Here Comes the (32.3 year old) Bride

Similar to filling the pages of your passport with custom stamps – becoming dependent on Facebook is one of the many consequences of living abroad. (Ha, well at least that’s true in my case 🙂 )

I rely on the popular social networking site for everything from: messaging loved ones – to checking out photos of my friends’ weekend adventures – to advertising this blog 😉 – to keeping up with popular trends from back at home.

….speaking of trends…..

Thanks to the inside information provided by the ever loyal Facebook, I have picked up on two particular trends currently blazing through the lives of my peers: engagement and marriage.

The evidence from the tagged photos and updated relationship statuses is clear – quite a few people my age are taking the plunge and tying the knot.

(My own sister is even included in that list – Congratulations again Erin and David!)

After catching on to the new tenancy – I did a little research and confirmed my hunch. According to the 2009 US Census Bureau, the average age that a woman marries for the first time (<— kinda sad that they had to include that part) is 26.5 years old.

The state with the highest median age is Rhode Island at 29 years old and the state with the lowest median age is Idaho with 23.1.

No wonder I’m suddenly bombarded with the realization that more and more of my friends and acquaintances are getting ready to say “I do”! – we are all smack dab in the middle of the “prime marrying age” according to American standards.

Therefore, if many of my friends from home are thinking about getting married – that must mean that, by comparison, the majority of Diego’s (my boyfriend 3 years my senior) Spanish amigos are happily hitched with babies on the way,…. right?

Turns out, Diego (currently 27) has only one acquaintance that is already married.

¿Coincidence?

Unlikely.

According to Spain’s own official national database, as of January 2011 the average age for a Spanish woman to get married was a whopping 32.3 years old!

Why, then, do Spanish women (on average) wait an extra 6 years longer to get married compared to American women?

While there are many cultural factors at play that dictate the Spaniards’  decision to not rush into marriage, based on what I have observed during the time I’ve spend here, I tend to agree with the argument presented by the article titled: La edad del matrimonio en España se retrasa tres años de media (The average age of matrimony in Spain is extended by 3 years).

To sum it up, the article states that both men and women of Spain are waiting longer and longer to get married due to the monetary consequences of the global economic crisis. (Spain was hit particularly hard by the crisis – unemployment here hovers around 20%)

Since Spanish people are now, on average, earning less money than they were 5 or 6 years ago, it is taking longer for them to feel “financially stable enough” to decide to get married.

On a related note, because jobs are pretty difficult to come by for young people, many Spanish young adults are forced to live longer with their parents than their North American peers. It’s not uncommon here in Spain for someone aged 26-30 to still be living at home with mamá y papá.  All those factors combined together help make for the delayed (relativity speaking) age of matrimony in Spain.

Wedding photo of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain (married at ages 36 & 31 respectively)

Opinion time!

What you do you think about the fact that we (in general) get married earlier than Spanish people?

Does there exist an “ideal” age to get engaged/married?

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8 thoughts on “Here Comes the (32.3 year old) Bride

  1. I’ve read that a person’s brain really doesn’t stop developing until the age of 23-25. With that in mind, it seems to me that it might be best to delay a marriage until after that age. By then one should have had the opportunity to work on their professional development, independence and personal growth, increased socialization and coping skills and be in a better place to analyze if they and their potential mate are a good fit.

    Now I’m not saying that those that marry earlier will not have a successful marriage. I got married at the age of 21 and this year marked our 38th anniversary. Most of my friends got married around that age and are also with their original spouses. However, I’d say that developing yourself as a self reliant and confident individual whose brain has fully matured and who has experienced life on your own should be ones first priority. Then you’ll be ready for marriage where two people must focus their energy towards becoming one.

    • Congrats on your anniversary!

      I loved this comment – I definitely agree! I fell like I’ve changed/matured so much over the past few years and I don’t think I’m fully finished yet! Only after this happens do I feel that you know exactly what you want in life and who you want as your partner. It happens for different ages for all people though, every case is different!

  2. I tend to lean to the “jump on the bandwagon” theory. For most Americans, as long as their friends aren’t hitched, there is no hurry to do likewise.
    But once a few friends take the plunge, a snowball effect occurs. There are less and less single friends to hang out with, which pushes the single person to find a mate.
    Then there’s the “what’s wrong with you?” theory. As as American (especially woman) approaches her 30th birthday, and is still single, society judges irrationally. Ergo: “What’s wrong with her?”

    • I think that’s right! Even people here who are “financially stable” don’t think about getting married until they are about 30 – it’s just the trend for young people these days!

  3. As 22-year-old, American newlywed (thanks for the shout out above!) I found this post rather interesting. I do agree with all comments posted, and especially with the article which talks about the financial stability of the couple; but I was also thinking about the religious act of marriage. It didn’t surprise me that people in the US got married at a younger age than people in Spain. I think traditionally as a culture, our predominately Christian faith has been a greater influence in our decision to tie the knot earlier in life. Reflecting on this, and what Aunt Wendy stated, I believe my decision to marry was based on both the emotional and spiritual growth I have experienced as a person. Like you said Rachel, people mature at different times, within their own time. Since meeting David at church over two years ago, and growing in our faith together, it really allowed us to mature as a couple, and know that we were meant for a life-long commitment to each other. How about it Spain? What role does religion play within its culture?

    • According to Diego people stopped being very religious about 40 or 50 years ago – the majority is catholic but young people rarely attend mass regularly (Mostly old people are the ones going to church). I’m sure this is related to the age in which people get married in Spain. Good idea Erin! You’re right on it!

  4. Really interesting theories to say the least! It seems in the day of our marriage and our parents the committment was intended until death do us part. Of course there were hard times and lots of struggles to overcome. We just seemed to hold on and work things out. Today, sadly, marriages are often entered without that committment and easily thrown out. I’m not saying people should stay together regardless. There are some circumstances where divorce is the better solution for both. Age is irrelevant. I think maturity and being well grounded helps for sure! A healthy and loving family unit certainly sets a good example too. I was 19 and Uncle Den was 20 and we will be married 46 years in January.

    • Yeah, I don’t think age of getting married has everything to do with the success of the marriage – but I agree when you say that today people’s ideas of what marriage is have changed. There’s a lot less “holding on” during bad times and more instances of divorce when things get tough. Congrats on your anniversary Aunt Renee!! I hope one day I’ll have my own “happy family” like yours! 🙂

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