Wanda Groppi is a typical college senior at the University of La Verne. She plans to graduate this May and receive her bachelor’s degree in math with a minor in French.
However, in addition to the milestone of graduating college, Groppi is embarking on another milestone: Marriage.
In Virginia, Bridgewater College senior Kelly Brown is also looking forward to graduating this spring, as well as attending graduate school and venturing out into the real world. Like Groppi, Brown is not only focusing on her career plans in the immediate future, but also planning her upcoming May 2006 wedding to her fiancé, Marcus Dixon.
Both Groppi and Brown chose a lifestyle that many 22-year-olds today do not even consider.
“My friends did ask me all the time if I was sure I wanted to get married and what was the rush,” Groppi said, “but I love him, so what does it matter?”
The institution of marriage has been rapidly declining. In the 1960s, married couples made up 69 percent of American households. In 2004, however, married couples accounted for only 51.5 percent of households.
By the end of this decade, it has been predicted that married couples will be a minority of U.S. households.
One of the main reasons why marriage is on the decline is because every year a smaller percentage of young people decide to get married.
According to the Commerce Department's Census Bureau, between 1970 and 2000, the median age at first marriage for women increased by 4.3 years to 25.1 years; for men, the increase was 3.6 years to 26.8 years.
Many adults today marry in the 30-34 age group, which is at an all-time high.
That has drastically changed in comparison to previous generations, such as in the 1950s when the average first-time bride was only 18 years-old.
The rise in age for first-time marriages is a result of numerous factors present in today’s society.
A 2003 study from the University of Chicago indicated that Americans today believe and accept that adulthood begins at age 26, when they finish school, get a full-time job and begin to raise a family.
Many people today are furthering their education, attending both undergraduate and graduate school. As a result, “traditional” adult activities, such as marriage, have been delayed.
Economic stresses have also deterred young people to marry.
According to the Census Bureau, the median income of men ages 25-34 was around $33,000. In 2002, it was about $31,000. For women ages 25-34, the median income was $22,000.
Although Groppi and her husband, Kevin Phillips, married in a civil service on April 27, the two decided to delay a traditional, religious ceremony. Their main priorities were finding an apartment and finding jobs that could support each other.
Brown and Dixon decided to wait a year before their ceremony so they could plan and begin to save money for their future together.
“Marcus and I decided to wait until next year to get married because it gives me time to finish my degree and have a year in graduate school,” Brown said. “It also gives us time to get our finances in order so that we can buy a home and pay for our wedding.”
For Groppi and Brown, their religious upbringing, morals and personal goals also played a part in their decision to marry young.
Groppi was raised in a Christian environment and those philosophies had been instilled in her throughout her life.
“My mom has always raised me to be respectable and carry myself well,” Groppi said. “Sex outside of marriage is out of the question in my mom’s eyes.”
Groppi always wanted to get married at a young age, which was another driving force in her decision to do so.
“My reason for getting married semi-early is that I want to start having kids at a young age,” Groppi said. “I want to be patient with my kids. My mom was 40 years-old when I was born and was not that patient with me.”
For Brown, her religion played an influential role on determining if marriage was the right path for her.
“[My decision] was a spiritual process,” Brown said. “I spoke with my pastor, my mother and I prayed to find out if Marcus was really the one for me.”
Recently, young pop-culture idols have garnered much attention for either getting engaged or married at young ages. Britney Spears, Kate Hudson and Jessica Simpson are all young, well-known figures who decided to marry in their early-20s.
Jessica Simpson was one of the first young celebrities to tie the knot. When her show “Newlyweds” premiered on MTV, the fledgling singer went from being a semi-famous pop star to a reality television superstar and a household name.
Have these stars created a revival for young people to get married?
“I think it is possible for young people to get married just because celebrities are doing it,” said Derek Chacon, a sophomore English major. “Celebrities have that influence over people.”
However, Groppi and Brown believe that it is mere coincidence that they are embarking on their own marriages during the wave of young celebrities’ engagements and marriages.
“No, those celebrities did not influence me,” Groppi said. “I’m a math major and I don’t get out much. I don’t care about Britney Spears.”
According to Brown, she believed marrying young depended on the individual.
“I feel that if you are sure that he or she is the one, than why would you wait? Tomorrow is not guaranteed,” Brown said. “You can’t put a time limit on love or on when you should start living your life as a married couple. When it’s right, it’s right.”
Tracy Spicer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.