Twenty and Engaged

With my 21st birthday just a few weeks away, it is expected that I plan a blowout party with copious amounts of alcohol, as my friends compile a list of 21 dares for me to complete while downtown — you know, kiss 21 guys, dance on a table, take a birthday shot, etc. Instead, I’m planning my wedding.

[Pause for disapproval.]

Yes, I’m getting married in a year. And no, I’m not pregnant or at risk of that. I have no ulterior motives. I’m taking this step because I’ve found the man I want — and ought — to spend the rest of my life with, and I’m ready.

When I was in the fifth grade, my friends and I had the hard task of sitting in on sex-ed classes, where a patronizing teacher outlined the reproductive organs as we stifled giggles and huddled in groups according to gender to avoid embarrassment. It was said we were now entering “puberty” (such an awkward word), and with this rite of passage, we would become adults. Adults.

And so in secular culture, at 13 years old or younger, we are taught about “safe sex” and how and when to begin engaging in “intercourse.” We get our driver’s licenses and, just two years later, go off to live on our own at college. Most of my peers are paying their way, having sex, and making major career decisions. And yet, it’s considered reckless for us to get married young.

What is marriage for? Marriage is for companionship and children, and in the long term, to lead each other to Heaven. As God said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” By marrying, we participate in the greatest reflection of God’s union with His creation. We become one person with another, we engage in complete and total self-giving, and thus become fulfilled and complete. We were not created to be isolated — we were made to love, made by Love, for love; and the more complete that love is, the more self-giving, the greater taste of Heaven we receive.

It’s sweet of you to think such things, says the skeptic, but you’re young. Wait until you’re 45. And I would reply that I can’t wait until we — my future husband and I — are 45. Happy marriages are entirely possible; I’ve seen it with my own parents. The divorce rate hasn’t skyrocketed because of romantic teenagers. Quite the opposite. The divorce rate rose as our faith in marriage declined. It used to be that a young girl and boy would marry as soon as they were physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready. The idea was that, in marrying so young, they built an entire life together, assisted each other in their adulthood, grew together, loved together. You married because you ought to, and you married the person you ought to marry. There wasn’t always the “in love” phase, but people were often better off for it. Couples stayed together because they knew marriage was a lifelong act of self-giving, no matter what feelings came and went. People got married because “it is not good for man to be alone.”


But now we think it’s better if man is alone. So we tell children to live for themselves as long as they can; to establish their careers before all else; to have self-satisfying flings, and date for the fun of it; and to hold off marriage as long as they can, because life ends on the wedding day. It’s no surprise that when they grow up and marry, they remain alone, with separate careers, separate bank accounts, separate bedrooms, separate friends, separate beliefs — separate hearts.

I’m getting married in a year because I’m an adult, and I have both fallen in love and chosen to love the most virtuous and joyful man I’ve ever met. No, I don’t have an established career. I’ve never ordered a legal glass of wine. But I’m getting married, and I can’t wait to grow up, and grow old with him.


Elizabeth Hanna is a third year philosophy student at the University of Georgia.

  • Criffton

    God bless you.

    Required reading with this article is Chesterton’s “In Defense of Rash Vows” and the chapter “Garden of the Gods” in Manalive.

  • proscientia

    If this were Facebook, I’d *like* this article

    • You can share it on Facebook and then you can *like* it!

  • Mrs O

    Congratulations and may God bless you both with many happy years together!

  • T.Kent

    God bless you!

    As someone who was engaged at 18 and married at 22, I and my husband will soon see our 23-year-old son married to his sweetheart from 10th grade. We just had our 26th wedding anniversary as did her parents. All people mentioned have college degrees and jobs.

    When people are amazed at how young we married or that we are rejoicing that our son will soon do the same I atribute our long marriage to the fact that we learned everything together. We have no other person to compare our time with, no loop holes, and no escape clauses. Working things out is a necessitiy not an option.

    Given your outlook, I have no doubts you will do fine!

  • P. Jones

    Nice article. I am 33 and unmarried. I can say, the older you get, their are fewer and fewer people of faith and virtue to choose from.

    The only thing I would like to say is there are never any artlicles written in the defense of marriage by married men. They all seem to be women or celibate men (the pope).

    • Diane

      I don’t know what, exactly, you mean by ‘articles,’ but I know a good number of men who defend marriage both in books, blogs, and public speaking: Scott Hahn, Christopher West, Gregory Popcak, to name just a few. And all are married.

