When it comes to meeting the love of your life, getting engaged, and getting married, timing can feel like one of the most important—if not the most important—factors. While it's important to feel confident that you've found the right person to spend the rest of your life with, some couples feel pressure—either externally, from family or friends, or internally, courtesy of their biological clocks—to tie the knot young. According to recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of a first marriage for women is 27.4, while the average age for men is 29.5. The ages for both sexes have starkly increased in the last several decades, as the average age for women in the 1990s was 24, in the 1980s it was 22, and in the 1950s it was 20.
That change proves that it's more common than ever to wait to tie the knot, which experts agree can be a good thing, as both partners will be more established in their careers and have a higher level of emotional maturity. And while there are certainly plenty of people who may say they'd prefer to tie the knot before they hit age 30, many couples are happy they waited.
Like many great love stories of the last several years, Patrick G., of Miami, Florida, met his now-husband on Tinder just before his 30th birthday. In his case, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. "Having some time to self-reflect on choices you've made, both good and bad, and asking very tough questions about yourself and your partner are things that I've seen come with age and experience," he says. "For many, approaching the milestone of 30 is met with trepidation and fear, especially if you're single, but I urge others to resist that fear and continue to embrace what they stand for as an individual, but also know that finding the right person to be their teammate in life takes work."
After a particularly difficult break up, Kristin Ann F., of Bayville, New York, consciously waited through her mid-20s and most of her 30s before actively looking for my Mr. Right. "I met my fiancé, Tom, on eHarmony, but because of the distance—I live and work in New York and he in Pennsylvania—we didn't meet for a few weeks," she explains. "On our first date, we learned very quickly that good things really can and still do come to those who wait. We dated exclusively for 15 months and 18 days before becoming engaged. He bought me a spectacular, vintage-inspired engagement ring and proposed in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania." She and Tom were both open and honest about monogamy, marriage, and having kids early, which helped build a strong foundation for their future together, something that they may not have been able to do at younger ages.
Michele M., of Albuquerque, New Mexico, says she would have gotten married much sooner if the opportunity had been there, but adds that she's lucky she waited. "Fortunately, I got what I needed and not what I wanted! In my younger years, I thought 'true love' was predicated on the way you felt and that this feeling would help a relationship survive anything," she says. "Experiencing lots of volatility or conflict in a relationship served to emphasize my belief that relationships were hard but that 'love was worth fighting for,' but it wasn't until I experienced the relative ease and comfort of the dating relationship with my now-husband, and began basing my decisions on compatibility and character, that I realized I had been looking for the wrong thing all along."
At the end of the day when you get married isn't actually as important as it might feel during those minutes or hours you spend worrying about it. No matter your age, or how long you've been single or dating, the most important factor is that you're ready to take the marital plunge. "Clearly distinguish what your thoughts and beliefs are about marriage," suggests Rhonda Richards-Smith, LCSW, psychotherapist and relationship expert. "It is important to understand that your beliefs may be very different from those around you and that is okay—exploring your own thoughts and ideas can decrease any feelings of doubt you may have."