What is the ideal age to get married?


Cosmopolitan says after turning 25, whereas Match.com says at 27. However, I disagree with both. According to Erica Hunter in Change and continuity in American marriage, “Marriage is a legal and social contract, and an institution that includes romance and weddings that reinforce gender roles and heterosexuality” (Hunter 308). Again, we see this reoccurring pattern of social constructs reinforcing the fundaments of heteronormativity. Because the thought of marriage involves a woman, in a white, poufy dress, walking down the isle to be greeted by a dashing man in a tuxedo, marriage is seen as a normative heterosexual doing.

Growing up, young girls were socialized into dreaming about their ‘dream wedding’, imagining even the most precise detail, from the perfect dress to the type of flowers displayed to the perfect wedding song. It’s almost as if young girls have been taught that marriage is a necessity in order to live a fulfilling life. Young girls are socialized to believe that they will someday marry someone who they are madly in love with. This notion of romanticism in marriage did not always exist. Throughout history, the purpose of marriage has changed and still continues to change. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, marriage was used to create rigid social classes and secure the wealth of those of middle-upper classes. Marriage was also used to justify having children and maintaining a happy family. This created the “’ideology of separate spheres’, or the idea that men’s and women’s work should occur in different spheres: men’s lives would focus on work and the public sphere, while women would attend to the domestic needs of the family and home.” (Hunter 310). In this sense, marriage reinforced gender norms and created this social construction of roles that women and men had to play. As years progressed, marriage no longer was used to create roles and separation between classes and genders. Individualism and freedom became key in shaping the notion that marriage was a result of romanticism and the idea of spending the rest of your life with a specific someone. Hunter writes that now, marriage is being used as a social indication of different rites of passage: as a legitimate marker of one’s transition into adulthood or as a legitimization of a couple’s relationship in the eyes of others (Hunter 308).

In arguing the heteronormativity that marriage reinforces, Hunter fails to address how marriage has played in the lives of those who have been marginalized, including the gay and lesbian community, bisexuals, queers, transgender people, those who are intersex, the polyamorous, and asexuals. Hunter only examines marriage from a heterosexual perspective. She states, “Laws and social pressures that subtly label heterosexuality as normal and ideal, while stigmatizing all non-heterosexual and non-marital practices, support marriage.” (Hunter 311). It’s great that Hunter addresses this reinforcement of heteronormativity. However, she does not go beyond a simply addressing of the issue. Nowhere does it mention the implications that this heteronormativity has on non-heterosexuals or if non-heterosexuals are taking action to fight back against this gender-binary reinforcing system.

In today’s society, celebrities who have been together for a substantial amount of time but have not eloped are constantly being asked, “When’s the wedding?” For the younger generation, Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian’s relationship is one that is constantly being under attack. Although they aren’t the best example of a relationship that doesn’t involve a formal marriage (I mean, they are on the best worst TV show in America, Keeping Up With the Kardashians), Scott and Kourtney do show the rest of the world, on television, that there is nothing wrong with not getting married. They have kids and are expecting a third, and even with children, they are able to maintain a relationship that any couple in a marriage would. Although they are continually pressured and asked about getting married, they have not bought into this social construction.

Another probably much better example of a couple in a long-term relationship that has not gotten married would be Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham. In a NY post article, Winfrey states, “I think it’s acceptable as a relationship but if I had the title ‘wife,’ I think would be other expectations for what a wife is and what a wife does.” Winfrey brings out the idea of “separate spheres”. Because she does not want to have to play the gender roles that have been reinforced through marriage and a heteronormative society, she has opted out of this system and instead, has embraced a more non-traditional type of relationship. Through disagreeing with the conventions that marriage underlines, Oprah has defied this gender binary system.

Marriage has been on the decline in recent years. Hunter states, “Family sociologists often note that delayed marriage, less time spent in marriage, and decreased fertility suggest that marriage is no longer a basic necessity of survival.” (Hunter 312). Delays in marriage have become a result of people, more importantly women, becoming more involved in the workforce, thus breaking out of these “separate spheres”. Does this decline in marriage indicate a more progressive society? Does this mean decline in the importance of marriage signify a decline in the cultural reinforcement of a heteronormative society?

8 thoughts on “What is the ideal age to get married?

