Here's the Definitive Data Behind How Gen Z and Millennials Meet and Fall in Love

There's a stark contrast between the two.
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Esther Lee - Senior Editor, The Knot
by Esther Lee
Esther Lee - Senior Editor, The Knot
Esther Lee
Senior Editor
  • Oversees all news and trending content at The Knot.
  • Defines new terms for the wedding industry.
  • Thrives in interviews both for her stories and in reverse, for the brand.
Updated Dec 17, 2020
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It was speculation before, but the data confirms: there is a distinct difference between how Gen Z-ers and millennials meet and get engaged. According to The Knot 2020 Jewelry and Engagement Study, key indicators for first-met stories ("meet-cutes" in internet terms) differ between the age groups of 18 to 24, which is considered Gen Z, as opposed to young millennials who fall between the ages of 25 to 29. See the breakdown of the data below, and find out exactly what Gen Z seeks to prioritize even before entering into a serious relationship.

Gen Z vs. Millennials: How They Meet

Dating apps are now the most popular avenue for how engaged couples meet with 26% of all survey respondents in 2020 saying they met their significant other online. However, dating apps are currently the reigning method for meeting a life partner for only one generation: 26% of millennials said they met through apps or online (Tinder, Hinge, Bumble) while only 16% of Gen Z engaged couples selected that option.

Instead, among those in Gen Z who got engaged in 2020, the most popular avenue of meeting was in school, whether it be college or grad school. About one out of every four engaged Gen Z couples, said they met and fell in love this way. It will still a popular option among millennials too, with 18% of respondents selecting this option.

Closely linked was the notion of high school sweethearts and eventual engagements. Considering the age group, 17% of all Gen Z respondents said they met in high school, while only 6% of millennials replied with that option. Finally, the childhood link accounted for a small percentage of couples (talk about lifelong friendship) with 3% of millennials selecting that they knew their partner since childhood; and 5% of Gen Z respondents said the same.

Friends of friends continue to be another popular route for meeting a life partner. Approximately 18% of Millennials in our pool of respondents said they met through mutual friends, while 14% of Gen Zers surveyed said the same. Other means of meeting include the workplace (14% of millennials; 11% of Gen Z) and other social settings like bars, concerts and parties (11% of millennials; 6% of Gen Z).

What Gen Z Prioritizes Before Marriage

Platforms like TikTok and YouTube aren't only front-of-mind for Gen Z and younger millennials. According to The Future of Relationships & Weddings Study released by The Knot earlier this year, attitudes and expectations among the "GenZennials" or Gen Z and younger millennials regarding marriages and weddings is evolving with a focus on several life objectives before commitment. The study, which surveyed nearly 1,000 older members of Gen Z and young millennials this spring, found what exactly this particular crop of 20-somethings would like to prioritize before they even walk down the aisle: First on the list was establishing and achieving financial independence.

Gen Z Prioritizes Financial Independence

For Gen Z and relationships, the greatest focus falls first on financial independence--and later, love. Among two-thirds of respondents ranked financial independence, along with building a successful career and owning a home, as the three top priorities for Gen Z before weddings and marriage enter the picture.

"Financial independence means having the freedom of choice," says Colleen McCreary, Chief People Officer at personal finance company Credit Karma. Examples include how your time is spent, where you choose to work, and even, where you decide to live. "Being financially independent means you don't need to rely on others to help you reach the financial goals you set for yourself," McCreary explains. "It means having control over the process in order to feel comfortable with your financial standing, whether that means paying off your debts, building out your savings, or spending [your hard-earned] money."

Gen Z Also Seeks Career Stability Before Marriage

In many ways, being financially independent is the result of a stable career; often, both are directly correlated. "Financial independence allows you to take risks in your career. You're not trapped in a company or a job that doesn't bring you satisfaction," explains McCreary. "You are more likely comfortable switching industries, roles--thinking about startups or even starting your own business. Additionally, people who are financially independent tend to express more confidence in their decision-making and are less afraid to raise their voices, having opinions that often allow them to be more comfortable with new leadership opportunities. Certainly having the ability to focus on your work is an advantage versus having the additional mental energy being used up with worry around debt, paying your bills, or losing your home."

Gen Z males were more likely than females to prioritize building a successful career (51 percent vs. 45 percent) and buying a house (37 percent vs. 27 percent), whereas 48 percent of females over 28 percent of men said graduating school was second in importance after financial independence.

The Average Age Gen Z Wants to Get Married

Gen Z, while focused on their goals for now, believe the average age they will get married is 27. Meanwhile, millennials have skewed the average age of marriage in the US to 32, according to The Knot 2019 Real Weddings Study.

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