    • KaleJ

      I’ll defend it. I got married at 20. And I will defend it with this quote
      “The idea was that, in marrying so young, they built an entire life together, assisted each other in their adulthood, grew together, loved together. You married because you ought to, and you married the person you ought to marry. ”

      I married the young lady I loved. And though it hasn’t always been the easy road, I love her way more now than I did back then. Growing together in love is what we are created for.

  • I am 47 and was married at 20. We will celebrate our 27th anniversary soon. There have been rough spots-there always are-but the gift of 10 children and the joy of a shared history and every deepening love with someone I have known for more than half my life-priceless.

    Congratulations and thank you.

  • Wow. I wish I had been that mature when I was 21. I probably would have agreed with you though, because I was thinking of marriage at 21, (It didn’t happen with that guy though), but I never would have written anything like this. I married fairly young, at 24 (almost 25) and although there have been hard times, especially since, unlike you, I did not marry someone of the same faith/values as myself, it has still mostly been a good marriage, and I appreciate my husband and all he does for his family.

  • BigIrish

    I’m 23 and engaged since last year, my fiancee is 1 1/2 years younger than me. We have lots of Catholic friends but we’re the only Catholic couple and it’s always nice to hear of other people doing it the same way we are.

    Awesome news, and congratulations!

  • Dan

    Thank you Miss Hanna for giving us hope that not all is lost. At 32, I married a mature, determined and beautiful 24 year-old. I was so humbled by her love for me that I re-found the source of all that is good: Our Lord. I thank Him everyday for the profound blessing of our marriage and children – a blessing made all the more immense because I don’t deserve it. Contrary to conventional wisdom, my marriage has liberated me from my self-absorption, moral laxity, and intellectual laziness. My marriage makes me want to be a better man than I ever dreamed to be on my own. It makes me want to serve others before myself.

    Should my eldest daughter some day express interest in marriage, I will give her the lyrics to a hymn entitled “The Servant Song”. The opening stanza:

    Will you let me be your servant,
    Let me be as Christ to you?
    Pray that I may have the grace to
    Let you be my servant, too.

    May God bless you and your marriage.

  • Melanie P

    You forgot one…emotionally, physically, spiritually and FINANCIALLY ready. You both need to know how you spend money and what your saving habits are as well as how much debt you are bringing into the marriage. Money is the number one thing spouses fight over…including those that are in Christian self-sacrificing marriages. For what it’s worth, I think waiting till after graduating college and spending a year at a “real job” 100% supporting yourself financially and otherwise is extremely important to better understand yourself and your habits before joining those to another person even if you are going to be staying home and not working once you are married. I’m not saying you shouldn’t marry this person, I’m just saying why not give yourselves the best foundation possible in all areas. Even most religious orders require you to have all debt paid off before joining…why not the same for marriage? And I’m not saying your marriage won’t work out if you marry young. These other comments show that often they do. All I am saying is the strongest foundation possible in ALL areas for the biggest decision of your life isn’t a bad thing.

    • gradchica

      What is “financially ready”? Being able to budget for your living expenses and having some source of income to meet those basic expenses? That’s reasonable to me, although parents have traditionally helped newly weds at first. Many people say they will not marry until they are “financially comfortable”–meaning they can buy the house they want, the cars they want, etc–which to me is backwards and gives money, possessions, and comfort pride-of-place.

      Marry first and build your financial lives together so you can prioritize together, learn to budget together, and learn to live within your means together. That way you are well prepared for any negative financial reversals later in life, since you have already lived frugally together.

      Being debt-free before marriage is a ridiculous goal for many college and professional school grads. People who go to medical school, for example, get their first “real” job–at the earliest–at age 28. With the average medical student debt at $150-200K, doctors cannot reasonably expect to pay off all of their loans–especially if they have any additional undergrad loans–before they are in their 40s. My husband is doing a fellowship, so he won’t get his “real job” until we are both 31 and probably won’t pay off his loans until we’re well into our 50s. Instead of waiting until middle age and debt-free status, we married at 25 and went through some of medical school, residency, and fellowship together, which entailed lots of hard work and sacrifice from both of us that I hope are helping to prepare us for the sacrifices of loan repayment and starting a practice that will be coming up. We’re raising a son and expecting another child and living very frugally on his student salary.

      At the very least, we are learning that you don’t need lots of money to raise a child and to have a happy family! And my husband knows he married a woman who will truly stand by him in the best and worst of financial times, not simply a woman longing to be a spoiled doctor’s wife 🙂

      • CS

        I agree with Gradchica. Learn how to work out financial issues before you’re both accustomed to 2000 sq feet of living space per person, warm-climate vacations, and all those things that make people think twice about having kids, mom staying home with kids, etc.

