Age to Marry… Sooner or Later?

I was taking a break today to read the news, and what do you know, there was an article about what age to marry. In 1890 the average age to marry for men was 26 and for women 22. The average age to marry dropped significantly in the 1960’s and is now the highest since the census began in the late 1800’s.


Personally I felt on the younger side — I was 26 and Mr. Onion was 27 when we were married last September. But according to the census, this is exactly the average age for 2007. I was the first of my friends to marry, so that also added to my perception of “average.” I think a lot of your perceptions of the best age to marry has to do with where you live and of course your circumstances. Many couples wait until they are finished with degrees (undergraduate or graduate), while some just don’t find “the one” until later in life. There is so much societal pressure for so many women to get married by a certain age. People have strong opinions — “Oh you’re too young to get married,” or “What are you waiting for? You’re not getting any younger!”

Also, your “plan” changes along the way. If you’d asked me when I was in college when I thought I’d get married, I would have said my early 30’s. But then I fell in love and suddenly the time line I had in mind didn’t matter anymore.

Do you think, like John Van Epp suggests in the article, that we are so confident now in fertility treatments to take care of us, that we wait longer to marry and have a family? What age do you think is ideal for women and men to marry and why?


Mrs. Onion

NYC/Burlington, VT
Wedding Date:
September 2007
Dancing Shoes: Necessity or Frivolity?
Married in Montana: Chaos at Cracker Lake
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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Sezzy, Guest @ 8:38 am

    I’m 24, and Boy and I will be 26 and 25 when we marry. Our decision has more to do with wanting the year 2010 than wanting to wait to grow up more, although it does help to save! Some of our friends are married already, and while they were young (23) when they got married, we didn’t really think of them that way. As with everything else, it seems to have more to do with a specific relationship than an accepted range.

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    angielea, Guest @ 9:01 am

    Justin and I will both be 25.8 at the time of the wedding. 😉 The time felt right for us. I’m from a rural part of the country, most of my friends are already married. Justin’s from a large city, and only 1 of his friends has married. We’re all the same age. Its interesting to see the difference in small town vs City .

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Kita, Guest @ 9:02 am

    I think it has nothing to do with fertility treatments as a safety net. I agree with you in that it is related to where you are in life, especially if you are getting degrees. Many women along with thier male (or female ) counter part are career driven and more people are able to pursure further education now than in the past (and in many cases need to in order to stay competitive in today’s job industry) . Also, its obviously related to when that special someone comes into our lives!

    I also think people in general (men and women) are less willing to accept a mate who do not “mesh” with them as best as possible. I think esp think we as women accept less in relationships now days than women were willing to accept in previous decades. ;o)

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Kita, Guest @ 9:05 am

    Oh, forgot to say, I am 28 and my fiance 32. Getting married in the spring and I am JUST now finishing my masters degree. i’ve been broke 4ever!

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    caribqueen, Guest @ 9:14 am

    I am not sure that there is necessarily a better age to get married although as someone who will get married a month shy of her 32nd birthday (FI will be two months shy of 34!) I feel like I feel comfortable to be getting married at this age. I’ve gotten that education I wanted, had my own apartments, travelled and dated so I feel like I knew what I was looking for in a partner and am happy to have found him. At the same time, I think about the “time pressure” of starting a family. I live in New York City so it’s pretty common to see older parents here. I definitely feel some pressure to think about starting a family. At the same time I also want to enjoy the early years of marriage. We’ll see what happens.

  6. deviledegg Member
    deviledegg 1250 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:28 am

    I saw that article yesterday and the thing that got me was the headline:
    “Sooner vs. later: Is there an ideal age for first marriage?”
    It says “first” like all marriages are doomed to fail and you’ll use the experience to be better prepared when you become old enough to enter in to your next one. Sure age and maturity can be contributing factors in making a marriage successful, but why the heck did they have to use “first”???!?!! That bothered me. I don’t know anyone who enters into a marriage thinking it will be their first. It’s a weird choice of words.

