Maddie’s Guide to Getting Married Young

One of the really excellent parts of the last few months at APW has been getting to know brand new editor Maddie better. (And better, and better. Girlfriend is coming with me from Brooklyn to New Orleans this month, thanks to the magic of Amtrak.) When I announced that I’d hired Maddie, I joked that she was like younger-Meg. And I still think she kind of is (in the awesome ways only, obviously), plus she’s a super talented photographer and whole lot of things I’m not. So! I really want all of you to get to know Maddie too, and I’ve asked her to write for you once a month. You’re welcome. Today’s post is a beautiful mediation on how sometimes we’re not even in charge of the parts of our lives we pretend to be in charge of (like our relationships), as well as being about how marriage should be (if you ask me). Plus, the more I think about it, of course Maddie got married young. There may not be a single more rebellious choice you could make in New York City… so our iconoclast did it (with a ton of grace).Engaged and Underage

Having gotten married as young as I did, you might be surprised to know that Michael was not my first boyfriend. Actually, my first boyfriend was named Patrick and we dated for two years in elementary school (we broke up before sixth grade because I didn’t want to be tied down in my new junior high environment).

Still, despite a string of monogamous relationships that started when I was nine years old, when I found myself engaged at twenty-one, I Freaked. The. Eff. Out. To the extent that my first phone call after Michael proposed was to my best friend (I called her repeatedly at work until she thought somebody had died, whoops) to whom I breathlessly choked out, “I’m engaged, is that ok?” Because despite being thrilled with the prospect of marrying Michael, the thought of being that girl who got engaged in college terrified me. And if I’m being honest with you, the idea of being someone’s wife scared the sh*t out of me too.

Engaged and Underage

You see, Michael and I had been dating since we were eighteen and fifteen, respectively, and in the five years we’d been together we worked very hard to avoid the trap of high school romances. We went to different colleges, traveled alone, then waited to move in together until we’d had a chance to live by ourselves (ok, fine, mine was during college, but it’s New York City so it counts). We were unique individuals. Mother-freaking snowflakes. And I was convinced it was the thing that made it possible for us to get through a long-distance relationship without any breaks or indiscretions.

Engaged and Underage

So when he proposed to me while I was still in college, before we even had a chance to move in together, all of my safety nets came crashing down. I was worried that I’d have to abandon my sense of individuality for the sake of a partnership, and I was worried that I’d end up some Stepford wife who never had a chance to experience her youth. So you know what I did?

I didn’t get married.

Well, I did. But I also didn’t.

Engaged and Underage

I guess what I’m saying is that even though I ended up marrying Michael (first at city hall and then a year later on the beach), I took my damn time getting to the wife part.

With the smallest of baby steps, I slowly acclimated to the idea of being Michael’s partner. But it didn’t happen quickly and it certainly didn’t come easily. I can promise you that I skirted almost all of the responsibilities that one normally associates with a marriage, and I mostly carried on as a single person living in a household with another person to whom I happened to be faithful. (God, does that make me sound awful?)

Engaged and Underage

Actually, looking back on it, I think the answer is yes. I was kind of awful. There were traces of my young age in a lot of my actions during the first few years of our marriage. (There were more than a few nights when I called Michael from a coworkers’ apartment, explaining that I was going to sleep over because I’d stayed out too late playing Rock Band with the boys and drinking Malibu Diet Cokes.)

But I think that this is exactly why it’s so important that we were married during this time. Because when you enter into a promise to be devoted to each other, in good times and bad, you accept the fact that there are going to be times when you need to give each other space to grow as individuals. Michael and I learned this as kids when we were dating through puberty for goodness sake. So with the safety net of marriage, I was able to act stupidly, test my boundaries, all while knowing exactly where to draw the line. In short, because I was given the space to explore my freak-out, it turns out that there wasn’t really anything to freak out about to begin with.

Engaged and Underage

What’s even better is that rather than holding me back from doing all the amazing things you’re supposed to do in your twenties (I kid. Don’t even try to tell me they’re awesome. I’ve seen your tweets. Thirty is where it’s at, right?) I’ve been able to do things at this young age that I wouldn’t have been able to dream about without the support of my husband. I started my own business, moved across the country, and I am currently living out my fantasy of working from my front porch (on the farm, no less). It’s different than what life would have looked like otherwise, and a part of me is a tiny bit sad for the what-would-have-been that I gave up to be here, but it’s not bigger than the part of me that is thrilled to be part of this awesome new adventure.

Engaged and Underage

Now that we are approaching our fourth year of marriage (if you count city hall, which we didn’t for the longest time, but I guess, er, we should?) we have settled into something that sort of resembles my definition of a marriage (you know, the one I was so scared of). On the one hand, we have a dog. On the other, we do have a roommate. But we’re still in no hurry to prove our young marriage to anyone, or to define it, or to let it define us.

When we were first engaged and people found out how young I was, the concerned looks I’d get quickly became the standard. I’m sure there are some people reading this who are still worried that I’m too young to understand the commitment I’ve made. The foreverness of it all. And I get that (I’m thankful for it really). But the thing is, that concern treats marriage like it’s an institution that takes away. And with that, I’d like to respectfully disagree. Marriage doesn’t have to subtract from the core of who you are, and it doesn’t have to be about what’s being removed from your realm of possibilities. Marriage is addition. However, the thing about growth is that we need to make enough room for what’s being added, or else we get maxed out. I’d like to believe that if we leave enough space for growth and change in our young marriages, if we loosen the definition of marriage from one of unchanging permanence to one about transition aided by togetherness, then I’d like to think that we’d also leave enough space for the graceful process of growing old together, into the people we were always going to become anyway. Just, you know, with a few extensions added on.

Engaged and Underage

Photos by: Engagement & elopement photos from Maddie’s personal collection

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  • Yes definitely…. marriage does not feel like an institution that “takes a way” but enhances, makes possible growth, it is all about how we are a team together…

  • Esme

    LOVE this: ‘unchanging permanence to one about transition aided by togetherness’. Brilliant!

    I’m another one who was lucky enough to find the right person for me at a young age. And we also made sure that we were whole people by ourselves before we got married (living separately, different universities, different countries for a time and our own friends) and, luckily, all of that just made us realise that we were great together. I didn’t see my relationship then as something that held me back, and I sure as hell don’t see my marriage like that now.

    We still have lots to learn because we’re young, we’ll just be doing it together.

    P.S. Your elopement outfit it HAWT!!

    • meg

      RIGHT? HAWT.

      • Maddie

        You guys would be so proud of me. I PULLED IT OUT OF MY CLOSET. The veil was actually sitting in a hallway of Mike’s mom’s home from when his sister thought she wanted a birdcage veil.

        It’s sad how proud of this I am.

        • Jennie

          I am right there with ya on those types of points-of-pride. I got a dress at the White House Black Market outlet for $20, and I think I might end up being the only bride in the history of the world who wants to crow about my Twenty Dollar Wedding Dress from the altar.

          • lorna

            ha, i told everyone who commented on my dress ‘it was only £60!!’ part of the awesomeness of the dress was the price. definitely.

          • Amandover

            We’re like this about our rings. I try not to compare pricing of things (particularly as my fair trade engagement ring was hardly bargain-priced), but every time someone asks about our wedding bands, both Mr. & Ms. blurt out, “$26 each on etsy!” Way too proud of it. : )

          • Maggie

            I spent £10 on my dress on ebay (and that includes the shipping!), absolutely loved it!