        If my husband and I had waited for “financially comfortable,” as described by the financial experts on TV, we wouldn’t have half of our children! Interestingly enough, our firstborn laughs today to hear how desperate times were sometimes when she was young — mostly because she still had a fulfilling toddlerhood going to free museums, parks, library, etc. She didn’t know then and can’t remember, in retrospect, what it was like when we were struggling.

        Do be careful of school loans, though. I have a suspicion that college debt is the most effective form of birth control today.

    • Thomas

      You are so wise for a 21 year old. God has trully blessed you .

    • If finances were so important in marriage, how did marriage exist before money was invented?

  • An

    Great article Elizabeth! It is very touching and reminded me that I am only 21 and getting married next year after college graduation. I am very excited that you have chosen this route as well. God bless!

  • Congratulations, Elizabeth, and my prayers for a long, blessed and fruitful marriage.

    I don’t want to contradict Melanie P’s advice, because it’s not bad. On the other hand, at the risk of overusing a tired metaphor/joke, one way marriage is like war is that nothing really prepares you for the reality. The habits — especially the fiscal habits — one acquires as a single person don’t necessarily import well into a marriage. And the older you get, the harder it is to adjust. That being said, the two of you should at least talk about money, and think about planning for retirement, college for the kids, and that sort of thing. You may not be able to do anything concrete until after the cake and reception, but an initial conversation will get it out on the table.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you everyone for your kind words of encouragement and congratulations. We are very excited!!

    An, I’m so glad you have chosen the same route- if you had not, I would have no ring on my finger! 🙂

    Melanie- Thank you for your comment. I recognize the large problem that money plays in many relationships, and an understanding of money is essential to successful interchanges regarding it. However I would say that couples fight over finances not because they don’t have money (or have lots of it.) They fight over it because they are not emotionally and spiritually mature. I know many families who struggle tremendously with money and yet are incredibly happy. I also know many families who are very wealthy and are also very happy. In the same way, I know people on both sides who are very unhappy. Whatever I undertake with my spouse will be an adventure, whether we strike it big right away, or struggle all our lives. We will suffer and we will have difficulties– but isn’t that part of marriage? Conquering them together? Granted, we have ensured that we will be living in a safe area, with the basic necessities, but if we are going to have significant fights about money then we are going to have significant fights about anything. If money causes a true problem in marriage it is only a reflection and manifestation of a greater, and deeper problem. I have decided to embark on life with a partner, and we shall become one. That means we aren’t going to come into the marriage with two separate and completely stable bank accounts (lives.) It is one thing to pay off debts before you enter a religious organization. It is another to go into a marriage and say the words “I shall give you myself completely except for this, this, and this, which I plan to retain and control by my self.” If I trust my future husband, I trust that he shall be sacrificial and that I shall be sacrificial, and that we will work and grow together.

  • Joel

    Just to say I’m 21 and getting married in a couple of months – good to see other young couples getting married 🙂 I’ll keep you in my prayers

  • Jamie

    God bless you! 🙂 I got married last year at age 21! Praying for you.

  • Sally

    “The idea was that, in marrying so young, they built an entire life together, assisted each other in their adulthood, grew together, loved together.”

    I got married when I was barely 20, and he was still 19, and I’m 29 now. That has been the biggest benefit I’ve found with us. We’ve matured into adults together, and as we’ve gone through our 20’s ‘figuring out who we are’ we’ve done that together. I think it would have been a lot harder for me to be single now, having become set in my opinions and ways, and find someone else set in his ways, and try and merge that into a relationship. I like that we’ve grown into real adults together.

  • Rachel

    Like others, my dh and I married ‘way too young’ – he was 19 and I was 21. No one would have bet we would have survived (even our parents) and there were times I wondered as well.

    But here we are, 27 yrs. later w/ 11 children (2 w/ religious vocations) to prove that when God brings two people together and those two people are committed to the sacrament you will have the strength, grace and more to survive, endure and grow. Grow in love, joy and all the virtues.

    I don’t think enough credit is given to God’s grace in a sacramental marriage. He has His ‘reputation’ riding on making sure every marriage He consecrates makes it (so to speak) and He’ll always be there.

    When things got tough – and boy, did they get tough for us – we knew God would never abandon us, so we did not abandon each other.