  7. Member
    JanieLeigh 581 posts, Busy bee @ 10:04 am

    well i suppose i’m the outcast here, but my fiance and i are both 20! we had planned to get married early next summer when he’ll be 21 and i’ll still be 20, but we’re holding off until next december. we’ll both be 21, but that doesn’t seem young to us. we’ve definitely heard a few of the, “you’re too young to be married”‘s but we could care less what they have to say! :) but, it’s definitely the norm to get married young where i live (virginia). i would say most of my friends are married, engaged, or on their way.

  8. Member
    JanieLeigh 581 posts, Busy bee @ 10:06 am

    ps: i just read your about me, and you have the coolest job(s) ever!

  9. cheese Member
    cheese 801 posts, Busy bee @ 10:07 am

    @Miss Deviled Egg: I wonder if they worded it that way in order to be able to use their stats. Ya know, like maybe they didn’t include stats on second marriages? *shrug* It is weird wording.
    I waffle between feeling very old and very young (I’m 29). I see people getting married who seem so young, but that’s just because I’m getting older. And then, faced with the enormity of the rest of my life, I feel so young. Also, my mister is three (well, 2.5) years younger than I am, so I often think that he seems so young!
    I agree with Kita that our expectations are pretty high — we aren’t really willing to settle for less than what we think is perfect, and so finding the right person can take longer. I wonder how much of it is also that we’re (speaking for myself, actually) a little intimidated and lost about what it means to be a wife anymore.

  10. Member
    nada122 151 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:14 am

    @miss deviled egg: Miss Cheese is right. I’m a journalist and when you use stats at all, you have to be pretty specific so that people don’t get confused or misunderstand. With this, people could think ALL marriages, but they’re only talking about people who are getting married for the first time (that’s how they should have said it)

    anyway, i read the whole article because it’s really interesting… I’m 20 and my fiance is 22. We’re “young,” yes, but we’re both done with our degrees and working with good companies. I think you shouldn’t put an age on marriage and it really only matters per couple. you could be 30 and still be immature and not ready or you can be 22 and ready for the commitment. As someone who always hears “you’re so young…” I strongly believe age is nothing but a number and that your society and culture really shapes the conceptions of marriage.

    whatever age you are — GOOD LUCK!!

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    Emma, Guest @ 10:25 am

    I’ve thought a lot about this. Like you, I was 26 when I got married back in June. None of my friends have gotten married yet. I don’t plan on having kids for *at least* the next three years. I look forward to enjoying a few years of marriage with my husband before we think about a family. My goal is to finish grad school and hopefully get started in a new career before kids come in to play. However, life doesn’t always work out according to one’s carefully laid plans. I know plenty of women getting married in their mid-late thirties and immediately having babies. I am happy that I found my partner early in life, but realize it had a lot to do with luck.

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    jess03, Guest @ 10:49 am

    I’ve also heard that if you’ve graduated from college, the average age is like 30 for a man and 28 for a woman. (This used to make me feel better when I was single. ;-)).

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    Nicole R., Guest @ 11:28 am

    I think when those are out of school and are in their careers, that is a good time. It is difficult to start your lives together in debt or while in school, yet not impossible. A lot of my friends have married when one or both in the relationship is done with school/has a career.

  14. Member
    DCKate 78 posts, Worker bee @ 11:50 am

    We’re slightly older than average… I’ll be 28 and J will be 32. Most of his friends are married, and mine are about half and half. But, it definitely feels like the right time to us. I probably really felt ready when I was 26.

    An interesting note, I was engaged back in college, and broke it off after graduation once I realized how BIG the world is and how much I still had to learn. I was single and on my own for two years before meeting J. I love him and our life now, but those two years were awesome, and I count that as one of the best decisions I ever made. I learned so much about myself and had so many great experiences. I am definitely more ready to move on to a new phase now than I was right out of college. We have a home, are settled in our careers and excited about the future. Obviously, everyone has a different experience, and I know people who’ve gotten married young and are very happy. But for me, this route worked out so well.

  15. Member
    DCKate 78 posts, Worker bee @ 11:53 am

    @JanieLeigh: I’m in Virginia too! Where are you? We live in northern Va, so it’s probably a little different here, but I went to school in Harrisonburg and people did get married pretty young there. Up here I think it trends more toward the average. Best of luck!

