Are Millennials Getting Married More Than You Think?

With the rise of dating apps and single culture you'd think marriage would have become a thing of the past but millennials are still opting to follow tradition. Why?

Are Millennials Getting Married More Than You Think

by Kate Lloyd |
Published on

Nicola met Jerry on Tinder two and a half years ago. ‘I was drunk and on a night out,’ she explains. ’So I invited him along.’ Their night on the lash worked out for the best: they got engaged on a weekend away last year, and then married last weekend. She’s just 26.

If this was twenty years ago, there would be nothing special about Nicola and Jerry’s story, but now it’s rare for people to get married in their mid-twenties. According the Marriage Foundation,half of millennials will never get married. The Office of National Statistics says that while 76% of people were married by the age of 25 in the ‘60s, now that figure stands at just 14%. In fact, the last time it collected data it found that the average age for a woman to get married was 34.

For many of us, marriage seems less important than ever. With today’s ‘shopping around’ dating culture, signing a contract that legally binds you in a relationship can seem like a terrifying prospect. Especially now that there’s less pressure to get married before you move in together or have children. Statistics show those born after the ‘80s are less likely than their parents to think that people who want to have children should get married and one in eight couples live together.

Plus, traditional marriage has associations with things like religion and sexism – your dad ‘giving’ you away, or wearing a white dress to signify virginity – which are seen as outdated by society today. So why are people still getting married in their twenties?

Of course, for some people, there are practical reasons. People who are strictly religious might feel it’s necessary to get married so that they can live together and have sex. Plus, sometimes getting hitched is the only way you can get a visa to remain in the same country as your boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s the reason marriage was first talked about by Nicola and Jerry. ‘Jerry’s American,’ says Nicola. ‘And at one point it did come up that should something happen and he not be allowed to stay we said we would look into moving into marriage quicker, however that was never a situation which presented itself.’ Instead Nicola explains the decision was based on being ‘head over heels’ in love: ‘We already knew we would be together forever and that this was the next step.’

Her thought process is echoed by lots of the women I spoke to who suggested that marriage seemed like the obvious next move. Kristina, who got engaged at 25 explains: ‘It felt like a natural progression for us. We'd always talked about getting married but had decided to focus on buying a flat first.’ She says that while marriage is seen as less important than before, for her the shift was more a move from must-do life event to luxury: ‘Weddings are expensive so sometimes life just happens and being married isn't such an essential part. It’s lovely though.’

But could the devaluation of marriage also mean that people are more likely to get married on a whim, since divorce is less taboo? One 26-year-old woman I talked to said yes. ‘It's easier or less frowned upon to divorce now,’ she said. ‘And so that means that there is less pressure on marriage. I love that it realises that sometimes there is a change between two people that can't be solved and that it shouldn't be met hatred for divorce.’ That being said quite a few of the married twenty-somethings I talked to joked that their reason for getting married was ‘locking down their partner’. One said it was so ‘he couldn't run away without providing me a big divorce settlement’ and another added ‘because I couldn't let anyone else have him, put a ring on it so bitches know he's taken’.

While for some marriage just seems like how life is supposed to progress, for others it plays a different role. Iona, 28, tells me her decision to get married aged 22 came after the death of her son. ‘My now-husband and I were out wandering around town one day and I saw a ring I liked and we thought, let's get married,’ she says. ‘I spent the next six months planning a very impulsive wedding.’

Iona explains that if their son hadn’t died there’s no way they’d have got married. ‘It was just a reaction to that happening. I needed a new focus,’ she says, explaining there was a huge backlash from her family when she announced her engagement. Now she describes it as the best decision she’s ever made.

She says she thinks there’s less of a focus on the order you do things for our generation, she says that being called 'Mrs' means people take her more seriously. ‘Sad as that sounds,’ she says. ‘I look young and I also have four very young kids now so people are perhaps a little less judgmental and don't assume I'm a single mum with a brood of kids living on benefits.’

While Iona says getting married young has helped her avoid judgement, Sophia, 26, says that since she got engaged she’s faced a mixed reaction. ‘I’m often questioned why I am getting married “so young”,’ she says. ‘This obviously tends to be by people I don’t know rather than our friends. Weirdly I would say it also almost exclusively men who ask this.’

And that’s the thing. Ultimately, judging a woman for getting married young is just as bad as judging a woman for staying single forever. Especially since, when it boils down to it the decision to marry is the empowered decision to commit to one person… and also an excuse for a great party. ‘I don't think committing to someone could ever be out of date,’ says Nicola – who got married this week. ‘I have been in an open relationship before and did subscribe to the whole 'more than one person for each of us' thing. And then I met Jerry and couldn't and can't ever imagine being with another person ever again.’

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**Follow Kate on Twitter **@katelloud

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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