Whether you’re totally single or so married you know what he’s going to say before he opens his mouth, you’ve probably wondered what the perfect age to marry really is. Oh come on, admit it. It’s crossed your mind a time or two… or 50.
Once you settle on the magic age for walking down the aisle, next comes the hard part: Will you make it if you’re still unhitched — or did you if you’ve already tied the knot?
Better question: Does age really matter in marriage?
No, according to Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. There is no perfect time to wed.
“I don’t think it’s about age at all,” the psychotherapist known as “Dr. Romance” says. “It so depends on when we meet a partner, what we’re looking for and what’s important to the couple in question. We can’t know at what age we’ll meet a good partner and mutually decide to marry. ‘Marriageable age’ is an antiquated idea.”
Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D., a psychologist who works with couples, agrees, saying far more important than chronological age is how old a person acts. Is he grown-up enough to handle the realities of marriage or will he crumble when he’s in the thick of it?
“Go for maturity, developmental age and emotional needs,” suggests Raymond, author of Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t!. “Select a partner who matches and compensates for your shortcomings.”
Factoring a person’s actual age into the equation is dicey, since it often belies what’s simmering inside.
“A 17-year-old who took care of a sick parent and worked to help feed her family because of an absent dad is probably more mature and will be able to handle the demands of marriage better,” Raymond says. “A 40-year-old person may have more experience in life, but behave like a 3-year-old in a romantic relationship!”
So what do the rest of us think is the best age to marry?
Here’s what 20 men and women really think about it
1. “It might be ‘better’ to marry in your early 30s or even a little younger, because there is less pressure if you want to have children. That said, you cannot plan on when you will meet the right person, so the ‘best age’ is whenever that happens.”
— Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman, New York
2. “Party through college, while studying hard of course. Date. Happy-hour with coworkers in the 20s. Date some more. Climb the corporate ladder. Think about settling down. Marriage at 32 is perfect.”
— Rosa Chan Denis, Massachusetts
3. “I don’t think it is an age. It is a condition: Once you have learned to love and be comfortable with yourself, no longer see a relationship as a means only to getting your needs met and have worked out any issues or baggage you have been carrying, then you are ready to enter the partnership that is marriage. You need to love and respect both yourself and your potential spouse. Until you see it as a joint effort of making each other happy, learning and growing together, having fun experiencing life’s vagaries and setting aside power struggles and ‘winning,’ you are not ready.”
— Lily Engle, Virginia
4. “Rilke said certain artistic souls should not marry until 35 because you don’t know who you are before then. I married at 35 and found that to be true. But my mom married my dad at 19 and they’ve had an amazing marriage for more than 60 years. There’s a line I like with love and art: You can do anything as long as it works.”
— Susan Shapiro, New York
5. “I don’t think there’s a true best age to marry. Marriage is a huge commitment, and it shouldn’t be about the age you are, but whether you’re ready to take those vows. People are ready at different times in their lives. I got married at 29. I only regret the idea that there’s a lot of pressure around getting married once you get into your late 20s and early 30s, and I hate to think that influenced us — though it probably did a bit.”
— Mariel Bernstein, New Jersey
6. “As someone who married at 25 and later divorced, I would say wait as long as possible, ideally until you’re over 30.”
— Adriana Velez, New York
7. “I was 24 when I married. I have no regrets at all. I feel it was a perfect age to be mature enough to know what I was really looking for in a man. I am now 39 (almost 40), and we will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary this year.”
— Tina Taylor, Ohio
8. “I got married the first time when I was 20. We separated when I was 26. I don’t regret it because I’m friendly with my ex, and we have two wonderful children, but we were too young. Neither one of us had seen the world or had any experiences beyond our provincial scope. I married my second husband when I was 32. We’ve been married 13 years in September. I don’t know if there is a ‘right’ age. It’s all relative. I know people older than me who still aren’t ready for marriage!”
— Patti Steele, Virginia
9. “My mother’s advice to me… Don’t get married until you’re 30, and then think twice.”
— Joshua Moss, New York
10. “I would say 30. Old enough to know yourself and be able to really enjoy your 20s (pursue your career, travel) but still young enough to spend a couple married years together before having kids. I think you can marry earlier, but you just need to make sure you really know yourself.”
— Melissa Kolakowski Lawrence, New Jersey
11. “I would just say not your 20s. I got married at 39/40 (yes really on the cusp), and that worked for me. I probably would have been good to go earlier, but I think it takes meeting the right person to get you in the right frame of mind. I do know people who married in their 20s and are happy, but that’s pretty rare.”
— Jenny Griffin, New York
12. “End of your 20s is a good age. Most people have had a chance to be comfortable with who they are and where they want to go. Finding someone to support your decisions and having the maturity yourself to allow your partner to pursue his or her dreams is hard in your early 20s.”
— Kimberly Fegely Kerr, Pennsylvania
13. “I got married last year when I was 33. No regrets and incredibly happy I waited until I felt complete on my own instead of looking for myself in someone else. I’m now 34, approaching one year of marriage, and it’s the best!!!”
— Heather Janneck Roller, New York
14. “First got married when I was 27, divorced two years later. Lucky me, I was remarried at 31 and am still married to this day. Despite my divorce, I think mid-to-late 20s is ideal for marriage. Gives you time to establish yourself as a person and at your job as well as having a little fun. It also gives you time to find the right one.”
— Kate Mattingly Kopitsky, Pennsylvania
15. “I don’t think there is an ideal age, I see it more like an ideal stage in your life. For me, it happened in my early 30s. By then, I was finished with my education, had traveled a lot and enjoyed myself while building my career. I was just lucky to find the right person at the right time: eight years and two kids later, and we are going strong!”
— Danielle Duran Baron, Maryland
16. “The lower bound would likely be around 27. The upper bound of ‘ideal’ would be based on 1) the desire to have a few kids a few years apart, 2) timing the kids so that you’d have enough energy to keep up with them socially, culturally and physically as they grow up and 3) allowing the grandparents to have a hand in raising the kids. 27-34 seems to be the sweet spot, and the number of weddings I attended during that period seems to back that up. As for me, I’m a late starter… married for the first time last year. I’ve heard it said that marrying early is like a start-up, marrying late is more like a merger.”
— Ram Rajagopal, New York
17. “The best age just depends on the person. I wanted to have graduated college and at least started a career. Both of those happened for me, and I felt ready; I was 23 when Dave proposed and 24 when I got married. No regrets here, but I do know others for whom that seemed too young.”
— Kathy Giorgini Diehl, Arizona
18. “I got married at 25. I remember everyone telling me how young I was at the time, but I felt ready for the next step. In hindsight, I wish I’d waited another three to five years, which would have allowed us to enjoy being together as a ‘grown-up couple.’ This would have also pushed off when I had kids. I had my first son at 27, just when my career was taking off. I ended up taking a big step back career-wise when my son was 2. I couldn’t balance it all. When my son started school, I went back to the corporate world.”
— Wendy, Massachusetts
19. “My first marriage was at 28. I really pushed myself, as everyone else was getting hitched. At 37, I found myself single again. A bit scary, but the best for me at the time. I started taking better care of myself, lost about 100 pounds and decided to focus on me for once. I had to realize that it was better to be alone than with the wrong person. In any case, it took a few years and I met an amazing person. I married her when I was 40. I don’t think about the age, but more when you feel happy in your own skin.”
— Bob Semsch, Georgia
20. “The funny thing is, I would say 30s… but I think it’s great to have kids in your 20s. So my advice basically is bad!”
— April Daniels Hussar, New Jersey