  • Carbon Girl

    That was so beautifully written. I love the “how by expecting change and growth that will give a couple both room to grow and grow old together” part (I am paraphrasing). I am going to remember that. You have wisdom, which does not have to correlate with age.

  • Michelle

    Thank you so much for this. I’m 23 and got married in December, and the reaction I almost always got when people found out I was getting married –from random store clerks to my parents’ friends– was, “But she’s such a BABY!” (Of course, directly spoken to whoever my companion was at the time, instead of me, like I wasn’t even there. Wha?)

    Granted, I still have a lot left to learn in life, but since when did 23 years old become “a baby”? I wish I could send all of these people your post! Marriage isn’t something that signifies an end, it signifies a beginning of an awesome life together. Sure, I’ll have changed and grown by the time I’m 30, but I’ll have changed and grown by the time I’m 40, too, and 50, and so on. Like the commenter above me said: We still have lots to learn because we’re young, we’ll just be doing it together.

    • SassyCupcakes

      I got the same reaction – I was 21 while my husband was 24. And it wasn’t just strangers, his mother was horrified even though we’d been together for 5 years & living together for 2. We were young, but we had known each other long enough to understand who we were and what the commitment we were making would mean. Our decision to get married was something we took more seriously than most others who we’ve seen marry since. Honestly, it really hurt to be mocked like we were being ridiculous and would soon regret this silly childish mistake.

      What you said – “it signifies a beginning of an awesome life together”, and how we’re always changing and growing is spot on. We talked about waiting because of our age but decided that was pointless. We had the big wedding with the white dress and reception with 100 people who were important to us. And while not every 21 & 24 year old is ready for marriage, we were. Waiting a few years wouldn’t have made us more ready in the slightest. It will have been 7 years this April and our marriage is truly one of our strengths. We are both better people because of each other. Neither of us is perfect, our life is not what we thought it would be, we’ve gone through some truly hard times but we’ve survived – and our marriage has given us strength to do things and survive things we otherwise couldn’t have handled.

      • Yasmin

        I was 22 when I got engaged and I can completely relate to the “childish mistake” impression that people have given us. We have been dating since 16 and couldn’t be more ready and it’s SO nice to hear of similar stories, thoughts and most of all feelings.

        We are getting married in May and it’s so inspiring to hear how strong and successful you have become together because of your marriage, it gives me a lot of comfort and excitement for what comes next for us in the future years, thank you :)

      • Sabrina

        Yesss! I will be 22 when we get married (in three months) and he will be 26, and I have gotten my fair share of saddened or disbelieving looks. But I’ve also got an amazing amount of support from my family because they KNOW us. They know how many months we struggled with the age thing, how we wanted to fully grasp the seriousness of what we were doing. I can’t tell you how many nights I kept my dad up until 4 am pouring my soul about about my convictions, my doubts, my fears and aspirations. And it was those conversations that gave me the courage to do what my heart tells me. Strangers don’t know that, so i can’t blame them for their doubts, I had mine too when this all started. They will see, in the meantime, I only ask that you trust me.

  • ‘Marriage is addition.’ FUCK YEAH.

    Never mind your years, sweetie, you’re wise beyond them.

    • meg

      She is. David thinks she’s 27 or 28. FALSE!

  • Kelsey W

    Awesome! Your post resonated a lot with me. I’m 23 and will be getting married when I’m 24- not young enough where people suck air through their teeth while talking about our engagement, but young enough where my co-workers have awkwardly stopped talking about some other people who got married too young after they realized I was in the room. Even my mom admitted to telling people I will be 24 when I get married instead of my current age, just because it seems to hit that sweet-spot of not-too-old not-too-young.

    I laughed when you wrote about having to call your husband after staying out drinking- I’ve definitely come home tipsy and tiptoed into a dark house. I think getting together young sort of forces partners to learn how to give and take space.

    “I’d like to believe that if we leave enough space for growth and change in our young marriages, if we loosen the definition of marriage from one of unchanging permanence to one about transition aided by togetherness, then I’d like to think that we’d also leave enough space for the graceful process of growing old together, into the people we were always going to become anyway.”
    I love that. To me, getting married makes me feel suddenly focused on the rest of my life. In a weird way, it’s made me actually realize our mortality in a way that nothing else really has (I’m extremely lucky to have not encountered this kind of loss yet, but I know it will come some day). It makes me appreciate my family more. It makes me realize that my decisions and choices have more weight than I would initially think. I feel blessed for that clarity and don’t feel as though I’m missing out because I haven’t been making out with strangers or waking up in interesting places.

  • As someone who got engaged at 20 and married at 22, this post really resonated with me — freakout included. Despite the fact that my husband and I had been together for 7.5 years when we got married and had been living together for two of them, I went through a weird phase after the wedding where I guarded my independence very carefully.

    Now that we’ve been married four months, I feel infinitely more comfortable being somebody’s wife. (Though our marriage doesn’t necessarily look like anybody elses — we still stay out late and generally act like 20-somethings.) I’m curious to know if women who get married at more typical ages have similar freakouts after their weddings.

    • I got married at the tail end of 26, but I had my independence freak-out in the first few days of the engagement. :) Even though we’d already been together for years, I had my own income, had lived on my own (with roommates, anyway) and had always been generally independent. I’d wager that a lot of women (and men!), no matter how old you are or where you’re coming from, feel that freak-out of tying your life to another person’s, officially, forever.

      It doesn’t overshadow my thoughts these days (we’re almost 4 months into marriage ourselves), but I’ve always liked periodically making sure I can still take a business trip, go to a social event, or reset the water heater by myself. Knowing that I’m comfortable and competent on my own if I need to be makes me more secure and happy when we’re together.

  • I think a lot of what you say applies to all marriages… not just young marriages (although it’s more pronounced with young marriages). I got married at 24 and I don’t think that is thaat young. And marriage has changed my life. I have to say it took things away and somethings I liked (like my freedom to at the drop of the hat move across the world for example… which I had previously done) but it brought me even better things and taught me to appreciate things I took for granted previously (like the value of family and being together with the people you love most.)

  • Abby J. (formerly C.)

    “But the thing is, that concern treats marriage like it’s an institution that takes away. And with that, I’d like to respectfully disagree. Marriage doesn’t have to subtract from the core of who you are, and it doesn’t have to be about what’s being removed from your realm of possibilities. Marriage is addition. ”

    Yes, Yes, YES!!! There is such a negative message in American culture that marriage ‘takes away’, that marriage is about ‘settling’ for something less than perfect. I always thought I was very modern and above all that stuff, but when I got engaged at 29, I still had some of the same fears that everyone seems to have wrestled with on this thread. I had a time period where I Freaked The Eff Out too, and I largely spent my 20s doing stooopid stuff, lots of which I now recognize as mistakes. No one, looking at my background, could say that I “missed out” on any of the 20s ridiculousness that permeates our pop culture. And yet somehow, this negative subliminal message arround marriage had sunk in enough that I worried about what I was giving up.

    What it took me some time to realize was exactly what you posit – marriage IS addition. It took some time for me to accept this just on faith, but now that I am married, I’m living it every day, and it’s great. We do leave space for each other to grow, but our powers of growth and change are so much enhanced when we work together on it. I can’t wait to see more of what the future holds for us.

    • I loved this quotation too. One of the first things I discovered in my newly-married, freaking out, 22 year-old state was that holding on to some independence–some secret fires–was what made our marriage stronger. Marriage is less about extracting from yourself and more about the overflow of joy that you get when you’re both healthy, happy people with individual interests and passions. It shouldn’t feel like more work to be married, just the same as always PLUS having someone super awesome to give you hugs and encouragement and a warm bed. (Well, maybe sometimes it will still feel like work, but that’s okay. It balances out.)
      Maddie, I heart you so much. I SO wish the tour was stopping in NC but I will not pout.

