what is it with everyone getting married so young?
For starters, it’s a good way of pissing off your mum and dad.
Image via Instagram
Does it feel like every time you scroll through your social media feed you see another picture of a gleaming diamond slotted on a slender, youthful finger with the caption: “Can’t wait to spend forever with you.” When you cannot decide what to chose as part of your Sainsbury's lunch meal deal, it seems wild that marriage is on the cards for anyone.
But it’s not just your friends that are committing to the cubic zirconia, celebrities seem to be getting engaged younger too. On Saturday, while holidaying in the Bahamas, 24-year-old Justin Bieber asked on/off girlfriend Hailey Baldwin to marry him, and she said yes. The engagement follows the news that 25-year-old Ariana Grande is betrothed to Pete Davidson after weeks of dating, and 25-year-old Miley Cyrus’s long-running engagement to partner Liam Hemsworth (and recent rumours that they’re now married).
But why does everyone want to say “I do”? Doesn’t the whole virginal white wedding dress ordeal, the Dad giving the woman away like a piece of property, the local band doing covers of Ellie Goulding, stink of boring archaic values? Or doesn’t it at least fill you with terror?
Do people still really believe you can be with one person for the rest of your life? It seems like a ludicrous expectation given that we are all going to live until we are about 109 years old. And with polyamorous relationships entering the mainstream through sugary pink Cosmopolitan spreads convincing us we can “have it all”, why would we want to be attached to one person, forever and ever? Do you want to turn into one of those old couples sat in Pizza Express in empty silence? The sort whose only chat involves asking their partner to pass the garlic mayo?
"When we are all £40k in debt from our art history university degrees that definitely didn’t help us get a job, how does anyone place a bet on what we’ll do for the rest of our dying days? It’s hard enough to get a decent employment."
I always thought that us millennials were more focussed on sorting out our gloomy life prospects. Forever living in crusty rental flats where we can’t even nail a picture on our own walls in case we lose our deposits. When we are all £40k in debt from our art history university degrees that definitely didn’t help us get a job, how does anyone place a bet on who we will be spending the rest of our lives when we don't even know how much money we will have next month because we are all stuck on freelance zero hours contracts.
But maybe it is precisely because of our chronic instability that we are increasingly looking to marriage? My 22-year-old best friend Vicky recently rang me at 3am screaming from a hot tub in Iceland to tell me her boyfriend had asked her to marry him. It was precisely that need for comfort and structure from the dizzying speed of the now: “It’s nice to come back home from work and have someone constant who you can bitch about life to. People in our generation are either doing unpaid internships for a job they’ll never get, or they work in something they hate -- cold calling people up who tell you to fuck off or trying to sell a product even you wouldn’t dare buy. When I feel like a failure, it’s nice to have someone to tell you you’re not. I think: well if I’m a disappointment least I’ll always have him.”
Since getting married young is often perceived as an irresponsible move destined for heartbreak, weddings in one’s 20s can feel a little counter cultural. I spoke to Megan, a 24-year-old working in sales, who got married to her partner Sam last year: “We got married young, just with a couple of close friends and Sam’s sister, it felt like running away, I think my parents wanted something more, but to me it was the most romantic thing in the world.”
If you get married now, when you are young and beautiful, it’s new and disorientating and exciting; when you are older it seems like something you should do, your parents are expecting it. At this age marriage is significant because people aren’t necessarily going to support it. “My mum was annoyed at first, it took a while for her to believe how committed we are to each other, that’s what made the marriage mean something,” Megan continued.
After joking that she’s in it for the “tax relief,” Vicky admitted, “I am very excited to call Tom my husband.” It seems traditional ideas of love still have huge clout over our dreams -- just look at how invested we are in the glistening romance of Love Island’s Jack and Dani. I am banking on an OK! Magazine spread with exclusive access to the afterparty and I’m definitely not alone.
“I guess as a member of the LGBT community it feels important for us to get married (and not have a civil ceremony) because we’re exercising our right to be like straight couples. Also I want to have a fuck off huge party."
For people in the LGBTQ community, getting married can be a powerful way of expressing queer love. I spoke to Sukey about her engagement to another woman at 24 years old: “I met Kat coming up to 4 years ago on a teacher training course. I thought we were just going to be best friends so we moved in together with one other person after the 6 weeks of training. Then one thing turned into another and a few weeks later we were together and proper loved up. We’ve always talked about getting married from the beginning -- it more just seemed like a matter of when.”
“Because we’re both girls we decided to propose to each other on the same day,” Sukey continues, “we had the rings made together a few months in advance and kept them hidden in our flat while we waited for a better opportunity than rainy Manchester. Then when we were on holiday in Spain we took it in turns on one day to ask.”
“I guess as a member of the LGBT community it feels important for us to get married (and not have a civil ceremony) because we’re exercising our right to be like straight couples. Also I want to have a fuck off huge party. And obviously legitimise my eternal commitment in the eyes of the law at the same time.”
Not everyone will approve, but that’s what makes getting engaged young so suffocatingly romantic, even if the ring is a Haribo jelly one because you can’t afford an actual metal ring. If you divorce you will not even have to worry about who gets the house because chances are you won’t actually own one. Instead, all you’ll have to deal with is who takes the wok and the toastie maker.