When professor of sociology Robert Clark went to Whitworth, “ring by spring” meant more than it does today. In those days, McMillan hall was an all-girls dorm and there was a term for senior girls in the dormitory who remained unmarried: McMillan old maids, Clark said. It seems like times have changed at Whitworth. For one, there are no elaborate engagement ceremonies, another throwback to Clark’s time at Whitworth in the ‘60s.
In some of these ceremonies the betrothed man would walk to the woman’s dorm in candlelight announcing the engagement to the campus.
Clark teaches a class on marriage, sex and gender at Whitworth. Clark said the average age in the United States for a first marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women; an average that makes the ring by spring age (around the age of 22 or 23) positively youthful.
Yet this statistic takes many different ethnic groups and sub-cultures into consideration and in general middle class white people tend to get married much younger, Clark said.
There is no data on how many Whitworth students get married during school or shortly after or if it’s more or less than what occurs at other schools in the area. Yet for some students it seems like the most logical choice.
“I feel like if you know you are going to marry the person, why wait,” senior Alyssa Burbank said.
Burbank got married in January 2011 and has since returned to Whitworth to finish her degree in communications. Though she admits it will be tough to balance school and family, Burbank believes that she made the right choice and plans to continue to pursue a career in public relations.
“I think it is still really easy to achieve that goal; it’s about making time for a relationship, not having a ball and chain weighing you down,” Burbank said.
Burbank chose not to live with her boyfriend before they were married, though co-habitation is a trend that has become significantly more popular in recent years, Clark said. Co-habitation is a tactic some couples use in order to determine if they are ready for marriage Clark said.
“You can define getting ready for marriage to the point where no one would ever be ready,” Clark said, pointing out that maturity, financial security and future plans will be different for everyone.
If students are pursuing marriage shortly after college it is important for both the male and female students to keep an eye on their long-term goals.
Often the negative aspect of entering into a commitment like marriage so young is that one student follows the other around and loses focus on what his or her plans were, Clark said. Clark points outs that anti-ring by spring opinions often stems from the perception that women students might get distracted starting a family or taking a mediocre job in a city where their significant other found a career.
“Yes I think its tougher to be focused on a career. I want to have a family too,” Burbank said, “but that’s what I went to college for so I’m not going to waste it.”
Senior Ben Gilsdorf is planning on getting married June 25 of this year. Gilsdorf, like Burbank, knew that his girlfriend, senior Katie Lippold was the one, so decided to take the plunge.
“We decided that through our combination of deep love, ability to problem solve together and communicate intimately that it would be a good time to pursue an even deeper relationship together,” Gilsdorf said.
Not all Whitworth students, even those in serious relationships are planning on getting married right after graduation.
Seniors Hayley Dannettell and her boyfriend Sean Pullin have been dating for three years and though they plan on one day getting married they have no immediate plans to do so.
Dannettell hopes to establish financial independence before she takes the plunge though she knows waiting to be married will mean both she and Pullin will have to be more flexible when it comes to moving to different cities and purusing their careers. Though the couple is not planning on living together after graduation they don’t want to be in a long distance relationship and have plans to move to Portland, Ore.
“I am really excited about moving to Portland. I am choosing to be with Sean in the same city is because I am hoping to continue to grow in our relationship. I am choosing not to get married right away because I want to live independently before I commit to living with someone for the rest of my life,” Dannettell said.
Dannatell believes that marriage is an important commitment. All couples will feel ready at different times and it is important to be open about these feelings.
People often ask them when they are planning on tying the knot, questions that can be tiresome but the couple is confidant in their decision to wait.
“We have our whole lives ahead of us. Waiting a couple more years is not that long in the grand scheme of things,” Dannatell said.
Though many students seem to have ring by spring fever, many more have different plans. Perhaps unlike in the past, students will be going out into the world to pursue whatever relationships they desire without as much pressure to marry first.