Ring by spring: getting engaged, married in college


Several students across the country try to get engaged by the spring of their senior year of college. Jordan Mondell | Contributing Editor

Pitt graduates who want to get married at Heinz Chapel can book the venue at a 15 percent discount with proof of their Pitt degrees.

There’s no such discount for undergrads who can show a Panther card — but Heinz may want to consider adding one.

Despite the steady rise in the average marriage age over the last two decades — and the millennial stereotype that deems us anti-marriage — there are still some young couples willing to tie the knot before they toss their graduation caps. For many, the choice to marry early is a religious one.

It’s known as “ring by spring” — the race for some college students to get engaged by the spring semester of their senior year. The tradition mostly originated at Christian universities and more directly from a biblical concept that leaving your parents’ home was only acceptable once you had someone to settle down with.

In the English Standard Version of the Bible’s Book of Genesis, a passage reads: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Andrew Colebank, student president of the Christian Student Fellowship at Pitt and a junior neuroscience major, referred to this exact passage in explaining the idea of Christian couples marrying young. Colebank holds positions with several of the Christian organizations on campus and said he’s familiar with early marriages among the more devout.

“Many of my friends are engaged,” Colebank said. “I would say definitely there is a higher correlation [between Christian students] and long-term relationships.”

Modern trends do suggest that early marriage is more likely for a religious couple. In a 2013 study, Facebook found that 12 out of the 21 colleges where a student is most likely to find a spouse are religiously affiliated institutions.

At non-religious universities, like Pitt, there are still religious clubs and organizations where couples tend to pair up early.

Nathaniel Eggleston, a senior religious studies major, is an active member of the Catholic Newman club, a student Christian fellowship on several campuses in Pittsburgh, including Pitt’s. He referred to the club as a “gold mine” for engaged and committed couples.

Eggleston got engaged to his fiancee Alex, a senior chemical engineering major at CMU, in 2015. The couple is devout in their faith as individuals and have allowed religion to guide them in marriage decisions — though Eggleston said love, not God, was the motivating factor.

“I prayed a lot about this, and Alex prayed a lot about this, and we prayed a lot together about this,” he said. “We weren’t sure if we were were going to get married this past summer, 2016 or if we were going to wait till we were graduated.”

The couple decided to wait until graduation but has already noticed the effect that planning a wedding has on the typical college experience.

“It changes more the lifestyle around being a student than it does actually being a student,” Eggleston said. “I’ve never been one for parties, but now, I don’t go out on the weekends ever.”

“Ring by spring” isn’t a solely Christian concept. Safiye Unlu, a junior neuroscience major and member of the Muslim Student Association at Pitt, made comparisons between young Christian couples and young Muslim couples.

Unlu said she had Muslim friends at Pitt who have since graduated but were engaged as undergrads. She suggested that the sexual limitations that many religions put on couples could explain why more religious couples, not just Christians, get married early.

“That happens a lot at schools in Muslim countries,” Unlu said. “Men and women both get married in college because most of them don’t do sexual acts. Getting married young is a way for them to express their sexuality.”

Unlu thinks that Muslim students’ religion tends to factor into their relationships more than Christian couples. She suggested this is likely because a lot of people who identify as Christian — more than 70 percent in the United States, according to Pew Research Center — aren’t necessarily devout in their faith.

“Most Christians I know aren’t practicing, they just say, ‘I’m Christian,’ and a lot more Muslims are practicing than I think there are Christians practicing,” Unlu said. “The Muslim view is more conservative than the Christian view, considering Christianity has become more secular.”

“Ring by spring” has probably been phased out as a term — students, religious or not, aren’t paying hundreds of thousands of dollars just to find their husband or wife in college. And not every Christian student is looking to get hitched right away, Colebank said, it’s just that more religiously-inclined students might be more likely to attend their friends’ weddings before their graduations.

“I would say it’s more likely for a practicing Christian to go to a university and follow the word of God,” Colebank said. “If it’s God’s will, they very well may find their spouse in college, not that it’s even their aim.”