When is the right time to get married? For the modern woman, the answer is complicated

The waiting game.

By Cosmo Team

Until Patrick — my boyfriend of nearly four years-picked up the cream cracker — I had been in my element. There he was, bowed down on one knee, proffering something upwards towards me whilst images of wedding dresses, confetti and a string quartet raced through my mind.

It was only then that I realised the object in his hand was not as I had hoped — an engagement ring — but was in fact a cream cracker that had fallen on the floor due to my messy eating habits. "You'll need better cleaning skills if you're going to be my wife" he joked.

What followed was a torrent of cleaning Mr Sheen would have been proud of. If a clean house would bring me closer to the church door then I damn well was going to do it. After all, for the past year, all I have been thinking about is WHEN will he ask me? When will I?

Tiffany Wright who has been in a relationship for nearly 4 years, shares joint custody of an Australian cat and would quite frankly look rather nice in a Monique Lhuillier wedding dress be able to join a bride-to-be club? What do I need to do to get my man to propose?

And then it hit me. Has marriage suddenly become a 'waiting game?' You only have to look at me, and my thirty something (unwed) friends to see how difficult it's become for modern women to engineer a marriage that is well-timed — one that happens late enough in a lifetime that a woman has had time to develop personally and professionally, but not so late that her biological clock has well and truly run out of batteries.

Recent research shows that more and more couples are playing the 'waiting game' — despite the 'gamble' it could have on women. Marry too early and we might panic that we are putting out careers at risk.

Marry too late and we might find ourselves stressing over whether we're left in a situation where having kids might not be so easy (or, for the more cynical amongst us, left enough time to find another man if our current one jumps ship.)

My single friends share opposing views. One of them is adamant that she 'needs' to get married asap."I want the security, I want babies, I want relatives to stop looking at me like I'm some haggard old spinster.'

Another friend insists that women shouldn't worry themselves so much with wedding dates. "We've fought for feminism for so many years and now you're trying to tell me we want a man to tie us down and marry us. No thank you. I want my career, my own apartment and a string of men who I can call as often or as little as I want. I want my life on MY terms."

So, when is the right time to get married? Are modern women so concerned about 'having it all ' — babies, career success, living life to the full - that we can't actually sit back, relax and take life as it comes? Are you concerned with timing, or do you accept that setting a 'marry me now' alarm on your man's phone is probably not going to make much difference?

My 4 year old nephews summed up marriage quite nicely yesterday when we walked past a church on his way to school.

"That woman's getting married," he said, pointing to the bride. "Yes, " I replied. "And that man is getting married too."

"Don't be silly," he looked at he, aghast, "Men don't get married!" I studied his serious, wrinkled brow and asked him, in that case, what men do at weddings.

"They are just there to hold the woman's hand and pass her tissues when she cries." In that case, hand me a Kleenex!