Millie Bobby Brown, who stars as Eleven in Stranger Things, is now engaged at 19 to Jon Bon Jovi’s 20-year-old son, Jacob Bongiovi.

Brown uploaded a picture of herself being embraced by Bongiovi on Instagram, with an engagement ring around her finger.

That picture sent the Internet into an uproar, as “She’s 19” began trending on Twitter – a phrase and hashtag holding negative implications and perceptions of the impending marriage. 

Is getting engaged at 19 too early (as many netizens seem to believe)? How early is too early? When’s the best time to get married?

I think there are numerous insights and reflections about marriage and popular culture that we might glean from this – so let’s jump right into it.

She’s 19: she’s still too young

That’s one immediate implication of hashtags like “She’s 19”.

It’s tough growing up on camera, because it can be hard for viewers to separate iconic characters like Eleven from the actual people who portray them in real life. 

To many a mind’s eye, Millie Bobby Brown’s always gonna be that cute kid who escaped from a laboratory and stumbled into a cafeteria.

Oh, she’s young. Far too young to be engaged. That’s what we think, perhaps not realising that it’s already been seven years since Stranger Things came out in 2016.

Does that mean she’s ready for marriage though? Not necessarily. I just think it’s important to remember that Brown is not Eleven, and she’s also certainly not twelve.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight… My question in response simply is, when’s not too young? When’s good?

What are the metrics with which we decide that now is the time to get married?

She’s 19: she’s going to fail

Another implication is the idea that Brown’s decision is a mistake, a disaster that’s about to unravel.

Maybe there’s a place where that comes from: it’s no secret that child actors in Hollywood often have a rough go of things by the time they get older.

One famous example is Macaulay Culkin, of Home Alone fame, who would go on to develop struggles with substance abuse (and who also happened to get married at 18). 

It can be difficult to grow up when all eyes are on you, and when past precedents in your industry don’t exactly bode well for your future. It’s almost like people are rooting against you.

In a strange sense, I wonder if it’s kinda like being a pastor’s kid. There are all these expectations placed upon you, especially when you’re supposed to be a pure and innocent character. Tough.

My takeaway here is to be very careful about raising my eyebrows at people – don’t be too quick to judge – and not to expect the worst of someone just for their age.

I don’t know Brown as a person well enough to say anything of her readiness. You could be very mature at 19, or very immature at 38. It really depends.

She’s 19: she’s wasting what was to come

This is where I think many people’s low view of marriage is exposed. 

There’s a tone of sadness and pity in some of the Twitter discussions about Brown’s engagement, almost as if she’s going to waste the best years of her youth by choosing to get married.

The truth is, we can’t truly know if Brown will end up “wasting” these coming years; these netizens just can’t see her having a shot at happiness because their lens towards marriage is coloured negatively.

At play here is the cultural perception of marriage as a shackle, and also the cultural belief that one’s youth should be focused on experimentation, freedom and growth.

America, South Korea, Japan, Singapore… there’s a reason why we’re living in an era with historically low fertility rates. People in such cultures are devaluing things like marriage and having kids.

Just as your views on a certain age or stage of life are going to be inevitably coloured by your experience or perspective of that stage of life, so will your views of marriage and family be coloured by your personal experience of them.

When’s the best time to get married?

Value judgments aside, that’s one hidden question beneath the hubbub.

I know it sounds like a cop out, but one answer is that it depends. The best time is going to differ based on a multitude of factors.

In the example of a Christian couple, one could ask any number of questions about the conviction (this isn’t an exhaustive list) behind their big decision.

  • Are the couple equally yoked?
  • Have they spent enough time together to know if they are each other’s right person?
  • Do the couple have both sets of parents’ blessings?
  • Have both sides disclosed any character flaws or traits that may make them unsuitable for marriage at the moment? Do they even know what such flaws may be?
  • Have they had the honest conversations to determine whether their views on faith, marriage, children, parenting, their own parents, finance and the future are compatible?
  • Have they seen how each other responds to failure or success?
  • Have they been walking with marriage mentors in this time? What do they say? What do the couple’s spiritual friends say about them?

Having solid answers to questions like these will be important in determining if now’s the best time to get married – or if so-and-so is the right person to be marrying at all.

  • Do the couple understand what God’s design for marriage is?
  • Does the man understand what biblical headship in a marriage means?
  • Does the woman understand what submission in a marriage means?
  • Do both agree to perform their roles as God designed in marriage?

