Since I was eight years old, I had dreamt of this moment.  After watching Aladdin, I can remember thinking to myself if a genie could grant me one wish I would want to know his name or at least see a glimpse of his face.  So when I found myself standing at the top of a sand dune in Michigan last week, looking into the eyes of the man on one knee before me, I found myself overcome with emotion.  This is not how I pictured it would be.  I had never imagined it would be so soon.  I had a plan.  Yes, I had a plan!  My plan was to only casually date in college and then get married in my mid to late 20s.  Yet, this felt perfectly right.  I knew it was the moment I had been waiting for.  It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be, and my man was someone more perfect than any genie could have shown me.

These days, people are getting married later and later.  Now, the average age of a first marriage is at an all time high.  For men it is 29, and for women it is 27.  There are many concerns about early marriage, such as economic insecurity, immaturity, being a poor match, and unrealistic expectations.  Certainly, these are valid concerns and should not be discredited.

On the other hand, recently, The Atlantic wrote about the benefits to marrying at a young age.  A recent study showed that unmarried twenty-somethings are more likely to be depressed, drink excessively, and report lower levels of satisfaction than their married counterparts. For example, 35 percent of unmarried men say they are “highly satisfied” with their lives compared to 52 percent of married men; among the women that report being “highly satisfied” with their lives, 29 percent are cohabitating, 33 percent are single, and 47 percent are married.

My story begins a year and a half ago on a cold, snowy day in January.  I decided to brave the weather and walk to church alone from my dorm, since I did not have any friends who attended my same church.  The previous semester, I had been praying hard for a church buddy, but had not yet found one.  Arriving to church late, I sat in one of the back rows by myself.  After the service was dismissed, I noticed two familiar people sitting in front of me.  They appeared to be two people I had run cross country with.  At this point, I was pretty desperate for a ride home due to the weather.  Though I didn’t know the reddish-brown haired man (a previous teammate) in front of me well, I figured it was worth asking him if he had extra room in his car, especially since I hate the cold.  Carefully, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked for a ride.  Kindly,  the reddish-brown haired man named Alec agreed to give me a ride.

We ended up eating lunch together with his younger brother, the other familiar person I had spotted in church.  The next week, Alec offered to give me a ride to church.  The same thing happened the week after.  After several weeks of attending church together, Alec asked me to our school’s formal, and I agreed.  This was followed by Alec asking me to play a board game with him and two of his friends.  I declined.  The next week, Alec asked me to watch the Super Bowl with him.  I said no.  At this point, I was convinced that Alec had a massive crush on me, and at the time, I didn’t want to lead him on.  (Of course, each time I rejected Alec’s invitations, I came up with reasonable excuses).  After several months of getting to know Alec through church, a small group, and our college’s formal, I was sold.  By the end of March 2012, we began dating, and the rest is history.

After about a year of dating, Alec and I started to discuss marriage.  It required me to re-form my thoughts on marriage, and re-evaluate my ten-year plan.  Once I had released hold on my ten-year plan for some time, I guess Alec figured it was go time!  On Monday, February 25, 2013, Alec embarked on perhaps the greatest car trip of his life, that is, next to the first time he drove me home from church.  He informed me that he had an appointment early on Tuesday morning.  Since Alec often has appointments with clients for his work, I assumed he was meeting with a new client in his hometown in Southern Illinois.  However, Alec’s appointment would be perhaps the most important appointment of his whole life.  Alec drove 3 ½ hours from Chicago to Grand Rapids to meet with my dad to to ask him for my hand in marriage. Certainly, chivalry is not dead!

That same week, Alec proposed to me on Saturday in my hometown, near Grand Rapids.  Masterfully, he had planned the most romantic proposal.   Though it did not go exactly as he had imagined, it was absolutely perfect.  Alec took me to a beach close to my house.  At the beach, we climbed up a dune that I have frequented with friends and family throughout the past 10 years, overlooking Lake Michigan.  Sitting down on a tree branch near the top of the dune, Alec presented me with a variety of envelopes.  Everyone in my immediately family had written me a letter, telling me how much they loved me.  I was incredibly touched by my family’s letters, especially since Alec knows how special letters are to me.

Alec then proceeded to sing me one my favorite songs, Desperado.  Over the summer, when Alec and I dated long distance, he would sing a song to me over the phone before bed to help me fall asleep.  Desperado became my favorite song that he sang.  In the last verse, Alec changed the lyrics to recap our love saga.  In the last four lines of the song, Alec got down on one knee, pulled out the ring box and asked me to marry him.

For me, getting a ring by spring was not something I had ever anticipated.   Many of the concerns posted about early marriages were ones I had previously believed to be truths.  Certainly, early marriage is not for everyone, and as recent studies show, it is not for the majority.  Further, I believe that simply dating is great.  Go on dates!  Guys, ask a girl out.  Girls, say yes!  Dating is an excellent way to get to know yourself better and to get to know others.  And who knows in the process you may just find that special someone!

Alec and me after getting engaged.

Alec and I reenacting the proposal afterward at the beach.