Going against the odds: Marywood student couples get engaged at young age

Autumn Granza, Community Editor

In 2012, 29-year-old divorcee and Huffington Post columnist Jennifer Nagy wrote a bitter article, “Why I believe marriage shouldn’t be allowed before age 25.”

In the article, Nagy describes the reasons behind her ugly divorce. She married at 24, though she met and dated her ex since age 19.

Nagy argues that people under 25 are still “figuring out what their relationship ‘deal-breakers’ are and who their most appropriate partners would be.”

Though societal trends for marrying young are changing–according to The National Marriage Project, the majority of women now marry for the first time at age 26 and men at age 28–there are plenty of young people asking, “why wait?”

At Marywood, several student couples are planning to take the plunge before or just after they graduate.

Marywood couple Justin Roote and Lauren Thorne plan to wed.  “Yes, we’re young, and yes, we got engaged pretty quickly, but frankly, I was sure around two months in that this was the girl I wanted to marry,” said Roote.

Another Marywood couple, Kelley Teeple and Anthony Roma believe that being engaged younger is good. “We feel lucky that we found each other at a younger age,” said Teeple. “We have more time to grow together and plan for the future before we start a family.”

But, like Nagy, there are plenty of other skeptics who argue young marriages won’t last.

Johns Hopkins University professor and author of “The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today,Andrew Cherlin said young marriages fail because people are more concerned with their own self-development than they used to be. People are marrying later to get their lives “in order” before making a lifelong commitment.

Regardless of age, statistics show that nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. But, that number increases to 60 percent for couples who marry between the age of 20 and 25, according to the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center.

But, there are some benefits to getting hitched in your twenties. According to a study by The National Marriage Project, unmarried twenty-somethings reported higher rates of depression and drinking, and lower life satisfaction than their married peers.

So, to each, his (or her) own. Read on to learn more about the Marywood couples who are determined to defy the odds.

Justin Roote, 22, to wed Lauren Thorne, 21

Lauren Thorne and Justin Roote

Senior mathematics secondary education major, Lauren Thorne, 21, and her fiance, Justin Roote, 22, senior, music education and music performance major, met at Marywood and were engaged on Dec. 14, 2012.

“She, thankfully, said ‘yes’ pretty instantly,” said Roote.

Thorne said she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with Roote and is glad to have met him now.

“I am extremely grateful that we found each other when we did because I get to spend that much more time with him,” said Thorne.

Roote said that he and Thorne are not alone. He knows many other young people who are “taking the dive,” as he put it, and making lifelong commitments before receiving their diplomas.

“Getting married is one of those next big steps, and it feels good to have that part of my future locked in. I wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else,” said Roote.

Being engaged has not steered this couple away from their goals of completing their undergraduate education. They both look at school as a stepping stone to a successful future together.

“Yes, we’re young, and yes, we got engaged pretty quickly but frankly, I was sure around two months in that this was the girl I wanted to marry,” said Roote.

“Everytime I glance at my left hand, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be marrying my best friend,” said Thorne.

The wedding is set for Dec. 29, 2013.

Christine Mushal, 21, to wed Tisdale Frederick, 214

Christine Mushal, 21, senior criminal justice major and honors student, is engaged to Tisdale Frederick, 21, senior history major. The couple got engaged during their freshman year over spring break at the tender age of 18.

The couple said being engaged is everything they hoped it would be.

“I think it is nice in that we are still in school and do several of the same activities together,” explained Mushal. “If anything, I think it gives us more time to get to know each other and plan a beautiful wedding, instead of rushing through things haphazardly.”

The couple agrees that being engaged younger is beneficial. Being engaged while in their twenties allows them to grow and get to know each other better.

“We had agreed that even though we were engaged young, we did not want to have a wedding until graduating college,” said Mushal. “This has given us years to coordinate, save up money, and plan. We have also had the chance to live together, which has taught us about both the good and the bad habits of each other.”

When it comes to school, both Frederick and Mushal agree that being engaged helps them with their work.

“It allows me to focus more,” said Frederick. “I am not caught up in the hustle and bustle of appearance and drama.”

Mushal said that getting engaged at 18 has only helped the couple to improve their relationship.

“I think it gives us the chance for a longer life together. We have been through several struggles already and with each obstacle comes a testimony of faith and devotion to each other and to God,” said Mushal. “I think we know each other’s personalities really well and I think that is what will help us in the long run.”

Frederick and Mushal plan to continue their education after completing their bachelor’s degrees this year. Christine plans on continuing in the five year master’s degree program in the field of criminal justice here at Marywood and then go to law school.

A tentative wedding date is set for August 2014.

Kelley Teeple, 24, to wed Anthony Roma, 262

Graduate students Kelley Teeple, 24, and Anthony Roma, 26, were engaged on July 30, 2011. Roma proposed at 3 a.m., right before a trip to Ocean City, Maryland.

