Married at 21 – is it too young?

Zia considers reactions to her friend’s wedding plans and wonders whether it’s time for everyone to mind their own business

Everyone’s early twenties are a transitional period. No one person’s experience is the same. You may find yourself going through great upheavals or passing new milestones while others are stuck, trying to find a sense of direction. If you’re at this crucial stage of your life, you can look to your friendship group to see this strange and exhilarating time in action: some are in University, others have their career mapped out for them, and then there’s always that one friend who’s travelling. These different approaches to life are mostly accepted so why, when it comes to younger marriages, do we still find it so controversial?

Marriage was the next clear choice.  However, a chorus of incredulity, judgement and even contempt has begun.

A friend of mine will be married at 21 soon. After a four-year relationship with the first man she ever loved, they’ve now lived together for two years, and they’re both making the necessary steps in their respective careers. To them, marriage was the next clear choice.  However, to the outside world and even within the couple’s own social circle, a chorus of incredulity, judgement and even contempt has begun. My friend should be able to share her news with pride – but she now feels she has to cover up and avoid the topic. She has even stopped introducing her partner as a fiancée purely because she is tired of having to explain herself and defend her relationship.  Strangely it’s not her family who have issued judgement – her parents are actually very supportive – but friends or people that don’t know her have made damaging presumptions about her decision.  People feel obligated to express concern when they hear of the couple’s plans – but where is it coming from?

In earlier generations, it was commonplace to be married by your early twenties. Now that our careers have taken precedent over marriage and the cost of living has inflated.

In earlier generations, it was commonplace to be married by your early twenties. Now that our careers have taken precedent over marriage and the cost of living has inflated, marrying young isn’t as common. The average wedding, according to a survey by Hitched,   costs £31,974. This simply isn’t feasible for twenty somethings at the beginning of their careers or in full time education. Relationships have also gone through a massive evolution with the onset of online dating. Dating, more than ever, has become easier, but commitment has become less so. A Vanity Fair article written by Nancy Jo Sales back in 2015 said Tinder was responsible for  ‘The Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse’. Relationships are definitely not dead but amongst my peers, commitment has become ever more elusive. To see two people our age who not only love each other, but want to get married, is rare.

Relationships are definitely not dead but amongst my peers, commitment has become ever more elusive. To see two people our age who not only love each other, but want to get married, is rare.

It’s not just the changed dating landscape the young couple must contend with. The reactions the couple receives from older work colleagues or strangers also says ‘they are too young’. Society has always exercised some control over a young adult’s life. It is not a new phenomenon for older people to think that a young person’s decisions are too rash or immature. Young people simply don’t have the life experience to make such a momentous decision.  In some ways their concern can be understood. It’s expensive, it’s difficult, and it doesn’t always end in success. But young marriage is by no means diminishing the sanctity of marriage if it ends in divorce –  rather, it respects the sanctity of choice. If a couple decides they are ready to get married so be it, and if they decide to get divorced, we live in a society where that’s ok.

When my friend broke the news to her friends there was laughter, then disbelief. They saw marriage as ‘settling down’, something that doesn’t apply to them yet. We live in a freer age where we can have sex before marriage and, for the most part, choose relationships with who we want. So why would someone shackle themselves to the institution of marriage? Isn’t it a direct affront to that independence we have strived for so long to obtain? Women don’t have to rely on their spouses to have a stable position in society and people don’t have to force themselves into types of relationships that they don’t want to be in any more.

It’s great to see that people are free to have whatever form of relationship they want. And that should extend to people who want to get married.

But our life decisions, especially when concerning our love lives, are deeply personal. Amongst my friendship group there is someone that is embracing her femininity to the fullest, someone who is between dating, and another who has finally accepted their sexuality.  It’s great to see that people are free to have whatever form of relationship they want. And that should extend to people who want to get married.  As we’ve all shown in the other aspects of our lives, there is no common guidelines on how we should traverse life anymore. All we can do as friends, strangers, or colleagues, is wish them all the best.

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