This past summer, I was a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding. She met her wonderful husband during her freshman year at Gustavus College in St. Peter, Minn. They were happily engaged by November of their junior year, and they were married this summer right after they graduated college. I had always looked up to my cousin, as she is the only older female cousin I have had to learn from. However, her decision to be married immediately after college was the one decision she made that I have decided to never say “I do” to. Why do two people who are happy simply being together need to rush into marriage immediately after college?
I have recently been having conversations with friends about other colleges in Minnesota, and I have found that the idea of marrying right out of college is actually common. At colleges like Bethel University in St. Paul, there is actually a shocking (in my opinion) tradition called “ring by spring.” Ring by Spring is the idea that some college students have the goal to get married or engaged before or directly after they graduate college. This concept is even well-known at Ivy League schools like Princeton.
While not all colleges — including Gustavus — have this specific trend, the idea really made me skeptical about post-college marriages. Who says that getting married so young is the best thing for a couple? According to projectonstudentdebt.org, the average 2011 Minnesota college graduates came out of school with around $30,000 to pay back in student loans. Bethel students came out with more than $33,000 in student loans. These numbers have only increased since 2011. Since most college graduates are this far in debt already, how can they possibly afford to pay for things like weddings or even having families? In addition, an article from the New York Times stated that people who are married in their early teens and 20s are more prone to have divorces, which may be fueled by things like debt and other conflict. My cousin and her fiancé spent a lot of money to have a beautiful wedding this past summer only to immediately move into her parents’ basement because they cannot afford to live anywhere else. This can be a bit of a scary thought for aspiring couples, and it has indeed caused my cousin and her family a bit of grief.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, it is actually normal for people to get married a little later: the average marrying age in Minnesota is 26.5 and 25.9 in North Dakota. I think that “ring by spring” puts so much pressure on young and inexperienced couples to get married when they may be in their most difficult financial situation yet. Instead, a couple could spend time getting accustomed to the professional working world and get a feel for what it is like to have a life together outside of college.
Of course I am happy for my cousin and her happiness, but it is hard for me to envision myself being married so young when I could take some time to organize my life and make a little money first.
This letter was written by Katie Ahlstrom ’15.