The transition from graduation gowns to wedding gowns can be a long one. The average age of marriage in 2020 is 29 years old, more than seven years after a traditional four-year graduation schedule.
For two USD couples, their gap was shorter than average, but they took the leap and decided to tie the knot.
Emily and Isaac
Isaac Westergaard and Emily Gillespie, both senior business administration majors, met in band during their freshman year of high school.
While they’re engaged now, Gillespie said they didn’t talk much at first.
“We went on the band trip to Saint Louis and I saw him waiting in line for Dairy Queen,” Gillespie said. “I asked him if he wanted to sit with my friend and I. He had said yes but then sat elsewhere.”
Gillespie said he was nervous to sit with her and her friend.
Westergaard and Gillespie exchanged phone numbers after the trip and texted each other frequently. They became friends over time. After growing closer, the two began dating, Westergaard said.
After dating for six years, it was time for the proposal. Westergaard said he chose to propose at Japanese Gardens in Sioux Falls because it’s a scenic and private setting for their special moment.
Through communicating with Gillespie’s roommate and a photographer, the plan was made via Google Maps to figure out where everyone should be and when to do it with the best lighting possible.
Westergaard said Gillespie was the one to ask her out initially and it was his turn now.
“It was my turn to ask her an important question-to marry her,” Westergaard said.
Westergaard said he knew the time was coming for when they would move onto the next chapter of their lives.
When he asked Gillespie’s father for permission, one request was that the couple to finish their education before worrying about a wedding, Westergaard said.
Westergaard said housing can be tricky for couples who are engaged, especially if they live on campus.
Gillespie opted to stay on campus for her college years, while Westergaard decided to live off-campus housing to help save money. This also allowed the two to see each other more often as Westergaard would be able to stay at Gillespie’s dorm room.
“My aunt was generous enough to let me have a room for the year,” Westergaard said. “So I officially signed her up as my place of residence and I was able to get out of my housing contract.”
Gillespie said she believes they’re the high school sweethearts people don’t see much anymore.
“I think if you stay committed to the person and put your all into it then there’s a true bond,” Gillespie said. “To have somebody there as you’re growing up and to see that same person stay there is special.”
Westergaard and Gillespie will be tying the knot this October.
Noah and Mary
Noah Fiegen, a senior medical biology major, met Mary Merxbauer-Fiegen, a senior English major after they had barely started their first year of college.
During an orientation tour of campus at the beginning of the school year, they met for the first time in the Muenster University Center, Fiegen said.
“We got to talking with each other,” Fiegen said. “Then we kept in touch and got each other’s numbers. The rest is history after that.”
The decision to propose to Merxbauer just felt right for the two, Fiegen said.
“There wasn’t a certain moment in making the choice to marry,” Fiegen said. “All of her personality and everything led up to it.”
In May of 2018, the couple went on a cruise through Europe. Merxbauer said this was the trip Fiegen decided to propose to her in a sneaky way.
“When we were in Paris, I had wanted to put a lock on the bridge near Notre Dame,” Merxbauer said. “I couldn’t get it on there. As I turned around, Noah was on his knee and…asked to marry me.”
The decision to marry while in college was gradual, the couple said.
“The first year of marriage tends to be when things are getting situated,” stated Merxbauer. “We didn’t want (to do) medical school on top of that.”
These two couples found their forever Valentine while searching for their forever career. While it isn’t common to get married in college, it is all about what’s right for the couple, both pairs said.