Picture your perfect wedding day. It probably includes some variation of a gorgeous dress or tux, a towering wedding cake, and a beautifully decorated church or maybe a picturesque beach. How about textbooks, semester tests and lectures? Well, probably not. And yet, there are those who choose to get married before they have completed their studies. Perdeby decided to investigate this trend and determine the dynamics in which love, marriage and university operate together.
The attitude amongst students regarding marriage was generally positive. Most of those questioned are open to the idea of marriage, but are concerned that marrying before graduation could affect the quality of university work. BSc Physics student, Ruhann Steyn (19) says, “I would really like to… finish my studies before I get married. [I’ve] always said, ‘The day I get my doctorate, I will get married!’”
He goes on to say that whilst both his studies and a marriage could probably survive, he feels that it would just be too much to handle at once.
Other students feel strongly that this is something that cannot be generalised, but depends on the couple in question. Mpho Radinne (20), a BSc Mathematics student, says, “If they really love each other, then [they’re going to] have to make sacrifices to make both their studies and marriage work.”
BA English Studies student, Michelle Vlok (20), takes a more pragmatic stand. She explains: “I think it just makes more sense financially to wait until after you’ve studied and you have a job”.
While these points of view are certainly valid, Perdeby wanted to get an opinion straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Enter Rina Clarke (21), a BCom Law student. After having been in a relationship for two and a half years, her now fiancé, Mining Engineering student Jean de Klerk (22), proposed to her on her 21st birthday. They plan on getting married in a year or so.
Love is traditionally an essential factor in deciding to marry, and there’s plenty of that in their relationship.
“He asked me to marry him, and I just knew [he was ‘the one’],” says Clarke, glowing. “He told me after a year he already knew he wanted to marry me. We talked about it, but always jokingly, so I actually didn’t expect it. When he asked me, I just started crying because I just knew, this is supposed to happen.”
And whilst Clarke believes that love isn’t bound by age, she agrees that there are certain boundaries.
“I mean, it would be preposterous if you’re still in school and you want to get married,” she says. “But… we’re all adults now, we have future plans, we know we’re going to have an income, so why not? If it’s for the right reasons, then it’s fine.”
Dr Reineth Prinsloo, a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Work and Criminology, emphasises the fact that although a student marriage can work, there are risks and external factors which can influence the marriage.
“I have seen [it] so many times that a friend gets married and it spreads!” says Dr Prinsloo. “The young adult girls then become anxious to do the same. I think the romantic connotation to the whole wedding/honeymoon/playing house-house afterwards might lead to unrealistic expectations.”
She also notes that although a marriage between two young people may not experience difficulties at first, they can come up later in life.
“There are … couples that realise (often when realities of raising children, financial difficulties and life cycle changes such as midlife come up) that they have missed out on opportunities that … single adulthood offers,” she explains. “These opportunities may include freedom to do what you want without the consent of a partner, adventure and exploring, and having fun without being attached to someone else.”
So, although that dream wedding day may be within your reach as a student, bear in mind that true love is rare. If you have it, treasure it. But don’t allow yourself to be pressured simply for the sake of a sparkly ring and a walk down the aisle. There is absolutely no rush. However, if you are intent on getting hitched, there are certain things that you need to be aware of. Put time into being adequately prepared, fostering commitment and, perhaps most importantly, having realistic expectations.