If you like it, put a ring on it now

It’s the first day of class in my Creative Non-Fiction Writing class. I’m sitting next to a girl with a wedding band and engagement ring adorned on her left ring finger. Her name is Candace Saunders-Grewe and she’s a senior studying English who got married this past January. At the end of class, I begin to ask her questions about the reasons behind getting married so young. Back in the day, getting married at the age of 20 was not that big of a deal. Now it seems to be almost unheard of if you’re still attending college.

Her husband, Gabe Grewe, is studying construction, engineering, and management at Virginia Tech. Contrary to what you might think, they didn’t meet in Virginia.

RU students are getting married before they graduate. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham
RU students are getting married before they graduate. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham

They met at Trinity Lutheran Church in California. It was the summer of 2010 and Gabe played drums in the praise band and Candace sang and played the piano. After they spent three months minding their own business, Gabe asked Candace to the homecoming dance.

“The first thing that attracted me to her was that she was so talented,” Gabe said.

But by the end of their senior year of high school they knew it was meant to be.

Getting married at a young age didn’t cross Gabe’s mind until he met Candace. The opposite is true for Candace.

“We knew we would get married. We didn’t know when we wanted to get married, but we know we wanted to get married,” Candace said.

Gabe had signed a contract during his junior year of high school with Virginia Tech to be in the Army ROTC program.

Candace hadn’t planned on moving to Virginia just because Gabe was going. Candace applied to six schools, but when she visited RU she knew it was the school for her. At the age of 18, Candace moved cross-country to Virginia with her mother. They lived in an apartment together until Candace got married.

Both their parents were supportive of Gabe and Candace’s decision to get married.

“They wanted to make sure that we get through college, but knew that it was for the best that we got married,” Gabe said.

Neither of them regret getting married at a young age and while still being in college.

“I always wanted to get married young. This may sound strange, but because I’m an only child, and come from a small family, I always feared ending up alone,” said Candace.

One of the reasons that they got married early was that after graduation, Gabe will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, which means a possible move.

“I think it’s better for us to be married in college because it allows us to establish our marriage before being assigned somewhere and being deployed. It’s really not that much different because school’s pretty much a job,” Gabe said.

“You also have to take into consideration that we’ve been together for almost four years. If we waited to get married until Gabe graduates, we’d have been together for six years. That’s a long time to wait, especially when you know you met the person you want to spend the rest of your life with,” Candace said.