Rock of Love

Submitted photo

Every year, 2.2 million marriages are performed in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means 6,000 couples are tying the knot every day – and they’re doing it at an older age.

In the past few decades, the average age people are getting married for the first time at has gone up by more than four years, with women getting married at age 25.8 and men at age 27.4, according to the Bureau.

Despite this, many couples are getting engaged while in college and finding ways to deal with the pros and cons of such a decision.

Junior Kate Christians has been engaged for about one year, and said while being in school makes it difficult, her engagement has its perks.

“It is difficult but its kind of nice at the same time,” Christians said. “At this point in your life everything is kind of uncertain and that’s one of (my) certain things.”

Carey Chrouser, licensed professional counselor for Marriage and Family Health Services, Ltd., 2925 Mondovi Rd., was also engaged while in college and said being engaged at a younger-than-average-age isn’t necessarily a reason to worry.

“I don’t think age would be a qualifier,” Chrouser said. “I think it’s more about how mature the two individuals are, in relation to emotionally mature. If they’re both able to be assertive with their needs and able to communicate honestly and openly and allowing each other enough space, that could even build into a wonderful relationship that could last many, many years.”

Will you .?
Christians said she dated her fiancé, Matt Walker, for about three years when he popped the question.

“He wrote a poem for me and then he had me read it and got down on one knee and proposed,” she said.

Sophomore Hanna Tripp said she has been dating her fiancé, Andy Baldwin, for almost 11 months and has been engaged for just about two.

Baldwin took Tripp to Owen park where they played on the swings, drew a heart in the sand, and reminisced about past times at the park, Tripp said.

“(Then he said), ‘Remember that one time when I got down on one knee and asked you to marry me?'” Tripp said, adding that’s when he proposed.

Sophomore Amy George got engaged just after christmas 2007.

“When Matt proposed to me we had been going out for just over 3 years,” she said in an e-mail. “On that night we went for a sleigh ride near my house (and) when we came back we exchanged christmas presents … He told me that he had been wanting to give (me) my present for the past year and a half and that he loves me sooo much. Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes and could do nothing else but smile all night long.”

George’s fiancé, Matt Jacobson, is a sophomore at UW-Eau Claire. About six days after he proposed, George said in an email that he left to a winterim course in the Bahamas.

Now, George is studying abroad in Scotland for the entire spring semester.

“Our situation of me being in Scotland and Matt staying in Eau Claire is quite unique,” George said. “It has been hard just being engaged and then leaving for four months but … we talk at least once a day for a couple of hours.”

. marry me?
Tripp and Baldwin plan to get married in December 2008. While they will both still be in school, she said they decided that wouldn’t matter since they both plan to go on to graduate school as well.

Tripp said keeping it simple helps them not to stress about paying for the wedding.

“We’re just having a pretty low-key wedding and my parents are helping out a lot,” she said.

Melinda Duncan, a professional wedding consultant and owner of Wedding Genie, 2527 Bartlett Ave., Altoona, said finances are only among the several challenges college students face while planning their wedding.

“I think currently I have at least a couple (couples) that are in college,” she said. “(In the past), one had to postpone because of financing.”

College students also may find it difficult to schedule appointments with venues because regular business hours often conflict with school schedules, Duncan said.

Christians said she and her fiancé have spent time looking into venues and general pricing information, but haven’t dove too far into the planning process.

Christians said the date of their wedding is dependent upon how much their parents are able to contribute.

Tentatively, they are thinking about getting married in June 2009, she said. However, she plans to attend graduate school as well, and is unsure if they will be able to afford a wedding before that.

George said her and Jacobson decided on a wedding date of June 26, 2010.

“We decided to wait to get married until we graduate from college because it seemed like that was the best thing for us,” she said in her email. “It will only be about six weeks from when we graduate until we get married but starting this summer we are going to start saving money to help pay for the wedding and have money to start a life together.”

Duncan said organization is key to planning a wedding while in college.

“I think that its good for (college students) just to be organized, that’s really important for college students,” she said, adding if their budget won’t afford for the couple to hire a consultant, she suggests using a binder in which the student can keep everything needed for the details of the wedding.

Just another day of paradise
Finding a balance in your relationship with the rest of your life is very important for couples that are engaged while in college, Chrouser said.

“I think they have the extra stress of how to manage your own time,” she said, adding students have to determine between spending time with friends or their fiancée, on homework or planning a wedding.

Christians said it can be increasingly difficult because your friends aren’t in the same place as you

“I would say that being in college, it is difficult being engaged because a lot of people now-a-days . they wait to get into serious relationships (and) they like to go out on weekends and meet guys,” she said. “Plus, focusing on school … makes it hard to focus on a wedding and everything.”

Duncan said while she was engaged in college, she was more consumed by her relationship and didn’t get as much time with girlfriends.

“Personally, I had a lot of different college friends that lived together and did a lot more activities with each other,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s an unhealthy thing either. I think you have to be aware of your situation and how it affects you, and if you have that insight, then I think you can be able to develop a very healthy relationship with your fiancé.”

Christians said dividing her time can also be a struggle.

“I would say there is a conflict in finding time,” she said. “It’s tough finding time to do (school) and to hang out with everyone and spend time together.”

Duncan said she warns that students who struggle to find this balance shouldn’t forget to take care of themselves.

“You get focused on other people’s needs and you aren’t looking at your own needs,” Duncan said.

When it comes down to it, communication is the key to problem solving within any relationship, Duncan said. And, in the end, good communication can turn out to be worth it.

“For me, the time that I was engaged and being in grad school, it was really, really stressful on a personal level, and it took a lot of effort to make it happen,” Duncan said. “At this point in my life, I’m really, really happy with my marriage – (but) it is a lot of work to be in a very good relationship.”