Will you marry me? The day after my university graduation, on our favourite beach in Northumberland and flask of tea in hand, was not the day I was expecting to hear that question. 24 hours before, I’d been throwing my mortarboard in the air and clubbing in Sheffield’s grimy Students Union. Plus, I was 21! Who gets engaged at 21?
Yes, we’d been together since we were in our mid-teens, but still! Of course, I said yes! Our families were thrilled, we had a lot of champagne and got a special discount at Alnwick Garden because the lady saw how happy we were, and we were in our little bubble.
It was incredible, and I completely forgot that in the wedding world, I’d be seen as a baby (side note: I went to one bridal shop who thought my mum was the one having the appointment, and her teenage daughter had come to help her)! The average age women get married in the UK is 30 (32 for men), so by the time I get married in July this year, I’ll still be 6 years off the average!
I recently read an article in the Guardian that described marriages in your early to mid 20s as ‘starter marriages’, that let you learn the lessons for your 30s and your ‘next marriage’ in a way that just living together can’t. This hurts my heart in ways I can’t even describe. That people would describe the relationship I’m entering into as a ‘starter marriage’, that is something to be endured and survived, rather than enjoyed, cherished and seen as having more time to spend the rest of your life with someone.
I see marriage as an opportunity not to settle down, but to become more of a team than ever – to travel the world, establish careers, a household, an identity that brings us more adventure than we’ve ever had before, not to tether us down in the slightest. James makes me the happiest I’ve been, and we complement each other so strongly despite our differences, that I can’t see a time when I won’t want to come home to chat about what sort of youth work I’ve been doing, and hear about what sort of saving-the-world neurology stuff he’s been doing.
Of course, I know it won’t be as easy as that. Marriage is something that has to be built and worked on, more than any other relationship we’ll have. I fully expect that after a while, James talking about video games will drive me mad, and my constant need for a massage will annoy him; that sometimes he will be hard to love. And so will I.
But marriage wasn’t created to be easy – we’re all imperfect people trying to find our way in life. We just choose the person that we think we can get through it the best with!
We live in a throwaway culture, where marriage is viewed as the ‘next stage’ in a relationship, and that if it doesn’t work out, it can simply be abandoned. That humans aren’t meant to be monogamous and it’s only human nature to want to move on and get bored. That the feeling of being in love and feeling butterflies in our stomach is the only thing that should keep us together.
But that is what makes marriage so special, that we go against our instincts to sow our wild oats, and commit for life to one person. It doesn’t matter to me that my 20’s won’t be taken up with one night stands, or that I’ll never kiss another man in my life.
Yes, it started out being difficult speaking to suppliers face to face – being looked up and down when I wasn’t with my mam. Not being allowed out of the dressing room in a bridal boutique is a complete low point of this engagement!
But the realisation that every bride is worth being treated the same, whether they’re 18 or 80, has worked wonders for me. The Love My Dress private group has been completely invaluable for my confidence, because no one judges the other on their choices, their age, their demographic – if you haven’t already joined this group (which Love My Dress founder Annabel set up as a community for brides to be and newlyweds) then you need to.
Through planning this incredible event that will join two families together and create a new family of two, I feel so much more empowered and self-assured than I ever have done, even though it’s been so difficult at times (never mind taking 200 History students to Prague, weddings are SO much harder!), and I am more sure of my future than I ever have been.
Love to all my fellow under-25 brides due to be married soon.
The author of this feature is Emily Thompson, who you can connect with on Instagram @emilythompson1992. Emily has kindly contributed to our ‘From The Heart’ series, a collection of posts written by members of our reader community, on all matters of life and love. If you would like to contribute a From The Heart piece of your own, we would dearly love to hear from you. It doesn’t matter what it’s about and it doesn’t have to be related to weddings at all – we’re looking for honest, authentic, personal, sad, happy, family, relationship, marriage, health, light-hearted, serious, baby, trying for baby, children, career, simple, complicated – real life issues. We just need you to write from your heart. Keep it upbeat and witty, or share your thoughts anonymously on a more challenging or emotional subject. Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you, Annabel x