Q&A with Wedding Expert Meg Keene: How Young is Too Young to Marry?
On Oxygen's upcoming show Too Young to Marry? everyone seems to have an opinion about the lives and decisions of the teens on the show. But what do the experts say? We spoke with bestselling wedding author Meg Keene -- founder and executive editor of "A Practical Wedding & Reclaiming Wife" -- all about young marriage, the risks, the disapproving parents, and of course, the show. Scroll down for the full interview, and tune in to Too Young to Marry? ?debuting September 11 at 10/9c!
Oxygen: What has been your experience with young marriage?
Meg: I grew up in San Bernardino, California which is now the second most impoverished city after Detroit. Really poor, really conservative. As a result, a lot of people got married right out of high shool. We attended a lot of weddings in our late teens, I was a bridesmaid at 19, my husband was a best man at 23. That seemed late!
As a result we actually went trough our first wae of divorces in our mid-20s. Our friends have since remarried. I've been a bridesmaid twice for the same person. So I was watching the clip on the show and feeling like it was very familiar.
So, most of the young marriages you witnessed resulted in divorce?
Probably a majority, though many of them who are extremely religious are still married.
What motivates young kids to get married? Why the rush?
I think that often there's this idea that by getting married you're somehow going to be able to prove something to everyone. People are questioning if you're serious or right for each other or long term, so you say 'if we get married they'll know that we're serious,' which is not a great reason to get married. And then sometimes I think it has a lot to do with validating the relationship, that you're trying to prove it to yourself that you're serious.
Thirdly, people don’t think there are options. There’s the romantic comedy formula: you fall in love, you get married. Romantic comedies don’t have a five-year window where the couple doesn't get married....There’s a difference between being ready to get married and loving the person you're with. We hear it through the website a lot, "my boyfriend says he wants to marry me but he doesn't want to get engaged yet, I don’t understand!" We say "Both of those things can be true! You can wanna get married and not be engaged yet!"
Is there a specific age that you think is just too young, or does it depend on the individual?
I think it depends on the individual. The managing editor of A Practical Wedding got married pretty young, in her early 20s. While it worked out really well for her, she's dubious about advising people to marry young. She says something that's interesting: she feels like they're old enough to be married, but were too young to have a wedding. They ended up happily married, but their wedding was a mess. They weren’t old enough to do things like, be really thoughtful about how they treated your parents. As you get into your 30s you say, my parents are people too, I might be able to accommodate their emotions. At 22 most of us are still so involved with managing our own emotions.
When you get engaged, you have to be ready for the outside world to be a part of your relationship. When it's the two of you hanging out that's one thing, but suddenly your Aunt Sue is getting all the details about what’s happening.
What are some sure signs that you’re too immature to get married?
I think if you're in a rush, that's a red flag. If you rush to get married before letting the relationship grow, you might put strain on a relationship that otherwise might survive. My husband and I met in our early-20s, and I knew from day one that we would get married, but we didn't get married until I was 29...If you wait, you're giving yourself room to change your mind, to negotiate, and to assess your values -- because at a wedding, you're putting your values on display for everyone!
Another red flag is when people are more excited about the wedding than the marriage! I think especially when you're very young you want to wear a pretty dress and throw a pretty party. But you can still do that in three years. If that’s the excitement, maybe it's time to hold the phone.
What are some of the risks that you see specifically with young marriage?
I think it can be financially difficult. Getting married before you find out your own finances can be tricky. Obviously if you get a divorce -- we’ve watched people who marry young and get divorces and wind up devastated financially. Also, there can be more pressure to have kids after you get married, you certainly don’t HAVE to but it's easy to fall into the trap of having kids right away, when you may not be ready for kids.
On Too Young to Marry? a lot of the parents and families disapprove of the marriages. Can this make or break a relationship? Is this something that a couple can survive?
If your parents don't approve, it's a red flag one way or another. It's bad because, either they know you really well and might know what's best for you, but even if your parents aren’t right and your relationship with them is dysfunctional, it is still going to impact your family and marriage and make it difficult especially for the first few years. You have to be on firm enough footing emotionally, and have emotional resources and support. If your mom doesn’t approve, you need some good friends to talk to and maybe a therapist -- and often you don't have all that cohesion at 22.
Do you feel like the teens on the show are ready to get married?
People often get into this idea that getting married and having a wedding and creating a new family is gonna be really fun and it's gonna help you get out of a bad situation and make your life better. But the reality is, getting married before you're ready is not going to make your situation better. It looks to me that the show makes that clear.
Meg Keene is the Founder and Executive Editor of A Practical Wedding & Reclaiming Wife. Her first book, 'A Practical Wedding,' was released in January 2012 and she has been a bestselling author on the wedding bookshelf ever since. She is regularly interviewed by NPR, has written for outlets such as The Huffington Post, and has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Glamour Magazine, among other publications. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son.
Tune into 'Too Young to Marry?' Premiering September 11 at 10/9c!