-late 20s, when it feels as though everyone—from your high school sweetie to your college roomie—is suddenly rushing to the altar. While the actual age may vary depending on where you live, once it starts, it's best described as a domino effect. One friend gets married after another, after another.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age to get married is 27.8 for women and 29.8 for men, and the weddings do certainly seem to happen around that age bracket. But is it because it’s the best age to get married? Or perhaps, it has a lot more to do with growing up with the “before I’m 30” mind-set—thinking you'll have the perfect job, house, and marriage by that age. So, when we're about to turn the big 3-0, we panic. And when we see other people our age getting married, we panic even more. Thus, the wedding rush begins, but should there be a rush to marry at all?
Financially, Later Is Better
Women specifically, and especially women with college degrees, have a very clear benefit from marrying when they're older. Studies have shown they set themselves up for a much stronger financial life by not marrying young. “Women who marry later make more money per year than women who marry young,” according to The Atlantic. “The average annual personal income for college-educated women in their mid-30s who married after age 30 is $50,415, compared with $32,263 for college-educated women of the same age who married before age 20—a 56 percent difference.”
And that doesn’t just apply to college grads. “Female high-school graduates who attended some college also enjoy higher wages if they wait to marry, though the gap is not as wide: Those who marry after 30 earn $22,286 a year by their mid-30s, while those who marry before 20 earn $18,234, a 22 percent difference.” So if your finances are your priority, there’s an argument toward putting marriage off. But money isn’t everything—and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution.
But Life Events Should Be Taken Into Consideration
Different people have different priorities, and that’s totally OK. Maybe marriage and kids are the priority. If that’s the case, you might want to consider that couples who are married when their first child is born are two-thirds less likely to break up in the first five years than couples who aren't. Perhaps you want to establish a certain level of financial security, so with the rising cost of living and student loan debt, it would probably make more sense to put it off for longer.
Your priorities are yours alone. Make sure you’re thinking about your life and priorities in a holistic way before you start putting pressure on yourself to tie the knot.
And Ultimately, Shouldn’t It Be About the Person?
The big elephant in the room is, of course, that getting married relies on having someone to get married to. The statistics and algorithms don’t mean a thing if you’re in the wrong relationship. Divorce rates are high, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s hard not to think how many of those divorces could have been prevented if people weren’t determined to get married by a certain age.
When it comes to marriage, there is no should. It’s about starting a life with a person—the right person—as opposed to the one who just happens to stumble in at the same moment you feel your biological clock ticking.
Too many of us hold "30" in our heads as a deadline for so many different life events, including marriage. But it’s a totally arbitrary—and honestly, outdated—number. Marriage should make your life better; it should be a moment where you solidify a relationship that’s already strong. It’s not about making you feel more "adult" or like you’ve crossed some finish line. So stop worrying about the age. Instead, live your life, find the person you want to spend it with—if you want to spend it with someone at all. Then, when you feel genuinely ready, you’ll be at the right age to get married. Whenever that may be.