WASHINGTON — These days, young married couples are an anomaly. In pop culture, they usually get married at a surprise wedding: Think Andy and April in "Parks and Recreation" or Jessa and Thomas-John (who's not really young) in "Girls." Before the bouquet toss, viewers were counting down to the divorce episode, probably because celebrities have taught us that it won't last. Britney Spears' first marriage was annulled within hours, and she racked up a second divorce before age 26. At age 22, Jessica Simpson scored a reality television show about her marriage to Nick Lachey: The couple divorced three seasons (er, years) later. Is it any wonder the world scoffed at Miley Cyrus' plan for three weddings?
And pop culture tracks reality. Only 21 percent of millennials (those ages 18-29) are married, and the median age for marriage is the highest in generations: almost 27 for women and 29 for men. By comparison, 29 percent of Generation X, 42 percent of Boomers, and 54 percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928 through 1945) were married by that age, according to a 2010 Pew Research Survey.
According to Pew, 60 percent of unmarried men and women want to tie the knot. But they just aren't in any hurry. Marriage these days signals that you've figured out how to be a grown up. You've played the field, backpacked Europe, and held a bartending gig to supplement an unpaid internship. You've "arrived," having finished school, settled into a career path, bought a condo, figured out who you are, and found your soul mate. The fairytale wedding is your gateway into adult life. But in my experience, this idea about marriage as the end of the road is pretty misguided and means couples are missing out on a lot of the fun.
I'm a married millennial. I walked down the aisle at 23. My husband, David, was 25. We hadn't arrived. I had a job; he, a job offer and a year left in law school. But we couldn't buy a house or even replace the car when it died a few months into our marriage. We lived in a small basement apartment, furnished with secondhand Ikea. We did not have Internet (checking email required a trip to the local coffee shop) or reliable heat.