Why Getting Married after You Turn 30 Is Pretty Spectacular

cupcake dessert table at wedding


I thought I would die if I turned 30 unmarried—perhaps literally at times. I vividly remember sitting in the waiting room of the law firm where I’d just started working at age 27 when I overheard a conversation that began, “Yes, well it’s a good time for them. He’s 36 and she’s 34, so it’s just the right age to get married.” I cringed—34?!? That poor girl. Something was horribly wrong. I could never, would never, ever be that girl.

I’d almost been married once before by then. I spent years dating the handsome actor I met at college, the one my father described as “a GAP model,” dizzy in a spell of musical theatre romance and inexpensive off-brand wine. After five years together, we went to Italy on vacation and I was sure he was going to propose. I shouldn’t have been—he told me he wasn’t ready and wasn’t going to. But that didn’t stop me from wishing and plotting and ending up spending the last night of our vacation crying heaving, hysterical tears, sick with self-inflicted disappointment and despair in a rundown twin-share room in Siena.

I left him shortly after our return to Los Angeles. If he wasn’t going to marry me, then I would find someone who would. He’d had his chance, and I was going to take mine with the smart and serious fellow I’d met the first day of law school. The law student and I were together four years—long enough to move in together, to travel the world together, and to spend our 30th birthdays together. On the eve of my last night in my twenties, I begged him to take me to The Little White Chapel, so that I wouldn’t turn 30 single. He declined, and I was thrust into a new decade feeling like an abject failure. He took me ring shopping the following month, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Two months later as we sat in our apartment, I asked him when he was going to marry me. In a soft voice filled with regret and compassion, he replied, “I don’t know that I’ll ever want to marry you.” I was devastated, and moved out the next month, once again crying hysterical tears, laced with the potent cocktail of bitterness and disappointment. My mother kept telling me that the right man was worth the wait and that when I met him, I’d be grateful. I hated her optimism as I hated myself. I felt unlovable because a man hadn’t chosen me. I went to therapy. It helped.

Three years later, I finally met J.D., a man who radiates kindness. We were looking for all the same things at the same time. Suddenly, the romantic best friend I’d been looking for my whole life was there by my side when I awoke. Last night he showed my childhood friend a picture of the ring he bought me, that is being sized before we officially announce our engagement. I’ve never been so happy in my life.

We went to Paris last month, a place I visited with the actor and the law student ten and six years before. I felt the ghosts of my former self walking with me. How badly I wanted to tell the younger me that it is OK—no it’s better than OK—waiting was the best thing that ever happened to me! He was worth the wait and the tears. I sent fervent prayers of thanks to my exes for not marrying me—for not stealing the happiness that I now have from me. I whispered gratitude to the law student who was brave enough to tell me the truth about his intentions. I confessed that the still-small voice in my head and my mother and sisters were right all along—my time came and it was worth every instant my teeth had gnashed in despair.

I’m 33 now, and will be 34 on our wedding day this December. He’ll have just turned 36, of course. Ironically, it turns out, for me, this really is just the right age to get married.

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  • Lynn

    I know this feeling. It happens just the way it is supposed to, I think. Getting here as been rough, but I believe that it is so totally worth it.

  • Yes! Thank you for this! I am 35, and just about to get engaged. And I’ve been thinking this same thing for weeks now. Thank God those other two serious boyfriends did not marry me! I turned 30 on the heels of a serious breakup, and had a full on panick attack that I was somehow “off-course”. Which the rational part of my brain knew was ridiculous. But the emotional part? The emotional part broke down in tears at Disneyland on the Peter Pan ride. (I wish that was a joke.) But, I am glad to have shed those tears, because I appreciate what I have with my current boyfriend/almost fiance so much more. And it’s mixed with (and I hate to admit this), a little, I don’t know…embarrassment? that I am so thrilled to be getting married. As if that’s reserved for younger brides or something? I don’t know, I’m sure I’ll get over that. The truth about 35 is, I feel just like I did at 25, only full of awesome. Meg is right, in your 30’s you are still you, just way more confident.

    • Amanda

      I, too, felt I needed to be “reserved” with my wedding excitement as an “older” (31) bride. Where did this narrative come from? And for goodness sakes, looking back, I wish I had been more jubilant, yelling from the rooftops to everyone and anyone who would listen! Rather, I felt compelled to share my excitement only with my to-be hubby, my immediate family and the few girlfriends who were also planning weddings at the time. I didn’t know if my reservations came from the fact that I was older than the average WIC bride, or because some of my same-aged friends were still single.


      • Jennifer

        I got flat-out told by one obnoxious person that I was too old to be having “a wedding and all that nonsense” and surely would take the more respectable route of just going to city hall and making things legal. I was several years older than you (married about a month before my 38th birthday) so that may have also been part of it, but, while most people were not as obnoxious as this one, I definitely felt age-related pressure to not make a big deal about the wedding.

        • K

          That is just bizarre. I recently attended a wedding where the bride was 61 and it was her first marriage. She had TWENTY bridesmaids — everyone to whom she’s ever said, “Sure, if I ever get married you can be in my wedding” for her entire life were all “OK, we’re ready now!” It was spectacular.

          • That bride wins at weddings and life and everything. Love her.

          • K

            Replying to myself since I can’t reply to Molly: Yes, she married my cousin and she is awesome. Oh, and during the ceremony, when the minister asked, “Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man?” all the bridesmaids thrust their bouquets in the air at arm’s length and shouted, “WE DO!!!” They also recessed to James Brown. It was a killer wedding.

        • Dianne DeSha

          I can relate to this. I’m going to be 42 when I get married this fall and I’ve had to deal with some self-consciousness about “not being a squee-ing 20-something anymore” and feeling like I should indeed be “too old for that nonsense”. I think it might actually be easier to be hearing it from some obnoxious other person, rather than from the little voice in the back of my own head.

