Ring by spring

Love to last the ages?

Cambria Judd-Babbitt, Guest Writer

Cambria Judd with her husband Nathan Judd outside of Peterson Hall posing for graduation photos. (Courtesy of Cambria Judd)

Ah yes, the infamous ‘ring by spring.’ Christian universities are often poked fun at for the large number of young engagements that occur at their institutions before graduation in the spring. The expectation of young Christians getting married in college is not new and actually has long-standing cultural roots in the U.S..

On average, couples used to get married in their early twenties in America. There is an old quip that many women would go to college mainly to get an ‘MRS.’ degree (as in, to find a husband, because apparently women wanting an education wasn’t enough?). Needless to say, ring by spring is still prevalent now, even when the rest of the country (outside of the Christian university bubble) is seeing folks getting married later than ever before.

Many critique the ring before spring phenomenon for the pressure it puts on 18 to 22ish-year-olds to find a spouse during their four short years at college. Straight out of high school and still trying to figure out what they even want to do with their lives, marriage seems like an overwhelming expectation to place on young people’s shoulders on top of it all.

Others see getting engaged before graduation as a sweet, long-standing tradition that fits the Christian standard of dating to marry. Many young Christians are taught to only pursue relationships if the couple believes they are fit for marriage. Therefore, the assumption is that it is easier to find a spouse at a Christian institution where people with similar faith values come together.

I remember first hearing about ring by spring at a floor dinner in Gwinn freshman year. I thought to myself that I would never get married in college and did not understand how people could make that commitment so young. However, my opinions have shifted over my four years here at Seattle Pacific University.

Time and life events have taught me that getting married in college can be a really good thing if you have found the right person to be your partner in life. In fact, I got married before my junior year and it was the best decision I ever made. It sounds cheesy, but after meeting my husband, I believe that love can be as simple as “when you know, you know.”

However, everyone’s journey is different and it is important to honor that. People should not feel like they have to find their life-long partner by the time college is over, or that they need to commit to whatever relationship they are exploring by the time spring comes around.

Societal or peer pressures should not be the main driving force behind tying the knot. Love takes time and there is not a one-size-fits-all way to be in a relationship.

Healthy marriage comes from a mutual commitment with that person you can truly see yourself spending the rest of your life with, regardless of age. Just be sure to dedicate the time and care needed to make it work through whatever life may throw your way.

For me and my husband, it was the pandemic that actually solidified our relationship as we were pushed by world circumstances to navigate big life decisions together. It made us realize that with all the uncertainty life brings, we wanted to be together through the ups and the downs – to support one another every step of the way.

Don’t get me wrong, we still had rocky times. However, they helped us grow as we learned to overcome obstacles together. It was those challenges that helped us to mature, strengthen our communication skills and get to a place where we both felt ready for marriage.

As someone who got married in college, I can say that it is hands-down the best decision I have made in my life. There is not a single thing I would change about the timing, even if at first I thought ring by spring was a bit of a joke.

However, I also think that every relationship has its own timing and definitely would not recommend that everyone seeks out marriage in college as some sort of personal deadline. Love will come in its own time.

For some of us, it’s earlier than we would’ve ever expected and a joy nonetheless. For others, it takes leaving college and exploring new chapters to meet ‘the one.’ For a lot of folks, it is somewhere in between. Love can look like deciding to continue a college relationship past graduation to see where life will take things, without giving in to the pressure of needing to get married. It can also be deciding to stay single and explore post-grad life with a sense of independence.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to go about finding love, as long as it is the right and healthy thing for you. Don’t feel like you need to get married before graduation. But also, don’t feel like it is a bad thing if you truly believe that it is the best choice for your relationship.

My advice is to follow whatever path is right for you in your own time. I hope you find someone who supports you, makes you happy, helps you be the best version of yourself and will be there through the good times and bad – whether it be through a relationship or self-love.