For many Singaporeans, their early 20s are a new chapter in their lives, be it resuming their ordinary lives after completing national service or entering the workforce after graduation.
However, for some young Singaporeans, this new chapter also involves marriage. According to recent figures from the Singapore Department of Statistics, marriage rates are falling among those who below 30 years old, but increasing among those older than 30.
Despite the majority of Singaporeans now marrying much later in their lives, Abigail Lee and Luke Yan are among the newlyweds who have bucked the trend. Lee and Yan were 22 and 25 respectively when they tied the knot in December 2016. The couple are both working full time while pursuing part-time degrees.
“We both knew we wanted to get married young. We felt like we were both in the same seasons of life, as compared to other friends who were (and are) still pursuing their university degrees,” said Lee.
Lee continued, “I’d put it in this perspective: getting married younger means being able to spend more of your life having fun and growing together with the person you love! It’s like a perpetual sleepover, because you’re hanging out with your best friend every day.”
Similarly, Charmaine Teo was 23 when she married her husband after more than five years of dating. The couple, who wed in December 2016, have no regrets about tying the knot at a young age.
While the couple had already begun discussing their long-term plans earlier on in their relationship, they did not expect to get hitched so soon. The decision to wed was finalised after the couple found their ideal house and decided to purchase it.
For Nora Costigan, who was 23 when she wed her 22-year-old husband, getting married early was never really part of her plan.
“I always assumed that I’d be married before 30, but I didn’t have any significant plans because I hadn’t been in a serious relationship with anyone yet,” Costigan said, “But I met my husband and we connected in a way that I have never felt with anyone before… With him, it just felt right.”
Breaking the news to family and friends
For Teo, breaking the news to her family and friends wasn’t easy as many of them thought she was too young to be committing to a marriage.
“They were a bit shocked and some of them told us we were way too young to be getting married. A few didn’t really know what to say and some questioned us and asked if we were making the right move,” Teo said.
“Of course, being single has its perks now and then, but in a healthy relationship with plenty of trust [and] freedom, [it] isn’t an issue at all… We’re still the same people we were when we were dating.”
Costigan agrees with Teo that marriage hasn’t changed them that much. “Besides the name change and new family members to stay in contact with, nothing much has changed. Most of our friends are young married couples, and we still get invited to parties and events with our single friends,” said Costigan, who is currently expecting her first child.
Perils of marrying young
Despite the excitement that comes with marrying young, there are also some challenges which these couples have to face. As many Singaporeans in their early 20s are still new to the workforce, many are not yet financially stable.
“It is harder to achieve stability unless family members are willing to help, which we are most thankful for. Also, because we’ve only worked for around three years, our bank account depletes more rapidly when we have to make more big payments such as for our house,” Lee said. “We have to be more conscious about our spending habits,” added Lee, whose wedding cost the couple $65,000.
“We didn’t expect to start fully ‘adulting’ in our early 20s with a home of our own, but thankfully we planned ahead and finances are manageable at this point in time,” said Teo, who chose to have a small wedding that cost the couple less than $500.
Besides financial challenges, Teo had to contend with society’s misplaced assumption that her union was a shotgun marriage. “I’m pretty sure some of my aunts gathered in a corner staring at my belly for a while trying to figure out if it was a food baby or an actual one… I just had a big meal,” said Teo, who found it “mildly annoying”.
While many in Singapore might see marriage as a huge challenge, considering all the series of commitments that come along with it, such house and wedding fees, Teo said that all of these costs can still be manageable for couples, especially since such investments are made progressively.
“I think people see marriage as a challenge because they think about everything that tags along with it, like a whole wedding banquet that will cost thousands and a house that’ll wipe out a lot of their savings – but honestly, there’s no rush to do all at once and stress yourself out.”
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