      • DanEllie

        I SO wish the tour was stopping in NC but I will not pout

        Yes! Yes! Trying to figure out the logistics of getting to VA or Atlanta, but mid-week is unlikely. Amtrack goes through Greensboro… want to stop for the heck of it?

        • Denzi

          I know getting to Atlanta may be unlikely but…we can offer you an air mattress or a very comfortable couch when you’re here, if that makes it easier/more likely? Either of you/both of you are welcome to that offer.

          cadenza AT gmail

        • meg

          No time! But Maddie will be with me for both DC and ATL, so you should take advantage!!

      • Kris

        Agree with the wish for an NC stop! Why does the country have to be so darn big? :)

  • I LOOOVED this whole post, and especially this part:

    “I’d like to believe that if we leave enough space for growth and change in our young marriages, if we loosen the definition of marriage from one of unchanging permanence to one about transition aided by togetherness, then I’d like to think that we’d also leave enough space for the graceful process of growing old together, into the people we were always going to become anyway.”

    But I think it holds true for ALL marriages, not just young marriages! Because there are changes throughout our entire lives… not just our 20’s. :)

  • maura

    adorable young maddie! SO cute.
    please tell me you are coming to boston!

    i love this line: “Marriage doesn’t have to subtract from the core of who you are, and it doesn’t have to be about what’s being removed from your realm of possibilities. Marriage is addition.”

    which is true of marriage at ANY AGE.

    • meg

      She’s not! She’s on the tour from Brooklyn to Atlanta, basically.

  • Lily

    I love this post, and am happy to see it on APW. I got engaged at 22, and will be married at 24. I do not think maturity, wisdom, or readiness for marriage automatically correlates with age. I’d been with my boyfriend 4 years when we got engaged, survived a 3 year long long-distance relationship with him, studied abroad without him, and lived together for a year. It’s amazing how people will react when they hear my age, and that I’m engaged. The worst offenders are older people at my office — “but you’re SO YOUNG!!!!!” It’s made me really self-conscious about my engagement, but I just try to keep in mind that people who make comments like that really don’t know me as a person, or my character, what I’ve been through, or why I may or may not be ready for marriage.

    I also don’t see marriage as an “end.” It’s sad that many people see marriage as an end to freedom, growth, independence, etc. It also upsets me when people say “I could NEVER imagine getting married when I was 20-whatever, I am so different now than in my 20′s.” I expect to always be changing and growing when I’m 30, 40, 50, and so on.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Ana Maria

      Diddo. Thanks for this post!! Also was engaged at 22, also getting married at 24, also have all the older people at work telling me to wait! I’ve felt the whole self-consciousness bit about my age and my committment, so thank you so much for this down to earth post!!

  • Jenna

    Oh yes!

    I totally feel this way as well. I am 23 now and my fiance and I got engaged in March before I graduated in May. I’m not sure about that whole wife business. I’m not sure what it means, or what it will mean to others (it is a role in society, whether I choose to accept it or not). But I do know I love my fiance and I want to be with him. I always have. We are great together and we help each other be the people we want to be.

    But do any of us know what marriage is until we’re married?

    My mom always said she got married too young as I was growing up — she and my dad just signed the papers for divorce. So that makes me scared as hell. But then once again, I love my fiance like crazy and … same story :)

    We have done the long distance thing twice, once for 10 weeks and once for 9 months. We couldn’t stand spending more than 2-3 weeks away so we traveled hell or high water to see each other. 16 hours round trip in a weekend. Each time it just solidified why we are good together.

    You are right in that making time for us as individuals has been very important. I see that as being something we will always do, even as we get older.

  • I got engaged at 19 and married at 20, so I absolutely feel you. I am in Texas where young marriage is more common, but I still garnered plenty of judgement in the process. It hasn’t stopped 2.5 years later, but that’s only from strangers and acquaintances who know my age before they know me, if that makes sense. My husband is 30 which makes things better and worse. Most people assume I just look young for my age when they see me with him so we’ve always avoided judgement that way. On the other hand, we got the additional snarky comments about “cradle robbing.” It all bothered me a lot when I was engaged. I was quick to get defensive, I think because while I was convinced I was making the right decision, it was also so not according to my “life plan” and that scared me. I had planned for college degree, career and home ownership to be in place before I even found a beau, but it didn’t happen that way. That being said, I now have a career, own a home and am almost finished with my degree at age 22. More importantly, I’m still madly in love with my husband of 2.5 years, and we make each other better. Now I just chuckle ruefully when yet another person is surprised to learn I’m married. Married and oh-so-happy.

    • Married young and oh-so-happy. Ditto. We’ve always had this in common I guess, haven’t we? :)

    • Catherine

      Wow, dealing wit hthis right now. I requested APW to post stories about age gaps and the effects of them! I am planning to marry my SO within the next two years ( I’m thinking…) and we met when I was 20, we have a pretty big age gap, but were inseperable since we met, and we followed our hearts. Ours is not only “complicated” (in the eyes of others’) because of the age gap, but we are also both women, and in this whole process I also “came out” to my parents. Yeah. Oh, and they’re in North Carolina, where I’m from. One of the hardest, most frustrating things is having to justify your relationship for others or convince others of the great value in your relationship. It has been very hard, with my parents mainly. I am terrified of the actual “hey, we want to get married” talk. I want it to be the happiest time of my life, although I also know it will involve a lot of tears and anxiety and frustration because of my parents. I just want to be free to be happy! Ugh..sigh..wish there was some type of post about this on here…I coudl really use it…

  • RachelC

    I agree with everyone! Marriage does have this reputation as an ‘end’ now, like “uh oh! You’re getting married?! No more fun times with your friends! No more late nights! etc.” What’s with that!? It DOES add to life!
    I especially agree with this statement: “I’d like to believe that if we leave enough space for growth and change in our young marriages, if we loosen the definition of marriage from one of UNCHANGING PERMANENCE to one about transition aided by togetherness, then I’d like to think that we’d also leave enough space for the graceful process of growing old together, into the people we were always going to become anyway.”
    I got married at 25 (well, a week before I turned 25) and have been married for 8 months now. I too worried about the ‘loss’ that comes with getting married but what you said here is the right way to look at it – really my life has only gotten BETTER since I’ve been with my hubby. He doesn’t tell me not to go out and have fun still, he just politely requests that I don’t bone anyone else. I can get behind that :) Thanks for the fresh outlook on marriage!!!! In fact, I’m going to stay in tonight with the hubs <3

    • DKR

      “…Marriage does have this reputation as an ‘end’ now, like “uh oh! You’re getting married?! No more fun times with your friends! No more late nights! etc.” What’s with that!? … ”

      And that logic is the same reason I don’t like the concept of bachelor/bachelorette parties – as if after you’re married you’ll never party or see your friends again. Really?

  • Red

    Maddie!!!! You and Michael are effing ADORABLE together! You’re adorable AND wise!

    “Marriage doesn’t have to subtract from the core of who you are, and it doesn’t have to be about what’s being removed from your realm of possibilities. Marriage is addition.”

    HECK yeah!

