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The right time to tie the knot? Here is Young India's take!

Last updated on: November 24, 2011 14:50 IST

When's the right time to tie the knot? Here is Young India's take on it!

Is there a perfect age to get married?

Do Indians marry too young due to parental pressure?

Does starting a family post the age of 30 pose a health risk to mother and baby?

We spoke to a host of young Indians from across various cities and abroad to get their views on getting hitched -- here's what they think!

Twenties: The 'perfect' age?

The legal age for men and women to marry in India may be 21 and 18 respectively, but not many people seem to be using that as a yardstick anymore.

Ankit Bhardwaj, a 25-year-old CA student from Delhi echoes a popular opinion when he says, "I feel the right age to get married is between 28 and 29 years for men, and 24-25 for girls."

Why so?

"By this age, most of us complete our education and are well-settled into our respective jobs and careers. And since the studying part is over and life in terms of your profession is stable, I feel it is the right time to move ahead and enter married life."

Apparently, this doesn't apply to everyone, though -- Ankit believes marriage can be delayed if one is a 'big achiever'. "Marriage can be delayed if one is on his or her way to achieving something big. For instance, I believe big movie stars can perhaps afford to wait for a few more years before entering into matrimony, only because they are going to make it big anyway," he elaborates.

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Twenty six-year-old Delhiite Ashish Rawat, who is in the field of healthcare and pursuing an MBA in IT has the same view -- but he also thinks an age gap between two partners is important. "I feel the girl should be about two-three years younger to the boy. It is an Indian thing; we still like to see an apt age difference between the bride and the groom." On a more personal note, he says he will "marry about the time when I am 28 or 29, not right now -- I feel I can wait for a few years."

In fact, a lot of young Indian men seem to give a lot of thought to the age gap issue. Samuel David, a 27-year-old analyst from Pune elaborates upon the subject of age difference. "I may sound a little orthodox while saying this, but let me get this straight for you -- it is very important that a couple shares an age difference of at least 2-3 years. So, a man of 26 marrying a girl of 23 or a man of 28 marrying a girl aged 25 seems like the ideal thing to do. This will give them at least a couple of years of time together after marriage, before they think of starting a family. Now suppose a guy starts looking for a partner at the age of 28, by the time he finds a match, he will be 30. Obviously, no girl would want to marry a guy who is 30. Similarly, if a girl wants to finish her higher education and be financially independent, she should not do it at the cost of her marriage. Girls can always lay down these terms of marriage and I am sure these days most guys will accommodate them. But delaying the marriage age beyond 28 is not healthy even for men, forget women."

Other young people have different reasons for marrying in their mid-20s -- network engineer Sharon Tom, 26, of Delhi feels it is the right time because one is "more lively and energetic during one's younger years you can have children while you are still young. You can participate in their growing years more actively," he explains. "But if you marry late, say in the late 30s, by the time you are 60 years old, your kids will be still struggling with their teenage and young adulthood issues, which you may or may not be able to understand."

And there is more to be added to Sharon's theory by Ranjit Pisharody, a 26-year-old software professional of Mumbai – although what he has to say may come at the cost of offending the fairer sex! "Let's face it, guys do look for a set of 'features' in a girl and 24 is the best age when everything is 'perfect'. As girls cross the age of 24, they start looking older, which may turn off prospective grooms. Also, girls should be willing to switch jobs if they plan to settle down with a guy staying in a different town. So before the age of 24, ideally, they can be flexible with their career decisions."

Names changed to protect privacy.

Inputs from Aseem Chhabra, Divya Nair, Radhika Rajamani, Pavithra Srinivasan and Priyanka

The thirties club: It suits them just fine!

Photographs: Ritam Banerjee/Getty Images

You would think that from all the inputs about getting married in your twenties, that this is the general opinion. But just as many young folks think the 30s are now the new 20s!

Purva Khole from Pune, a 26-year-old assistant editor, doesn't think there is a 'right' age for marriage per se. If you feel confident to take a new responsibility and manage it well with your career, any age is good enough. "But practically speaking, I think 30 comes across as the new 'age' to get married. That's because by the time you are 30, you are generally settled in life, be it financially or emotionally."

Young Indians settled abroad also seem to think the 30s are the right time, maybe due to the influence of Western culture.

US-based attorney Sujata Dadlani, 34, muses, "Is there a right age? Yes, I want to say early 30s. I think it takes about that time to know yourself well enough and gain self-awareness that makes a marriage work. I know a lot of people get married earlier. When you get married younger, your marriage shapes you and that's not so terrible -- but for people who go to grad school it takes time. Sujata also believes that youngsters want to explore relationships -- you won't know what feels right until you have had a few relationships.

"I would say early 30s would be the right age -- it depends on people -- but I would say low 30s, because at that point you are mature enough to really appreciate marriage, but are not old enough to be considered off-the-market," adds Vijay Verma, 33, who is into business development in the US. "New York is an anomaly, but elsewhere in the country the older you get the less opportunity you have to meet people. Especially as an Indian American -- outside of the big metropolitan areas, people settle down much earlier, for good or for bad, because plenty of people end up in divorce."