          After all, my intended and I have had one of those very-slow-build relationships, from roommates to friends to love over the last 13 years. Also, both being chicks, we can’t make it legal (here); the only legal avenue we have is to register as DPs… which we already did in 2007 for insurance purposes long before we were at all sure this would be a life-long thing.

          Age, no technical change in legal status (yet), having been ‘together’ in some fashion for over a decade–it all leads to me sometimes feeling silly for making a “big deal” about it in public at all.

          Then I have to go back and re-read the “Your Marriage Is Not An Imposition” post for the umpteenth time, because yes, at this point most of our most beloved are spread across the country and will have to fly in, and no there isn’t any major life or legal change involved, but dammit: It’s important to me and it’s important to her. And that is justification enough to let it be the Big Deal it is.

          • Jennifer

            To be perfectly honest, I had the little voice in the back of my head, too. It just got more insistent when it got confirmation from an outside party (since little voices in backs of heads tend not to distinguish between obnoxious comments and good comments). The little voice was all, “SEE! I knew it!” :) I did eventually feel comfortable making the wedding a Big Enough Deal, though it could have been more of a Big Deal.

      • K

        What is the age of the average WIC bride? I would think that at 31 you’d be right in the middle of the range.

        My husband and I got married this year at exactly ten years older than the OP and her fiance, and it was also exactly the right time. I’m so, *so* glad that I got to be single for my entire thirties and to do all the things I did. It was stellar. Children were never on my radar, so that probably helped.

        My joy was certainly different than it would have been had I married in my 20s, but not lesser. I would describe it as deeper, more serene, sort of a grounded joy rather than an overflowing joy.

        For me 40 was a much bigger deal than 30 — I actually began to notice for the first time that I now needed more than five hours of sleep a night, that injuries took longer to heal, that wow, I was starting to get lines on my face in the exact same places as my mother. (!!!) Despite all that however life is still a fascinating adventure and I am excited to see what the future brings.

        • Susan

          In the U.S., the most recent median age for first marriage is 26.1 for women, 28.2 for men.

          (I’m helping a writer with book research about demographic shifts in marriage, family planning, childbearing, etc.–my head’s been swimming with stats like this for months!)

          • Deanne

            in Canada it’s a little older. Average age for a woman is 28, and for a man it’s 30.

      • Well, WOW. I am glad I am not alone. I think I also need to go back and read “your wedding is not an imposition”. And I need to remind myself that it is OK to shout from the rooftops! And to remind myself that joy is always age-appropriate.
        Why is it so hard to get out of my own head?!?

        • “Joy is always age-appropriate.”

          I’m writing that on a post-it and sticking it on my computer monitor. Right now.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        As a 20-something bride, I can tell you there’s pressure to squee and not to squee from all over, at any age. There’s pressure on what to squee about: My mother wishes I would squee about clothes for the wedding; I get excited updating the budget. I’ve posted before about how I fear being thought I’m wedding-obsessed every time I bring up the wedding, no matter how legitimate the reason. Other times well-meaning acquaintances force me into conversation about the wedding, no matter how hard I try to change the subject.

        You just can’t win at meeting everyone’s expectations, so I take Meg’s advice and try to win at being myself.

        • Dianne DeSha

          Now that’s something I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do at 20-something. Good for you!

    • Dianne DeSha

      “Meg is right, in your 30′s you are still you, just way more confident.”

      Secret? That’s what happens in your 40s too. Even more confidence. Still you.

      (Now we just have to get over that weird embarrassment thing, because at 42 I’m feeling the exact same way. But I *am* thrilled. And why shouldn’t I be? :)

    • I hope you enjoy your wedding experience as much as you possibly can. I think it’s ridiculous that some people think overflowing, abundant joy and a full-on wedding celebration is only appropriate for twenty-somethings. As someone who got married in my thirties (almost three years ago now), that makes me angry. And I have friends who have gotten married in their forties. Who is to say so-called “older” couples don’t deserve as much jubilant celebration when they decide to get married? (I know that makes me want to celebrate even more with my friends!)

      So I say, rock it out and enjoy it all…in any way you want to celebrate. You only live once. Don’t let others dampen your joy…

    • Kristy

      YES! Thank you – I agree – it’s so funny planning my wedding now. I’m so excited but I do have a feeling sometimes of, “man, I’m not supposed to be this old and this giddy.” But why not?!? Congratulations!

  • Cynth

    I can soo relate, thanks for writing this! And thank goodness for those guys who told me the tough truth that I wasn’t ready to hear. Telling someone you care about that you don’t want to marry them is tough tough stuff, but such a kindness in the end.

  • Diana

    Ha! This comes exactly one week before my 30th birthday and it is EXACTLY on point!! We got engaged a couple of months ago, and most people he talked to beforehand told him to propose before I turn 30. One of his married friends told him that “women get weird about their 30th birthday.” Insulting? Maybe. True? Probably. Birthdays are times to reflect on where a person is in life, and unfortunately some (most?) of us still use our 21-year-old yardstick to measure our success. I want to slap the 21 year-old version of myself (for SO many reasons). In fact, had I met my fiance when I was 21, I would have cast him off as a nerdy nice guy and kept chasing my bad-boy-who-was-going-to-change-his-ways-and-settle-down-with-me-by-25. 30 year old me knows herself better and that nerdy nice guys are THE BOMB.

    • YES. YES. YES!!

      • YES!!! I have told my husband (who was a childhood friend) that I don’t know if he would have liked me in college and my early twenties… I was a vocal performance major, inflated with my own potential importance and addicted to jerks who hurt my self esteem.

        I got over that once I got a taste of the real world, and I feel like we were both our best selves when we reconnected at 26 and 28. We were married at 28 and 30, and it just works. :)

    • Kess

      Nerdy guys freaking are the bomb!

  • Barbara

    This is so beautifully written. The second to last paragraph captures exactly the way I have felt and tried to describe but never could. Here’s a toast to all those (necessary) broken hearts and ex’s that didn’t let us settle for less than what would make us truly happy!