  • I loved this piece, but it’s funny because I can’t **really** relate. I was engaged at 22, and married at 23 but everyone that I told or talked to about it was so very supportive. I was worried when we got engaged that no one would take us seriously, but apparently the did! Both sides of the family celebrated without any trepidation or “advice” and even my “single party friends” were all about us getting married and love to talk to me about our marriage, relationship, and lifestyle.
    I still try to figure out how/ why we were sometimes the exception to the rule. I wonder if maybe it’s because my parents were married at 19, and my best friend was married just a month before her 18th birthday? (They just celebrated their SEVENTH wedding anniversary!)
    Either way, I love that you are an example of a MARRIAGE and not just “two kids that got married young”, I strive to be that and I hope that I’m succesful.

    • Maddie

      You know what’s funny? Our families and very close friends were ABSURDLY supportive. It was totally the acquaintances that did us in. (It doesn’t help that I worked for a film company, where only people with VP status or higher were married).

      • I currently work in themed entertainment in LA which overlaps a lot with film, and no one gets married before 28, unless they are religious.

        I’m from a small town in Tennessee where I knew two different girls that got married while they were in high school.

        I feel like I am young to be getting married (22) but not as young as the people in LA make me feel and not as old as the people from Tennessee make me feel. Perspective changes everything.

        • Brittany

          That’s how I feel too, except replace LA with New York and Tennesee with Minnesota. At 23, I feel like most people here can’t believe I’m getting married already, and people back home can’t understand why we waited so long. Though I’ve definitely felt less of any kind of judgement than my fiancé.. I suppose it also helps that pretty much everyone I work with thinks I’m between five and ten years older than I actually am. My fiancé has had a lot more negative things said to him about his age, almost like people can understand my desire to “tie him down” as a work “friend” of his commented, but they seem less understanding of a young, talented journalist throwing away his potential by getting married. I couldn’t believe people had actually felt they had the right to say stuff like that to his face, especially with me standing 30 ft away at their office Christmas party. Impressively, in my opinion, my much-braver-than- I-tend-to-be-when-dealing-with people-who-don’t-call-me-teacher fiancé doesn’t take crap like that laying down, and told the Christmas party friend that his fiancée wasn’t tying him down, and that she was such a good writing teacher and supportive editor that he couldn’t imagine his career without her. And like any good eavesdropper, inside I was like, “squee! That’s me!” I expected a few comments on our age, but I never anticipated that any of those comments would try to rob me of feeling like the modern, empowered woman I have always believed I am. I promise I’m not buying what these few guys at his work are trying to sell, but it still hurts that there are people out there who think I’m getting a great deal, while simultaneously holding back the man I love from reaching his potential. Those are lies, but they are powerful ones.

  • Catherine

    Thank you so so much for this post!! It’s nice to know that I am not the only crazy girl getting engaged and maried so young for this day and age!

    I am 21, finishing my last year of college and got engaged back in May 2011. October 2012 Wedding – woohoo!

    I was put on this Earth to be a wife and mother, the only thing I was worried about was finding the man to enrich and share my life with. I agree, it is extremely overwhelming!!! My fiancee wants to talk about houses and joint-checking accounts, and I think to myself, “House? Joint-checking? No! I am soooooo not ready for all of this – back up! Rewind!!”

    The foreverness of being religiously, legally, and emotional bound to one, single person for the rest of my life is so insane (but in a completely, hopelessly romantic kind of way!).

    Then I remind myself that I have chosen this new life – this new Chapter in the adventure that is life. I am chosing to be joined to this man FOREVER – and he is chosing me as his patner for this life, the only life we ever get…. and he wants to spend it with me (how hopelessly romantic is that!!??). All the challenges and new life milestones that come with growing up and marriage can now come on because my fiancee and I are in this together now. Growing up and bin pushed out into the real world (and life after college) is not so scary anymore. I have this amazing man to work through and experience it with. Which somehow makes life not so scary anymore.

  • “Marriage is addition.” LOVE this!

    You know what else I love? Your veil! Way to rock it with jeans and a t-shirt, lady!

    • Claire

      Yes, the veil is awesome.

  • Clearly my midwestern roots are showing because when I read young I think I was expecting to see 17 or 18. When I read that you were 21 I thought oh that’s pretty normal actually. :)

    Early congrats on 4 years!

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      Isn’t it funny how location alters expectations? I got married at 27, and was one of the last of my midwestern-centric group of friends to do so — and in my mid-sized midwest city, I was old. Then, I moved to a big east-coast city, and now I’m one of the only people in my group of friends who IS married, and it always surprises people when I meet them.

    • meg

      Ha. Getting married before 28 in New York City is vaguely scandalous. 28 is young. Different worlds, different worlds ;)

      • Anne

        Any big (ish) city, really. As in, I’m 25 and feel very young to be getting married, at least in San Francisco…

        • Amanda

          I feel this so strongly growing up in Oregon and now in San Francisco. At 25 in Oregon my childless uterus looks like a shriveled up prune, and my poor ringless finger gets stares of pity. In San Francisco at 25 I would be crazy to even think about marriage yet! Its always entertaining moving between the two worlds.

          • Caroline

            I wonder if it’s an economic thing. Whether in cities with high costs of living (hello New York and San Francisco) and high proportion of professionals who required a ton of education for their work, that there is more of an expectation to get married later, because it’s harder to get on your own financial feet young. Goodness knows we’re struggling with that. (Wanting to get married, but struggling to get financially independent in the Bay Area first.)

      • Rhubarb

        Hell, I’ll be 30 and I feel young. In my (queer) community the assumption is that you’ll get married after a few decades and several kids, or maybe not get married at all.

  • Kess

    I’m still in that nebulous “pre-engaged” state where we’re basically waiting to graduate and find jobs/grad school positions but despite the fact that we’re not actually engaged, I’ve already had people tell me I’m “so young”! Yes, I’m 22, he’s 23, and we’ve been dating for 3.5 years. Yes, he is my first boyfriend, and no, I will not be “throwing away my potential” if we do get married soon. He graduates in May, has a good job lined up, and I graduate in December and have a very good chance of finding jobs. Getting married will not hurt that – in fact it may help! People tend to take you much more seriously if you move to be with your wife/husband/fiance opposed to boyfriend/girlfriend.

    And then there’s people on the other side of the coin who say “what? You’re not engaged yet?” (Note that these tend to be people 70+ years of age) So no matter what I do, someone’s going to be a bit put off!

  • Ceebee

    Marriage as a safety net.
    I was thinking about this all day.
    Being married gives you the confidence to go all out there and knowing when to turn back before Stupidville.
    Being married also protects you from small harassments like people bugging you to hook up
    Already and bigger harm like a blind date with a psychopath. Things like that.

    Sure there are things that you may not do. But those would likely be things you would look back at 30 and say What was I thinking?!?!
    Yet there are things that you may not think you’d be doing and find yourself enjoying. A lot. Like the universe is your playground. Which probably is true if you married your best friend ever!

    You’ve found him, keep him and rock the world with your awesomeness. The unlimited bucket if awesomeness that keeps growing bigger everytime you bounce off and rub off one another. Like a million opportunities just open up and all unfounded doubts disappear.

  • Ceebee

    Kinda everything perfectly right that you could do single, you could still do them married.
    But almost very little of perfectly right married could be achieved single.
    And everything perfectly wrong that you could do single, you would not do married.

  • Claire

    Wow! This part just bowled me over with its truth and eloquence. Beautifully written.

    “However, the thing about growth is that we need to make enough room for what’s being added, or else we get maxed out. I’d like to believe that if we leave enough space for growth and change in our young marriages, if we loosen the definition of marriage from one of unchanging permanence to one about transition aided by togetherness, then I’d like to think that we’d also leave enough space for the graceful process of growing old together, into the people we were always going to become anyway.”

