Young Love: Is Getting Married Early Best?


When it comes to marriage, the sooner the better, advises John Van Epp in this month’s issue of U.S. Catholic, which focused on young people. The author married young — the summer before his senior year. He and his wife had little money and a small apartment, but he doesn’t regret not becoming “established” before taking his love down the aisle.

“Thirty years later, my wife and I are still thankful that we made the decision to grow up together through our 20s,” he said.

However, many singles today are seeking to establish themselves before considering marriage, and statistics discourage younger marriages. Van Epp points to sociologists in a recent (unattributed) Wall Street Journal article who said early marriage is the No. 1 predictor of divorce. Yikes! Older singles seeking mates have advantages like better career opportunities and the wisdom to pick a well-suited partner.

However, not all the advice for happiness in marriage stacks on the side of waiting until one’s older, Van Epp adds. He argues that the “early marriages” leading to high divorce rates are teen marriages, not marriages of those in their early 20s. There’s little statistical difference for those who marry between 21 and 30, according to a 2002 study by Bringham Young professor Tim B. Heaton, Van Epp writes.

And those waiting for marriage might actually be worse off, he adds:

For instance, waiting to get married often leads to more premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and premarital births, which are all associated with higher rates of marital instability. In addition, there is a smaller selection pool as you reach your early 30s (by age 30, 75 percent of the population are married).  At that point, the chances of achieving a quality relationship lower because of the difficulty with finding a suitable partner.

These risks are often overlooked because of a prevalent attitude today that is quite dangerous and misleading: What you experience in one relationship has no bearing on what will happen in a subsequent relationship. You could call this “relationship compartmentalization,” where each relationship occurs in its own compartment without any effect on another.

Van Epp argues that society needs to change its stance on marrying in its 20s. Several of my friends married immediately after college, and it’s obvious that as they’ve matured and discovered more about who they are and what they want from life, that they are sharing a vision together.

I know that I (and many of my late 20-something single friends) have matured and shaped a worldview alone in many respects, and this has caused friction in dating relationships. Already, we seem pretty stuck in our ways.

Yet I wasn’t ready to marry right out of college, and the kind of guy I would have chosen then is  different than who I’d choose now.

Comments on the online version of the U.S. Catholic story range from staunch agreement to hearty rebuttal.

Some couples described their “early marriages” and proudly post how many happy years they’ve been together. “I am glad of our youth when we married because it gave us time we might not have had otherwise,” writes an anonymous poster.

Conversely, another post reads, “We were 25 and 31 when we married and both very glad that we did not marry our college sweethearts.”

Another commenter asks about debt, which also increases divorce risk. How can young married couples avoid significant loans, especially for college?

The most recent comment takes a neutral stance: “There is no better time than any other to get married. The important thing is that the couple are committed to each other and understand what they are doing. If they decide, for whatever reason, to spend their lives together, maybe raise a family and never marry, who cares? Not God, I’m sure of that.”

So, Catholic singles: When do you think is the best time to get married? Younger, older, anytime? What brings you to CatholicMatch at this point in your life?



  1. Erin-997783 November 5, 2013 Reply

    I agree with Robin.

  2. Amarilis-384187 October 7, 2010 Reply

    I guess not everyone is ready to get married at the same age, but I agree with Van Epp. I believe is better to graduate college before getting married, it definetly helps to have a diploma that might help you get a better paid job but it’s the whole “waiting until you’re stablished” thing what I find odd. What is to be stablished? To get ahead in your carrier? How much ahead? Until you owned a place? Till you are debt free and have saved enought money to raise children? Sometimes we want everything to be the “perfect” in our lives before saying ‘I do’ and forget the fact that going trough the hard times as well as the nice ones is part of the marriage, and that it might even help you develop a stronger reationship. I’ve seen in my grandparents, and even in my parents. My grandparents had nothing before getting married: not a car, not a house, not enought money saved, not even the help of their parents; but somehow they managed to raise 9 children and stay happily married for more than 63 years now. I’m sure they had their rought patches, but they went through them and ended up strenghtened and loving each other even more.
    So altough I’m still 20 years old, what stops me from marrying is not that I haven’t graduate from college yet, but the fact that I haven’t met the one. I hope to find him someday and to get married, regardless our ages, economic situation, etc.

  3. Amina-550895 October 4, 2010 Reply

    Isn’t it God’s timing, not ours?

  4. Robin-75878 October 2, 2010 Reply

    Not every person finds someone they want to marry when they are in their early 20’s, so I think Mr. Van Epp’s ideas need some refinement. Divorces (and even Catholic annulments) are so easy to obtain now that it is important that couples understand the lifelong commitment they intend to make to one another (and before God and the community) before entering into the sacrament of marriage. This requires a certain degree of discernment and spiritual maturity that people may or may not possess in their early 20’s. Therefore, when to get married should not be an “age” issue for Catholics. Catholic marriage should take into account the spiritual, emotional, and psychological maturity of the individual.

    There are many reasons why practicing Catholics are still unmarried in their 20’s and beyond. Finding a suitable partner is not easy in this day and age even if you are making a wholehearted effort to find one. Articles like Mr. Van Epp’s only serve to make those that are past 30 and single feel like they are doing something wrong. Sometimes it is more mature and holy to choose to NOT marry someone if there are serious reservations on the part of either or both parties. I do agree with Mr. Van Epp that society should not look down on younger adults getting married, but Mr. Van Epp should not make marriage into a one size fits all.

    I think there are better discussions to be had on the subject of Catholic marriage. The first is how the Catholic Church and the people in it can help prepare single Catholics for marriage before they enter into Catholic marriages so that there are less divorces and annulments afterwards. The second is how pre Cana can be improved to weed out individuals and/or couples who are just using the Church for a wedding, but have no intention of living out their marriage in the way that God intended. And the third would be for people in the Catholic Church to find innovative ways to get good single Catholics together for love and marriage, instead of writing articles like Mr. Van Epp’s.

    • Margaret-486763 October 7, 2010 Reply

      Your few paragraphs make a lot of sense. You made some valid points, much more valid than the article itself.

  5. Peter-593390 September 29, 2010 Reply

    My parents married in their late teens and are still married, but for whatever reason raised me to think I had to go to college first. I was interested in getting married in high school and probably should have put marriage before college… Now I’m the 28 year old virigin struggling to find a wife… Get married early and save each other from our corrupt sin infested society, that’s my advice.

  6. Jacob-440943 September 29, 2010 Reply

    There is a similar discussion going on in the single life section here:;forum_id=15;29
    I am 24 and do not feel like I am old enough to be married. I was thinking about 30 as a minimum age, but there were other people on there (who are much older and more experienced than I am) who said that 30 should be a maximum age and you should get married before then. I guess as long as we try and listen to God’s will, that is what is important.

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