  • ellabynight

    I can relate to this from the other side of the timeline. Growing up, I had it in my head that I wouldn’t marry until at least 30 because I needed to go to school and establish a career and then find a partner. Reality played out differently: I got engaged at 21 to my high school boyfriend and I was married at 23.

    I had always been very vocal about how silly I thought it was to even think about marriage before 25, so I struggled a lot with the idea of getting married young. It took a lot of soul searching and agonizing for me to come to terms with the fact that my previous timeline, while practical in theory, was not practical in reality. I was more mature at 23 than most of my peers were, and I had just happened to find the right person a bit earlier than I expected. Accepting that there isn’t a predetermined Right Time for me or anyone else to get married (or hit any life milestone, really) was some hard won maturity for me.

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      I would like to exactly this many times.

    • Laura

      Yes! This!

      My mother always told me, NEVER GET MARRIED BEFORE THE AGE OF 30. It was a mandate that was driven into us.

      Now that I’m 26 and engaged (will be 27 when we wed), I’m fighting the urge to freak out that I’m NOT 30. That I’m doing this too early, and will miss out on things. But I have to remind myself–my mom was drawing from her own experiences. That doesn’t make it right for me.

      • Carolyn

        Ha! My mother always said the same thing… though she would push the date even further back, depending on her mood (Wait until you’re 30! I mean, 34! Er, never! Don’t do it! Well, maybe do it, just not too soon…). I got married at 23, and it’s not bad. Now all I have to do is shake her corollary (Don’t have kids before you’re 33! I mean, 36! I mean, don’t! Not that you weren’t fun to have around… erm… ). It’s so much better to just let things happen when they happen. Forget the age limits!

        • Rachel

          It is really funny how our mothers’ experience shape our perceptions so deeply. My twin sister is getting married this year at 23, and she has struggled at times because she was concerned about being “too young” because my mom stressed that she felt like she was too young to get married at 23. I think its more about finding that equal partner. She just happened to find her’s earlier.

    • Yes! This! My timeline called for marriage somewhere between 27 and 34ish, and certainly not before. I needed to graduate college, travel, and have a successful career on my own terms before I snagged a boy. And then I met the man I wanted to marry when I was 18 and tied the knot at 20. He was 28, so he was on my ideal timeline anyhow. ;) I’m achieving everything I set out to achieve, but with a fellow beside me. Turns out I like it better this way.

      Of course, I also didn’t want to have any kids before age 30. So far we’re still running on that timeline, but I’m not married to it, per se.

    • I’m in the same boat as you, the opposite one of the writer of this post. I always thought I’d get married late, if at all, until at 22 I decided I was never going to get married and made peace with it. Life happened, and I’m a bride at 25. Those expectations, and how they’re not always met, cut both ways for sure.

      • Adrini

        That was me to. I had the same check list and in waltzed Mr. Right in the middle of junior year. Instead of being 35 or so (the age I honestly thought I would be) I’m going to be 26 (we did want to finish school). I really wasn’t looking for love, it jumped me.

  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

    First, all the best in both your engagement (even if it’s not quite official yet best wishes are in order!) and marriage.
    For me, this post was a reminder I needed just now: things happen in their own time for each individual, and the world will not end if it does not go precisely as planned/imagined. It might seem like it has stopped for a bit, but life will go on. Personally, I never(!) planned to be preparing for marriage at 23, but here I am. It’s thrown me for a loop, but I know that it is right for me. Don’t you love that this post is widely applicable? (Yay! Go awesome APW family!)
    That bit “I hated her optimism, as I hated myself”. How many moments like that have I had with my own mother? But she was right, things will happen in their own time.

  • KatieBeth

    Amen to the “thank God my exes never married me” – but more, “thank God I never married my exes.” Otherwise, I’d have never found the handsome, oddball, good egg who’s there every night when I come home. Before, I think my subconscious knew that there was something deeply wrong with each of the men I dated – and, very strangely, I rushed into thinking about marriage and weddings and all that, thinking that it would FIX whatever was wrong. Now I’m sure there will come a time when I will be ALL OVER my significant other to get married – but for now, I’d be content to sit there and watch TV with him sans-ring, just to be with him. And that’s how I know he’s the one for me (sidenote: kind of like that moment from Sex in the City when Charlotte goes to the synagogue’s singles party and sees Harry and apologizes for being so desperate to get married, but now she just misses him and asks him to just call her some time. sigh).

  • Rachel

    I think a lot of us could share this same story. For me, the best part about it was that after I went through the waiting and the failed relationships (not forgetting everything I gained from them), when I found that “perfect” relationship, it really is exactly what I hoped I would find and always wanted. Its such a peaceful feeling.

    All this to say I’m (only) 25 (and very grateful!), he just turned 30 and we have exactly three weeks before I turn 26. How is it possible to not think about getting engaged at these ages, and hope that it happens?!

    We both try not to think about these timelines as deadlines or when we (mostly I) get stuck on them, we talk about it. It seems we are maybe dragging our feet because we are so excited about Us and enjoying Us right now that it doesn’t seem possible that we finally found our person and now we get to enjoy our own marriage. Like the time has finally come and now we are stunned.

    Hooray for being excited about your realtionship. It really is beautiful how it all works out, isn’t it? I know how you feel. :)

  • carrie

    I love this post so much. I got married last year at 34, met David at 32. Ya know, two full years after my spinsterhood certificate was held up in the mail. ;-)

    Congrats! Thanks so much for this beautiful post!

    • *giggle* Spinsterhood certificate. I like it.

    • Kristy

      Awww thank you! Spinster certificate indeed – that’s funny. :)

  • Granola

    Congratulations! I hope you and your fiance have a lifetime of happiness together. It takes awhile to be able to get to the place of gratitude for the people in your life that have moved on, but I know that I feel better now that I’m not angry with them anymore and can see them for what they were – nice guys, wrong for me.

  • Awesome post! I’m hoping my luck will turn out just like yours!

