The most controversial wedding decision that Andrew and I have yet to make is one that we are not making. Simply put, we've decided not to live together before we get married.
Here are some stats I gathered on this topic:
There are 9.7 million Americans living with an unmarried different-sex partner and 1.2 million American living with a same-sex partner. 11% of unmarried partners are same-sex couples.- U.S. Census Bureau, 2000
41% of American women ages 15-44 have cohabited (lived with an unmarried different-sex partner) at some point. This includes 9% of women ages 15-19, 38% of women ages 20-24, 49% of women ages 25-29, 51% of women ages 30-34, 50% of women ages 35-39, and 43% of women ages 40-44. - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States." Vital Health and Statistics Series 23, Number 22, Department of Health and Human Services, 2002.
The number of unmarried couples living together increased 72% between 1990 and 2000.- U.S. Census Bureau, 2000
55% of different-sex cohabitors get married within 5 years of moving in together. 40% break up within that same time period. About 10% remain in an unmarried relationship five years or longer.- Smock, Pamela (2000). "Cohabitation in the United States." Annual Review of Sociology.
All of this information has been gathered courtesy of http://www.unmarried.org/statistics.html.
Why am I not joining the 49% of women in my age bracket who live with their partners before marriage? There are a few reasons and I am happy to share them. The first is that I relish being single. Don't get me wrong, I can not wait to marry Andrew, but in the meantime, I want to treasure nights snuggled up in my bed, face mask on and Godiva Ice Cream in tow reading trashy novels without judgement, long conversations with my girlfriends without an audience, painting my toenails while I watch "Grey's Anatomy", and all other "Secret Single" (a la Carrie Bradshaw) behavior that Andrew loathes before I make the move to move in with my boy. The next reason is because I do my best (though I do not always succeed) to follow the tenants of my religious faith. I don't mean to say that those who live with their significant others are somehow wrong, immoral or "sinners", but simply to say that this was not the right choice for me based on my personal beliefs. The final reason is pretty cut and dry. My parents are making a generous contribution to the wedding and have threatened not to if we live together; as a city school employee, suffice to say that I would have a hard time paying for the wedding of my dreams on my own...
That being said, I can understand the many reasons why people do live together before marriage (and am more than occasionally jealous of those who do). Bills are pretty expensive, especially in this economy, and it would be nice to have someone to split them with. Over half of these relationships end in marriage, but some do not; perhaps those who live together first avoid what could have potentially been disastrous marriages. That, and I can definitely understand the desire to have your loved one near. It makes perfect sense to me, and I judge not. We all have to make the choices that are right for us.
What bothers me, I guess, is how much I have been called upon to defend my beliefs on this matter. I usually just give people the last reason (about the parental wedding support) and it seems to nip the conversation in the bud. However, it would be best not to have to defend my position at all. As Rodney King once replied in a much more urgent situation, "Can't we all just get along?". After all, aren't weddings supposed to be about love?
What do you think? What did you decide about living together before marriage and why did you make that choice?