The Incredible Shrinking Millennial Marriage
Miranda Levy is a major in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Elon University where she pens a sex column for its student-run lifestyle magazine, The Edge.

I may be a member of a new endangered species: The millennial who wants to get married young – or even just the millennial who wants to get married, period.

Whenever I tell my college friends that I see myself getting married in my twenties, they often respond with confused glances, disapproving head shakes, or squinty-eyed Why?s. When I asked my best friend, who cringes at the idea of getting hitched, why she’s so against the institution, she told me, “I don’t want to deal with the expectations that come with marriage. Till death do you part? More like till one of you cheats or becomes a fool do you part!”

Stats support this shift away from marriage among younger people. According to historical U.S. Census Bureau data, each of the past several generations has had fewer and fewer twenty-somethings tying the knot:

Percentage Married Between the Ages of 18-30

65% = Traditionalists (b. before 1945)

48% = Baby Boomers (b. ’46-’64)

36% = Generation Xers (b. ’65 -’76)

20% = Millennials (b. 77-’95)

This consistent drop may be due to the increase in divorce rates. According to Pew Research Center, just 62% of millennials had parents who stayed together while they were growing up (compared with 71% of Gen Xers and 85% of Boomers). The report also noted that “roughly one-quarter of millennials (24%) say their parents were divorced or separated, and 11% say their parents were never married.” It may be hard to believe in something you didn’t have a good model of growing up. Add to that the growing acceptance of polyamory and other non-monogamous practices, the prevalence of casual sex dating apps, and even longer life expectancy, and it’s no wonder no one Millennial wants to get married any time soon.

But while 25% of millennials say they are likely to never be married, according to Pew, a majority of millennials do plan on marrying at some point. See, they still believe in a thing called love. Just consider their overwhelming support for gay marriage! It may simply be the institution of traditional, old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy marriage, and not the idea of undying love, that’s a turn off to them. Take the white wedding dress – it represents virginity and purity, qualities that most millennials don’t put too high a premium on. Many modern 21st-century women who’ve established their own careers don’t necessarily want to take their partner’s last name. Some take issue with the fact that certain traditions – like the rings or a father walking his daughter down the aisle to “give her away” – represent that bad sexist habit of treating women as property.

So they’re now asking themselves, “How do we modernize marriage?”

Well, they don’t rush into things: they get their careers going, sow their wild oats, and wait until they’re mature enough to make a commitment (I’ll admit, emotional development seems to take us longer than previous generations). A couple might do a joint last name, or a mash-up, or they may keep her name. Some men may choose to wear a ring during the engagement, instead of just the woman – or they might forgo rings altogether as antiquated symbols of ownership. And more and more women are opting for non-white gowns or gown alternatives. (Lo and her groom wore matching suits!)

Personally, I’m open to the possibility of marriage within the next 10 years. I really like monogamy. I was that little girl who designed her own wedding dress (white and poofy, naturally). And though it’s never really been a motivating factor, I’ve learned that marriage – along with love and companionship – offers economic stability. According to Boston Globe columnist Tom Keane:

It’s not only the legal benefits of marriage – such as better tax treatment, visitation rights, and inheritance. Marriage is also a shield against poverty; the married are economically more secure (even when it comes to divorce).

Moreover, with more couples choosing to get prenuptial agreements than ever before, there is far less financial risk associated with getting divorced nowadays. Additionally, provided that your prenuptial agreement has been validated by a team of prenup lawyers, there is no reason why your property and assets cannot be divided fairly if you do decide to split.

Does all this mean marriage is my number one life goal? Not at all. But it’s something I hope will happen, eventually. I’m in no rush, but I can be pretty impatient: I lost my virginity and had my first long-term relationship before any of my friends did. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m the first to get hitched, too.

Hey, if the right person comes along, why wouldn’t I want the rest of my life to start as soon as possible?

Miranda Levy

More on bucking marital tradition:

5 Reasons to Merge Last Names When You Marry

Asking for Permission to Marry a Woman Is Totall Effing Bull@#$!