In America, I find there is a stigma on getting married too early, but not too late. Getting married before you turn twenty (or even before you graduate college) seems to be more shocking for people than getting married later in life. From what I've seen, marriage is a bigger deal to rush into with couples between the ages of 25-35 who haven't been together very long (2-3 years), versus couples who have been together for 10+ years. I know many couples getting married after knowing each other for a couple of years and many couples who don't seem to worry too much about marriage who have been together for a longer amount of time.
The biggest stigma regarding marriage in America tends to falls with celebrities more than members of society not in the tabloids. Celebrities get the most attention (positive or negative) for getting married. Headlines will say "they're too young, what are they thinking?" or "they're much older, so they need to get married." Kim Kardashian was only married for 72 hours, but the press is still talking about it years later (even after she got re-married and had two kids) because there was such a stigma about the short marriage.
Reasons for not marrying early:
- get to know your partner really well before tying the knot. There is a famous quote from a poem by Friedrich Schiller: "Drum prüfe, wer sich ewig bindet, ob sich das Herz zum Herzen findet." (So test therefore who join forever. If heart to heart be found together.).
- first enjoy live, get a good education and start a career before settling down.
Reasons for marrying after having children:
- romance: to express your love without social pressure
- pragmatism: financial and legal advantages of being married
There are also couples, that get married early and start having kids early, but it is not the rule in Germany. There are also many couples getting married, but not wanting kids. We have a very low birth rate in Germany. So, marrying and having kids are not necessarily connected in Germany.
Also, I'd say that the majority of Germans have to kiss some frogs to find prince or princess charming, so they might already be over 30 until they find Mr. or Mrs. Right.
Arranged marriage is uncommon in Germany, so many people stay unmarried because they don't find the right partner. Or they stay unmarried, but have a partner, with whom they live together permanently.
50 years ago it was a big deal, people should marry early. If you back a further 100-150 years, it was a pure disaster to be a single mother and the children were considered "illegitimate". Nowadays there is not a big difference if you are legally married (whatever the faith) or just co-habiting, the laws have been changed so by and large co-habiting is becoming more equivalent to being married, for example if a couple split up and have to share their belongings in a fair manner. I agree with Joseph above that there are a lot of sub-groups in our country, and they've brought with them the traditional views from their countries of origin.
In the 19th century it was totally different. The (here) well-known author Carl Jonas Love Almqvist wrote a book in 1839 about a woman lives with a man without being married to him. Wikipedia tells us that "These books caused the church and state to condemn him and call him a dangerous revolutionary." He had to flee from Scandinavia and settled in the US.
I think there is pressure everywhere, not really to get married but at least to show you are in a relationship. I know in Spain being single is not considered good and I have faced a lot of pressure about this.
I think it depends on the wealth of the country too, in some parts of the world its impossible to live alone as its too expensive. SO unless you have a good job or go to university, its impossible to leave.
In the UK (my native country) I don´t think anyone really cares, but some families prefer to see their children married. In the UK I have a lot of Pakistani friends who have expectations around marriage. Families often try to encourage marriage younger