Wedding bells and textbook bills: Students assess value of marriage in college

Many people dream of having a relationship like those in film and TV,  but it is hard to achieve. But seniors Analy Delgado and Lenin Plazas have a love story that is nothing short of a real-life romance movie.

Delgado and Plazas met when they were 14, just freshmen in high school. Around the age of 16, when they were sophomores, Donald Trump was elected president. Plazas was concerned because of his potential to be deported, especially because of the threats Trump made to deport undocumented immigrants. Plazas and his family researched different ways to remain in the country and avoid deportation, but the only clear and definitive one was marriage. Luckily for Plazas, two people can be married at the age of 16 with parental consent.

Soon after determining he had to get married, Plazas proposed to Delgado and she accepted. Plazas said he didn’t want to marry anybody, so he would rather marry Delgado because she was the only person he had loved until then, aside from his family.

After a couple of months, the threat of being deported died down. Plazas said after coming to the realization that they lived in a democratic state, he was less likely to be deported than those in a red state. The couple decided to hold off on their marriage, viewing the engagement ring more as a promise ring until they were seniors in high school.

Following their graduation, Delgado’s father became ill with terminal cancer. This played a big role in their decision to get married two months after their graduation.

“I remember in high school, she lived with him and she was really close with him,” Plazas said. “So I asked myself, ‘If he’s getting out of the picture, who is she going to be with?’ That’s when I realized I really love this woman and she loves me back and I want to look after her. So, I promised her father on his deathbed that I would take care of her. That was the moment when I became a husband, when I said ‘Yeah, let’s get married so I can take care of you during this horrible process.’ So we got married on Aug. 3, 2018, and we’ve been together ever since.”

Though the love story of Delgado and Plazas is a rare instance, they are not the only married undergraduate students. As of December 2021, 7 percent of undergraduate students are married. Most traditional undergraduate students — students that start college at 18 or 19 years old and finish around 22 or 23 years old — wait to get married until they have graduated.

DePaul professor Alyssa Westring said she decided to wait to get married until after graduating college. Westring met her husband at the age of 18 while at her freshman orientation her first year at DePaul.

“We didn’t even talk or think about the idea of getting married while we were in college, I don’t think either one of us even really considered that an option,” Westring said. “We weren’t financially independent, we were living in dorms — I don’t think it even crossed our minds.”

While the concept of marriage can be exciting for some, Westring said whether someone should get married during college depends on who they are as a person. She said a person can decide to get married for many reasons, whether it be for a familial or religious reason, or because they are maturing and are ready for the next phase of life with their partner.

Plazas said a part of his decision to get married was pushed by his family because his parents got married young too, but it also came from a time when he and Delgado were ready to step into the next phase of life.

Westring said the weight of the decision to get married can be a lot to commit to so early.  Westring said before getting married, a person should think about if the marriage is what they would want in 20 years.

“I just took students on a study abroad trip to Spain and some of them got tattoos while we were there,” Westring said. “I thought that’s really bold to, at 21 or 22, put something on your body with the assumption that you’re going to want it there 20 years from now. So when you’re making that decision for marriage you’re hopefully going to want to be in that marriage 20 years from now. So, be really thoughtful about if this is going to grow with you and be thinking if you’re making decisions that are still going to give you room to grow.”

Plazas said he agreed there is importance in having the ability to grow as a person. He added that there is also no need to rush into a marriage, or even a relationship. He said most people do not even know who their lifetime partner will be until later in life.

“Not everyone meets their other half early on in life,” he said. “They can meet them later on in life when they’re 30 or 40, or even later than that.”

But, if a person is wanting to get married during college, Plazas said there has to be an effort made for the marriage to last.

“To keep a relationship going, to keep a marriage going, it is going to take effort,” he said. “Sometimes there’s going to be some disagreements but that’s why we have communication. Some couples can last a lifetime if they put in the effort and the work and they realize that there’s going to be some disagreements. But if they love each other, they have to put their pride aside, give it some time. And if that relationship is capable of doing that, then I would suggest that relationship move forward.”

Delgado said she agreed. She said keeping a marriage going can be difficult, especially after a long time.

“You both have to put in 110 percent effort because if not it’s just going to be biased,” Delgado said. “You also have to at least have similar goals. For instance, let’s say that Lenin didn’t want to have kids and I did. That’s going to become a huge factor later in the future. You also have to be supportive of what the other person wants. I will always be supportive of what he wants to accomplish and what dreams he has even if they’re really big. You have to be supportive of each other no matter what.”