    And your elopement pictures are gorgeous! Can’t wait to meet you in person.

  • I love this! I married relatively young (by Californian standards) and I couldn’t agree more that marriage has added so much rather than taking away anything from my life as a twenty-something muddling through this growing up thing. Instead of turning me into some Stepford wife, having a life partner has given me the confidence to live more courageously and take more chances in other parts of my life. It’s awesome, and I am so grateful for that.

    Congrats to you on 4 years of marriage!

  • I’m getting married at the ripe old age of 27 this fall. And the actually marrying part feels right. Marrying Forrest and being his partner is RIGHT.

    At the same time, the being married and being someone’s wife part…that’s a lot harder to wrap my mind around. I love hearing strong women I respect (especially Meg and Maddie but all the wedding grads and those who contribute Reclaiming Wife posts) affirm that marriage is expanding, not contracting to their worlds.

    • meg

      Oh, for SURE expanding. For. Sure. A good partner pushes you, sometimes hard (like when David put me on the train yesterday, crying).

      • Oh the pushing. I sometimes push back too hard but I know there’s no way I could push so hard for dreams without Forrest. As a matter of fact, my dreams would be totally different (smaller, more expected) without him.

        • Maddie

          Smaller, more expected dreams. YES. This is where I’d be too.

          • Ceebee

            Or dreams that carry a big appearance but expected.
            But the world doesn’t change when everybody goes into expected ends.
            The dynamics shift when brave people step through and make a difference.

  • Kate

    It was important to me to live alone before settling down, too. For me, that didn’t come until I was around 25, so that pushed back the age at which I would have felt comfortable making such a commitment. But I love your statement that marriage is an addition. What a lovely thing to keep in mind.

    On a frivolous note, where did you get your veil?

    • Maddie

      My sister-in-law had made it for her wedding and then didn’t end up wearing it! It’s literally just tulle attached to a comb, I think.

  • N

    I got engaged when I was 21 and married a couple weeks before I turned 23. It was really hard dealing with how people reacted, especially since we’d been a couple for less than 2 years before we got engaged, and I felt like I spent half the time we were engaged defending myself for choosing that path. (It was not a spontaneous or short considered decision for us–2 months into dating we discussed “hypothetically” how we would want to deal with finances when we were married to “hypothetical” people, a couple months later we looked at a possible wedding location…)
    But it really is wonderful–we’re getting to figure out all of the growing up stuff together, and I think the security of it provides both of us with more freedom instead of being a restriction. And I think that years from now when I look back I will be even happier that all of my memories of adulthood involve my marriage to a wonderful man.

  • “It’s different than what life would have looked like otherwise, and a part of me is a tiny bit sad for the what-would-have-been that I gave up to be here”

    Even for someone who is planning on getting married not-so-young (I’ll be 27), your post – and especially this quotation – resonate. Getting married before 30? Not something I ever expected to do growing up. I figured I’d be a single, career-oriented gal and emulate Carrie Bradshaw until at least my mid-30’s – so to find myself in a long term relationship and planning a wedding at this point in my life? Surprising.

    I think the most challenging part is that little itty bitty part of me that knows that this is a final decision: I’m saying no to certain other opportunities to get married. But getting married? Worth it, and gives me so many more, other opportunities.

  • Cassandra

    Ahhh, the part about marriage not taking away! Someone needs to post that in the faculty lounges of universities, I think.

    I’m not terribly young to be thinking about marriage -I’m turning 26 this summer – but I’m in a competitive PhD program where until this year, we had no married students (and the two we do have now are men, and somehow that often seems different to other people). Of course, we also live in a place where people tend not get married as much anyway, so it’s doubly strange to people that I plan to. I know my supervisor will be disappointed when we do get engaged, as well as other faculty, because they still seem very set in the belief that marrying in grad school automatically means fewer opportunities. While I know it can happen, I’d like to think my previous record of determination and hard work would stand for itself, rather than the assumption being made that the second a ring is on my finger, I’m somehow less of what I was before. Sigh.

    • Marrying in grad school doesn’t mean fewer opportunities – but it does mean more difficult decisions. For example: not so easy to pack up and go cross country for a fellowship or teaching position with another university when the opportunities come up, simply because you have someone else’s needs and desires to take into account.

      Then again, you get that in life in general.

      • Cassandra

        See, for me, it actually will be a bit easier to do things – I’m raising a child on my own because my partner is doing his PhD in another country. We’re already in for it with difficult decisions since we decided to try it out long distance… which has been fine and all, but severely limits my options to go to conferences, to do my fieldwork, to study for my area exams. I only get things done. The decision *not* to marry has made my grad school life more difficult in the end (hence why we’re thinking of remedying that). We’re also lucky in that he’s interested in teaching whereas I am headed for research, and most of my research work so far has been consultancy-based and field-based, so I do all my research far far away and come back home for months to do my actual ‘work’.

        You’re right that it’s like that in life in general – it’s certainly not only in academia, because all kinds of people decide it’s in their mutual best interest to pack it up and take on new challenges. I’d really rather do it together than separately, and it bothers me that certain people take that as a sign of being less committed to my research or a less legitimate researcher.

        • DKR

          Very true, Sheryl. When I was single I had no problems packing my stuff and moving cross country for work. Now I’m 29 and will be 30 when I get married in December (and will be finishing my second bachelor’s degree at pretty much the same time). I was looking at internships/research opportunities for this coming summer, and there isn’t much in this area in my field of study. There are some amazing opportunities elsewhere, but I wasn’t considering them seriously because I didn’t want to leave my fiance (we can survive the time apart, already have survived longer apart, wasn’t afraid of that). When I told him this, my amazing husband-to-be told me to go, saying, “Hun, I don’t want to be your life, I just want to be part of it.” We’ll miss each other, but I’m applying for those programs/opportunities.

          “I’d really rather do it together than separately, and it bothers me that certain people take that as a sign of being less committed to my research or a less legitimate researcher.”

          I agree with this, too – I’d “rather do it together than separately” too! Funny how being married was considered a strength/a good thing by my colleagues in the military, but some folks in academia don’t see it that way.

  • Oh guys, every morning I wake up at the moment with something to get me though the day! Its amazing how each and every post gives you something to really consider; whether its getting married young, moving, having children or starting you own business. As someone who is doing trying to do all three at the age of 26 (because I want to, not because marriage tells me I have to), I found this completely inspiring. Marriage has given me more perspective than anything else in my life- it’s pushed me forwards, not got me stuck in a rut. Its been the most transformative 6 months of my life and I believe its the best thing I could have ever done in my early twenties. Thank you so much for writing this Maddie – you are one hell of a role model!

  • PA

    Chiming in (with, it looks like, MANY others) on this:

    “But the thing is, that concern treats marriage like it’s an institution that takes away. And with that, I’d like to respectfully disagree. Marriage doesn’t have to subtract from the core of who you are, and it doesn’t have to be about what’s being removed from your realm of possibilities.”

    There definitely seems to be the belief that marriage limits and takes away from one’s life. I’m so glad that you’ve lived the opposite experience!

  • “So with the safety net of marriage, I was able to act stupidly, test my boundaries, all while knowing exactly where to draw the line.”

    I got married young, too, and I love it. About eight months in, I’m realizing how much space my marriage is giving me to grow and explore and change and have fun – honestly, I feel better able to have a rebellious youthful phase in the context of this relationship than I felt previously. I don’t think that’s better or worse than the alternative, but it’s becoming very good for me to have this freedom with safety.

