At 22 years old, I knew I was going to marry my husband. I'd had an inkling when we first started dating, but about a year in, on a drive from San Diego to Los Angeles, we planned the whole thing out: when we were going to get engaged, married, buy a house, have kids, what the kids' names would be. Everything. One thing I didn't plan on, though? Experiencing all the things women who get married young are so tired of hearing within, like, a month of marriage. I wasn't old, but the damn comments got old real fast.
Declaring oneself a "young bride," I find, has a lot to do with perspective and location. Nationally, the average age of a first-time bride is approximately 27 years old. In Arkansas, however and where the average age is 24.8 (which is exactly how old I was when I got married), I would have fit right in. New York City, where I lived at the time, the average age of a first-time bride is 31. So when I'd go out with the rest of my 20-something friends with a ring on my finger, I was basically treated as a sideshow curiosity as strangers tried to figure out what my deal was, because I couldn't possibly have just wanted to get married so young.
Except, that's pretty much exactly how it went down. There was no social pressure (if anything, the opposite), no extenuating circumstances, no overwhelming legal protection required. We were just a couple of crazy kids in love. Now that we've been married almost 10 years and have two kids, the subject doesn't come up as often as it did back in the day. Still, every now and then I'll come across a few Nosy Nellies who are completely baffled that an unassuming mom would ever have chosen to get married "ahead of schedule."