Those are the social processes that explain whom we marry. It is also pos-sible to predict, with quite a bit of accuracy, when people will marry. Th e median age for a fi rst marriage is now about 29 for men and 27 for women. 1 People marry at these ages because the latter half of their twenties is currently the acceptable or fashionable time to marry. Th ere is variation by class, ethnicity, and religion, as we will discuss. Still, overall, the mid to late twenties are the current intense period of marrying. Few women and men marry before the age of 20. Th e proportion of people marrying starts to increase during their twenties, peaking in the mid to late twenties, but then drops off during their thirties. 2
In a book about relationships among young people, one woman’s marriage time frame is described this way:
When I asked her what she imagined for her twenties, she mapped it out. From twenty-four to twenty-seven she would be in law school, and hoped to pass the bar exam at twenty-eight. Th at left her the next few years to start her career, date, fall in love with someone she wanted to marry. She hoped to have started a family by the time she was thirty-fi ve . . . Patty knows that her plan to fi nd Mr. Right between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty requires more than a bit of luck that he’ll actually show up on the scene. 3
As this woman outlined, as with her education and career plans, she has a marriage plan that assumes that she will be married in her late twenties, the current socially acceptable age for marriage.