  16. Member
    DCKate 78 posts, Worker bee @ 11:58 am

    @Miss Deviled Egg: I think that is for statistical reference… they need to compare apples to apples. If you were adding in average ages for 2nd (or 3rd or 4th…) marriages, it would completely skew the data, plus you’d have people counted twice (i.e. if someone is 23 at 1st marriage and 32 at 2nd, which do you count? Both?) and that wouldn’t compare correctly to someone who’s only been married once at say, 25. Does that make sense? Okay, stats geek going back into hiding….

  17. Member
    suzanno 2683 posts, Sugar bee @ 12:18 pm

    I think that obviously women marry later now than they have historically because they have more choices. Back when my mom got married (early 60s) it was still fairly unusual for a woman to have a real career – you were raised with the idea that you might work for a while, until you found a good man, but then your job was raising the kids.

    Today, women are much more likely to think in terms of a career rather than a temporary job. And even if you plan to have children, you might plan to continue to work – in which case it’s probably better to put off kids until you have your career somewhat established.

    I don’t think that anybody purposely puts off having kids, thinking that they will just take a lot of drugs and it will be okay. But many women in their late 30s or early 40s have no trouble conceiving, and many of my friends feel that they would love to have kids someday, but absolutely don’t feel that it’s a priority. And that just makes sense, now that women for the most part have a way of defining their worth that has nothing to do with having kids.

  18. Guest Icon Guest
    MissyJenn, Guest @ 12:26 pm

    I have to admit at my age (31) it sucks to be single. All of my friends are married and some are even on the seond child! While I don’t get pressure from friends or family about getting married and starting a family, I do have my own “clock” in myself-the one that says…ok I should be married by now, or at least have an engagement ring. (It’s depressing when I’m on my commute and literally, every other woman I see has an engagement ring on!) Or ok, I should be having kids by now b/c of the cliche that your eggs aren’t as fertile the older you get. who knows…I’m just praying it’ll have in 2 years or so…hopefully before I’m 35!

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    RenaissanceTrophyWife, Guest @ 12:38 pm

    I think it’s a little bit of both. Like suzanno said, women have so many more career options today– but the availability of fertility treatments may make it more comfortable for women to focus on their career first.

    I’m almost 27, and we’ll be married 2 years from now (my guy is 32). After finishing med school a couple years ago and starting fresh in a new field, I want to solidify my career path a little more before concentrating on another big life event– but that’s also because we’re planning on starting a family right after getting married, and hopefully the first kid will come along when I’m about 30.

    In the end, our choices are so dependent on what our individual priorities are– some people are mature enough to marry early, some feel more comfortable waiting, for various reasons. And like you said, all our plans can change suddenly. I’m just happy we have the choices we do, instead of being limited as women were only a few decades ago!

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    budgetbeautiful, Guest @ 12:41 pm

    Even if I had met Mr. Right when I was 25, I would not have been ready for marriage. I’m 32 and will be 33 when we tie the knot. He’s 30 and will be 31. I do wish we had met younger so we could have more time to enjoy being a married couple before we have children, but we’ve agreed that we’ll give it one year before we start trying for children. If I was younger, that year would probably be two or three, but I am kind of paranoid about having children over 35, so I’d rather start sooner than later.

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    Meganleigh, Guest @ 12:44 pm

    My fiance and I are both 23 and when we get married he’ll be 24. Which is pretty standard for the area we’re from. My sister was 22 and her husband was 21 when they were married, and his brother and wife were also 22 and 21 when they were married. I don’t know if it’s a family thing with us or what, but now my cousin (who’s the same age as me) is engaged and getting married this summer! My parents were a little bit older when they were married, 25 and 26. On the other end of the spectrum, my mom’s brothers are still both unmarried well into their 40’s and I’m the first of my close friends to be engaged.

  22. penguin Member
    penguin 3490 posts, Sugar bee @ 12:47 pm

    I’d like to be PC and say that any age is good to be married as long as you are in love, and all people are mentally different and that kind of stuff but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 28-29-30 is the ideal age to get married. I am a very different person today than I was at 21, and I will probably be very different at age 30, but I think your ideals and expectations for your life and partner are solidified in your late twenties early thirties and I think. There are great success and failure stories for marriages at any age of course, so this is only my opinion for me and my own life.

