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Too Young?
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Is seventeen too young to marry? Many think so today. The median age for marriage in the United States is almost a decade older – 27.5 years old for men, and 25.5 years for women. In Europe, it is 30. While seventeen has always been considered young, once it was not an unusual age for marriage. In the 1950s the median age for women to get married was 19. That means half of the women were marrying before they turned 19.

There are good reasons to delay marriage until later. The odds against success for a teen marriage are steep. Almost half end up in divorce within ten years. That is twice the rate for marriages where both partners are older than 25. Today, those that get married in their teens also face financial obstacles.

And yet . . .

My wife and I married when she was 19 and I was 22. She was the kid sister of a high school friend. By the time she was 16, I knew she was the one I wanted as my spouse. She felt the same way about me. Neither of us then knew how the other felt. Each felt we were too young to be thinking that way. We both thought it to be puppy love. Regardless, before she turned 18 we had gone from good friends to something more. We did not know where life would take us, but we wanted to make the voyage together.

We decided to marry when I graduated from college. By the start of my junior year, I had a part-time job that paid my expenses, including an apartment. Why wait? At 18 a year seems forever. We put off marriage for another six months because her parents felt uncomfortable with their daughter marrying at 18. Thirty-plus years and three children later we are still together and more deeply in love.

Marriage Easy?

Not that marriage was easy. No marriage is. We worked through the rough patches.

Would I have been a better husband had I waited until I was 25 before marrying? I was a better husband at 25 than I was at 22 – but by the time I was 25 I had almost three years practice at being a husband. I am a better husband today than when I was 25. I doubt I would have been wiser deferring marriage until I turned 50 because I could be a better husband after 50. Nor does marrying later guarantee success. One of my brothers married in his mid-twenties, only to divorce a few years later.

My wife and I were incredibly fortunate. Looking back I see the many times God’s hand was over us, protecting us from harm and our own folly. Yet I cannot believe our decision was wrong.

My youngest son is now the age of my wife when we first decided to marry. He seems terribly, terribly young to me – too young for marriage. But is he really? Fortunately for me, he has not found his special girl. I do not have to answer that question.

Is seventeen too young for marriage? It is if marriage is seen as either an escape or a trap. Many teens view marriage that way. Yet when both partners view it as a voyage to be taken together, is there a too young or too old?

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. 

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Marriage: a History 
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