  • I love this post, not only for the wisdom and kick-assery in it, but also in the way that it has opened up everyone sharing their experience of age and marriage (as APW always does good on the sharing front!).

    I got engaged at 21 and married at 22. I was told by good honest family that I was a bit young, and I’m aware of friends chat behind my back. At the time I didn’t think I was too young, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. A couple of years on, I think I was very young and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into exactly – but I think that can be true regardless of age and wisdom. Marriage isn’t a set agenda, it’s a commitment to be with someone in the ‘what the hell happens next??’

    I’m totally with you on the safety net aspect, and in many ways, providing the kind of commitment that might otherwise not have existed. We’ve been through some stuff that I doubt we would have had the maturity to deal with if we hadn’t been married, if we didn’t have vows that were about forgiveness and acceptance and working your shit out. Ironic really that marriage provided us with a context for maturity that our age might not have.

    Although I was thinking the other day about the kind of mother I might turn into, and how my opinions on age and marriage might change…..!

    Thanks Maddie!

    • katieprue

      Marriage isn’t a set agenda, it’s a commitment to be with someone in the ‘what the hell happens next??’

      SO TRUE! I love the way you put that.

  • Granola

    I will go back and read all the comments, but I just had to scroll down and post. THANKYOU!!! I’m 24 now, and will be 25 when we get married and I always feel the need to say “Oh, well my fiance is 30” as if that explains and justifies why we’re getting married now. Back in Ohio, where I’m from, no one bats an eyelash, but here in New York, it’s like I’ve grown an extra limb…. Thankyou for reminding me that I’m not going to miss out in some way on my 20s because I’ve found someone awesome to spend my life with. So far, my 20s have been super hard and kind of a pain in the ass, but I’m as susceptible to cultural messages as the next person…What you’ve done and are doing is an inspiration. I’m so glad that you’ve shared it, because knowing how much I appreciate it makes me that much more motivated to share my own experiences so other people don’t feel so alone, isolated, or “wrong.” Yay Maddie! (Now if only you knew a photographer in Ohio…..)

  • katieprue

    I’ll be 25 and a few days when I walk down the aisle, which feels so young by my own standards, but by midwestern standards? They are all, “Girl, what have you been waiting for? Where are them babies?” AH! It’s odd because I feel two ways about my age and marriage: on one hand, I’m SO glad that we waited because we’ve been together for a long time and watching my fiance grow up before my very eyes and feeling myself mature as well has been awesome. And we did it together, which just rocks my socks off. I was always terrified of growing apart from him, but now? Not so much. However, I kinda wish I’d married him years ago just because HOLYCRAPCANHEBEMYHUSBANDNOW? I’m not super patient. :)

  • I met my husband at 18, split up for a year, and then got engaged and married at 21. Luckily, we were surrounded by a community that was supportive of us so we didn’t get the age thing thrown in our faces. Maybe it’s because we went the hard road first that we were so certain, but I didn’t feel too young stepping into marriage. I actually am really bothered when people refer to age, because to me it matters more of where the individual is at and their life experience that any age. Could I have stayed unmarried a few years and benefited from it? Maybe. Did I have doubts? Of course. But I followed my gut, and my heart. I was true to what was right for me, and he’s it.

  • Kat

    It’s interesting to see what age people count as “young”. I got married at 24, which was in the middle of our friends – after the first wave of weddings (mostly of our religious friends, they were usually around 22) but before a second wave of weddings happening now where our friends who met at Uni are getting married (they’re around 27/28).
    I didn’t have any ‘young bride’ concerns at all, and our friends were unsurprised and supportive when we got engaged, we’d been dating nearly 5 years. People who didn’t know me well were always surprised when they heard I was engaged.

    Now, two years after we married, we’re coming up to our 9th anniversary of being together which means I have been with my husband 1/3 of my life and that totally BLOWS MY MIND.

    • Caroline

      Someone else who counts in fractions! I love to count the fractions of my life we’ve been together. Last year was 1/4. 3 years will be 1/3. By the time I’m 32, it will be 1/2. I think it’s the coolest that by the time I’m 33, I’ll have spent more than half my life with him.

  • Snow

    I get a few of the comments about being too young (at 23) but I am not the first in my peer group to get married so it’s less of a big deal to some people I think. (My mother is just happy that she’s not the first of her friends to become a grandmother.)

    Most of the criticism of my relationship is our age difference (and the distance we live apart) rather than my age… but this was still a wonderful and inspiring piece. It’s clear that you’ve grown through your marriage and that’s a fantastic thing!

  • My sister & brother-in-law have been together since they were 18 (although not married until 26) & 20 years later, my sister talks fondly about how they grew up together. They are one of the sweetest love stories I know. Young love doesn’t happen for everyone but it should be supported & celebrated! Love this post!!

  • When I introduced someone (ok, my yoga teacher) to my husband the other day, she said “You’re too young to be married!” Which always makes me sad… because I’m not. It’s not really the nicest thing to say to someone about anything, let alone being married.
    So thank you Maddie, for talking about being married young! It means a lot to me.

  • Alex

    Thank you for this, Maddie! I’m “young” (a relative term, I think) and engaged in New York City, and it really is a bizarre thing here. Acquaintances and work people are definitely the worst, but our families and friends could not be more supportive. We dated for over 5 years before we got engaged and have both always been independent, motivated people. We just happened to find each other young, and through some good decisions and some luck, were able to develop both on our own and together during some really formative years. I hate when I get the “but I can’t imagine getting married when I was your age!” comment. Well, duh. We’ve had different life experiences which made us different people, so comparing isn’t productive. I didn’t expect to marry at 23, but I also can’t see the sense in waiting until we’re in an age bracket (which seems to fall around 27-30) deemed by others to be an acceptable time to get married, when we’re ready to take that step now. We’ve grown up together and we want to continue to grow together–and as you say so well, marriage is an addition, not a subtraction of who you are.

  • Moz

    That last paragraph is great. It’s all great – but especially the last bit.

  • liz

    maddie, you know i stinkin love your pixie, right? but YOUR HAIR. looks so good!

    plus you’re effing hot in general.

    k, imma go read now instead of getting distracted by the photos.

  • Tamara Van Horn


    Wow, you. WRITE MORE HERE. Yes, that. What you know and have leardned about marriage is something I wish we could bottle and sell to the Kardashians and even my boo, Russell Brand. You get it, womyn, and we need you to keep sharing it!

    I offer this reframing- you didn’t get married *young*- you got married when you when you were good and damned ready, to the person who made you feel good and damned ready.

    Also, my husband and I have compeltely conflicting anniversary dates (from when we started dating). It’s funny what “counts,” ain’t it?

    • Caroline

      Conflicting anniversaries here too. We don’t agree on the month we met and started dating, so we count from the seasons. Sometime in spring, it rolls round another year.

  • “Marriage doesn’t have to subtract from the core of who you are, and it doesn’t have to be about what’s being removed from your realm of possibilities. Marriage is addition.”

    That’s exactly what I think! And that’s why I told anyone who would listen (and several people who didn’t want to) that I wasn’t changing my name, I wasn’t subtracting anything from it (and it’s been a slight pain, but totally worth it, to make sure people know there are four names in my name), I was ADDING to my name just like I was adding to me.

    And I think there’s something to be said for people who have no idea what they’re getting into. It’s like the small child who fearlessly goes down the mountain on skis, and doesn’t fall. Older people who realize you can break your face or something don’t go skiing, or do and then fall and prove themselves right. Fearlessly going where no man has gone before (your own marriage) is wonderful.