  • Like Ellabynight, I can relate from the other end. I never thought I would get married before 30, but I got engaged at 27 and married at 28. I realized that it was silly to wait longer just to reach an arbitrary age that I felt was appropriate to get married, but I still have other, similar timelines that affect my decisions. I wanted to get married sooner rather than later because I knew I wanted to wait at least 2 years before thinking about children. I also knew I wanted to be done having children by 35. Letting go of my original timeline (the married after 30 one) did not seem to help me to let go of others, it just made me create new timelines.

  • Catherine B

    Thank you for writing this! I too have sent those fervent prayers of thanks. And gotten frustrated with my mother for her unending optimism.

  • Christine

    Getting rid of the mental timeline was a tough challenge! I did not meet my Mr. Right until I was 34 and we were married when I was 37. I never thought I would feel this way, but he was TOTALLY worth the wait and I have never been so happy. Life really is better with the right person and I’m so happy you found yours! :)

    P.S. Two months after our wedding we conceived our little one and I will be giving birth in a few months to my miracle – at the age of 38 1/2. Never in a million years did I think I’d be a first time mom at this age and feel so blessed that there are less boundaries for us today.

  • Ashley

    I feel that way about being married ALL THE TIME! I keep telling myself that we/I will get marrieed when the time is right and there is no need to rush. It’s not always easy to keep my marriage anxiety at bay especially when it seems like I’m in the time of my life where there is a wedding every weekend that I get invited to. Thanks for this post it helps to have something else besides the rational side of my brain telling me that it’s okay to wait and it will or won’t happen when the time is right. Still it’s hard trying not to plan my and the boy’s wedding. :)

  • Christine

    This is one of the best posts I have read on this site. Thank you for writing it. As the many commenters have already reiterated, we all seem to struggle with the invisible time lines. It helps to know that we are not alone in our moments of crazy, as I like to call them.

  • mimi

    For most of my late twenties, I felt like a failure for being single and not meeting my own “married and babies by 30” timeline. I finally went to therapy at 29 and that helped. I met my guy a month before I turned 30 and we’re now pre-engaged and talking about a wedding next summer, when I’ll be turning 33. It hurt like hell when my college boyfriend told 21-year-old-me that he didn’t want to marry me… but definitely for the best! It’s comforting to know that so many other APWers shared this timeline (or any timeline really).

    Congrats Kristy, and I’m envious of all your trips to Paris! :)

    • Parsley

      I love this post. Thank you.

      “I went to therapy. It helped.” This jumped out at me. You know that thing where people write their autobiographies in 6 words? There are days when I feel like this is mine!

  • I’m having timeline issues of my own, in regards to kids. I decided about 4 years ago that we should have bought a house two years ago and right now was the ideal time to start popping out babies. Surprisingly, life got in the way and we’re still living in a small one bedroom rented apartment (and about to sign a lease for another year) and won’t start thinking about kids for a while. In the meantime, my ovaries have been doing songs and dances about how babies are awesome and are getting increasingly harder to ignore (as is the mainstream YOUR OVARIES SHRIVEL THE INSTANT YOU TURN 35! message. Let’s ignore the fact my mom had me at 36 and my little brother at 40 and the world hasn’t ended).

    So, I feel you.

    • carrie

      Since I got married at 34 and David was 37 (we’re 35 and 38 now), I struggle with the timeline of children. Mostly because we don’t know we totally want kids or that we totally don’t. Sometimes I get angry because I don’t feel like we have a lot of time to figure it out, and not just because of fertility and age. A few weeks ago I had a total meltdown at his friends’ informal college reunion – all of them there except for two couples had met in college and had a million kids between them. I felt like I should know if I want that, and I just have no idea. But I don’t feel like I have time. I punish myself over this, and I hate it because of course there’s time. So this post and the comments (especially this one!) are helping soothe my crazy a bit.

    • Jennifer

      I think the kid timeline is even harder to deal with, and accounts for a lot of the “must be married by age X” timeline issues, because the kid timeline is a little more real…there is no upper age limit for finding a loving partner, but there are age limits to becoming a parent. They’re often exaggerated in the media — ovaries do not shut down on your 35th birthday — but on the other hand, sometimes they are hidden and waiting to surprise you (I had no idea there were generally age limits for adopting, though the exact numbers vary by agency, until I began to investigate, for example). I think the worst thing about both of those timelines is that they aren’t under your control as much as some other life goals/milestones.

    • Ahd

      Coming from someone who is dealing with fertility issues, I think the early the better message for babies is relatively valid. No. Your ovaries won’t shrivel up at 35 but yes… things do get harder . Not to mention if things go wrong, you have more time to deal with at a younger age and fertility treatments are more effective at younger ages.

  • great post! I love the part about (mentally) thanking your exes.

  • I loved this post. When my mom was 21 her friend’s mom said to her, “Oh, you’ve never married?” My mom replied, “Not never, just not in my first 21 years.” Seriously?!? Good for my mom for saying that. I’m 51 and haven’t married yet and am enjoying a full, busy, happy life.

  • Since my hero in high school was Mary Richards (who was single at 30 and “making it on her own”), I simply assumed that marriage was not an option in my 20s. High school me would be quite surprised I’m getting married so young (32). Thank you for this great post.

    • Jennifer

      Mary Richards! Me too!

  • Analise

    Brave and lovely. Thanks for sharing your story and reminding us that our timelines are our OWN and the Right Time is when I’m G-D ready, thankyouverymuch.

  • Emma

    Thank you so much for running this post. I need to find a way to accept that finding someone might not fit into my imaginary timeline.

    It feels raw at the moment because I found out last week that my fertility is compromised and if I want to have children naturally I can’t wait around forever. I’m 22 and single. I’ve always wanted children and don’t have a problem starting a family young myself – but I’m worried that I won’t find someone for years and that they won’t be ready. I don’t want to push someone. The extra pressure scares me.

    • kathleen

      Emma– I don’t know your exact situation, but I’m familiar with that feeling. I found out at 20 that it’s likely my health will quickly deteriorate at some (young-ish) point, and that kids earlier rather than later is probably a better idea. It TOTALLY freaked me out, for years. I will say that 9 (!) years later I’m about to be married to a man who gets that if we want kids now is it, and that well, if we don’t want kids that’s okay too.