    I was married at 26, and not to say that I’d have preferred to wait longer (we’d been dating for 7 years at that point) but I know that if we’d had a shorter relationship (1-2 years) I’d be happy waiting until I was 28 or 29. I felt like a “younger bride” at 26. Most of my friends are not married yet.

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    tracy, Guest @ 12:49 pm

    I got married at 23, and husband was 24. I wouldn’t have had it any other way :) We get to experience a lot of new things in life together and it’s great!

  24. Member
    JanieLeigh 581 posts, Busy bee @ 2:11 pm

    @DCKate: i’m orginially from the hampton roads area, but i’m in lynchburg right now for school. marrying young seems to be a trend in both places, but i would say more so here in lynchburg. my school is pretty much a marriage machine! ha :)

  25. Guest Icon Guest
    Miss Kate, Guest @ 2:12 pm

    I got engaged at 21 to a man who was 33. That didn’t last and luckily we didn’t make it to the alter (I wore a ring for 2 years before realizing he didn’t really want to wear one himself).

    Fast forward and today I’m 27, my darling BoyManPerson will be 34 when we marry in Feb. Because of his age, and some medical hee-haw on my side, we want to wait one year and then start working on a family. Sure it would have been awesome to meet sooner – but who’s to say it would have worked?

    I’ve never been a fan of guys who were only half-baked… I always felt that my own self-growth involved enough baggage. There’s a lot of growing up to do in your twenties (and for some it bleeds into your thirties, forties, and beyond). This isn’t to say that miraculously you’re done with growth at 30 and therefore should be ready to settle down. I have friends who are 40 and love the idea of a solid relationship and marriage/family but lack the skills to make it work, and lack the desire to hone those skills.

    So it’s personality and age. We both wanted to find someone, get married, start a family…. but we both had a blast being single, too.

    Frankly, I think we both feel lucky that we got to do what we got to do — travel, spend time with friends, have a couple jobs, grow as people, discover ourselves.

    I know the girl he’s marrying, so he can be sure he knows that same girl.

  26. Guest Icon Guest
    Moni, Guest @ 2:24 pm

    I’m 24 and my fiance is 25 and we’ll be 24 and 26 when we get married in September, since it’ll be a few weeks before my 25th birthday. I graduated from college before I was 21, started a career in finance, realized that wasn’t what I really wanted and am now back in law school. We’ve been together 5.5 years and experienced everything from living 20 minutes apart to two years in different countries, so I am confident that our relationship is solid.

    Even though we’re planning on getting married next year, we’re definitely gonna wait a few years before even thinking about having kids. We’d like to enjoy being “we” before we make it “three”. A few of my friends/former classmates are married or engaged, though most are still single or dating.

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    Jo, Guest @ 2:35 pm

    When I was eighteen and a freshman at a very small liberal arts school, I felt virtually alone in that I could have seen myself planning a wedding at that point in my life. I couldn’t have handled the marriage itself, but I didn’t think it was crazy to consider engagement at 18.

    Then, after graduating college at 21, I could see myself waiting until I was 35 or 40, if I ever got married. I’d joined the ranks of my classmates who’d criticized me four years earlier for wanting to marry young, and I was skeptical when the first few couples of my graduating class married that summer.

    Well, six months later, I met my husband. He was 20 at the time, still finishing his undergraduate degree, and I was 22. Now I’m glad I married young, because I want to have kids relatively early (my parents were both about 35 when I was born, and I’ve watched them age pretty quickly the last few years), and this way I have plenty of time to enjoy the marriage before we introduce kids into the picture.

    I did not marry young to fulfill any grand plans I had – I just happened to meet the right person at this particular time, and it seemed silly to wait when we knew we were going to marry eventually.

  28. Guest Icon Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 2:38 pm

    @@Mrs. Penguin: I feel the exact same age. I would have waited until I was older (I got married right after I turned 26) but we’d been together for 6 years and were very ready for that next step. I did feel like a young bride, and now, a very strange feeling as the only one of my friends who is married. Seeing my husband’s ring when we’re hanging out with our friends is still a strange sight.