  • Susanna

    Long time lurker (seriously- years!) and first time commenter here. Thank you, APW, for being a forum where ladies like myself are heard and respected. I was married (5 months ago) a few weeks before my 22nd birthday; my husband was 24. We were both, and still are, students (I in my undergrad and him in his PhD program). Shock. Horror. Jaws dropping, pearls being clutched. Aside from close friends and family, most assumed that I was a) naive, b) headstrong, or c) just plain crazypants. I am none of those things exceptmaybeatinybitcrazypants. Navigating the social terrain of a married undergraduate has been interesting, to say the least. The most common response I get is, “You didn’t feel like you should grow up first?” Answer: Yes. And I did. I was exactly grown up enough to realize the life I want for myself, and that my husband and I could could build something beautiful together. We are not growing up together; we are growing INTO people who are wonderfully suited for each other. May we ever do so.
    These thoughts and oh-so-many more have been simmering in my mind for quite some time as my hypothetical wedding grad post.

    • Caroline

      Susanna, could I talk to you about getting married in undergrad? I know lots of ladies here get married in grad school, but we’re talking about getting married, and we’d like to not wait so many more years (I went back to school last fall at 21, so I’m older than the average undergrad). We’re trying to figure out how to make it work (mostly paying for school, and applying for financial aid on my own merit instead of my parents halfway through school, and such. Emotionally, I’ve got no fears. Financially, it’s scary and uncertain territory.)
      If you’d be willing to talk, would you email me? ctaymor at gmail dot com Thank you so much.
      (I’d be thrilled with emails from other Team Practical folks who got married in undergrad willing to chat with me about their experiences and advice.)

      • Caroline- I got engaged as a undergrad and then married at a courthouse prior to our actual wedding two years BECAUSE of financial reasons- I couldn’t afford to continue school otherwise. For us it worked out to be one of the most practical things we’ve done. That’s my situation, it may depend on your state (I live in Massachusetts) and your family’s level of assistance (although my parents would’ve loved to help they financially could not contribute to my going to college, like AT ALL so being a “dependent” of theirs actually “hurt” me financial-aid wise). And I did all this two weeks before my FAFSA was due. I’ll email you, but if you are having these questions others probably are too- could maybe be another post Meg, Maddie?

        • Eliza

          I would also like to talk to you guys about marrying in undergrad. My boyfriend is 23 and starting grad school in august and I’m about to be 21 going into my junior year of undergrad. To be honest with you guys we’re both very ready to be married and the ONLY thing I am worried about is health insurance. Is that ridiculous or what, what kind of world is this?? My father has excellent insurance and from what I know, once you get married you’re cut off from your parents insurance. I have insurance through school but not something I can get prescriptions and emergency services through. So what do I do? With the money I make I’m not sure if I can afford my own, this is all quite scary.
          So Maddie, Susanna, and anyone else, if you got married young what did you do for health insurance?

        • Eliza

          Nevermind guys! I did some research and under the new health care act my father has to keep me until I’m age 26, even if I’m no longer a dependent! Here’s a link for anyone on here nervous about it

  • Anna F

    This is so lovely! I got married at 23 and the comments of “What?! You are soo young!” were, now that you mention it, certainly based on the idea that marriage holds you back or limits you. I love that idea that you share of love and marriage adding to our lives and helping us through the transitions of growing up – together. Thanks for your insight and sharing your story!

  • Love this! Love that we’re going to be hearing more from you, Maddie! Also, the whole getting married in your early 20-s thing seemed to work out pretty well for prior generations… I think of my grandparents who also “grew up” together in marriage and were totally rock-solid 50-some years later. So, I wish you the same and more.

  • So funny I should be reading this today, when I’ve just sent out save the dates for my husband and I’s TEN YEAR anniversary of our first date. We celebrate that day as our formal “anniversary”, because that is when our relationship started. I don’t get how your day of marriage makes a relationship official, but guess that’s for another post.

    So I’m 25 now. Ananth is 27. I had a little freak out when I realized we’d been together A THIRD OF MY LIFE but now its over a half, our wedding was over a year ago, and it doesn’t freak me out anymore. I love how Maddie talks about being from New York, I am too, well, upstate, and I still get crap from people from the area about how young I am. In Boston people still have a shocked reaction and ask me how young I am. WHATEVS. As Maddie says too we’ve grown and our relationship has grown. Maddie, I love how you say giving your marriage room to grow has given your life room to grow, I agree. As other commenters have said, my marriage has also put things in to focus for me and given me clarity in many other aspects of my life. I don’t feel like I’ve *missed out* on anything, we’ve had the same kind of relationship drama my serial dating friends have had. We’ve partied. We’ve maintained great circles of friends- some mine, some his, most “ours.” If anything I always tell people how awesome it is to have a partner from such a young age, in many ways the certainty there has given me courage to pursue other scary endeavors. I’ve gotten to go on trips with just my girl friends where the focus wasn’t meeting men. I don’t think I would’ve accomplished much of what I have been able to if I’d also been focused on meeting someone. For all that and many others I know things happened just the way they should have for me, and for Maddie, and for many of you.

    • Ceebee

      “I don’t think I would’ve accomplished much of what I have been able to if I’d also been focused on meeting someone. ”

      This is very true.
      For better or worse:
      As we grow older, and have more things to do, sometimes you can’t do it all alone. Having a tag team allows you to take turns tackling the necessary and chasing your dreams, while the other holds down the fort. YouWillBeYourBestSelfInYourBestLife.

      In sickness and health:
      Sometimes it is easier to care for another person than to care for yourself. So this partnership works easier that way that You watch my back, and I watch yours.

  • Man, that last paragraph nails it on the head for my young self. Just nails it.

    And I’m going to push back against the stereotypes and statistics of younger couples having gotten married by saying that the “older-than-twenty-somethings” can act just as selfish and stupid in their marriage, which is unrelated to age and connected more to ‘tude. I’m not talking tabloid affairs, either.

    In any case, I stopped sharing how old I was at work because I didn’t want people to not trust my authority and my skill set, and I wanted them to stop giving me the raised eyebrow look when they (at the time) found out I was getting married at the age of 22. I’ve been really happy to say that this tactic is very satisfying, as many people now look astounded when they do discover my age. Twenty-something doesn’t have to be the death sentence of immaturity.

    Well, I can be immature sometimes. ;)

  • Rebekah

    Yep, Meg’s right. Maddie’s AWESOME.

    I had no idea when I met her that we were the same age. And what a fabulous, insightful, honest post. My little sister got married at 19 and I hope and pray she will have gained this much wisdom in her first 4 years.

    Thanks Meg, for making Maddie write. Thanks Maddie, for writing. Looking forward to February’s post!

  • “But the thing is, that concern treats marriage like it’s an institution that takes away. And with that, I’d like to respectfully disagree. Marriage doesn’t have to subtract from the core of who you are, and it doesn’t have to be about what’s being removed from your realm of possibilities.”

    ^^YES. As a woman who got engaged at 18 and will be married at 20, I completely agree.

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  • Harriet

    Thank you so much for a beautiful post. I really love the last paragraph with your description of marriage – my fiance and I are considering including it in our ceremony (I hope that’s ok, obviously with credits to you).

  • I am so glad I read this, I could relate to so many parts!

    I got engaged at 20, married at 22 (just after graduating from undergrad). I definitely called my best friend, freaking out, before I even told my parents or anyone else. But after the initial freak-out, I realized for myself that this was the right thing. Fortunately, our families and close friends were generally supportive- his parents didn’t fully understand why we were waiting almost 2 years to get married, but they were supportive. My mom freaked out a little bit, but as I am her oldest child, I think she was more “upset” that she was old enough to have a married child, than that I was too young to be married. I look younger than I am (I was still getting carded for R rated movies), so people at wedding vendors generally seemed a bit concerned at first, but once they found out that I wasn’t like 16, they were totally fine- 22ish is pretty normal where I’m from.

