married during medical school

Getting Married During Medical School: What You Need To Know

If you dated a ‘pre-med’ in college, you adjusted to life around their class schedule, proper sleep, clinical hours, applications, exams, and more. Sound about right? You’re here, so it looks like you’ve embraced this, your destiny with your doctor-to-be, and you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level. But once again, you’re up against a roadblock. You want to get married during medical school. So, when’s the best time? We have some answers.

Before we get started, we feel like it’s important to establish some expectations when it comes to planning a wedding during this time. We’ll begin by stating the obvious: medical school is stressful. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to navigate it with success. Add on $250k+ in medical school debt and it’s a wonder med students aren’t immediately assigned a therapist with their acceptance letter.

That being said, if you plan on getting married during medical school, your doctor-to-be will not have the mental capacity to help with wedding planning. If you don’t have the bandwidth to plan the majority of it yourself, then downsize the wedding, hire a planner, or elope. Do not expect your med student to contribute in any major way. The only exception to this rule is if your med student loves planning and it provides some sort of stress relief. Otherwise, manage your expectations and plan accordingly.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to it. When is the best time to get married during medical school? Here’s a chronological timeline, with important milestones, to help you both decide when it’s best to tie the knot!

First Year Medical School (M1 or MS1)

Best time to walk down the aisle: Winter break

Does getting married during the first year of medical school sound like a dream? You may want to think twice. While logistically it may seem feasible, it’s often recommended that first-year medical students avoid taking on too much. During this time they’re beginning to learn balance and how to practice self-care. Both of which are important aspects of becoming a healthy physician. Wedding planning overwhelm may not be such a great idea for either of you right now. 

If you understand all of this and still can’t wait to pledge one’s troth (we get it!), think about hosting a wedding over winter break. You’ll know these dates well in advance and it’s an easy time to get friends and family together. 

Summer Break Between MS1 and MS2

Best time to get hitched: Anytime

Good news! Getting married over the summer break between MS1 and MS2 seems to be the sweet spot. Why? Similar to a college schedule, you can (generally) expect the summer break to be long enough to squeeze in both a wedding and a honeymoon.

Some medical students try to take on research or other activities to build their resume during this time, but it’s not necessarily required. It’s very normal to take some time to enjoy the break in preparation for MS2. A wedding now could actually be perfect. After this summer, your ‘typical’ summer break will be non-existent. 

A word of caution. You may be imagining a summer similar to the long summer breaks you enjoyed in college. This isn’t always the case. Some medical schools only give students a couple weeks off, so if you’re also planning a honeymoon during that time, you could be working with tighter dates. 

Second Year Medical School (M2 or MS2)

Best time to join in wedlock: Winter break

MS2 is definitely busier than the first year, but not close to as busy as the third and fourth years when clinical rotations are in full swing. Even though the USMLE Step-1 exam is usually taken after MS2, medical students begin studying for this exam in the late fall/winter timeframe. This is a tough exam.

So when is a good time? If you’re thinking about getting hitched during MS2, think about going through with it during the winter/holiday break. Not only is it a good time to gather family and friends; school-wise, the stress of the USMLE Step-1 exam hasn’t fully set in. That comes in full force after the holidays.

If you decide to say ‘I do” during the winter break/holiday but can’t squeeze in a honeymoon, think about taking that trip after the USMLE Step-1 exam and before MS3 clinical rotations begin. 

Hot tip: Add noise-canceling headphones and a sound machine to your registry. They’ll be a great gift for your doctor-to-be since the USMLE Step-1 exam is probably the most difficult exam they’ll take yet.  

Summer Holiday Between MS2 and MS3

Best time to become espoused: After USMLE Step-1 exam

Although ‘summer breaks’ don’t really exist after MS2, medical students are usually given a nice chunk of time off to take their Step-1 exam. You may be able to fit in a wedding (and a short honeymoon?!) once the exam is complete. 

This may actually be the perfect time to unwind and celebrate some milestones. Medical school is halfway over and the first major exam is complete. Pop the bubbly! We’ll cheers to that!

Third Year Medical School (M3 or MS3)

Best time to take the plunge: Vacation block

MS3 is arguably one of the worst times for a wedding. This is when students begin clinical rotations and their definition of ‘busy’ will take on a whole new meaning. That being said, you might be able to squeeze in the nuptials (and a short honeymoon) during a vacation block.

Other things to consider this year:

  • Medical students take the USMLE Step-2 exam after completing clinical rotations. This exam could also be taken in MS4. While this exam is not considered as difficult as Step-1, it’s still a major exam, needing significant preparation. This means more studying.
  • If you’re trying to decide between MS3 and MS4 wedding dates, there’s an argument to be made that the stress of MS3 clinicals (busyness) is different from the stress of the MS4 MATCH process (uncertainty). Only you know how you both handle stress and which is the lesser of the two evils.

Fourth Year Medical School (M4 or MS4)

Best time to commit: Right before/right after residency interviews, after MATCH, or after graduation

The fourth year of medical school can be a lot, but there are ‘less busy’ times you can take advantage of if you want to get hitched. Again, keep in mind that this is a continuation of clinicals, but add to it completing residency applications, residency interviews, and MATCH week. This takes you through March of MS4. 

If you want to settle down during MS4, think about doing it before residency interviews begin in early fall or right after interviews are completed in the winter. Otherwise, you may want to wait until after MATCH week in March. 

Other things to consider this year:

  • Your medical student may not match with any residency programs during MATCH week. In this case, they will immediately need to go through the SOAP process. If there is still no match after SOAP, there will be more scrambling to figure out the next steps. This is the worst-case scenario, but something to keep in mind that may put a damper on post-Match wedding bliss. 

Here’s where we remind you. If this happens, this is not the end of the road or something that happens only to your beloved. There are PLENTY of unmatched medical students who have gone on to become successful physicians, practicing in the specialty of their dreams. Your road just looks different than others and sometimes it can be surprisingly better. 

Whether you decide to get married during medical school, wait for residency, or after training is complete, there’s really no perfect time to tie the knot when you’re marrying a doctor. You’ll always have something to contend with. The schedule. The patients. Some sort of exam. If you’re almost to the altar, you’ve already figured this out, adjusted, and understand that flexibility is key. You’ll adapt, you’ll move things around, and you’ll manage to find a ‘good enough’ time to make all your wedding dreams come true. 

  • Elizabeth is a Physician family advocate, Certified Life Coach for Physician Wives, EM wife of 20+ years, mother, and founder of The MedCommons – a marriage between her tech/business dev background and passion for helping physician families.

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