Two simple words define commitment. The question is knowing when it is the right or wrong time to say them. At least four University of Richmond students have already said, “I do,” or are still in the planning stages — with engagement rings to prove it.

Being young and in love has its stipulations, though. The dynamic is pressing.  On one hand, society completely and legally accepts marriage at the age of 18. On the other hand, parents, friends or peers are not always as accepting.

Seniors Jacob Ruby and Blair Kline were recently engaged over the summer. Luckily for them, their parents and friends were enthusiastic.

“Both of our parents were in on it the whole time," Kline said. "Jacob had asked for my parents’ permission and blessing a couple of months earlier. Almost all of our friends knew we were going to get married at some point, so aside from a couple jokes, everybody was very supportive."

Micah Farmer, who will graduate in May, is currently married and living off campus with her husband of over a year now, Brian. “I would be lying if I said I never wondered what path my life would have led if I wasn’t married, but I am very happy in my decision to get married so young. There is a sense of permanency and security that I know he will be by my side through anything,” Farmer said.

Farmer said some people may have disagreed with her, and had argued that dating could supply the same sense of security as marriage. “Dating is temporary, and the first sign of trouble is potential for the relationship to crumble,” she said.

Senior Paige Rendall got engaged to her husband-to-be, Randy, before coming back to school this fall. Randy lives in Milwaukee, which had made for a tough, long-distance relationship for the past four years. She said timing and maturity were important keys to any couple thinking about saying "I do."

Rendall said she and Randy survived the many complications of a long-distance relationship because their relationship was, in fact, mature. This made the difference for her, not age. She said: “It's an easy cop-out to say that age matters, but I think it really depends on the relationship you have. Age won't give you a good relationship. And besides, being this age is great and why wouldn't I want to spend every day of it with the man I love?”

To Rendall, the opinions of friends and family are worth considering, but in the end, the couple must decide what is best for them. Like Farmer, Rendall knew she was ready.

“We were married at 20 years old, and it was right for us,” Farmer said. “Not every 20-year-old should get married. In fact, most 20-year-olds shouldn't even think about it. On the other hand, being older doesn't make you any more ready. I know 50-year-olds who shouldn't think about marriage, simply because they aren't emotionally mature enough to handle the true commitment that marriage is.”

The American government allows couples to be married at the age of 18, and even before they are recognized as adults if they have parental consent. Eighteen- and 19-year-olds, or young adults in their early twenties, are often scrutinized for getting hitched too soon. But, in the eyes of these four Richmond undergrads, two words have made all the difference.

Contact reporter Tracy Akers at tracy.akers@richmond.edu