‘Ring by spring’ culture fails to exceed southern borders

Baylor senior Katey Bourget and recent grad Isaac Lambert pose for their engagement photos. The couple met during move-in day her freshman year at Baylor.

By Andie Chilson | Reporter

Most Baylor students are familiar with “ring by spring,” but the phenomenon doesn’t seem to go far beyond the Waco city limits.

Hebron, Maine, senior Katey Bourget and recent Baylor grad Isaac Lambert from El Segundo, Calif., are a recently engaged couple.

Bourget and Lambert met during move-in day of their freshman year in Brooks Flats and they became engaged in August 2019. Bourget said that she came into college planning to get engaged, though she did not know to whom.

“I’ve always wanted to get married young,” Bourget said. “My parents met very young, so this is just something I’ve always had in mind.”

Although Bourget grew up in a small town and Lambert grew up near Los Angeles, the two agreed that before coming to Baylor, the concept of “ring by spring” wasn’t even on their radar.

“I’m from the Northeast,” Bourget said. “It’s a very different culture.”

Bourget said she has found the culture in the South to be more encouraging of marrying young.

“I think it’s definitely a southern thing,” Lambert agreed. “You could even correlate it to Christianity.”

Although the average age of marriage in the United States is increasing according to a survey conducted by the US Census Bureau, the average age is much younger on religious college campuses.

A 2013 Facebook study found that over half of the colleges where a student is most likely to find a mate are religious institutions.

Many religiously affiliated universities foster a culture that encourages marrying young. Liberty University, for example, provides workshops for engaged couples and offers a course titled “Marriage and Family.”

“I see a bunch of people on my Instagram feed getting engaged,” Birmingham, Ala., senior Caitlin Bullard said. “I see it a lot in the southern culture.”

The facts support Bullard’s impression. According to a 2018 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age that men and women marry in Texas is 28.5 and 26.6, respectively, whereas the average age of marriage in the state of New York is 30.9 for men and 29.5 for women.

One common concern for college students contemplating engagement is financial responsibility. Many recent graduates have student loans to pay off, which can be a considerable deterrent for some college sweethearts. According to a 2018 report by the Institute for College Access and Success, the average student loan debt for recent college graduates in the United States is $29,200.

Bourget and Lambert are not phased by these daunting statistics, though.

“We may have to get out of debt together, but I’d rather do it together than apart,” Lambert said.

Christie Fatica, a senior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, has a different perspective on college engagements. For Fatica, financial stability is a prerequisite for marriage. Fatica said the pressure to get engaged is far less prevalent on northeastern campuses.

“This is a campus where you date to date – not to get married,” Fatica said.

Perhaps the most common reason for “ring by spring” cited by engaged college students is that they already know that they want to be with their significant other forever, so why not start forever now? This was the reasoning Bourget and Lambert gave for their pre-graduation engagement.

“She’s the one for me,” Lambert said. “And I just thought, what’s the point in waiting?”

Bullard said while she can see the merits to getting engaged before graduation, she is looking forward to experiencing “distinct times in [your] life when you go to college, graduate from college and hopefully go to grad school.”

The consistent increase in the average age of marriage for both men and women in the U.S. suggests that the majority of young Americans feel similarly to Bullard, and are more inclined to pursue a career over marriage in their post-grad years.

Whether your post-grad plans include a big white dress or a corporate job, young people have continued to prove that the measure of success for recent graduates varies from campus to campus and from student to student.