Band baaja baaraat: Readers' wedding pics!

Speaking generally, it's all good but a lot of the people we spoke to are not necessarily practicing what they preach. Like 34-year-old US-based entrepreneur Aakash Chatterjee, who thinks he may have missed the boat. "I think for me 32 would have been a good time -- from both a professional and a social perspective," he states. "Growing up I was dissuaded from dating at all in high school and college. Those were valuable years where I could have learnt a lot about being in a relationship. Immediately after college when I was 21, I dated a girl for about five years and then I dated two others girls for two and a half years each time. So the last 10 years I have been in a few long-term relationships."

Continues Aakash, "So for me personally, I know exactly what I want, I became the person I am after I turned 31. I went to business school. I got a good bearing on what it is that I want with my career but also what kind of person I am and what kind person would be best for me."

The magic number: 'I want to marry at 28'

Photographs: Jay Chuah

All said and done, all the under-30s we spoke to want to get hitched by 28, just on the brink of the big 3-0. And it would seem that there's something inherently Indian about wanting to settle down before three decades are up.

Lipika Patnayak and Sukanya Swain of Hyderabad are both 25 years old and working in the field of business and market research -- both want to be married at 28 and Sukanya wants to "start a family at 29". The same goes for Purva Khole, who's looking to tie the knot by 27-28.

And the boys seem to have zeroed in on the same figure. Samuel David, an analyst from Pune is 27 and says, "Since I will be 28 soon, my parents have already started searching for me. Also, I believe I am financially stable enough to start a family. So, if everything goes well, I should be married in the next year or so. I hope I find the right partner, though. The fact also remains that the trend of arranged marriages is diminishing. I am having a hard time finding a right partner for me. Either the girl is too young for me, or she is of the same age."

Ratish Raghavana 26-year-old business associate from Mumbai is on the same track. "I plan to get married by 27-28," he states. "But again, this calculation is subjective to a lot of factors --- besides job stability, for example, I need to find the right match at that age."

'What's age got to do with it?'

Photographs: Steffen Kugler/Getty Images

Not all young marriageable Indians are down to number-crunching, though.

Twenty nine-year-old Chennai-based documentary filmmaker/photographer Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan can't understand what the fuss is all about. "Is there a right age to get married? Why? Okay, I'll be a bit more serious: To each his/her own. I'd say the right age to get married is the day/month/year you think you cannot go forward without a married partner! As for me, I'm not sure if I even want to get married and/or start a family!"

Says Mumbaiite Sujeeta Yadav (26), a travel consultant, "I choose to be slightly dramatic here. According to me, just like how love and romance do not have an ideal age, I don't think that terms of marriage should be dictated by age."

And a lot of people of so-called 'marriageable age' agree with her. "I will get married when I think I am capable enough of leading a family," asserts Mumbai-based mechanical engineer Nagesh Sakpal, 26. "Whether you're a guy or girl, you must ask yourself certain questions like: Am I ready for marriage? What is the financial status of my partner? Will I be able to support him/her and his/her family? Most of all, why do I want to get married at this age or with this person?"

"Unless you are confident with your answers to the above questions, you should not be thinking of marriage, no matter what your age is."

And just so you don't think that it's just a few and far-between who think in this direction, photographer Sucharitha Rao (25) of Hyderabad says the same thing. "The right age to get married varies from person to person. I believe that a person should marry when they are ready for it and find someone they can share the rest of their life with."

Parental pressure: Fading or persistent?

Photographs: Jay Chuah

While it seems that a majority of Indian youngsters are pressured by their parents to marry, others say their families are fine with them handling the decision themselves.

Ankit Bhardwaj, Ashish Rawat, Lipika Patnayak, Sukanya Swain and others in their 20s reveal that there is no pressure to get married from their folks. "They have supported me in my life decisions till now, and I feel they will understand in the future as well," says Ankit, a feeling echoed by the others.

Those who do, like US-based Vinita Bhalla, a 27-year-old architect in the US, sometimes try to step around it as delicately as possible "Yes, I am facing a lot of pressure from my parents," she says. "I really value them and I don't want to hurt them. So when they send proposals my way, I look at them and them think of reasons to say no. At times there have been moments when I have thought, 'Okay I am getting old and I am not meeting people.'" But Vinita has recently started dating, so her parents have eased up on her a little.

Others like Sujata Dadlani are more direct when it comes to levelling with the family. "This may not sound good, but for the longest time I said to my mother that I didn't want to get married because I didn't want a marriage like hers," she explains. "For the longest time, other family marriages I saw were not successful anyway. I have also told her that the reasons that she got married don't exist for this generation. My mother left home to move to big city to avoid the issue of getting married, but then she couldn't live there by herself. But I don't necessarily need to get married and I have told her I can have kids without a husband. That makes her very stressed. But it's true, I can do that."

PICS: Readers share their favourite wedding moment!

"Small-town living is also a factor," says Ankit Bhardwaj. "A few of my friends, mainly from small towns, married when they were as young as 21 or 22 years old. I think it has something to do with an upbringing in a non-metro or a small town where people are more conforming, orthodox and haven't quite tasted the fast lives of the big cities. And they would rather prefer to marry early and settle down early with whatever they feel is achievable and right for them."

