In my 5th grade class, our current Read Aloud book is Number the Stars. Today we read the second chapter, which included the main character sharing a memory of her 18-year-old sister getting ready for her wedding.

After reading, I asked my class to jot down a thought they were having about the book right now. As they turned in their post-its, I glanced at a few, but a bright pink one caught my eye.

At first, I couldn’t understand the note (read: decipher the handwriting), but then I saw its message. “The wedding is rare because a girl of 18 years is getting married.”

This note spun my mind into a tunnel of thoughts. First, I found it intriguing that a student would see this as “rare.” Then, I realized that it wasn’t surprising at all. Most friends of mine aren’t married in their late 20’s or early 30’s. The average age of getting wed continues to rise, as the percentage of brides under 20 has lowered to 14%.

Next I reflected on the lessons of this unit, Historical Fiction. This story takes place during WWII, which puts us in an entirely different period of time for young girls and boys. For our character, it was completely normal for her sister to be married. I wonder if my student makes this connection.

Traditions of marriage vary greatly across cultures, countries, and decades. What I find most interesting is the way it has changed in Western culture over the past century. Before the 1960’s, people chose to marry younger, then perhaps further their education, build their career, or buy a home. In my generation of young adults, education has come first, then trying out a variety of careers, maybe saving for a home (maybe), and wait…are we supposed to be getting married?

While not everyone in my age group will fit this description, I did enjoy reflecting on this drastic change today. Will the age of marriage continue to rise as it is set aside for later? What type of marriage will become ‘rare’ in the next 10, 20, 50 years?

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