    Our ‘tough times’ included almost a year of unemployment for Matt (w/ 3 children at home), a diagnosis of MS for me and more but our good times have far outweighed any of those.

    Hoping for all the joy, love and laughter we have had in our marriage and MORE!!

  • RJO

    Ms. Hanna,
    May God bless you and your fiance. My wife was 19, I was 21 when we got engaged. (To this day she says how lucky I am that I got her that young, because if she’d known better, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.)

    We were engaged for 4 years–partly because I was overseas in the military for almost 3 years, and this year we are, by the Grace of God, celebrating our 27th anniversary.

    As long as you know yourself and your fiance, and keep God in the middle age doesn’t matter.
    God Bless.

  • Tony Esolen

    Dear Elizabeth,

    God bless you and your husband to be!

    One benefit you will have — you will have children together while you are still young. Imagine, being but a 29 year old man with a kid playing baseball — imagine still being able to ride bicycles with your tenth teenager. Then you can imagine also still being able to fire a fastball past your teenage grandson — and you may even someday see your grandchildren’s children.

    I’ll say one thing, though, about money. I say this from plenty of experience, and observation. What I’m about to say doesn’t apply to young newlyweds any more than it applies to older ones. In some ways it may be easier for the younger ones, just because there’s so much less economic leeway for them. It’s this. People are strange about money, in the same way that they may have deep troubles with sex, or — for some — food. That is, even people who are neither greedy nor prodigal may treat money as if there were only one virtuous way to deal with it. These things are far from insuperable, but please don’t think that such differences are signs of anything deeper. Quite often they aren’t.

    It helps — but you seem to know this already — if you both consider the money to belong to the family, and not to any one person. I’d no more recommend separate bank accounts than I’d recommend separate beds.

    The young newlyweds I know who are happiest look upon their finances as a challenge — and are delighted to do without such “necessaries” as television. It gives them more time to, er, enjoy one another’s company.

  • Jane

    About money and marriage.

    I agree with Tony; people are funny and unpredictable about money. My husband and I breezed through the “finances” portion of our marriage prep class, seeming to agree about everything. And yet once we married (in our mid-20s), it was as much an adjustment to accept his purchase of a $10 6-pack of beer on a whim as to have to agree on the use of a large tax rebate. The loss of financial control, the need to accept different habits of spending, and the need to make good mutual decisions are all challenges that are hard to prepare for until one is in them, and unpredictably difficult. As Elizabeth noted, it’s the maturity of the couple that carries the day in those areas.

    Melanie does make a point, though, that it’s important to know about each other’s basic spending habits and debt loads. At the very least, it reflects a person’s values and is part of knowing who you’re marrying. It also may deflate some of the poisonous resentment and disillusionment that can build in a marriage if you know the details going in and can’t claim to have been duped.

    While one shouldn’t expect that one’s spouse will change after marriage, it is often the case that the mutual accountability of marriage lends itself to an improvement in one’s spending habits. I stopped buying purses every few months once I realized my husband saw the credit card bills! When I was the breadwinner during my husband’s stint in law school, he spent less during that time knowing that I was paying the bills than if when he was simply charging it to U. Sam for repayment at some future date.

    The responsibilities of marriage also tend to make people think more responsibly about life in general. I didn’t think seriously about a retirement plan or life insurance until I married. Life had begun to be serious!

    Living together also saves money on housing, food and other areas. That’s is no small thing!

  • I was 35 (my husband was 45) when we married each other — the first (and last) marriage for both of us!

    Twelve years later, we still love each other. At the same time, I’ve learned that there are definitely special challenges that face couples who marry after they are already “fully formed” — with all our habits, beliefs, and values firmly in place. We never had the opportunity to help each other “grow up.” And that can make it doubly hard to hang in there so at least we can help each other “grow old.”

    Other members of our families married when they were very young, and are now grandparents while we are raising grade school-age children. We are just now starting to realize how age factors into parenthood. Twice the insight (on a good day) and half the energy!

    Thank God for the gift of family, for better, for worse, forever!

  • I, too, think there are many benefits to marrying younger, but often these things are not within one’s control. Some people meet the right person at 19 and others at 29 and still others at 45. There are pros and cons to marrying and parenting at different ages. I married at 34, even though I felt ready in my early 20s. I benefit greatly from the time I spent unmarried, though I also wish I’d met my husband earlier.

    So, each of us must rejoice in our own story and path, whatever it is.

    I’m a big believer in women being educated before marriage and motherhood. It’s statistically proven that families and children benefit from wives/moms being well-educated and in touch with their own talents and interests.