“We feel lucky that we found each other at a younger age,” said Teeple. “We have more time to grow together and plan for the future before we start a family.”

For Teeple and Roma, being engaged before age 25 has been beneficial. The couple have been together for more than five years.

“We are certain that this commitment is the right step for us. We know that we can depend on each other for anything,” said Teeple.

Teeple and Roma said that being engaged does not make school difficult for them because they work together so well and depend on each other for support.

By the time of their wedding, both Teeple and Roma will have completed their master’s degrees. Roma plans on starting courses toward a Ph.D. in the future and Teeple will be finishing her second master’s degree in reading education in the fall.

The wedding is set for July 20, 2013.

Chelsea Martin, 21, to wed Brandon Kenyon, 211

Chelsea Martin, 21, and her fiance Brandon Kenyon, 21, got engaged on August 6, 2010. Kenyon, works in construction and asked Martin, senior interior architecture major, to marry him when she was just 19.  

Being engaged young has given Martin a whole new experience and outlook.

“You stop thinking about only you in life and you have this other person to make decisions with about your lives together,” said Martin. “We still have completely different lives because I am in school and he is home working, but we are always there for each other.”

Martin and Kenyon are happy together and agree that they would not want to be with anyone else. But being engaged so young has created some challenges for the couple. Since Kenyon is in the work field, Martin agrees that being engaged while in school can have some difficulties.

“We had planned to not get married until I was done with school but being away from the one you love every week is really hard,” said Martin.

The couple will not be married until after Martin graduates.

Kenyon lives in Equinunk, outside of Honesdale, which is 50 miles from Marywood. Martin travels to visit Kenyon on weekends.  

“I would say that I get a little side-tracked from my school work, but only work that I have to do over the weekend. Since I go see my fiancé every weekend, it is very hard for me to sit there and do my work when I have to leave the next day to go back to school,” said Martin. “But I have managed and learned ways that work for me.”

Despite the difficulties, Martin said that being engaged young will benefit the couple in the long run.

“When you are 19 years old, you still have a little growing up to do, so you are a little immature.  We have had the petty fights that every couple has, but we have gotten through them all with flying colors,” said Martin. “We really know each other and I think that is a good thing.”

Martin will be walking in May for graduation but will not be done with her courses until December. Martin will continue her education at Marywood in the fall when she begins graduate school.

The couple has not yet set a wedding date.

Nicole Macedonio, 24, to wed Brad Higgins, 243

Nicole Macedonio, 24, senior nursing major, was engaged to fiance, Brad Higgins, 24, on July 29, 2011.

Macedonio and Higgins have been together for more than seven years and thought it was the perfect time to make a lifelong commitment.

“I don’t think I would have wanted to be any younger when we got engaged,” said Macedonio. “My fiance and I have been together for over seven years and we always knew we had plans of getting married and getting engaged, but we said we would get engaged once we were out of college.”

Nicole changed her major, losing some credits along the way, and is now in college longer than she had expected. The couple decided they could not wait any longer. Once Higgins had graduated, they decided the time was right and wanted to get engaged even though Macedonio would still be in school.

“I think the main reason we wanted to wait at first was so we could focus on school and not have a lot of distractions,” said Macedonio. “But now that I am going to school and planning a wedding, I can say, it is definitely a distraction.”

Macedonio does what she can to strike a healthy balance.

“I am trying to juggle going to school, planning a wedding and working, so it can get a little stressful at times. I didn’t realize how much work planning a wedding really is, but it’s fun,” said Macedonio. “We both support each other in what we do, so I think that helps.”

The couple will wed on August 17, 2013.

Trish Grieco, 22, to wed Chris Malzahn, 24

Trish Grieco, 22, senior nursing major, and her fiance Chris Malzahn, 24, were engaged last July. Malzahn graduated from Wilkes University in 2010 with a degree in criminal justice. Grieco was just 21 years old when Malzahn asked her to marry him.

“Its great being engaged at a young age,” said Grieco. “I think I’m so lucky that I’ve already found someone so special that I enjoy being with.”

The couple said being engaged at a young age has put them at an advantage because they still have a lot of time to finish school, get a job, and maybe have kids.

“I think some people feel like they’re on a schedule when it comes to marriage and families,” said Grieco.

Since Grieco is still in school, she has not let her engagement interfere with her school work.

“I have postponed wedding planning in order to get school work done,” said Grieco. “I want to focus on my career first.”

Not only is Grieco focusing on school, but the couple is also focusing on each other.

“We have known each other for five years and and seeing each other grow individually has been great,” said Grieco. “It feels great that we know each other so well. He is my best friend.”

The couple has not set a wedding date.