      For years I was sure that I’d do it alone, and in many ways felt like I could control whether or not I had kids (especially if I didn’t wait too long) but couldn’t really control finding and falling in love with a life partner. People in my life sensed it, and I was told over and over again that I’d be a great single mom. I didn’t feel like I had to push my future husband, but I was very very upfront from the beginning, and he stuck around long enough to see that my rush about kids isn’t the whole picture….and I’ll say I stuck around him long enough to discover if we can’t have kids, I’ll still be happy, because I’ll have him next to me.

      Sending you good thoughts as you negotiate this new health news. xo.

  • As someone who’s currently 29 and will be 30 on my wedding day in September, thank you for giving me permission to smash the hell out of my timeline.

    • Kat

      please for the love of everything that is sane and good, do NOT say out loud to anyone around you who is also soon turning 30 and not getting married soon that you’re soo glad that you’re turning 30 and getting married about the same time.

      Last year I was in a wedding where the bride turned 30 two weeks before her wedding. She loudly talked to whom ever would listen about how she wasn’t at all concerned about turning 30 because she was getting married two weeks later and it was all okay. I who had several months earlier started dating a wonderful man, and was not allowed to bring him as a date to the wedding, wasn’t turning 30 until late in the same year and had no prospect of even being engaged let alone married by the time I was 30 took it kinda hard. Actually the whole ordeal of being this bride’s bridesmaid was very hard… but that’s a different story.

      Essentially keep any age and marriage relief to yourself…. please

      • Magnolia

        THIS!!!! YES!!! I was MOH in a friend’s wedding a few years ago and she just went on and on about how she was so happy to be married right around the time she turned 30. She initially wanted to get married about a month before her birthday and was obsessed with that idea for a LONG time but in the end got married about a month after. She was and is still the only one of our group of 6-7 friends who is married. Her attitude turned alot of us off because she seemed more into the age/timeline than the marriage.

        I know it’s going to happen for me, one day. Right now, I’m focused on my career and professional stuff. I’m not actively searching – on dating sites or whatever. I have a dear friend who feels like I don’t date enough and I don’t know how to feel about that. Should I feel awkward or weird because I don’t want to? I don’t know how to explain it but I just feel in my core that that’s not how it’s going to happen.

  • kathleen

    It’s funny, because I’ve found time lines to be super helpful in my professional career (I love nothing more than big, specific goals with ambitious to-do-by dates), but counterproductive and crazy making in my romantic relationships. If someone could nail down the science of this (I’m pretty sure it will include some sprinklings of The Secret, lady hormones, red wine and hustle vs serendipity) I’d be ever grateful.

    • H

      I’ve found that goals can help in romantic relationships, but only if they’re things like: Find out what my partner thinks about x by next week. Because then it’s an excuse to bring up whatever’s bothering you in a reasonable time frame context, and you don’t let things fester.

      I think there’s a difference between goals and daydreams. While goals are achievable things that you can act on, daydreams are often alternate lives. Timelines for relationships are daydreams, not goals. It’s like when you’re a little girl you might daydream about being that veterinarian or that prima ballerina. But the goals for that same little girl based upon those daydreams would then be: to take care of your own pet, or to have better posture during your plie.

      • That is wise advice – daydreams vs goals – and something I wish I had been taught as a child – to be able to tell the difference between the two is hugely empowering, for career and relationships, and all of life’s ambitions.

  • Amy March

    I thought I’d get married at 22, and visit my wedding planner wearing a suit! Thanks, Father of the Bride :)

  • The biggest thing for me when I was younger was that I too never believed people when they said it would be better.
    In fact, when I was having a really hard time in high school, my wonderful Mum even said to me “I can tell you till I am blue in the face, but until you are out there, you will never believe that life after high school is not high school. It will be different”

    She was right. Until I got “there”, I could never understand how the frustration was ok. Until I met my now-DH, I could never really get that the waiting for him while all my friends (I was involved in an evangelical church at uni) were busy getting married.

    Because, really, the waiting against society expectations is one of the hardest parts. Waiting against your own internal narrative is harder!

    I had friends tell me when I was younger that I was “restricting myself” by suggesting that my preference would be to start trying for a family before my 30th birthday. They didn’t get that I was NOT saying I wouldn’t have kids after 30. It was more what I saw as a likely good time. I turn 30 in just under 6 months, and DH and I are currently deciding exactly when we are going to start trying for a family…

  • SabrinaB

    omg, I’m so glad for this post. I feel like I’ve been defending my 30s – and meeting my husband and getting married in them – for a long time now. I’m 38 years old and just got married last month. I met my husband at 34. And the timing was perfect for me. I’ve never been one who believed in drawing the line in the sand at 30. I was a baby in my 20’s. Hell, I was a baby in my early 30s.

    And I know that is just me and my feelings, and everyone’s got their own thing, but the fact that I hear so many women around me feel the NEEDLESS pressure to be married or “settled” by a certain age really saddens and angers me. Why do that to yourself? Why is it that a husband is the status – and not happiness, career, travel, self-confidence? I know far too many friends who succumbed to that pressure and married who they happened to be with at the time. Or forced marriage on a relationship that just wasn’t there yet. And now we’ve got the divorces and souless marriages to show for it. It just seems like a sad thing to put on yourself for no good reason. Hey, if you meet the right person when you’re 20 – great! If you meet them when you’re 29, 40, 33, 42, or 55 – why would that be an issue? If marriage is truly what you are looking for, that means a lifetime with that person, so be it 29 or 34 or 45 when you make that commitment, it really shouldn’t matter. I found that looking within yourself and really figuring out why it matters so much to you (Status with friends? Pressure you put on yourself? Family expectations? ) really helps to get a handle on it.