    Statistics also show that younger marriages fail more often. I believe that’s because in today’s culture, the average 20 year-old is very immature and has little self-knowledge or understanding of self-donation. Perpetual adolescence makes successful early marriage much tougher.

    This is clearly not the case with you, Elizabeth. You have all the makings of someone who can follow in the footsteps of couples who remain happily married from youth to old age. May it be so!

    • Stephanie

      I totally agree with you on your education statement Zoe and my heart goes out to very young “adults” trying to raise children. You can clearly see in some of these who were once blistfully in love, the frustration, impatience, and difficulty they are experiencing while trying to manage and cope with all they have taken on.

      Let’s be honest here, some who married at a very young age would agree in retrospect that they wished they’d waited until they were a little bit older so they could have (fill in the blank here — completed college/taken advantage of an opportunity lost by getting married at such a young age/enjoyed being a “kid” a bit longer with out facing adult responsibilities/been further along in becoming the person they grew up to be/been more mature before having to face all the realities of adult life…). What I of course don’t see here is the voice of the many who married young and did not live happily ever after.

      I wish Elizabeth the very best and hope she lives to be the exception to the statistics Zoe refers to.

  • Christina

    Good for you. I wish I had met my husband at 20!

  • I got married on my 19th birthday, and I have no regrets. Our son was born two weeks before my 20th birthday. If I had waited until I was older to marry I’d be childless now. May God bless your marriage and may you be an example to others.

  • Luke

    This article is one of the best I have ever read.

  • LFK

    Married at 20 to my soul mate after our sophomore year of college. (We did finish our degrees.) Will celebrate 28 years this June. We were “old souls”, and while it was (and is) impossible to predict the exact challenges we would face as a couple, we were ready for marriage. Congratulations, and I pray for God’s blessing on your marriage.

  • Congratulations and may God bless you with a long and happy marriage. I was engaged at 19 and married just after I turned 21 — we would have married sooner if we could have!! We have truly grown together in so many ways and we will celebrate our 14th anniversary next month. Marriage is a blessing – why put that off? 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Good for you, Elizabeth, and your fiance! You are wise way beyond your years. I know you two will enjoy a life-long, happy marriage.

    Incidentally, I also got married at the age of 21 – and 26 years later, my husband and I are still very happily married. 🙂

    God bless you both!

  • Tony in Central PA

    I hope some people read this, especially young people.

    I went out for lunch today with my parents and a friend. At 49, I was the youngest person at the table, everybody else was around 80. The conversation turned to family and children. My parents had two children, my friend and his wife also had two children. As mothers do, my Mom was saying how much she loved me and my sister and how proud she was of both of us. She then said something that surprised me. She said, ” If I’d only known how much I was going to love them, I would have had more children “.
    Upon hearing this, my friend said that his daughter in law, the mother of a five year old now in her 40’s, told him the same thing recently. His daughter in law and son married at 35 and had no plans for children. They were pleasantly surprised. Although she was very happy to be a Mom, she apparently realized what she thought she wanted from life had been completely wrong. I imagine if she had it to do all over again, she would have had more children.

    For some time now, the popular belief in America has been that children ruin your life, so it is wise to delay having them as long as possible and have as few as possible ( its also ” greener ” for the planet ). This way a person can maximize the fun they get out of life.
    I don’t have to tell anybody that playing this kind of roulette leaves many people biologically or psycholgically unable to have children. Worse yet, invites a grey, bleak purposeless to our years that are often only fully appreciated with age.

    The Catholic Church has a great gift from John Paul 2 that should be offered as an antidote to the dead, empty offerings of our current culture – – The Theology of the Body. It reminds of us who and what we are. It shows us how and why things are the way they are. Most of all, it can help us develop a mature and truthful conception of human sexuality and family. I encourage everybody, whether Catholic or not, to at least familiarize themselves with this great work of Christian thinking.

  • Eden

    Elizabeth you have such a beautiful message and voice. You are truthful!! And you are precious- I’m not used to seeing those characteristics in such perfect harmony. Congratulations.

  • Becca

    I love this article. As someone who got engaged at 20 and will soon be getting married at 23 (would have been earlier but setting a date was difficult) I comepletely understand. With my wedding less than 3 months away people are still telling me to “run.” Well guess what? I don’t need to run. I’m an adult and I found the man for me and whether I marry him at 23 or 28, I’m still me and he’s still him and we’re still going to be making the same commitment.