There are so many more questions than these that one could ask. The more a couple answers “yes” and the more they find common areas of agreement… the more “ready” one might say they are.

The process of getting such answers is tough, however, and will involve blood, sweat and tears.

It’s not going to be easy on your own, so I’d say that marriage mentoring and humbly surrounding yourself with good counsel are a must. 

Convictions aside, there are also other factors relating to context and culture that can influence the timing of marriage. 

For instance, you can only get married legally in Singapore at 21. Getting married before you turn 18 may be possible, but you need parental approval and special licensing. 

So if you put the laws of the land aside, then “best time” is also going to be largely subjective. Every era and culture has held different expectations for the appropriate marriage age. Brown is widely frowned upon for sealing the deal a little early, but in another time or place she’d likely be chided for having taken so long!

So, it really comes down to the couple. They’re the ones marrying each other at the end of the day, and they have to own their marriage before God.

The main thing is thus to exercise discernment and ensure due diligence in the decision. 

Finally, it pays to be wary of other reasons for “now”.

If the couple is, shall we say, particularly hot-blooded – there is some biblical basis to for them to get married so as not to fall into sin. But sex (or good feelings for that matter) shouldn’t be the only reason to get married.

Neither should the allure and expediency of securing a BTO be the primary push factor in getting engaged or tying the knot. I was a little “old-fashioned” and decided to apply for a BTO with my fiancée only after proposing to her; we both wanted to be sure about each other without other big things clouding our perspectives. So, be wary of factors that seem to rush you.

In the same way that 19 isn’t necessarily a bad age to be married just because it’s not socially accepted, being 27, 35 or another age that some silent consensus deems appropriate isn’t a guarantee that then would be a good time either. “Now” is a time that can vary.

You’re getting married…? Are you sure?

Story time: my wife and I have had the privilege of walking with a wonderful young Christian couple who eventually decided to get married at 22. 

For them, though the reception to their announcement was quite unlike Brown’s where some ill will is tangible, you could still tell it was “too early” by the raised eyebrows and shocked looks of those who heard the news.

Indeed, the fiancée shared that she did experience “shock” and “quiet judgment” from some people she shared the news with.

Now, I did not hear a bad thing or see an aspersion cast onto their decision, but I know it would only be all too natural and easy for someone to assume things about this couple and judge them too quickly.

The reality was, their circumstances were quite unique.

One was studying in the Silicon Valley at the time and had received an offer from a tech company in the area, and his girlfriend, who was working in Singapore, was considering joining him there. 

Both sets of parents had given their blessings; both of them were financially in a place to make the move; there were also additional push factors in the equation…

And as the gears began to turn on one of life’s biggest decisions, this young couple humbly looked to us for advice.

I recall that the age thing was not what came up first in our conversations.

It was about issues like values, beliefs, alignment, accountability, maturity… probably the same conversations we would have with two 28-year-olds.

I was initially very concerned that these two young people were approaching marriage as a matter of convenience, but through our conversations I came to see that that wasn’t quite the case (though we found plenty of areas for growth and discipleship!).

What the couple needed was conversation and guidance in a safe space to work through this decision, so we tried to give them those things while staying aligned to Scripture.

Long story short, these crazy kids that we love got married in America at 22 and ultimately chose to stay in Singapore.

Today, they’re loving God, serving Him and His people, thriving in their marriage – and we couldn’t be happier for them.

How can we serve?

“It seemed very intimidating at first, but God guided us every step of the way. Having God at the centre of our relationship was very important. Godly wisdom through mentors, leaders and trusted friends is incredibly important.” 

That’s the reflection that my young mentee shared about getting married at 22.

While I’m glad that was his experience, in comparison, seeing the many callous and condescending responses to Millie Bobby Brown’s announcement makes me concerned. 

She’s a young person as well, but I don’t know if she’ll have the same kind of support and guidance along her marriage runway to build her up and speak truth into her life. You know – friends who don’t lie.

Today, they’re loving God, serving Him and His people, thriving in their marriage – and we couldn’t be happier for them.

Open arms, open hearts, open minds.

If we can put our assumptions aside and serve as God’s people who offer love and truth in equal measure, then I think we’ll be doing a service to Christian couples, young or old.

If they are to be married, then that’s one way we can help make their now the best time to do so.

  1. When’s the best time to date in your view? How about to get married?
  2. What are these decisions based on?
  3. What does the Bible say about your views, and about marriage?