    But I know it’s easier said then done. And people can look at me as old or pathetic, but i don’t really care because I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever been in, and am so completely happy and content. And i can really say that I’m so glad I waited to bump into the right person. To those who look down on me for marrying at “my age”, i simply stick out my tongue (or my finger) because I feel like I really won in the relationship game. I earned that f-ing awesome ivory dress, and funky flowers, and kickass party, and rocked the hell out of them. :)

    • I love this. Yes, you did earn it all! I have to remember this. Hell yes, I EARNED it. :-)

    • Dianne DeSha

      I’m gonna stick that one on my forehead too. You’re right, by not giving in to the pressure–internal or external–we *earned* our kick-ass weddings that are the bow on top of awesome relationships! :)

  • Vee

    I felt the timeline pressure too, because of ideas I held on to from my younger years. But the thing that sticks out to me is that, when I was young — like, 12, 14 — 30 seemed So. Desperately. Old. It’s almost as if we picture everything up to 30 the “getting ready to be” and 30 on as the “being.” And if we aren’t a position to “be” yet, with everything we need (husband, 2.5 children, house with picket fence, successful career) then we are behind. And what strikes me now that I’m nearing 29 more quickly than I’d like to be is how often I still feel like a damn child. What I didn’t realize when I WAS a child is that the WHOLE LIFE is a journey – not just up until 30! I am, however, looking forward to that added confidence that Meg mentioned here and that all my 30+ friends have confirmed. I could really use it.

  • MDBethann

    I can relate completely. I’m getting married in 6 weeks and just turned 33. I will admit to feeling pressure to get married by my early 30s, but mostly because of the “it is harder to have kids after 35” thing. I would like 2 kids and have had enough friends with “high risk” pregnancies lately that I really don’t want to wait too long given some health issues I have. Fortunately, I met FH around the time I turned 30 so hopefully biology will cooperate. But patience was hard – my parents (and a bunch of my close friends) met in college and were 22 & 24 when they got married. My paternal grandparents were in their early twenties and my maternal grandmother was in her late 20s when they got married, so in many ways that was what I expected for myself. But I look back at the guys I dated in college and in my 20s and am incredibly grateful that for whatever reason, they didn’t work out. At 30 I met the love of my life and he is the right fit for me – I can’t wait to marry him! Timelines be hanged!!!

  • So true. This sounds so familiar both for me and many of the young women I see in counseling. Invisible timelines are impossible, but that doesn’t take the pressure off of feeling like we’re running out of time. Thanks for writing this, I plan to share it with many of my clients.

  • Amber

    Oh!!! Gave me chills…. what a wonderful heart warming story.
    Oh if I could write a letter to my younger self I would have volumes to share….

  • Ivie

    Thanks for this post – I never thought I was the kind of girl who had a timeline until I turned 29 last year and realised that I had never anticipated that I wouldn’t be a young mum, wouldn’t be a bride in their 20s. I’ve achieved lots in work/career/other aspects of my life – but dating is wearing me down and I am feeling a bit hopeless. Fingers crossed for Mr Right – even if it takes years it will still be better than Mr Wrong.

    • thereigninglorelai

      This freaks me out a bit too. “Bride” culture is so geared toward the young. It seems almost silly to get super excited about being a bride in white when you are in your 30s (this is my issue, I know – most people might not think it’s silly).

  • “I don’t know that I’ll ever want to marry you.” — pretty much the exact words my boyfriend of 5 years uttered to me just before we broke up. Incidentally, he was a lawyer too.

    I never really had an age that I felt I needed to be married by, but at the time I felt ridiculous datingone person for five years without getting married. It didn’t help that friends all around us were getting married, leaving me feeling like I was left out of the fun.

    Of course, not marrying him was the best thing that could have happened. I met my perfect match, and we were engaged within 10 months. If anything, that five-year marriageless relationship gave me enough contrast to realize just how right my now husband was for me.

  • Moz

    So beautiful. APW is knocking me out this week! Just exquisite.

  • Cali

    Ha! This is so true! I’m so glad that everyone else has issues with the mental calendar, too. I’ve actually joked with my fiance about it, because he’s a guy and doesn’t have the internal calendar going on like I do, so he doesn’t really get it. I’m 28, and I always thought I absolutely, definitely wanted to have my first kid by the time I was 30. But now… hahahahaha… no. That’s just not happening.

    And I had a very similar experience, where I was in a six-year relationship in which my ex told me he “still wasn’t sure” whether or not he wanted to marry me. I figured six years was more than enough time to know, and “not sure” was code for “never going to happen.” Breaking up with him was the best thing I ever did. I got a couple of awesome years of being single, met my super amazing fiance, and the rest is history. Sometimes I think we have to date people like that to appreciate the good ones when we find them. :-)

  • Kristine

    I got married when I was 24. The marriage fell apart so quickly I was dizzy by the end. We got divorced one month shy of my 28th birthday. And I stayed longer than I should have for one reason: I was terrified about “starting over”, or worse, hitting 30 ALONE. Perish the thought.

    Four years later I am newly married again. My husband will be 41 next month. I’ll be 32 in October. The timing couldn’t have been better. And this time I’m sticking around for the right reasons, rather than out fear.

    Of course now I’m dealing with the next looming “deadline”: babies. Don’t get me started on that one.

  • secret reader

    still can’t shake the competing timelines of 1) when we feel it’s “socially acceptable” to get married and 2) the “don’t want to date too long!” concern of those who happened to meet young.

    we try to have conversations that are just about the state of us & the relationship, but inevitably one timeline or the other sneaks in. nevermind well-meaning-meddlers who tout one timeline or the other when my relationship comes up in conversation.

    I don’t think we should be too hard on ourselves about this, though, because the timelines don’t come out of nowhere. My age in years is related to how mature I am, how much my relationship has evolved, where I am in my career — all things that factor hugely into my marriage-and-kids decisions. It’s not a hard and fast rule (or a one-to-one mapping, for all my fellow science nerds out there) and its unfortunate when age-based shorthand becomes rule of law. Buuutttt, we’re also not totally crazy. That’s a good thing to remember.