  29. Guest Icon Guest
    Kate, Guest @ 2:56 pm

    Hi – I don’t think it is the fertility that keep us from marrying young. Many women now a days go for post- grad programs and want to get into a career – want to be “successful” on their own first before marriage. Also, I think it is a personal decision and what couples, and you yourself want to do. I will be 29 and my FI will be 31 when we marry – I always wanted to be a 26 year old bride, but I was just not ready at the time. I think it is also a lot of women are making “sure” they are with the one, with so many failed marriages, I think we are more cautious than years ago. If you find out younger that it is perfect, all the better, but if it is later in life, not a problem either!

  30. Guest Icon Guest
    caribqueen, Guest @ 3:50 pm

    @DCKate: My FI went to college in Harrisonburg as well. I’ve actually been there. Most of his college friends have been married for quite some time with many already on their 2nd child. He’s from the Northeast like me. That’s why I mentioned the regional difference. I definitely felt like the odd person out at some of gatherings with college friends (although they are all quite sweet).

  31. Guest Icon Guest
    ce, Guest @ 4:06 pm

    Regarding the optimum age to have children, it is unfortunate that biology is at odds with society. It is certainly possible to get pregnant in our late 30’s/early 40’s, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Even fertility treatments have limitations aside from high cost. I’m not advocating rushing into marriage or children, but it stinks that our bodies are programmed to lose fertility around the time that many of us are ready to take that step towards building a family.

  32. msgiraffe Member
    msgiraffe 4248 posts, Honey bee @ 5:31 pm

    We’re recently engaged (2.5 weeks ago) and I am 21 and the future Mister is 22. We’ve been together for 3.5 years. I graduate (undergrad) in May and we plan on getting married the following May. That gives us a year & a half engagement, and also a year for me to job hunt/work.

    I know we’re young, but I also know he is the one for me :). It’s like in Harry Met Sally – “When you find the one you want to spend the rest of you life with, you want the rest of you life to start right now.”

  33. Guest Icon Guest
    jenna, Guest @ 6:09 pm

    I am 26, and in a very serious relationship for nearly three years. The Someday Mr. just turned 28. It was comforting to know that we are somewhat “average” by the numbers. I feel like I was on social hiatus while I was in Law School, and I just now can focus on building the rest of my life. Many of my married or soon to be married friends got engaged at 23 or 24, and had the standard year-long engagement. While they were picking out flower arrangements, I was studying, having the bride’s little sister (who is my exact size) try on brides maids dresses for me, and generally feeling like I was out of the loop completely. The difficulty now is explaining to Someday Mr. that now would be a wonderful time to get married (despite the obvious fact that we are both broke while starting new careers). Increased fertility options hasn’t inspired me to “wait” to marry. On the contrary, with my career, there is less risk in taking time off work to have children while you are newer—because there isn’t as much to lose. I am not hearing a loud tick-tock of a biological clock or anything, but I am looking forward to starting it sooner rather than later.

  34. Guest Icon Guest
    historybride, Guest @ 6:53 pm

    I’m 21, FI is 22. We’ll both have aged one digit by the time we get married, but there was never a question of age for us. It’s just the right time. I’m happy because that means that we can still take a few years to ourselves before we start having kids. I really don’t want to be an old parent, I want to have energy and be involved with my kids and grandkids.

  35. espresso Member
    espresso 1308 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:38 pm

    I saw this article too! My age was way off- married at 23 and I always had people (who didn’t know us very well) saying: oh- but you’re so young. Which made me just kind of look at them and think- you’re right- open your planner- when do you think I should get married? :)

  36. Member
    emilygrace 17 posts, Newbee @ 9:00 pm

    I am engaged and 18. I will be married at 19, but ill be a week off 20. My goals are marriage and children.. they will be what I feel the most pride about when Im 80, so I always knew Id marry young. For me, anything over 23 would be too old.

  37. Guest Icon Guest
    rksquared, Guest @ 3:57 am

    I’m 31 and DH is 32. We were married in September. Most of our friends are already married, although many of the weddings have been in the last few years. I don’t feel like we’re “old”, but am definitely feeling a “clock ticking”. We’re not having kids right away, but I would definitely prefer not to use fertility treatments, so they are in no way seen as a “safety net” to me. (I’m not opposed to them, as my mom used fertility drugs for 2 of 3 pregnancies, just prefer not to if possible.) Also, it saddens me to know that if we have children in our mid-to-late thirties, and our children also follow that pattern, it is likely that our grandchildren will hardly know us, and the likelihood that we will be around for their weddings is very slim.

