‘I do’ at BYU
By Jamie Morris
It is no secret marriage is a well-known concept at BYU. There are classes devoted to it, devotional speakers who love to speak about it and the ever-so-popular Bridal Guide lining hallways and entrances to help couples prepare for it.
In the past 22 years, between 24 and 29 percent of each graduating class at BYU left with not only a diploma, but a spouse as well (Y facts). However, the amount of group dating at BYU over the past 22 years has also increased, and it’s presented a problem for marriage.
Keith and Lauri Hunter are one such couple who graduated with both diplomas. They grew up in the same town and went to the same small high school in Riverton, Wyo., but it wasn’t until they came to BYU that their relationship progressed to something more than friendship.
“I knew I was meeting people who had shared values, so I suppose I approached dating with a little more confidence (at BYU),” Keith said. “Everybody dated a lot and dated different people during the week. We dated for fun.”
Ironically, Keith and Lauri went to a friend’s wedding reception for their first official date and after months of dating they were married. Both agreed BYU helped to foster their relationship and allowed them to get to know each other on a more personal basis.
Many students who come to BYU hope to find their spouse. In fact, “A Survey of Dating and Marriage at BYU,” a 2002 study by professors on campus on student’s thoughts on marriage, suggested two-thirds of both men and women at BYU desired to meet their future husband or wife at college.
While the marriage statistics remain much the same as they did when Keith and Lauri were at BYU in the 1980s, many things have changed regarding dating and marriage.
“They don’t date now,” Lauri said. “They don’t go on single dates, they go on group dates. The other thing is if (they) go out three times, they’re an item or whatever they call it, which is crazy. It takes more than three dates to have a relationship.”
“Hanging out” is the most common alternative to dating today. The same BYU dating study found that one-fourth of the students at BYU hang out with someone of the opposite sex six or more times in one week. Many leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have counseled the young adults on the subject of hanging out.
In a CES fireside in 2005, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “My single young friends, we counsel you to channel your associations with the opposite sex into dating patterns that have the potential to mature into marriage, not hanging-out patterns that only have the prospect to mature into team sports like touch football. Marriage is not a group activity — at least, not until the children come along in goodly numbers.”
Keith and Lauri’s son, Scott, knows all too well what the dating scene is like at BYU, hanging out and all, but he considers himself lucky to have had parents who met at BYU and provided that example to look to.
Scott and his wife, Elise, met each other in their BYU singles ward and were married in November.
“The last day of the semester I went to her apartment,” Scott said. “I didn’t have her number. I told her that I had just finished finals and I was going to turn on a movie and fall asleep and I invited her to come. I didn’t expect her to come. She came. True to my word I fell asleep with my head on her shoulder.”
In response to whether or not Scott would have met his wife without BYU he said, “I doubt it. It really would have taken an alignment of the stars.”
However, there are still many BYU students that haven’t been as lucky to follow in the footsteps of their parents.
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Stephanie Fiso agrees that her parents fall under the BYU stereotype for getting married.
“They have one of those stories that everyone makes fun of. They were in the same ward and they had known each other for a while. My dad asked my mom out, they dated for three weeks and then got engaged,” said Fiso, a senior from Orem majoring in linguistics.
If the stories and Divine Comedy’s endless sketches on dating cheers and woes don’t make you laugh already, just look at the numbers. Compared to most universities, BYU’s marriage rate is significantly high. According to a BYU Newsnet survey, 51 percent of BYU’s 2005 graduating class were married compared to the national average of 11 percent.
In addition to that, the survey outlined that BYU students have been known to marry sooner. Men and women are averaging age 22 compared to the national average where men marry at age 25 and women at age 27.
But if the rate is still high and thriving, and one freshman girl and that “fresh-off-the-mission” elder still manage to get a ring, why is it that students like Fiso, whose parents went to BYU and got married, are about to graduate and are still single?
Although it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of “you’re doing it wrong,” Kessia Robinson, a senior, attributes a new kind of pressure and expectation BYU students face compared to her parents’ marriage-guaranteed BYU experience for the slim opportunities for dates.
Robinson says often Church leaders and peers try to be nice to the women, and yet there are all of these expectations. She went on to explain that others will assume that if you do not meet the expectations, there is something wrong with you and that is why you are not married.
Fiso also agrees that this pressure to get married has kept many away from pursuing dating and that her parents’ generation took a simpler approach to getting hitched.
“When they were dating, there wasn’t so much pressure. During my parents’ time, if they liked someone, then they just asked them out,” said Fiso. “Also, because we have this pressure to get married even more so now, more people are hanging out with each other, which means they’re not going out on as many dates to find that person.”
While many still wonder if they will ever find their significant other at BYU, according to “A Survey of Dating and Marriage,” 94 percent of BYU students felt that marriage would be a part of their lives in the next five to 10 years.
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