Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ted Cunningham's book, Young and in Love: Challenging the Unnecessary Delay of Marriage, (David C. Cook, 2011).

If you fall in love with someone when you’re young, you may naturally want to get married. But finding support for a young marriage can be difficult. Your parents, friends, and church leaders may all discourage you from walking down the aisle, saying that you and your boyfriend or girlfriend are too young to build a healthy and lasting marriage.

So many young people have chosen to delay marriage that people are now getting married later in life than ever before in history. Yet your age doesn’t determine how ready you are for marriage; your maturity does. You may actually be ready to get married right now, when you’re still young – and if so, unnecessarily delaying marriage will only cause you to miss part of the life that God wants you and your future spouse to begin.

Here’s how you can turn young love into marriage if you sense God leading you to wed:

Realize that the desire to get married is healthy. God created marriage, and He has instilled the desire to get married within many people. So there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get married; it’s a good desire that you should honor. Choose to view marriage as the gift from God that it is (freeing you and the one you love to enjoy the blessings of intimacy) rather than the distorted way our culture presents marriage (as a prison to avoid while you’re young so you can enjoy life as a single person).

Be aware of the consequences of delaying marriage. If you get married too late in life, you may lose out on lots of potential marriage partners who will be taken by other people later on, you will face increasing pressure to have sex outside of marriage from the people you date, you may experience difficulty conceiving children, and you may not live long enough to have relationships with your grandchildren.

Recognize that marriage gives you valuable opportunities to launch into adulthood. Marriage forces you to accept the responsibility of learning how to work well with another person, which helps you develop the kind of character you need to become a healthy and productive adult. Remaining single for a long time may cause you to become mired in a selfish lifestyle that prolongs your adolescence, delaying the maturity God wants you to develop.

Honor your parents when deciding whether or not to marry. If your parents aren’t convinced that you and your boyfriend or girlfriend are ready to get married, talk with them about their concerns and work with them to make changes in your lives to demonstrate greater maturity. Then ask for their blessing on an upcoming marriage between you.

Make practical plans for how to support yourselves. Rather than just jumping into marriage thinking that love is all you need, set specific goals for how you and your future spouse will complete your education, get good jobs, and earn the money you need to support yourselves without having to rely on financial support from others, such as your parents. Once you’ve set those goals, work hard to achieve them. Invite God to work in all parts of your life to transform you into a person who takes responsibility for your own decisions and tries your best to fulfill God’s purposes for your life.

Find some marriage mentors. Ask a couple you admire and who has been married for a long time to serve as mentors for you and your boyfriend and girlfriend. Observe how the veteran spouses interact, and learn from what they say and do as they model married life for you. Ask them to pray for you and answer your questions about marriage, as well.