Sex + Dating

Do New Yorkers Actually Not Want to Get Married?

Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

“No one moves to New York to find love,” says Erika Kaplan, a matchmaker with Three Day Rule

Kaplan, whose company has branches in other major cities, like Los Angeles and Chicago, is digging into a stereotype embraced and touted like a badge by young New Yorkers: marriage in New York City is different than the rest of the country. We think of marriage as something that would get in the way of our careers, or our fun single lives (there’s always someone even MORE spectacular just a swipe away!) -- something that’s better off left to our friends in the 'burbs.

“Men and women both move here for careers over relationships, she continues. “They take education seriously. They are responsible, smart, confident, and they want to be sure of who they are and where they are going before they pick a mate.”

While that might not be true of small-town America, is that so different from other big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Miami? 

Turns out, we aren’t as alien as we’d like to think. The national average marrying age, according to The Knot, is 29 for brides and 31 for grooms, which is still relatively “old” compared to past averages. Apparently, New Yorkers aren’t the only ones that aren’t super-eager to start filing joint taxes before the age of 25. “Couples [nationwide] are waiting a little bit later in life to make this huge decision,” says Kristen Maxwell Cooper, executive editor at The Knot.

Still, the US Census reported that in 2014, the average age of brides was 31, and 33 for grooms. Older is older, even if only by two years. A big factor of this can be attributed to couples living together before they get married. “Couples will move in together and get to a level of seriousness and comfort. Before you know it, it’s been 10 years and then they say, ‘You know what? We should just get married,’” says Ashley Chamblin, owner and wedding planner at Ashley M Chamblin Events in Brooklyn.

“While this trend is everywhere, it’s happening in New York City more than anywhere else in the country because people live together here before marriage probably more so than anywhere else. If it’s not for a romantic decision, it will be for a financial one. People get married later because they are living together earlier,” says Maxwell Cooper.

This hits on a key distinction between New York City couples and those elsewhere -- whether New York couples are headed for marriage or not, a higher percentage of them end up living together early on because it makes so much financial sense.

This is true especially of younger couples who are struggling to make ends meet. Since you’re spending the majority of your time at each other’s place anyway, it seems like a colossal waste to shell out two separate rents when you can easily solve the problem with a collective living space. The decision is less romantic than it is economically prudent.

“No one moves to New York to find love.”

“People who get married [in their 20s in New York] are really going to struggle later on, unless they have a good head on their shoulders,” says Emma Viglucci, CFT, LMFT, CIT, founder & director of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy. “The focus in Manhattan is making progress and then getting established. After that, you bring a more developed self to the relationship. When people get together so young, they tend to not have that stuff in place, and they tend to crack under the pressure and intensity in Manhattan.”

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“Marriage at a younger age works better in other places in the US because those places are more family-oriented. Work hours are different, neighborhoods are more conducive. It’s a different lifestyle. People who get married in their 20s have a lot to juggle. It’s not impossible, but it takes a lot to be able to juggle all the demands of this city, in addition to growing yourself up,” Viglucci adds.

The paltry total of 116,000 weddings held in New York City in 2014 certainly supports Viglucci's argument. Even so, government-issued numbers show that it’s not even the hardest place in the country to find love and marriage -- again, despite every failed Tinder date you’ve ever had that would lead you to believe otherwise. The Pew Research Center came out with an article in 2014 listing the best and worst cities for women looking to marry (the survey considered employment statuses in marrying men). The worst place in the entire country for women looking to get married is actually Orlando, where 63% of the population between 25 and 34 is unmarried. New York City didn’t even make the top 10 of that list.

In its Singles in America 2016 report, Match.com found that 23% of singles do not want to get married -- nationwide. That’s not even New York-specific. In fact, the study found that those from New York are 29% MORE likely to want to marry compared to non-New Yorkers. Thirty-one percent of singles in New York City are more likely to be actively searching for commitment compared to non-New Yorkers. And even more astonishing, those from New York are 58% more likely to say that finding someone who is eager to marry is very important to them, compared to non-New Yorkers.

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“I believe marriage in New York City can work in your 20s,” says Kaplan, who is 26 years old and was married in New York last October. “You have to know who you are and what you’re looking for. It comes down to common values and goals. If you find someone who shares that and the chemistry is right, then game over.” That being said, in her work-life as a matchmaker, Kaplan’s clients are mostly in their 30s and 40s (though she does have some clients in their 20s).

“I see a huge spectrum of ages when it comes to getting married,” says Chamblin, the wedding planner. “My clients are usually in their late 20s to mid-30s. I don’t see very many getting married under the age of 25. The youngest I have had has been in the mid-20 range, but 28 to 30 is really where I usually see many of my clients,” she says.

“I have a few 20-something clients," adds Danielle Bobish, a wedding planner with Curtain Up Events. “I think a lot of people are realizing that if they’ve met the person they want to be with the rest of their lives, why wait on that?”

Bottom line: if you’re in New York City in your 20s or 30s and you spend the majority of your time looking at wedding pages on Pinterest, shamefully clicking away when any of your coworkers pass by, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. It seems it’s something some, if not many, of us actually do want. “True, you don’t come to New York to fall in love, get married, and start a family,” says Maxwell Cooper. “You’re coming to follow a different dream. People are out here for a career, but you can’t avoid having a personal life here. It does happen.”

So basically, New York, it’s time to just fess up. Yes, we are all devoted to Tinder and Bumble and that next swipe, and our careers, and “seizing the moment,” and our Netflix-and-chills. But there is a very real part of the New York psyche that wants that commitment and partnership and all stuff we resent our suburban friends for. We aren’t as different as we’d like to think -- we’re just doing it on our own timeline.

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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist and definitely doesn't want to get married. However, she wouldn't mind finding someone to declare her homie for life in some sort of traditional, Western ceremony. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @drillinjourneys.