The winter air is warming, the birds are singing and little buds are popping up on the trees. And you know what that means — wedding season has arrived. For many young couples on this campus, getting a degree is only one of the goals they have in attending Huntington University. The other is to get that glorious and oh-so-sought-after “ring by spring.”
Getting engaged as a junior or senior in college has become normalized, but what’s not so common is being engaged as an underclassman.
Freshmen Callie Norris and Brant Shelby have been dating for two and a half years and are engaged to be married in the summer. They began their relationship during their freshman year of high school and after a time of calling each other just friends, decided to formally announce themselves as dating during their junior year.
They initially decided to hold off on getting married until after they graduated, but once they got to Huntington, their relationship started to progress rapidly. After a time of reflection, they said they decided they were ready to get married.
“We felt like our relationship was close enough that we were ready to take our relationship to the next level, even though we are considered young for most people,” Shelby said.
Shelby noted that, though people’s responses to their engagement have generally been good, there have been frequent jokes made about their age.
“It is surprisingly mostly people our age who think it’s weird,” Norris said. “We have had a lot of people on campus tell us that it is weird that we were engaged before them, since they are older than us, but … we have been together for two and a half years, so why is it weird?”
Another couple on campus, sophomores Jesse Dore and Alex Mastrian, are also engaged to be married in the summer, though their story is much different.
Mastrian and Dore met their freshman year in a digital drawing and painting class their first semester and started dating soon after. According to Mastrian, they both had the goal of a serious relationship from the start.
“Going into it, both of us never had the sense in our minds of casual dating,” Mastrain said, “so when we were going into the relationship, we knew we were wanting to shoot for the big-time.”
Through their time as a couple, they said they have learned and grown a lot and now feel that they are ready to take the next step and get married.
“We have gotten to that point where we are stronger together than we are separated,” Dore said.
When it comes to deciding what age is appropriate to get married, there are many mixed reviews. Mary Ruthi, professor of sociology, said she thinks maturity is more of a factor than age, though there is a correlation between the two. She also warns that getting married too soon may lead to some other issues later on.
“I think sometimes, when people get married too young, they don’t really quite know who they are and they don’t really quite know what they want in a partner,” Ruthi said. “Sometimes they end up marrying somebody who, five years later, doesn’t seem like such a good fit.”
However, she suggests that it all depends on how well you know the other person.
“If you haven’t dated someone for at least a year, I would say you probably don’t know them well enough to get married,” Ruthi said.
Tanner Babb, assistant professor of psychology, agrees with Ruthi, though he also sees some potential benefit in marrying at this stage in life.
“If you’re doing it well and you’re approaching marriage in a very healthy way, it allows you to have several years to go through some difficult challenges in college,” Babb said. “Instead of just starting a relationship, you have already worked through a lot of the stuff.”
Babb suggests any couple considering marriage should go to pre-marriage counseling. This can be pivotal in determining if they are truly ready for the commitment of marriage.
“Go through a good pre-marriage course where you talk about money, intimacy, family, sexuality. If you go through a good pre-marriage course and the pre-marriage counsellor says … you guys are ready, then you’ve got somebody’s blessing and you’re doing the right things.”
Pre-marital counseling is offered in Huntington through Lifespring Counseling Center and Grace and Truth Counseling Services, as well as several churches who offer full courses devoted to engaged couples.
When it comes down to it, however, determining if a couple is fit for marriage is a highly-personal thing and cannot be summed up in a universal rule of age or maturity.
“If you feel like you’re ready, you’re ready,” Shelby said. “But don’t do it just because it sounds fun. It is a big responsibility and there are a lot of things that come with it besides having a ring and saying you’re engaged.”