Our findings revealed that the 30-plus group, having passed the so-called 'ideal' age, had to contend with a lot less of it. Like Rajiv K Sharda, a 33-year-old software consultant and an entrepreneur from Delhi who declares, "I have reached an age where there is no parental pressure. Parents and relatives pressurise when you're in the mid-20s or till 30; but then they realise that they can no longer exert any pressure. Later on, they only worry and talk about it at times. But I know, my marriage is solely my decision now, and my parents will not say much; in fact, even if it is an arranged match, they might not even finance it now."

Career comes first

Photographs: Sean Mack/Wikimedia Commons

For the most part, parents tend to ease up marriage pressure when it runs into studies and establishing careers. Priorities in today's world are changing and today's families are looking to the wellbeing and financial security of their offspring first, as compared to 25 years ago, when maybe becoming grandparents topped the list.

Says Vignesh Annamalai, a 28-year-old entrepreneur from Chennai, "I started my entrepreneurship when I was 25, and my start-up is now just three years old. I wish to dedicate at least one or two more years for my startup. I explained this clearly to my parents and luckily, they have understood my situation well and been supportive to me. At the same time, I know it's a fact that they are under huge social pressure now, and want me to get married as early as possible. (Smiles) I believe I can manage to escape for another year before they reach their threshold!"

Manoj Pujari, a 28-year-old senior executive from Mumbai has a similar tale to tell. "Right now, my parents have given me some time to secure my financial status. Since my father has retired from work, my parents want to shift base to our hometown in Kerala -- they do not want to stay in a metropolitan city like Mumbai. So they will definitely want to see me get married only after a year or two."

Adds Rajiv Sharda, "I know of many families where the girl is the only bread winner. And though it might just be a small percentage, if you scratch, beneath the surface, you will find that their parents are not interested in marrying them off early."

But as Rajiv says, this is just a small percentage of Indian families. The majority of youngsters have another opinion...

'Girls are more pressured than guys'

Photographs: Rediff Archives

It would seem that the fairer sex has a harder time dealing with their parents' expectations.

"This is somewhat true," says Ranjit Pisharody. "Parents are concerned about the girl getting old and not finding the right match for her. They therefore exert pressure on girls to get married at an early age."

"However, this is also because of the way Indian society has been all these years, faultfinding and nitpicking with a girl if she does not get married under 25. Thus, even parents feel concerned about marrying off their daughters as early as possible."

Adds Ratish Raghavan, "If you are in a relationship, there is bound to be pressure from the girl's parents to get married early. So, if the couple is of the same age, say 25 or less, the boy may not be able to buy time and may have to give in to their demands and marry early, latest by say 26 or so. These are some possibilities where calculations fail. In arranged marriages, at least men have the liberty to choose the right time."

And sometimes it's not just the parents. Says Sujeeta Yadav, "Since I live in a joint family, there is pressure from relatives. Most of my female cousins got married as early as 21 and 23 years. Now at the same age as me they have two and three-year-old kids. So my aunts and uncles are bound to pressurise me to give in to marriage. But I have been lucky so far! But many girls in India would agree this and give you examples from their personal experience."

Yamini Vasudevan also has an interesting theory. "I know of some girls who have married early to end their dependence on their parents," she states matter-of-factly.

Motherhood past 30 -- acceptable or a stretch?

Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Marriage and parenthood go hand in hand. And it seems that most youngsters believe that for women, becoming a mother past 30 is not the best idea, for a variety of reasons.

Says Rajiv K Shard, "The biological factors of late motherhood are well-known. Also, in general, we become too thick-skinned by the time we cross our 30s, and have fixated lifestyles which we do not like to give up easily."

Lipika adds, "It is medically confirmed that late pregnancy (ie after the age of 30) can give rise to increased risks of still births or births with certain chromosomal or other health defects/issues."

There are those, however, who think it may not be the best decision to leave off motherhood till later, but that it is 'okay'. With women asserting themselves in all fields, they want to be able to focus on their careers instead of bringing up children at what is deemed a suitable age.

"If the woman is healthy and has the resources she can choose to do it later too," muses Sucharitha Rao.

"I have also been a witness to women seeking motherhood post 30. At the end of the day it all depends on your physical and mental health and your genes," states Purva Khole.

PICS: Readers share their favourite wedding moment!

US-based Vinita Bhalla and Teju Patel are also of a similar opinion. Vinita doesn't think delaying motherhood after 30 is risky, because of "all the science and technology available. But it shouldn't be too late -- late 30s or early 40s could be a problem," she says.

Teju adds, "Medically speaking, they say that by 30 it might be risky for a woman, but if you are a career woman, I think you can establish yourself by the time you are 30 and then it is time to start to have kids. Because if you have kids and are not established, it can be hard to go back to the working world. But if I had gotten married many years before and had raised my kids, I don't know if I would raise them the same, given the experiences I have now. I think when you are older, you really know what the world is like and you can be a better parent to your kids."