  • David h

    Congratulations Elizabeth. No disapproval from me. You found someone you love, is devout and with whom you are happy.

    Marriage is a vocation. I don’t think people where unhappy with 20 year old seminarians taking vows in the 1950’s, or nuns for that matter. There should be nothing wrong with being marriage at that age either.

    God Bless you both.

  • Kathy

    Married at 21 and he was 23. Married for 40 years! There are only two outcomes from dating…marriage or heartbreak. If you find the person you love, get married! Just be sure you are marrying someone who loves you. If you found the right person, why wait? You never know what might happen. Attend a pre-marriage retreat BEFORE you get engaged. Better to discern fully prior to engagement and then have a shorter engagement. Once engaged, your mind is made up. Who is thinking “do I want to marry this guy?” It is totally the dress, flowers, colors, Church, music, menu……..etc. My 2 cents.

  • Jill

    Married at 22. Celebrating 11 years next month. Five kids, 5 different homes, lived in two different countries…I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling or exciting that I could have done with the last 11 years with my best friend by my side.

  • SAM

    I got married 22 years ago yesterday I married my soul mate and best friend…I was 21…I now have 12 kids (do not fear) and my 21 year old is getting married in August…God is awesome and he will guide you. Congratulations!!! +JMJ+

  • Chris

    Great piece. Very inspiring! Congratulations and good luck! God Bless you!

  • Becky

    So true – great article! My husband and I got engaged at 21 and people kept giving us a hard time and doubted our motives…one family member even asked if we were getting married so young because we just couldn’t wait to have sex. Wow.

    It’s so sad that the world has such an outlook, and that this is seen as “reckless” like you mentioned. Prayers for you and your fiance – hope you two have a wonderful engagement and an incredibly blessed marriage!

  • Marianne Ackoury

    My oldest daughter was also engaged at twenty, married at twenty-one and is now happily married with two beautiful babies. She has always been mature for her age and has a wonderful relationship with Christ. I think she is the exception to the rule by today’s norms however. I’ve noticed that many young people in this present day and age seem to be extending their early teen mentality up into their twenties …some their thirties. Also, the influence of today’s societal norms and secularism has had an impact on the way many young people are living their lives. Another one of my daughters, now twenty-one, still has the mentality of an early teen. Her marrying now would be disastrous to say the least. The sense of me-ism, the straying away from the values Christ left for us to quote “think for myself” (another words “do whatever I feel like doing” and “nobody’s going to tell me what to do or how to live”) prevails for many of today’s twenty-somethings. That is my primary concern for people marrying so young.

  • Heidi

    Congratulations, Elizabeth! Beautiful article.

    Your story is eerily similar to my own–my husband and I were engaged when I was 20 years old and a third-year philosophy student; we married when I was 21, the summer after I graduated from college. We’ve been married for 14 years now; our oldest child is 13 today and has 7 younger siblings, the youngest being 8 months old. Several of them are already asking when we’ll have another baby, and at age 35 I’m probably still young enough to oblige them. 🙂

    As you and others have said, it’s a wonderful thing to be partners for life; we’re very blessed and have no regrets. And while financial prudence is always a good idea, marriage certainly shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for the rich (or even the “financially secure”).

    God bless you and your fiance.

  • Mena

    I’m a believer in marrying young, but with the gravely serious caveat that:

    1. Both individuals at the altar fully believe and think they are agreeing to the hard work of raising a family together for many decades.

    2. One of the two individuals (preferably the man) has a responsible profitable career in place to actually provide for the creation and sustainment of that family. (The woman’s childbearing biology will place real limits on professional advancement in a workplace.)

    3. Marry a practicing Catholic.

    Without those three things firmly in place at the time of the wedding day, a marriage is likely doomed. I didn’t say *always doomed,* but likely doomed.

    I wish you the best, and I hope you have those things well established in your lives before you say “I do.” Again, I’m a believer in the benefits of marrying young, given those two things are in place. So, all the best!

  • ann

    I met the man who would be my husband in high school, made him wait 8 years before we started dating for two years (1 year long distance (he was stationed in Japan), 1 year in the same timezone), then we were married (age 26) for 1 yr, 1 month, 7days before he was KIA in Afghanistan. I know a person should necessarily have that stuff in mind going into marriage, but how I wish I was smart enough to have given him a chance when we were younger. I have no doubt that we would have discovered our love earlier and I could have more than one year of holidays as husband and wife to cherish. No one knows how much time they have. I wish you and your future husband a long and happy life together.

