This article by Leslie Mann in the Chicago Tribune might be of interest to readers of this blog.
Nowadays, it’s ‘last comes marriage’
Katie Hasse and Andrew Pace, both 30, fit a lot into their 20s.
He played professional football in Germany, volunteered in Peru and Guatemala, and earned a master’s degree in business administration. She traveled to Europe and Asia, ran many marathons, was a “ski bum” in Colorado and collected a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
They moved into a Chicago condo and launched their careers — he as an investment banker and she as a corporate public relations manager. They are planning a big wedding in July and a honeymoon in Italy.
Hasse and Pace are typical of today’s young, educated couples, according to an analysis of women by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“Instead of marrying, and then finishing their education, saving money and buying homes, couples plan their weddings after they’ve started building their lives,” said Susan Brown, sociology professor at the center. “Marriage is now viewed as a luxury good that we achieve after we get everything else in order.” That is the opposite of what couples did a generation year ago.
Today’s young people do not consider themselves “marriage material” until they are educated and financially stable, Brown said. Although women with only high school educations or less were just as likely as their educated counterparts to marry from 1940 to 1960, they have been less and less likely since. Only 28 percent of women with less than a high school diploma now marry.
“By waiting, we were able to do a lot of things we might not have done as a couple,” Hasse said. “We never felt like we had to ask the other person to do what we wanted, even though we were dating. I know some people marry young and grow up together, but that doesn’t always work out. We feel like we’ve already grown up and we’re ready for marriage.”
Meanwhile, the wedding industry has exploded with new products that might astound parents but appeal to soon-to-be brides and grooms, such as matching jewelry for bridesmaids and ballroom dancing lessons for wedding parties. This contributes to rising expectations of what a wedding should be, Brown said.
“It’s no longer just a small get-together,” she said. “Now, couples want to spend it up, have a whole weekend of activities or have a ‘destination wedding’ at a vacation spot.”
The winning of gays’ right to marry has helped put marriage and weddings on a higher pedestal, Brown said. “Gay rights advocates say, ‘We want to have this too.'”
It was not that long ago that American weddings were simple affairs. In the Colonial days, couples said they were married until the visiting preacher came through town and made it official, Brown said.
“You might have had a family lunch or dinner, but without all of the trappings of today’s weddings. The wife’s role was to raise the children and be the homemaker. The men owned the property and represented the families in the community.”
Post-World War II, when women entered the workforce en masse, “people looked at wives’ skills differently,” Brown said. “We lowered our standards of homemaking, hired people to help raise the kids and put more emphasis on women’s career achievements.”
The results are more egalitarian, collaborative marriages between peers.
“Used to be, the doctor married the nurse, but now the doctor marries a doctor,” she said.
Today’s marriage is not as likely to help the wife climb the economic ladder.
Partially because more women put college and graduate school before marriage, they are marrying later. The median age of first marriage for women is 26.6, the highest this figure has been since 1890. (One upside: These older, educated couples are more likely to stay married than their younger, less-educated counterparts, said Brown.)
As more women delay marriage, it makes sense that the proportion of women who are married is at a record low of 47 percent. That is down from the 1950 peak of 65 percent. The percentages vary with socioeconomics. Educated, high-income Asian women, for example, are most likely to hear wedding bells. Uneducated, low-income black women are the least likely.
The “never-married” percentage of women has grown steadily for the last century to 29 percent. Among unmarried women, the proportion that are divorced or separated has grown, too, to 15 percent. The proportion of widowed women has remained stable.
Putting off marriage does not preclude cohabitation or having children, though. Couples live together and have children without marriage more often, said Brown. But cohabitation does not equal stability, as it does in some Western European countries.
“There, it means long-term parenting together,” she said. “But we’re not seeing that in the U.S. yet. The cohabiting couple here is still more likely to split up than is the married couple. Less than 10 percent of cohabiters last more than five years.”
“For us, it’s about starting with a clean slate,” said Adrian Radosav, 36, of his June 2014 nuptials with Ashley Brown, 28. “She’s paid her student debts and established her business as a wedding planner. We’ve saved our money. We’re still house-shopping, but I own a condo where we’ll live for now.”
Their yearlong engagement enables them to plan the soiree of their dreams, Radosav added.
“We’re having a big wedding at my family’s church in Chicago and reception near her family in Aurora. That’s a ‘want,’ not a ‘need.’ We could just go to city hall,” he said.
A European honeymoon will include visits to his relatives in Yugoslavia.
“We’ve seen other couples rush into marriage before they’re all set,” said Radosav, a pilot. “But marriage doesn’t fix things. It can just create more financial problems, which can lead to divorce.”
Nor does marriage cement a relationship, Radosav added.
“We feel no need to rush into marriage to ‘keep’ each other,” he said. “By the time we got engaged, she knew that I’m staying and I knew she’s staying.”
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce, Matrimonial and Family Law Attorney.