    That being said, I don’t know that either of us would have been truly ready to get married any younger than we did.

  38. Guest Icon Guest
    Krista, Guest @ 12:04 pm

    I think you need to be old enough (i.e. mature enough) to make the commitment. I wasn’t ready to make that commitment at 21, and I suspect most are not. Maybe some are, but I don’t know. Beyond being mature enough, I don’t think there’s a too old. Sure, there are issues if you want kids. But I think you’re better off not marrying than to marry the wrong person. That’s just me.
    I’m 26 now (will be 27 when I get married) and we started dating when I was 20.

  39. Guest Icon Guest
    at, Guest @ 10:42 am

    I got proposed to about 10 minutes after I read that article (I was telling him about it and then he called me into the other room to ask me to marry him)!!! I’m 32…

  40. Guest Icon Guest
    Kim Ramos, Guest @ 11:30 am

    This is pretty random but I stumbled on your page when I googled resturant receptions and your wedding mirrors the idea I have for my May 2009 wedding! I have become increasingly discouraged with people telling me that it can’t be done, it will be awkward, how are we going to incorporate music.. blah blah blah. We fould an amazing place in downtown Nyack where my fiance’ and I go to school that we absolutely love! It would accomodate hundreds of people but our bugdey is tight and we only want people who truely care about us there… ANYWAY!!! all of that to say this:
    How did you pull it off? How did you incorporate dancing, keep everyone entertained, manage the age differences and (possibly) the people who didn’t know anyone else but you and your fiance’? How did you keep from awkward silences/pauses/keep the party flowing?
    Any advise would be a blessing because our wedding is 5 months away and we are so discouraged. Feel free to e-mail me if its easier for you (

    Thank you and God bless-
    Kim Ramos.

  41. Member
    mooreshugar 103 posts, Blushing bee @ 9:49 am

    i wonder how the average ages differ throughout the different regions of the country. After living in the midwest, texas, and east coast, I def. see differences. It seems like people get married down south a lot earlier than people in the north.

    I’m not sure why this is, perhaps the bible belt affect, that their beliefs suggest needing to be married before living together, or sleeping together, or just tradition, or another reason all together.

  42. Guest Icon Guest
    oncearound, Guest @ 6:25 am

    I really don’t think there is an average age anymore. I knew of many young couples marrying in college or right out of college and thinking how great it was to be in love and have all their ducks in a row: an education, a job, a marriage before the age of 25. Most that I know now who married young are divorced, getting divorced, or are looking for casual affairs on the internet. This can happen at any age, but those who marry young should remember life doesn’t follow a linear time line, and people change, and marriage takes serious work. I married in my 30’s, and my husband and I never once thought about how we missed out by not marrying younger, biological clocks, or anything of the sort. Just how lucky we were to have never compromised on a perfect match out of fear of being alone or childless. And how lucky we were to have found each other. (And also how ironic it was to have many friends and colleagues once blissfully married with kids, now at our age, constantly on

  43. Guest Icon Guest
    Paula, Guest @ 1:30 pm

    Ok. So, I like’m young. He’s 28-I’m 56. We love each other and want to marry. Everybody thinks we are crazy. How do I not allow others to mess with this relationship with their own ‘izms..’ and just be happy for us. If there is a mistake made, we will make it. Friends are suppose to support you or else they are not friends. Just curious- are there any stats on a relationship working with this large of a gap?

  44. Member
    ilovenycmissie 1555 posts, Bumble bee @ 5:07 pm

    yeah I know a lot depends on location, for example, in NYC I have many girlfriends late 20’s and early 30’s still not hitched or in a serious relationship, one is because of the type of dating pool where in big cities men want to have a good time and not settle down,and two, the big city attracts a certain personality and many professionals; in the south in small towns where it is not as career driven people tend to marry younger; so it depends on location and frame of mind

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