  • Nine months before my 30th birthday when I realized that I would not have children in my 20s was tough. Three months before that I’d joked with everyone that I was celebrating my first 29th birthday. But when birthday #30 rolled around, it was awesome. I was single. I was dirt poor. I ran a marathon. I threw myself a princess birthday party. And when I got married at 31, it was totally worth the wait. I love my 30s.

    • thereigninglorelai

      This is me now. Turning 30 in six months and have obviously passed the point of having a family in my 20s like I always wanted. I feel… terrified. The fertility “deadline” is so unfair. But maybe I’ll take a note out of your book and throw an awesome party (I too will be dirt poor for sure, single for most likely). I always wanted four kids so I just need to acknowledge that might not happen and get over it!

  • David

    I’d say that this is definitely an issue you have to trust to your gut. My wife and I were 22 when we married, both 3 weeks out of college. Some of our acquaintances expressed concern that we were *too* young. Our closer friends and family knew that it was right for us. Most importantly, we knew that it was right for us too, but not for the list of logical reasons we would give to other people. I knew in my gut that I needed to marry this woman, and my wife held reciprocal feelings. The thought of it made my head spin, but my gut knew it was the right call. Sometimes we laugh that despite having very progressive values and ideas, our life has shaken out along very traditional lines. But it doesn’t matter if you’re 17 or 27 or 37 or 77: when it’s really the right time, you know it, in an indescribably profound way. I’m glad that Kristy found it.

  • Hillori

    “One of his married friends told him that ‘women get weird about their 30th birthday.'”

    After one month of engagement, I turned 30. A coworker commented that I HAD to get married now that I was 30. Shocked, taken aback, and fuming, I told him that since my expiration date had passed I’d been pushing my boyfriend to find a younger girlfriend–and that he apparently didn’t want one and bought my silence with a diamond ring.

    I’m just soooo glad that I don’t live in the 60s, ala MadMen.


      ya like in our Indian society , it’s worse……30 is like u r a grandma or Aunty now…………

  • This. This post. A thousand times, THIS.

  • Jenna

    This post made me bleary-eyed. While I, too, had constructed the timeline, it had less to do with age and everything to do with my peers. Since my early twenties, it felt like **everyone** was getting married and quick. I was living with my (now ex-)boyfriend who was 11 years my senior. We were happy, enough, I suppose. Every major holiday or event was enough to make me queasy with both dread and hope. Birthday? “We’re gonna get MARRIED!” Christmas (which is only two days after my birthday…) “He HAS to propose!” Arbor Day? Same thing.

    After three years together, I asked him when he’d propose. He said he didn’t know. I asked if he ever would, he said he didn’t know. I moved out 5 days later, 26 and stunned.

    Fast forward three years and I’m getting married in October, just before my 29th birthday. This one, my husband-to-be, blows everyone else out of the water. I’m so very glad for all those dashed hopes and realized fears. I am so lucky and feel so very loved.

  • Allison

    I’m 32, and will be 33 when I marry my sweetheart. He will be 42 on our wedding day. We’d both lived full and in some cases complicated lives before meeting each other, but I feel confident that we are each other’s happy ending. And isn’t it better to be someone’s happy ending than a footnote along the way?

    • Kat

      My bf and I are similar ages to you and yours Allison. We’ve been talking about marriage, have looked at rings after he said “do you want to get engaged?” and since then he’s gone a little wonky on marriage/wedding saying “I’m not exactly 25 any more you know.” Which although I have some idea of what he means by that, I’m not completely sure what he means by that.

      I do know that I’m his first relationship, and at age 40 I know he’s watched all his friends get married and have children and that he believed that that was not going to be his life. He’s said that he needs this summer to get used to the idea that his life will now include marriage and the possibility of children and that we’ll get engaged in the fall.

      Some girls might find this comforting knowing that an engagement is most likely imminent, but I find it terrifying. He is not my first relationship and the first boy I dated at age 21 for 4 and a half years would respond to my questions of “do you see us getting married at some point” with “you have nothing to worry about.” When it ended brutally with the admission that he in fact did not want to marry me and several months later when it became apparent that my gut sense that he was cheating on me was in fact true… well basically I’m trying to not freak out that this current man who says he loves me and sees a future with me but that we need to wait until the fall to take the next step while he gets on the same page, will in fact still want to do exactly that come the fall.

      I know my life will be better with this man who is 10 years my senior, but it is so hard to ignore the pain caused by the footnote that happened along the way.

  • KateM

    I always thought I would get married at 24, don’t ask me why, that was the age in my head since I was a little girl. I am 32 and getting married in two months, and I went on my first date with Dave one week after my 30th.
    I think both sides to this are really important to acknowledge, the pressure most of us put on ourselves to be married by 30. It reminds me of the Friends episode when Rachel turns 30 and she talks about her timeline. It does tend to pivot around the kids question because as was said before, there is a biological timeline on that, and it is OK to want to have children or to want to be a younger parent. I feel like there is all this pressure on me to not have kids until we have been married a couple years or have bought the house first. I think it is so important to validate the longing for a partner and children and not be told “but you are single and that is so great you have so much freedom” because sometimes being single is damn lonely and it can be incredibly scary not know if you are going to be alone in the future. All of these feelings are normal, and the combination of societal and biological pressure is bitch.
    That being said, bravo for those who waited and are waiting to be with a person they can fully share their future. Cheers to not marrying or staying with the wrong person because of age and expectations or walking away because you want to get married or have children and your partner doesn’t. We should all be applauded for taking care of our hearts, protecting and following our dreams at whatever age or path that may be.

  • Dana

    I love this post!!

    “I felt the ghosts of my former self walking with me. How badly I wanted to tell the younger me that it is OK—no it’s better than OK—waiting was the best thing that ever happened to me! He was worth the wait and the tears. I sent fervent prayers of thanks to my exes for not marrying me—for not stealing the happiness that I now have from me.”

