“There’s only one salient detail I recall from the wedding of the first of my friends to be married: The centerpieces were made of balloons,” writer Jennifer Mendelsohn revealed in a 2003 issue of Baltimore Bride. “Though I might not have been able to articulate it at the time, I sensed on some gut level that this might be an indication that the couple was a little young to be making lifetime commitments.”
Though Mendelsohn’s piece is a humorous shout-out to women everywhere who put off the “I do” until after they’ve finished school, started a career, and graduated from navel rings and posters of Justin Timberlake, there’s plenty of statistics-backed evidence that waiting to wed is a wise choice.
Forget the old-maid propaganda of last century: Today’s over-30 brides are style-savvy women in their prime. The ranks of those who’ve delayed marriage are joined by those stepping up to the altar for a second go-round — and the weddings they’re planning are thoughtful, deeply personal events that rarely involve balloon centerpieces.
“The divorce rate is over 50% for those married before age thirty,” states a sobering article on couplescompany.com. “The younger the bride and groom, the higher probability they will divorce at some point in the future beginning at approximately 70% chance of divorce for eighteen-year-olds. [For those] married after age thirty, divorce rate in the United States drops to around 38%.”
Which is to say, there’s no shame in waiting — for the right time, the right set of circumstances, and the right partner. And then, once you’re good and ready, don’t rush through the wedding as if you have no right to don a fancy dress and parade down the aisle in front of all your friends and family. The over-30 bride isn’t relegated to a civil service unless that’s what she prefers.
“I was not, however, one of those 30-something women who wanted to be an anti-bride. (You know, the kind who gets married at a gas station wearing a vintage purple chiffon dress and some kitschy hat),” Mendelsohn writes. “I really wanted to be a full-fledged bride with all the trimmings, just as all my friends had been before me …”
And wedding planners, such as Gwenn Ford of Wedding Inspirations on Charlotte Street, are quick to name over-30 brides among their favorites to work with. “Older couples know more of what they want and don’t want,” Ford says. “They’re easy to work with.”
Biltmore Estate Catering Sales Manager Nicole Bloom elaborates. “The over-30 bride knows what she wants [because] she’s been to her friends’ weddings. She also tends to be paying for her own wedding, or if [her family] is helping out, they’re not taking over.”
Both planners see a move toward smaller, more intimate ceremonies and receptions for the older couple. “Sometimes they have just one attendant each,” Ford notes. “Fifty is about the normal wedding-party size.”
“These aren’t big weddings for over 400 [guests],” Bloom agrees. “They tend to be more intimate — really group-centric.” She attributes the smaller size to older couples not feeling the need to invite everyone they’ve ever met. They’ve achieved some distance from school friends, as well as from their parents’ work associates, and so the guest list is just those people the bride and groom are closest to. “When people get married in their 30s, it’s more about what the wedding is: a commitment ceremony and not a social gala,” Bloom asserts.
From shotgun weddings to familymoons
Delayed marriage may be a trend — “The proportion of never-married women and men between the ages of 30 and 34 is more than triple the percentage of never-married single people in 1970,” reveals researcher Lindsay Soll in her article “To Tie the Knot or Not?”
She adds, “The age of first marriage was higher for women in 2002 than at any time since data were collected on the subject in 1889.”
But this trend is hardly specific to the U.S. A 2004 study shows that in Denmark, the average age for a first marriage has risen to over 30 years old; and last year’s second-quarter census statistics from Basque Country Spain showed 68.9 percent of grooms and 49.2 percent of brides married after age 30.
With these numbers come a new set of concerns for those planning their nuptials. Included on the list are mature wedding attire and kid-inclusive ceremonies.