    The one reaction that sticks with me the most, though, was my best guy friend from high school. We had grown apart a little bit during our first two years of being at different universities, but he was still someone I cared about deeply. A mutual friend told me that he had freaked out when he heard I was engaged, because he didn’t think any of the “normal” people from our class should be getting married just yet. The first time I saw him after I got engaged…he looked at me like I was crazy, and asked me if I was sure I knew what I was getting into. I so wish I had thought of the response that marriage ADDS to your life, because what I wanted to do was yell at him “You’ve known me for practically our whole lives, since when have I ever taken things like this lightly? Do you really think I’d do something I’m not ready for?” Instead I just smiled and said yes, I was sure. But that hurt more than all the other acquaintances reactions combined.

    Anyway, now I’m 25, we’ve been happily married for 2 1/2 years, and the people we know generally don’t seem to think anything of it, even though we now live in a big city where people don’t typically get married until they’re in their late 20s. This was a wonderfully written post, and I hope that anyone who gets married, at any age, realizes that there will always be someone out there judging you, and has the same attitude as Maddie about marriage- not letting it define you!

  • Tassie Charrin

    Ha! I love this! My husband and I got married 6 months ago, I’m 23, he’s 22 and we’re both still at University studying for our degrees (the same University which is where we met, different courses though). Peoples reactions when they were told we were getting married was always the same…a look of shock and comments about how young we were and how we hadn’t even finished University yet etc. My hen party was funny…the bar man at one bar spent the night trying to convince me I was too young. There seemed to be some expectation that we wouldn’t do any travelling etc once we were married. We’ve both already been travelling, I’m going to travelling for a month on my own this summer. Marriage has not closed my prospects or made me forget about my ambitions, its made me stronger and helped me realise new opportunities. And all the while I have an amazing man by my side who I love and who loves me. Marriage is the start of an adventure not the end of one.

  • Stephanie B

    Oh gosh, that is so similar to my story. I love how almost everything on this site I can relate to (and even when I can’t its still wonderful to read). My fiance proposed to me when I was turning 22. My family has been extremely upset, mainly because of my age. My mother “forgot” I was engaged. My grandmother cursed me out over the phone. The two reasons they argued was my age and money. I told them, “You can have problems with and without money. I’d rather have the problems without money.” I know there is no way to “prove” to them that this will last, nor do I have to prove it. Now, three months later my family and I are at the point where they’ve accepted it. My mother is hoping for a long engagement, but we’re planing to do the court house thing to get the money to do a beach wedding thing (that they’ll think is the real wedding).

  • Crystal

    This was so helpful. I’m getting married young too, and am appropriately terrified. This helped me stop freaking out and realize that i’ll still be able to grow as an individual, and we’ll be able to grow as a couple.

  • Katie

    My fiance and I are getting married before he goes into the Navy this fall. I haven’t told anyone because I don’t want to hear about how young we are. I’m even younger than you at 19! He and I moved from CA to MT together last year without anything but each other. I like your idea of growth through togetherness! You’re article was truly inspiring and helpful. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone. We are doing kind of exactly what you did! Doing the court marriage thing and then waiting for the right time to have our “for real” wedding ceremony. Without anyone knowing that its the second time ;)

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  • Morgan

    Thank you for this! I’m pre-engaged in APW terminology, I guess. I’m 25, he’s 26; we met 3 years ago, have been dating for 2.5, and have been officially living together (rather than perma-camped out at the other’s apartment) and raising a crazy cat together for over half a year. He’s said he’ll likely propose when he finishes grad school, which should be spring-ish of 2015. Part of me doesn’t even want to wait that long and part of me is terrified.

    I stuck around the city where we met even though the job options aren’t great for me in part because of him and my friends, but mostly because I’m risk-averse and couldn’t have afforded to move anyway. I paid for college and then graduated into a crappy economy where full-time work with benefits was scarce, which my mom exacerbated by retiring (and taking my health insurance with her, knowing an ongoing back injury would prevent me from getting a policy) the very instant she was able, rather than waiting the 6 months until Obamacare kicked in. The COBRA payments were $600/mo and I’d quit a part-time job for a full-time one that turned out to be somewhere between a churn-and-burn model and a scam. My b-iance (the term for someone who’s between a boyfriend and a fiance is obviously pronounced “Beyonce,” right?) assured me that we’d make it work if I quit, so I did, and we did, but, damn, was it hard. (In part because I didn’t get paid at my next job for 2 long months because of their incompetence.) My current job, running a nonprofit we founded, isn’t exactly stable because *startup.* He’s been amazing through all of our (mostly my) financial and other struggles and he’s excited to be able to provide well for us upon graduating, but I feel weird as hell about it. Neither of our families is any good with money (which will inevitably be our problem within a decade), so a wedding will mostly be on us, which means it will mostly be on him. I really don’t want to be that partner whose main function is to spend her man’s money, which isn’t how he sees things, but the independent woman part of my brain can be very judgy.

    Further complicating matters, I decided law school was too much of a risk and still haven’t figured out what to do with my life instead. Most of my friends have left this city, but those who haven’t live on the far side of town and I avoid going out with them because I can’t bring myself to spend money like they do, especially after our struggles last summer. I guess what I’m saying is, my ducks are approximately the wiliest, so I don’t know how either of us can be sure that I’ll be in a position to enter into a marriage as an equal partner any time soon. He believes in me and thinks supporting each other through times like this is just “what partners do,” which almost makes me feel worse sometimes because I’m not sure I’d be able to do the same, though I would certainly want to. I know a lot of it is societal BS–his interests happen to have a high market value and mine don’t–but I always thought I would have a career that could support me, and even children if it had, to before I got married. (My mom was thrice divorced and raised me and my brother mostly as a single mother.)

    I’m hoping the next chapter in our lives will be easier and more fruitful all around so I can prove to both of us (but mostly myself) that I very much want, but do not need, to marry him. My fear is that things won’t work out that way, or at least not on the marriage timeline that makes sense for us. This article made me feel like maybe that’s okay and that I’m not admitting defeat to the independent woman in my head the moment I say “I do.” So yeah, a very long-winded thank you for reminding me that all the other articles on the internet that tell you to have all your ducks in a row first are good in theory, but not necessarily right about us in practice.

  • YounginLondon

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m currently in my final year of university and i’m about to get engaged. I’m 21 and my partner is 22, we’ve been going out for two and half years, haven’t spent many nights without each other in this time and are moving in very soon! I’ve had all the same worries as you outlined. I’m the girl who went on and on about careers and independence to my friends, i want to travel alone or with friends – i want my own identity. This post was brilliant but the best thing i did was freak out to my OH! I explained that i wouldn’t be getting engaged if i didn’t want to but i’m just surprised i’m ‘the girl getting engaged right after college’ i told him my fears and he laughed (in a nice way) and said go on all the trips with your friends that you want to take – and then he said ‘and if you’ve got the better career then i’ll take more paternity leave!’ (kids are NOT in the plan for a while!) Sorry for gushing but i haven’t had many people to talk to and we’ve put out engagement off by a couple months a few times because its made me so sad to think that the reaction from family won’t be joy but condescension and maybe even disappointment. We’re not putting back anymore because ultimately i care more about celebrating this than anything but i really hope my family are accepting.