What No One Told Me Before I Got Married At 24

Photo: Rob + Kristen Photography.
In my Southern home state, getting married young isn't unusual. I knew many people who got engaged before they graduated from high school (disclosure: my high school was a Catholic home-school group). By the time of my wedding — when I was 24 and my husband, Steve, was 25 — some of my friends already had children.

Still, we're younger than the average newlyweds. In 2015, the median age for first marriages in the United States was 29 for men and 27 for women. (In New York, it's even higher — the median ages for first marriages were 30.3 for men and 28.8 for women, as of 2014.) When I meet new people, they're often surprised to hear that I'm already married. It's not necessarily judgmental — but the surprise factor still makes things awkward.

While I realize that getting married in your mid-20s isn't the norm for many American women, it worked out for us. We'd known each other for years, and there didn't seem to be any point in waiting to get married later, just because of cultural norms. Some things still surprised me about being young newlyweds, though — here are a few of the things I learned.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Whenever I hear people voice disapproval about getting married early, I think of April and Andy's wedding in Parks and Recreation. Leslie disapproves of their surprise wedding, saying they're too young. But Ron reminds her that plenty of other people have gotten divorced after getting married at much older ages than April and Andy.

But this consideration doesn't stop people from voicing their opinion. Most of the time, it's out of concern. Multiple friends have hinted to me that marrying young was more serious for us, because we were married in the Catholic church, which prohibits divorce. "It's, like, forever," they'd say.

Still, we've known each other for many years and know as much about each other as we are ever going to — regardless of whether or not we made it official. And what we've learned is that, in the end, the relationship matters — not the year on your birth certificate.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
The week before our wedding, Steve and I joked that we'd have to make a bet about whose family would ask nosy questions about us having kids first. We figured someone would bring it up over the holidays.

But that bet was far too conservative. While in line for the bathroom at our rehearsal dinner, a member of his family asked me if we planned on having a baby. (I told her we didn't have any plans to become parents — we have a lot of debt to take care of before bringing a new life into the world.)

I'd assumed that our age would be enough of a tipoff for those inquiring minds, but it wasn't. Plenty of people still assume that everyone who gets married must want to have kids (and soon!), no matter how young they are.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Millennials are prey to all kinds of stereotypes — and if you don't fit them, it's easy to feel left out. There are definitely people in our circles who think we're "settling down" too early — that we should be going to parties, exploring our sexuality, and whatever else young people are "supposed" to be doing.

One of the biggest things for me was realizing that marriage doesn't have to mean "settling down" at all. We still hang out with the same friends and do the same things. We're really not "missing out" on anything — we're just able to share it together.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
If there's one thing I was most excited about after the wedding, it was the fact that Steve and I would finally get to live together, after being in separate states for three years. After the wedding, we'd finally be able to share in the labor (and cost) of everyday chores, like lugging Trader Joe's bags home on the subway.

Now that we're married, yes, it's nice to split up grocery shopping and laundry washing. But we're still two young millennials trying not to live beyond our means.

I think a lot of people, myself included, have an idea of marriage as something that's reserved for people who "have their lives together." But getting your life together is a process that doesn't automatically speed up because you happen to have a spouse.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Even after we got engaged, I told family members it wasn't a big deal, because we'd be engaged for "five years." I bought Steve a DVD copy of The Five-Year Engagement. Every raised eyebrow was proof that behind our backs, everyone was judging our decision.

But then I realized the only reason I kept pushing the actual wedding planning was because I was so afraid of judgment. And when we finally sent out the save-the-dates, I realized the vast majority of criticism was in my head. Yes, some people were concern trolls, but everyone we cared about was happy that we were happy. And all the concerns about "what people think"? They had nothing to do with our actual relationship.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
While I know getting married young was the right decision for us, I've still caught myself lying about my age. Sometimes I still feel like a small-town person out of place in the big city, where it feels like everyone's living the single life.

When I think about why I feel the need to lie, though, it's always because of my own insecurities. Yes, friends and coworkers will acknowledge that we're young, but it's not in a judgmental way. Our relationship works for us — and in the end, that's what really matters.
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