  • ann

    *a person should not necessarily have that stuff in mind…

  • my husband and i have been married for a year in two weeks and it’s been the best year of my entire life. you have so much to look forward to– i hope you’re marrying your best friend, like I married mine. thanks for this article 🙂 i hope we (and people like us) are the start of a new generation of marriages that will last!! bless you girl.

  • Patrick

    Many blessings Elizabeth to you and your future spouse. Congratulations to you both.

  • Laura

    Congratulations and I wish you the best

  • Eric

    Elizabeth — I thoroughly enjoyed your essay, and I wish you the best. Good marriages can happen, although it does take some work, faith and a lot of grace.

    And as someone who has been married for longer than you’ve been alive, I agree with you: Life doesn’t end with the wedding vows!

  • Prudence

    Firstly I would like to congratulate you Elizabeth on your engagement and secondly commend you on such a beautiful article. You are truly blessed to be getting married at such an age.

  • catholiclove

    I would offer this: research shows the divorce rate amongst people who marry in their early 20s to be around 80 percent. As people get older, the divorce rate goes down. The divorce rate for people who get married in their 30s is around 20 percent.

    That said, I encourage you to take your time, pray, get to know your future spouse in a chaste relationship, and get to know yourself. There is NO rush to get married. As a faithful Catholic who married in her 20s and never, ever imagined in her wildest dreams that she would get divorced, I heartily disagree with those who encourage marrying quickly or young, primarily for one reason:

    Marriage is DIFFICULT in today’s world — it is a vocation for saints. I view it like this: religious sisters, brothers and priests take anywhere from 5 to 10 years to discern their vocation and prepare for vows. Should those called to marriage do so much less?

    All that said, only you can know God’s will for your life. He most often reveals His will over time, testing our patience and fidelity, and rewarding us with many blessings if we put our trust in His timing.

    May God bless you!

    • That’s interesting. Thankfully we both are and are not stats but people. I met my future wife one new years eve when we were both 22. I proposed on April 1 (yeah, I know) and by August we were married (no sin, no shame and as far as the timeline we were not Catholics then so no waiting a year etc). As of this summer we will be happily married 28 years. God is good.

      – – –
      Elizabeth, God bless you and guide you and grant you the graces needed as you go forward.

  • theCardinal

    I didn’t get married until I was 31 but my best two best friends married at 22 and 23. It’s now been 20 and 19 years for them – there is no problem finding the right partner at an early age. They were lucky…it took me longer but I got lucky too. Congrats and good luck.

  • I do support young marriage, provided the people getting married are mature and grounded (as you seem to be). I, however, didn’t have the opportunity to get married young. I am just glad that God did finally send me my wonderful husband, even though it meant getting married at 30. I knew I had a vocation to marriage, so I knew that the Lord would send someone with whom I could live out that vocation. Getting married young is a good idea, but getting married at an older age is good too – if that is what God’s plan is.
    Elizabeth – Congratulations and Best Wishes!

  • Steve T.

    I failed to marry the love of my life when I was 22 and she was 19, because everyone warned us that we were “too young.” Here it is, 23 years later, and we recently reconnected—and discovered that both of us were still in love with one another.

    And both of us are unequally yoked. And both of us have children. And we have been compelled to forgo contact with one another, because we don’t want to torture one another, or pose a near occasion of sin for the other.

    God bless you, and your fiance, for listening to true wisdom rather than the chatter of worldly-wise fools and cowards.

    • catholiclove

      I’m sorry to hear your story, Steve. Modern communication can be both a blessing and a curse. May God give you the strength to remain faithful to His will. I admire your decision to forgo contact with your friend. May He soon take away the sting of that lost love. God bless you!

      • Steve T.

        Thank you. I believe that, given 23 years of independent love for one another, we’ll carry these crosses until death.

        I know that in heaven there’s no marrying or giving in marriage. I also know that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him. But it had better be good, I’m tellin’ ya. (Weak smile.)

        I also must confess: were it not for her steadfast faith and decency, I’d probably keep contact with her. The spirit and the flesh are both weak, in my case.

  • Dandy Randy

    Generally speaking the younger one marries the more likely they are to seek a divorce. Among 20 to 25 year olds this is over 60%. After 25 though that rate goes down to “only” 50%.

    So you’re really only marginally increasing your divorce risk by marrying young.

    Further, there is a lot you can do at any age to insure that your marriage is strong and lasting. Being open to communication, seeking counseling, etc. It also helps if you’re both well employed and earning good money as financial stresses are what take the most toll on marriage.

