And as young people wait longer to marry, there is growing debate over whether waiting is a good idea, and if so, how long is best. Those who advocate marriage in the early to mid-20s say that's the age when the pool of possible mates is larger, it's when couples can "grow up" together and it's prime for childbearing. But others favor the late 20s or early 30s, saying maturity makes for happier unions and greater economic security — both of which make divorce less likely.
As a result, researchers, sociologists and family experts are taking a closer look at the attitudes behind the trend to see if there really is an optimum age to marry that maximizes the benefits of matrimony and minimizes possible problems.
"It's better not to get married as a teenager," says sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University. "Beyond that, I don't think there's an ideal age."
But people do have opinions about it, and those beliefs are clearly changing. In a 1946 Gallup Poll, most found the ideal age to be 25 for men and 21 for women. Sixty years later, in a Gallup telephone poll of about 500 adults, the ideal age had increased to 25 for women and 27 for men.