CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY
Most “older” Catholic engaged couples--and their well-meaning family and friends--could easily articulate the downsides to getting married later in life: you’re more set in your ways, you're likely to have more relationship baggage, you have fewer years in which to have children, it’s more difficult to merge your lives together when you’ve been single for so long...
As a 32-year-old, recently engaged Catholic, I’ve meditated on--and sometimes been a bit freaked out by--all of these factors. At the end of the day I always come back to Pope St. John Paul II’s famous dictum: “In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.”
As much as I lamented being single, to varying degrees, over the past decade, I’m deeply grateful for the fact that I’m getting married at this point in my life. Not because I think it’s crazy to get married young; I have many dear friends and family members who married fresh out of college and in their early twenties. It's because I wasn’t in a position, emotionally or spiritually, to get married right out of college at 22. And so, in an effort to encourage my fellow Catholic brides in their 30s, and my friends who are still waiting for their future husbands, I present to you:
The Three Best Things About Being an Older Catholic Bride:
I’ve been to a LOT of weddings.
I don’t know if I could accurately count how many weddings I’ve been to since my college graduation, but it’s definitely in the double digits. I do know that I’ve been a bridesmaid in six of those weddings and have spent thousands of dollars on flights, dresses, and gifts for the couples whose nuptials I’ve helped celebrate. Some of the weddings were over-the-top platinum style and others were potlucks. I’ve seen everything from horse-drawn carriages transporting the bridal party to the reception site, to professional dancers performing at the reception, to the bride and groom taking the stage to perform with their own band. I’ve been to breathtakingly beautiful nuptial Masses, complete with full-on choirs, and to ten minute-long non-Catholic weddings that began with a slideshow of the couple (no joke).
At this point, it feels like I’ve seen it all. And that is a huge blessing--not only because I’ve been able to celebrate with so many people I love, but because I have a much better idea of what I want and don’t want to do at my own wedding. For example, I’ve been part of quite a few bridal parties that were so large it was impossible to remember everyone’s name, let alone have a peaceful pre-wedding time with the bride. So I opted for a family-only cohort of bridesmaids: just my two sisters, my sister-in-law, and my cousin-who-might-as-well-be-my-sister. I love that they already know each other, I can trust them all to pick out their own dresses because they all have great taste, and that I won’t have to fight them on any bachelorette party details.
I have lots of married friends.
It sounds trite, but I have learned so much from my married friends and siblings. Attending their weddings, spending time with their families, and babysitting their children has been an educational experience par excellence. My sister (married 7 years; three girls) and my dear friend (married almost ten years; two boys, two girls, and one on the way) get the biggest shout-outs here, because they have shared more with me about their struggles and joys as married women raising little ones than anyone else.
I love that I can ask these women anything and get an authentic answer without the sugarcoating. They love being moms and wives, but they are real about the hard stuff--and there’s a lot of hard stuff! Thanks to them, and all of my married friends, I’m much less naive and unrealistic about marriage and motherhood than I used to be (let’s just say that hyper-idealized romantic comedies were not my friend as a teenager and young twenty-something). I think these encounters with reality, the joy and the struggles, will be really helpful once I do get married and (God-willing) have children of my own.
I’ve had more time to work on my stuff.
From my point of view, this is by far the best thing about being 32 and about to get married. Back when I was 22, even though I desired marriage more than anything else in the world--which was symptom of my emotional immaturity--I was in no way, shape, or form even remotely healthy enough to unite my life to another’s. I think I knew this on some deep level, but when you watch so many of your dear friends enter joyfully into marriage right out of college, it’s hard not to think your ship has sailed and you’re doomed to roam the planet alone forever.
The thing is, though, I was wrong. I wasn’t doomed. And I wasn’t ready. Not even close. The Lord had a journey for me to go on, and lots of therapy for me to do, and he wanted me to do it without a husband and children in the mix.
All of this being said: I know lots of women who got married young and who have had beautiful, happy marriages. They grew up and went through the craziness of their 20s with their husbands, and often children, in tow. That was part of God’s plan for them, and I’m so thankful for my friends who began the adventure of marriage in their twenties, because they’ve paved the way for my fiance and me, and for countless other “older” Catholic couples.
I didn't meet my fiance Kristian until a month after my 31st birthday, and a couple of months after his 40th. We had a whirlwind courtship and got engaged a few weeks shy of our six month anniversary. As counterintuitive as it may sound, it doesn't feel like we're rushing into anything; the pace of our relationship has always felt natural. But as most "older" couples will tell you, the cliche "when you know, you know" rings truer when you've had longer to get to know yourself apart. Only July 28th, 2016, I was able to say Yes to Kristian with a depth of conviction 22-year-old Christina wasn't capable of, and for that, I have the Lord and his mercy to thank.
After a decade of prayers, tears, and hoping against hope, and the past seven months of living the answer to those prayers, I am confident that if you approach your vocation with prayer and openness to God's will, He will give you what you need at the proper time. Whether you're 32, or 22, or 42, and regardless of how much (or how little) you and your fiance have been through before you meet, the Lord can make something beautiful out of your union. I hope and pray that Kristian’s and my marriage will be a sign of hope to many, and that we can help build up and encourage our single and married friends through our Yes to the Lord on December 29th.