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​Saying “I do” as a student

Married students face unique challenges as they work to balance work, school and a marriage.

Bird and Jak Wurtz’s love story began with a hacked OkCupid account and an orange crayon.

They met in November 2016 when Jak’s friend messaged random users on Jak’s OKCupid account in hope that it would help him get a date. The friend didn’t know that one of the people he messaged would end up being Jak’s future wife.

According to The Atlantic, the average age for marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. Bird is a 20-year-old senior at Central Michigan University while Jak, 22, is a CMU alumnus.

“I worry we get the ‘congratulations’ only to our faces, but we also aren’t talking to our families right now so we don’t know about the gossip,” Bird said. “My dad’s main concern is if it’s something I want. That’s something he said when we got engaged and courthouse married.”

Students who tied the knot in college face unique challenges. Instead of just planning their next all-nighter or weekend party, these students have to balance school, work, friends and a marriage.

“I think everyone has different views of what they hope to get out of college and I’m still able to get all of that while being married,” said Audi Anderson, a Ithaca junior who married in August. “Being married makes it easier because my husband and I have it in common.”

Awkward first date

After a few weeks of talking, Jak invited Bird to The Dreamer Coffee House where he was running an event.

When Bird arrived, Jak didn’t notice so Bird did the only thing they could think of — grab a nearby crayon and throw it at his head. He turned around looking like “he was about to beat them up,” but once Bird smiled, he melted.

Despite telling Bird that he never wanted to get married the first night they hung out, Jak proposed in the same place they met four months later.

“I’ve watched my family have failed marriages,” Jak said. “It always seemed like a cycle you’re expected to do and I’m not about societal expectations. But then I met Bird. I’ve never been instantly attracted to a person. It sparked as soon as I met Bird.”

The couple married in a courthouse on Feb. 3, 2017. They plan on having a ceremony later, but because Jak is transgender, they were worried about being legally allowed to marry when the time came.

Getting married in a courthouse made sense, Bird said: they didn’t want to spent thousands of dollars to get married only to find out it wasn’t legal.

“After we got married, people kept asking if we feel any different,” Bird said. “I’m like, there’s a little ball of sunshine in my stomach, but it’s just chilling. Our relationship hasn’t changed much. I just started calling him my husband.”

However, marrying as a student isn’t always easy. Bird took the semester off from school to raise money for rent, the wedding and to fix their cars. Bird said most of their struggles are financial. Without an established income, planning a wedding and keeping up with day-to-day life can be overwhelming.

Being in a relationship was even harder when Bird registered for classes. Bird would come home and have to hide to finish homework while trying to focus.

“It doesn’t always involve being together. Alone time is required,” Bird said. “We live in a one-bedroom and work. There’s no time to see each other, and when I was in school it was even worse.”

Once Bird becomes a student again, Bird plans on finishing homework assignments before returning home so they can spend time together without distractions. When they get home, it’s time to enjoy each other, and enjoy their happy home.

“It’s keeping what’s not related to home out of home so we can focus on each other,” Jak said.

‘Falling’ for each other

Josh Simms proposed to his fiancee by falling out of a box.

Southgate seniors Tyler Goudreau and Simms, both 22, dated for five years before becoming engaged in December. He had printed more than 80 photos of them together and wrote letters that would eventually spell out “Will you marry me?” on the back of the photographs.

“My dad didn’t talk to me,” Josh said. “He shut me out of the family for a while. He doesn’t like her because she’s outspoken and opinionated. That’s just the way he is. It took two months for him to finally talk to me, and even then, it was (awkward). Everyone else was happy.”

The proposal itself was “a mess,” he said. Josh left Tyler a note saying there’s a present for her in the back room. When she saw the box, she thought it was a cat tower — instead it was Josh standing in a refrigerator box, ring in hand.

“I came out of the box and told her to read the note again,” he said. “Eventually she put it together and cried for like 10 minutes. She called her mom and her dad called me.”

Since getting engaged, life has been relatively normal. Tyler struggles with balancing work with academics while finding time to see Josh.

“It’s a little difficult. We don’t have a lot of downtime,” Josh said. “She’s gone from 3-10:30 p.m. (for work) and she’ll want to go to bed early. Other days, she’ll be up late but I’ll have an early-morning class. It’s a little difficult, but we make due. We make up for it on the days we have downtime. We just drink and watch Netflix.”

From mission trip to marriage

Audi Anderson, 20, always knew she wanted to marry young.

Audi and her husband, Tyler, were high school sweethearts who began dating at 14 years old. The couple married in August 2016.

Their relationship has seen ups and downs — like when Tyler went on a mission trip for two years. Audi said she hoped Tyler would want to marry her when he got back.

Tyler proposed six weeks after he returned from the trip.

“My mom wasn’t happy with me getting married at a young age,” Audi said. “She thought I was throwing away my life. I think that’s because she hadn’t had successful relationships before. My aunt was worried about it, but now she said she thinks it’s awesome.”

Audi, however, said she doesn’t feel she’s missing out of the college experience by being a wife. She doesn’t drink or smoke because she’s a Mormon, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She said she’d would have felt left out either way.

“Another thing that I love about young marriage is it gives you the ability, opportunity and desire to mature and grow up in a different way,” Audi said.

Balancing work, school, marriage and a social life is difficult, she said. Some people wouldn’t be able to handle the time management needed, but she’s been living with booked schedules since high school. It’s something she’s used to, she said.

“It’s nice having someone to go to every day and go home to,” Audi said.