By Elly Spencer
Valeria McDonald counted to five, heaved out a shaky breath, and took one last look in the full-length mirror hanging on the wall.
Her white gown looked exactly how she had pictured it since she was a little girl.
The McAllen senior’s college graduation ceremony was just around the corner, set for May, but an astounding separate agenda had shown its face.
She began the task of planning a wedding while planning the end of her college career.
Organizing a wedding is an already stressful ordeal. Adding a degree plan on top of that may be what makes the pre-graduation marriage so out of the norm.
“Planning a wedding during college was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” now-Mrs. Valeria McCoy said.
The young bride title also brings along with it the “bridezilla” phenomenon.
A bridezilla is a bride or bride-to-be who is extremely demanding and difficult to deal with.
Planning a wedding can bring the best and the worst out in the average bride, but worrying about the financial, emotional and physical strains while still in college can be next to impossible, McCoy said.
“I was a big fan of watching ‘Bridezillas’ back in the day and I always felt so bad for the grooms,” McCoy said. “I knew I never wanted to treat my fiancé that way but was afraid all of that pressure would get to me at some point.”
Some of the main stresses are trying to set aside time through test weeks and finals to make it to appointments, find money, and actually plan the event.
“The most difficult part of planning my wedding was probably that I wanted to have the wedding in Fort Worth where I grew up and because it was a central place for both sides of our families,” said newlywed Fort Worth senior Christina George. “With school and working two jobs, it was very difficult to find the time and energy to invest in planning a wedding.”
The story of the college-age bride-to-be is not a new one; the National Center for Education surveyed 20,928 undergraduates in 2008, and found about 18 percent were married.
The U.S. Decennial Census reported the national average age of first-time brides in the 1950s was from 19-21.
“I think that wedding preparations always depend on the finances of the bride’s parents and the era in which the couple lives,” said former Baylor professor Maxine Hart. “My husband, Clyde, and I were married in 1956, and none of my Baylor friends had grand weddings like the ones that I attend today.”
A recent Facebook Data Science study showed religious colleges made for a significant portion of the top 25 “marrying colleges” for men and women. Baylor is no exception.
Glenda Ross, Armstrong Browning Library’s facilities coordinator, said the waiting list to be married in the library’s Foyer of Meditation is a hefty eight months. Ross said the library staff only allows one wedding in a month.
Another new phenomena in the culture of college-age newlyweds is more groom involvement in planning the wedding ceremony.
“In my circumstance, my fiancee still has a whole lot to do in order to finish her degree,” said newly engaged McLean, Va., senior Jeffrey Solomon. “So the way I look at it, the least I can do is offer to help in any way that I can.”
However, grooms’ worries seem to vary from their young brides’ stresses.
“I guess the part to be most nervous about would be making it all fit within a budget,” said Solomon. “I’m not concerned that we will be able to get all of the planning finished in time because we have eight to nine months to do it, but getting it all done well within a budget – that is out of my control can be a little bit tough.”
Solomon’s advice to future engaged couples trying to navigate their way through their two big days and “bridezilla” territory is to let the future bride take the reins, but help whenever she needs input.
“I want to be able to help and provide input throughout the process, but at the same time, if I was put in charge our wedding would be terrible,” Solomon said. “She is in charge and I am there to help wherever possible.”
As far as the brides, George said the best thing to do was to stop, take a deep breath and enjoy the process with their fiances.
“Spending at least a little time every day connecting with the person you’re going to marry and being able to just laugh, have fun and continually remind yourselves of why you’re getting married in the first place is so important,” George said. “Wedding planning can be stressful and emotional so it’s important to keep having date nights and times where you don’t talk about the wedding.”