    Many people will be critical of your choice because marriage is seen as a termination of the individual. People want to “live their life” on their own terms, explore the world, have experiences – and the truth is, marriage is an obstacle to some of these possibilities. Not that any one path is better, but expect people in secular society to be taken aback by someone – particularly someone who is college educated and childless getting hitched “so soon.”

    Young people make poor choices. It’s just a fact of life. Be prepared that some will write your decision to marry so early off as a youthful miscalculation.

  • This is so awesome. I wish I could have gotten married when I was twenty-one.

  • I got married 6 years ago- we were both 19. I agree with you completely on building a life together. We know so many couples in their late 20s and early 30s just now getting married and watching how hard it can sometimes be for them to meld their lives together- and often their reluctance to it (separate friends, bank accounts, ect) my husband and I thank God that we found each other so early. Our lives needed no melding, our life was built as one.

  • Wayne

    I guess I can just add my name to the long list of supporters you’ve got on here. I was married at 22 to my wife of 19 and we’ve had three kids in the first 6+ years of our marriage. We’ve hard our share of hardships to grow through and by the grace of God we have only learned to love each other more and more.

    One of the best pieces of advice I heard at our Engaged Encounter retreat is that sometimes you have to choose to love each other. Most days you won’t be able to help yourself, but sometimes….that choice will make all the difference in the world.

  • Aimee

    I’m curious about some of the statistics I’m seeing thrown around here. Just a very brief search shows statistics much lower than the 80% and 60% stated as divorce rates for those in their early twenties. Does anyone have a good source on this?

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Good luck, Elizabeth, and may God bless you and your husband! Here’s an old Irish prayer for you:

    May the road rise up to meet you,
    may the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rain fall soft upon your fields. And may God ever hold you in the hollow of His hand.

  • Mark M

    Your marriage will be a beautiful thing. My wife and I married early (she was 21 and I had just turned 25). We made our first home on the other side of the country (far from family) and we did literally grow up together. We had nothing of real material value but that fact did not spoil a thing (living simply does have its benefits). Some of our fondest memories of that time were roaming the countryside and visiting local wineries in the area because it was free.

    Because we did marry early, our children are now in college or out in the real world. So at a young age (at least in our minds), we are a couple again and enjoying the benefits of the health, time and financial resources to travel together wherever we want. It is a beautiful thing.

  • LEE

    My husband and I were engaged at 19 and married at 22, just after we graduated from college in 2002. I attended three weddings before my own wedding in July of that year. Sadly, all three of those marriages have ended in divorce. I do not know the exact reasons for the breakups (and do not want to), but I do know for a fact that two of the three couples knew going in that they did not want children. Ever. There seems to be a total lack of understanding of what marriage is for. Even some of my other school friends that were late to marriage are still reluctant to have children. They really do think that kids are an end to life and not a wonderful beginning, a source of joy and a drive to work harder and achieve more. Out of all of our college friends, we are the only ones that have had more than one child – I think we continue to baffle them since we will not commit to the number of children we will have. It just seems to me that if you are totally unwilling to embrace children you in a way are not giving yourselves fully to each other….and are more likely to drift apart.

    We are the only practicing Catholics of our group of school friends. That helps a great deal. God is good, and we are thankful for our faith.

  • Sapphire

    I’m 20 years old and I have been engaged for 7 months now. I’m also getting married in 3 months (just when I’ll turn 21 years old). Being married at a young age is very common in the Arab world, I feel extremely blessed to find the man of my dreams.

    Beautiful article, very-well written.

  • Gail Finke

    I read an article in Psychology Today this week that called a couple who married at 23 and 24 CHILD SPOUSES! Really! My husband and I were that age when we married 24 years ago, and we certainly didn’t consider ourselves children.

  • anon

    I think it’s a little short sighted to say the reason the divorce rate has skyrocketed is just because people “don’t believe in marriage” anymore.

    Let’s face it: until very recently, it was VERY difficult to obtain a divorce (even if your spouse was abusing you physically/emotionally/sexually); women were basically treated like property to be given to a man with no concern for their own needs or desires, and pressured to put up with anything and everything. Even if they were able to obtain divorces, unmarried women had very few opportunities when it came to finding a career and making it on their own.

    I’m actually engaged to be married next year myself, but I think it is a shame that so many people still see women’s job is to just get married and pop out children–especially in religious circles. A woman’s worth shouldn’t be valued by her ability to have children…