Americans Marrying Later in Life—When is the Right Time?

Americans are marrying at a later age than ever before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median age of a first marriage is at its highest ever, about 28 years for men and 27 years for women.  A growing number of Americans are marrying for the first time over age 40; this has helped push the median age of first marriages to its new heights.

The number of women marrying for the first time in their teens has dropped significantly—from 42 percent in 1970 down to 18 percent in 1988 and 7 percent in 2009. And while 88 percent of women were married by age 24 back in 1970, only 38 percent of women were married by that age in 2009. Not only are fewer women marrying at that age, there is more societal acceptance of being single much longer.

Various reasons have been suggested—young adults wanting to finish college and/or start careers, wider use of contraception to delay childbearing, personal preference, or changing societal norms are some of the more commonly mentioned. And sometimes individuals just don’t find a partner they really want to be with until they are older. Because there is less pressure to marry than there used to be, many are willing (and happy) to live single, but may decide to marry when they meet someone they consider an ideal mate.

Experts suggest some benefits to marrying later are having a better sense of self and a better understanding of what you want in a partner. On the other hand, people who marry much older may be very “stuck in their ways” with lifestyle and household habits, and will need to be flexible and considerate to live happily with a mate.

There is no perfect age at which marriage can be guaranteed a success. However, the rates of teen marriage failures are very high, so the reduction in teen marriages will likely be helpful at reducing divorce rates. Still, many young couples feel very confident in their decision to marry young and have gone on to have long and happy marriages.

I was 24 when I married, which was close to the average at the time. I had known my (now) husband for five years by then. How old where you when you married? Do you think your age had any bearing on your marital success or failure? When do you think is the ideal age at which to marry?

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at and in all e-book formats at Note: Amazon has First Kiss to Lasting Bliss currently discounted at $13.95 for a hard copy and $8.19 for the Kindle edition! A pdf is available for $7.99.

Photo by Jomphong courtesy of

5 responses to “Americans Marrying Later in Life—When is the Right Time?

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  2. I was 28 when I married 15 years ago. Without a doubt, delaying marriage allowed me to truly understand who I was and be confident in myself. I had come very close to marriage in a prior relationship during a time when I was unsure of my career decisions, my life direction and even the city in which I was living. If I had married, I’m confident it would have failed.

    It wasn’t just about my age, it was the maturity to be true to myself. When my partner at the time refused to move to a nearby city with greater job opportunities for me and the lifestyle I had envisioned, I ended the relationship. It’s so much easier to meet the person you want to spend your life with when your life is already close to what you imagine! For me, it took a little more time to get it right.

    And p.s., thanks for being there during that part of my journey! 😉

  3. Awww, yes in your case delaying was a great choice. And I’m so glad for your happy family!

  4. What concerns me is that marriage is less and less of a priority, and that does not bode well for couples when the do marry.

  5. I hear you. And I think that is very much so for the youngest generations now. I don’t know if it’s because they lacked positive role models or because values have shifted so much, but it’s a shame that many couples are missing out on what can be a great relationship strengthener and family builder.

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