    You have read my mind and put into words exactly what I have been thinking for some time. I am 32 and about to become engaged. My timeline was based off my mother, married at 25, kids at 30. I remember how devasted I was when my serious boyfriend ended things – I was 24, he was 29. I thought I’d be single forever. Almost 9 years have passed and I am SO grateful to him for having the courage to walk away when I didn’t, because I never would have gone to grad school, moved to NYC, or met the true love of my life.

  • Kate K

    I really needed to read this. I’m 29, single (and never been past a fourth date single) and all of my friends are getting married and coupling up. (Hence, why I started reading this site–the bride sent me a link for bridesmaid dresses!) I’m incredibly happy for my friends and I know that I haven’t met anyone who I’ve wanted to marry so I shouldn’t worry. And yet… there’s this feeling that I’m behind. And if I don’t get going, I’m going to get left behind and I won’t have a chance anymore.

    • Kat

      Hugs to you! You’re not left behind. It WILL happen. He IS out there. You’re NOT alone. Hold YOUR head high!

  • What a great story! I didn’t get married until I was 30 either. I didn’t have that fear though of not being married before 30. I think I was more afraid of just being 30. In fact, I finally told myself that I was 30 when I was 32. LOL. Well, I’m 35 now, and I love it. I love my 30s. Congrats on finding your plus one!

  • Jamie

    Thank you! I really, really needed to hear that story today – I’m 29 and about to walk away from a relationship that is about 70% good, and 100% not perfect. I absolutely want the “romantic best friend” and I’ve just got to keep the unshakable faith that he’s out there somewhere. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story, I read it at exactly the right time.

  • So very, very familiar. I turn 30 this month and not being married is the roughest part. All the assumptions and plans that I made. The superior derision I felt for my parents for marrying so late at 27!

    But now I really believe that love is worth waiting for and it’s not right to force myself into marriage just to avoid crossing that border.

  • lizzie

    “I thought I would die if I turned 30 unmarried”… hell I thought I would die if I wasn’t married with 2 kids by 30! Being a younger sister to siblings who all got married in their mid 20’s, I thought there was something seriously wrong with me if my story didn’t end up that way too.

    After a serious 4 year relationship in my early 20’s (that left me heartbroken beyond belief), I met a man a month before I turned 30 and clung to him like a lifeboat. He wasn’t right for me.. in every way.. but that didn’t stop me from forcing the “I Love You’s” and not-so-subtle hints towards engagement. After 6 months of being WAY more unhappy than when I was single, I broke up with him. People thought I was crazy. I thought it might be my last chance. But I had enough sense not to ‘settle’ for someone *just* because he was there.

    After almost 3 more long years of singledom, I finally met the man of my dreams and we are about to become engaged. Sometimes I feel like I could burst with happiness. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could reassure my younger self that it is SO SO worth it, and what family and friends thought was stupidity for breaking up with Mr Not Right, they now applaud me for being so brave.

    Lesson? Follow your gut instinct, not matter what society, family, friends and nosy busy-bodies try to tell you! I am so glad I listened to my inner voice and waited for the love of my life to come along at the right time.



  • Aatika

    Thank you for sharing your story…I felt like I was the only one in this world. I am 30 now and waiting for the romance to begin

  • Pingback: 2014: Lucky in Love? | It's Me, Natalie()

  • suri

    2 year later here i am reading your post. few more months before my 30th birthday. i am single and confused about my career. 2 years ago after feeling something was missing i quit my job and decided to take a break. it has been a bumpy ride i did meet someone, i was going back to uni and it all felt like i had it all figured out just as planed before my 30th birthday. but turns out i was wrong, here i am single today still trying to figure things out. most days i am ok being single has given me the opportunity to look deep down with in me and change the negative sad person i was before. It has allowed me the time to work on my much needed self confidence. Being single is not as bad as people make it sound to be but then there’s today i feel down and depressed sort of and i stay home and google post about turning 30 but i am glad i did i came across your page. Its an amazing post. gives me hope that there is someone out there for me too and reminds me i am not alone and i don’t need to rush into marriage if i am not ready for it.

    thanx for and amazing post . … hope your well and happy :)

  • JLH

    THANK YOU for this post! I’m crying as I type this because I know exactly what this is like. I’m 33, soon to be 34 and still not married. My last relationship ended two months ago and though I’m trying to remain hopeful, but it’s VERY hard. Our grossly patriarchal society says it’s ok for a man to be unmarried his whole life, while a woman who isn’t married by 30 must be crazy, selfish, damaged goods or a combination of all three. Relationships just haven’t worked out; I’m not going to stay with a guy who is cheating on me. Why must something be wrong with me because I want a stable, faithful relationship???

    I feel a tiny bit better knowing that it does happen for a lot women, just a little later in life.


      i wud have married u if i WAS A GUY

  • Guest

    i wanted to marry at 16 but that ashole married a prostitute by the name of R a whore and a prostitute ……m 32 and single but it’s ok he was a son of a bitch anyway


    m happy bin single at 32 coz the only guys i meet r genuine assholes

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  • james


    • Rose Marylove

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  • Kristy

    Thank you for linking back to this post today! I’m the author, and I’ve now been married 15 months. Our wedding day was so special. I loved it, and I love being married. I’m so pleased everything worked out as it did. Thank you to everyone who commented – now that we’re trying to have kids (at 35 and 37) I’m much better at saying “Screw you timeline, my kids will come when they are meant to come (and in the way they are meant to come – by birth, by help, by adoption)”. Everything is exactly as it should be. :) Much love to the APW community. You gals rule.

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  • Isabel

    Hi! Thanks for this wonderful post.
    I just turned 30 and broke up with what I though was going to be my future husband due to infidelity.
    While mistakes can happen the whole incident brought to light that we have very different views what we expect out of marriage. I’ve asked myself over and over why is this happening to me? We had it all and everyone was sure that we would be the next to marry. Getting over the feeling sorry for myself phase, I’m trying to think about it the same way you described – that the right person is worth waiting for. Thanks for sharing your story.

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