Ringing in graduation

By The Beacon | February 12, 2014 11:48pm
Seniors Kevin Ratuiste and Mairi Rodriguez do homework together in Kevin's Tyson apartment. Ratuiste and Rodriguez will be married in December, 2014. Photo by Kristen Garcia.

Maggie Smet |

Ordering caps and gowns, applying for jobs, facing down the beast of “the real world”... and planning a wedding? The first three are realities for the majority of seniors, but only the fourth is a reality for the engaged couples in the senior class.

Students who get married after graduation are five to seven years younger than the national average age of marriage. Post-grad newlyweds face the challenges of balancing two burgeoning careers paths, joint finance management and the practicalities of making a marriage work. However, many are eager to have someone by their side as they begin life after graduation.

Planning for the future

Seniors Ashley Woster and Calvin Tuhy met freshman orientation week during the West Quad social. They started dating soon after, with some friendly Facebook stalking in between. But when it came to planning their future beyond the West Quad and UP, it was a balancing act between practicality and personal goals. In discussing the future before their engagement last fall, both Woster or Tuhy wanted to be practical.

“It was a lot of just figuring out what each other’s plans were, and being careful not to influence the other’s plans,“ Tuhy says. “I wanted to make sure we were being reasonable about it.”

For senior Morgan Willard and her fiance Jered Freeman, the decision to get engaged was a natural progression of their relationship, even though Willard lived in Portland and Freeman in Washington.

“We talked about it a lot, he’d actually been looking at rings before without telling me. When he told me I was kind of surprised, but I had thought about it,” Willard says. “I wasn’t expecting it or pressuring him.”

Statistical outliers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age to get married for the first time was about 29 for men and 27 for women in 2011. However, UP students find their peers are supportive and excited for them, while older adults tend to be more concerned and skeptical.

“Generally, younger people were happier (for me),” Willard says. “People I didn’t know very well would just come up to me and be like ‘Oh my god! Congratulations! I saw on Facebook you were engaged!’”

Woster echoed this sentiment, but noted her grandparents’ caution and concern for her marrying a few months after graduating college. Even though her grandparents and parents married young, they still were worried about making sure she and Tuhy weren’t compromising their futures to get married.

“They were concerned about grad school and careers and making sure that each person gets to do what they want to do,” Woster says.

Corrado Hall Director Mike Wode and spouse, Residence Life Office Manager Jessica Wode, married a year after graduating from University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. August will mark their five year anniversary.

“After I got married, older people would say, ‘That’s so young! How are you married?’” Mike says.

Despite going against the national average, many couples see the upsides of marrying young, even as they’re just starting out in the proverbial “real world.” In looking toward married life, Willard is looking forward to setting up her own home and space with Freeman, and gaining the distinctive new moniker of Morgan Freeman. Tuhy and Woster are excited to come home to someone at night and chat about their days.

Sharing money and bathrooms

Even with the security and domesticity that comes with marriage, real problems face those who take on two big life changes – graduation and marriage – in the close time span.

Senior Mairi Rodriguez recognizes that the challenges she and her fiance, senior Kevin Ratuiste face after graduation will be similar to those of their single peers. Managing money as a couple is at the forefront of her concerns.

“It’s not so much a worry that together we’re going to have problems, it’s normal ‘I’m growing up and we have to pay for things’ worry, There’s going to be two people making money and that makes me feel a little bit better, ” Rodriguez says.

Woster and Tuhy also envision challenges in their first years of marriage.

“I’m most worried about money management, because I haven’t ever had to share my money with someone else. It’s not just my money anymore,” Woster says.

Tuhy’s concerns are over the daily struggles of living and getting along with another person.

“I’m most scared of sharing the bathroom,” Tuhy says.

Asking the tough questions

Mike and Jessica offer this advice to engaged couples: Talk about everything. Before you’re married.

“They have a lot of questions they need to answer, about what their future holds. They need to ask those tough questions," Mike says. “What will our financial situation be? Where will we live? How many kids are we going to have? Whose parents are we going to have Thanksgiving with?”

Woster and Tuhy acknowledge the difficulties of entering the real world, but see their marriage a help, rather than a hindrance in their new lives.

“Yeah, you’re going to have challenges after graduation, everyone will. But it’s going to be cool to go through them with someone else. Of course that will bring more challenges within itself, but I think it will be valuable to have a partner,” Tuhy says.

Maturity and age: just a number?

Still, the idea of marrying in your early 20s may be difficult for some twenty-somethings to understand. But those who have made the choice focus on the importance of maturity over age.

“It depends on the individual’s maturity level if they’re ready to make that commitment and the maturity of the relationship,” Jessica says.

Despite security in maturity or the safety of having a partner in crime, newlywed life holds uncertainty for many. When asked about their upcoming lives as newlyweds, with their futures in the hands of the Air Force, Rodriguez and Ratuiste have slightly different responses to the possibility of being placed at any Air Force base in the world.

“I’m not worried,” Ratuiste says. “I’m terrified,” Rodriguez replies.