Love and Marriage as Fewer Americans Wed

Wedding bands on a book

By Tana­jah Fry­er
May 8, 2023

Ava Arau­jo and Joey Salafia met in ele­men­tary school when they were 10 years old. All of the boys had a crush on Ava, but she wasn’t inter­est­ed. When Joey would get bul­lied by the oth­er kids, Ava sat next to him so that they could become friends. Then, Ava moved and switched schools. Eight years lat­er they ran into each oth­er at the beach, which would be the begin­ning of their three-year relationship.

They both val­ue the idea of marriage.

I want to get mar­ried because mar­riage is an impor­tant step in many people’s lives,” Joey Salafia says. “It offers com­pan­ion­ship, sta­bil­i­ty, and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a fam­i­ly and legacy.”

Accord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus, mar­riage rates have declined by over 10%. In 2018, there were 16.3 new mar­riages for every 1,000 women age 15 or old­er in the U.S. com­pared to 17.6 in 2009

Pro­fes­sor Nan­cy Naples, who teach­es soci­ol­o­gy at The Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut and has exper­tise in eco­nom­ics, gen­der, and sex­u­al­i­ty, said that there are many rea­sons that can cause the decline in mar­riages. Her glass­es slid down the bridge of her nose as she looked to the upper right cor­ner of her office and rec­ol­lect­ed her thoughts on marriage.

If you think about mar­riage being some­thing that is not a per­ma­nent rest of your life com­mit­ment, and you see half the pop­u­la­tion or what­ev­er it is now get­ting divorced, then it seems like it has also changed its mean­ing in terms of a life path,” Naples said.

Liv­ing togeth­er before mar­riage can decrease the like­li­hood of get­ting mar­ried, Naples said, and young peo­ple have been more like­ly to shack up.

After col­lege, Krista Las­t­ri­na mar­ried her high school sweet­heart. Wear­ing a beau­ti­ful white dress, Las­t­ri­na locked arms with her father as he escort­ed her to her future hus­band. How­ev­er, Lastrina’s mar­riage did not last long before she was divorced. Now she believes that peo­ple should wait for marriage.

She has owned a bridal bou­tique in Mid­dle­town, Con­necti­cut, for 13 years. She opened it after grad­u­at­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut with a degree in land­scape architecture.

 “You’re not see­ing peo­ple who are get­ting mar­ried right out of col­lege or any­thing like that any­more, def­i­nite­ly girls who are get­ting into their 30s and even beyond,” Las­t­ri­na said as she stood under a rhine­stone chan­de­lier at the entrance of her shop.

Near­by a mini leaf­less light-up tree stood on her desk. Thank you cards were stuck onto the branch­es with tape. 

I’d like to think it’s because I myself am divorced, and I did get mar­ried not too far out of col­lege, I’d like to hope that it’s because peo­ple are tak­ing the time to maybe mature a lit­tle bit or find a career find them­selves before com­mit­ting to a cer­tain some­one,” Las­t­ri­na said as she sat on the cream-col­ored love chair in the back of her bridal shop.

Las­t­ri­na helps around 20 brides a week find a dress. She said she believes peo­ple often decide whether to get mar­ried based on finan­cial rea­sons. Many wed­dings cost about $50,000, she said, so many par­ents help their chil­dren with finan­cial costs.

Twen­ty-three-year-old Olivia Burghuer was born and raised in Hart­ford. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in his­to­ry and crit­i­cal race and eth­nic stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go. She may go on to pur­sue a Ph.D.

She believes that mar­riage is a busi­ness more than it is about love, and she doesn’t need to get mar­ried to prove it, she said as she sat in a Star­bucks with­in Barnes and Noble in Farm­ing­ton with a Ven­ti-sized lat­te in her hand.Burghuer’s par­ents, Jamaican immi­grants, have been mar­ried for more than 20 years. But she knows her moth­er mar­ried her father for security.

I think I def­i­nite­ly am search­ing for a part­ner that is also inter­est­ed aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly, you know, who likes to read and things like that,” she said. “And I just find that a lot of men our age aren’t inter­est­ed or inter­est­ed in fur­ther­ing their aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess as much as I am.”

Dri­ving down Main Street in 1990, Ora and Wal­lace Carter were leav­ing the gro­cery store when Wal­lace parked on the side of the street. With a big smile on his face, Wal­lace grabbed Ora’s left hand with his right and asked for her hand in marriage. 

Broth­er Wal­lace and Rev­erend Ora are now min­is­ters at the same church, and the key to their mar­riage is noth­ing but love. The two keep God at the cen­ter of their union espe­cial­ly when resolv­ing con­flict. The issue they’ve noticed with younger gen­er­a­tions is that cou­ples split when times are rough.

Dur­ing times of dif­fi­cul­ty Rev­erend Ora turns her Bible to Hebrews 13:4 “Let mar­riage be held in hon­or among all.”

Ora said she thinks some­times peo­ple get mar­ried for the wrong reasons. 

If you do it and it’s not for love, it won’t work out,” she said.