Marriage age on the rise, LDS singles still hanging out

As the nationwide marriage age continues to rise, two LDS women have moved beyond hanging out and are exiting the single life.

Randah Urbina, 29, was married in May in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. Urbina has seen the traditional marriage age rising from her own experience.

“A lot of friends who are my age are just getting married this spring and summer,” she said. “I think the typical age is definitely changing.”

On the other side, 18-year-old Aly Rutter, a BYU student, said she was totally surprised to be marrying at this age.

“I never expected to be the first one out of all my friends to get married,” Rutter said. She will be 19 years old when she marries in August in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, nationwide the average marriage age is 26.1 for women and 28.2 for men, an increase of one year for women and two for men over the last ten years. Average marrying age has been rising for both men and women since the mid 1960s.

In the midst of this rise, Latter-day Saint church leaders have spoken about the need for single adults to return to traditional dating patterns and avoid simply “hanging out.” On May 1, 2005, Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke at a Church Educational System fireside about the differences between these two social interactions. He defined hanging out as “numbers of young men and numbers of young women joining together in some group activity.” Elder Oaks encouraged all young single adults to decrease hanging out in favor of traditional dating.

Six years later, the prophets are still encouraging a return to the traditional dating pattern. In the most recent general conference, President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Richard G. Scott and Elder Oaks all counseled young adults to make marriage a top priority.

For Urbina and Rutter, both dating and hanging out contributed to their searches for an eternal companion. “I’ve been pretty lucky to have guy friends that are willing to go on dates pretty often, but there needs to be a good balance between [dating and hanging out],” Rutter said.

Urbina said hanging out was more concentrated during college when she attended Utah State University. “The scene there was just everyone hung out there all the time and didn’t date a lot. The guys were more into dating when I moved out of a college town.”

The most prominent LDS college town, Provo, is not exempt from the growing popularity of hanging out. The BYU School of Family Life published a study in 2010 about the hanging out culture in Provo. Matthew Call, Michael Richards and Thomas B. Holman found that there are two types of Latter-day Saint hanging out, each with very different purposes.

The first type, Purposive Hanging Out, does have dating as an end goal. If young adults hang out with the intention of finding dates, the outcomes can be positive. According to the study, this type of hanging out can help single adults to find and observe potential dating partners, thus reducing the awkwardness of dating total strangers. When it works correctly, Purposive Hanging Out leads to dating, so the hanging out stage is short lived.

But the other type of hanging out has much less purpose. With Non-Committal Hanging Out, the intention is to avoid committing to a dating relationship. Participants in Non-Committal Hanging Out want to have fun, fill time and stay friends. Ironically, this type of hanging out is all about the moment, but generally extends for long periods of time.

Rutter also saw distinct reasons for both hanging out and dating. “Dating is really great when you want to get to know someone one-on-one,” she said, “and hanging out is really good to see how they interact with other people.”

Overall, the study concluded that hanging out can lead to marriage, but LDS young adults don’t generally view a date as a casual way to start a relationship.

Even if hanging out is not entirely bad, it’s still difficult to pinpoint all the factors that contribute to the rising marriage age. Urbina couldn’t say why she found her husband after the average age. “It’s just different for every person,” she said. Rutter agreed, saying “I feel like if it’s right, it’s right.”

Neither of these women would change a thing about the timing of finding her spouse. About her age Rutter said, “I’m young and it’s a fact, but I think things worked out the way they were supposed to.”

Urbina has no regrets either about waiting for the right person. “Finding the person you connect with—it happens when it happens. The key is never stopping, never giving up on dating. You just have to keep going.”
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