  1. I thought this was a really interesting post because it’s very relevant and accurate. I was raised in a world where marriage has always been the norm. It’s strange and maybe doesn’t make much sense that an official contract magically takes a relationship to a whole new level. Marriage is also, typically, a heternormative concept. It tends to be thought of between a man and a woman—so every other relationship whether it be lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender (and so on…) is out of the heteronormative spectrum. This understanding of marriage is obviously outdated—but I think people are slowly starting to change their minds about marriage and also what is considered to be “normal.”


  2. I agree completely- marriage is everywhere! I remember even when I was in Kindergarten, we used to have fake “husbands” and play “marriage”, because it was such a big deal. I also remember going to my first wedding and being fixated on how pretty the white dress and bride were and seeing how happy the groom looked when she walked in and then imagining my own wedding with my friends at sleepovers. Because of heteronormativity, it is seen as negative when someone has a child out of wedlock, but I agree that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as the couple is committed to each other. After all, marriage really is just a piece of paper.


  3. I agree that society forms this norm of every one getting married in their 20’s to form this perfect life with someone they are deeply in love with. I’m guilty myself, of looking forward to finding a significant other a beautiful dress for the big day. I think that means more to many girls than the actual benefits of being married to someone. However, that isn’t what is important to Kourtney. She and Scott seem to have a great relationship with happy, healthy babies. That should be the most important aspect to focus on right? However, due to the norm, society is worried about them getting married. In my opinion, I think many women in society today are more focused on having a stable job before creating a life with someone else. Maybe more people who wait for marriage cause the society to be more progressive, but there are plenty of romantics out there who choose marriage before a career and become just as successful so who’s to say?


  4. Every since I was little Ive imagined my perfect wedding because it was a huge deal. But how important is having a big wedding today that will only last a couple hours. My brother just got engaged and he was saying how their wedding it going to be completely different than normal weddings because it truly is just a piece of paper saying they are together and married. Weddings are very expensive overall also so people might take that into consideration and think about their wedding day.


  5. I think that people tend to avoid marriages in our society more because they understand that people are bound to change in such a fast-paced culture, and today there is significantly less judgment by other when couples have children out of wedlock. We live in a society where divorce is more accepted – and much more common—than it was 50 years ago. I don’t necessarily believe that the increase of non-married families signals an upward trend in non-normative (non-heterosexual) couples, but I believe that it has opened the door to cultural acceptance of informal marriages and relationships.


  6. I completely agree with the idea that the decline in marriage indicates a more progressive society. I think the reason a lot of people get married is because in Christianity, you are supposed to get married before you have children. I, personally, am a Christian and I believe it is good to wait until marriage to have sex, but I also believe that it is everyone’s personal choice. Scott and Kourtney are a perfect example of two people who have had kids without being married, and I completely agree with the fact that not getting married makes the women feel less “devoted” to be a stay at home mom and not live out her career goals. It breaks the typical gender roles. Also, I feel like the decline in marriage indicates a more progressive society in that heteronormativity is declining. The LGBTQI community is becoming more normal as society changes, and I believe that the decline in marriage is part of this. Do you think if more Christians knew that not getting married made couples more equal and have less profound gender roles they would switch their beliefs or be more accepting of people like Scott and Kourtney?


  7. I agree that marriage is everywhere, but marriage isn’t everything. I can’t recall ever attending a wedding in my life. Because of “heteronormativity,” it is considered immoral when two hetero couples have a child, but I disagree with this. For example, my parents were never married, had two kids, and were only together in high school but still manage to raise two successful children. Some questions that I have, “Why is marriage important?” “Is marriage just a piece of paper that makes a couple committed?” “Do you have to be married to be consider committed?”


  8. This is especially relevant to almost all of us in this course, especially as emerging adults. Sometimes I even find my mother, who is purely old school, always says “when you get married…” or “when you have kids…” This is extremely problematic because what if I don’t want to get married or have kids? Unfortunately in this society, anyone who doesn’t want to participate in this tradition is marginalized and deemed weird. Some even go on to categorize those people as antisocial. This view on marriage being important may change overtime, in my opinion, especially with the decline in marriage and increase in divorce over the last decade. The new generation just doesn’t place emphasis on marriage anymore.


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