How to write honest already-married wedding invitations (when you’re already legally married, but having a wedding anyway!)

Guest post by Ruth
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Yes, I know these “We did the damn thing!” email marriage announcements look like they're printed… but they're delivered as an email.

We sent out our Save the Dates. We're having a pretty relaxed, but pretty big, picnic wedding in a park. I'll wear a white dress, he'll wear a suit, there may be speeches, there will be games.

But we're already married. We have been since December. Due to circumstances, we got married in a tiny ceremony, with only our immediate family and the pastor — a total of nine people in attendance. A lot of people know we're married, but a lot of people still don't. We haven't announced it publicly, and we won't until all three of our weddings are over and done with (more on that later) and we can say for sure, regardless of what country we're in, we're married!

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We love this wedding announcement design from Etsy seller Studio Forty Design

So as I put together our WordPress wedsite, and our Save the Dates, I thought a lot about wording, and about transparency, and about inclusion.

My husband Howard wanted (in some extent) to keep the legal wedding under wraps. He didn't want anyone to feel left out, or hurt that they weren't there at the “real” wedding. It rubbed me the wrong way, though, to deceive them through omission into thinking that they were there at the “real” wedding, even when people sitting next to them knew the whole story.

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This offbeat marriage announcement is from our pals at Green Envelope

Originally, I had a tab on our wedsite for each of our three weddings: the tiny legal wedding, the Korean wedding with his family, and the American wedding with my family. Originally I had cute names for each of the three weddings, to try to put everything into perspective: a Union of Families in December, a Union of Spheres of Influence in America, a Union of Nations in Korea. Originally, I had wanted to include lots of photos from the legal wedding on our wedsite, to make the announcement (and show off how great we all looked). Originally, I wanted to include a line in the Save the Date wording explaining each wedding.

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Love is patient… but we're not email marriage announcement from The Green Envelope

But Howard is right, and we decided to not “rub it in.” We were able to find a balance of transparency and tact. I took down all but four of the photos from the legal wedding, and streamlined the wedsite — focusing on the American wedding, and our Google Docs RSVP form.

Once the wedsite was streamlined, writing the Save the Date was surprisingly simple. It just says, “Howard and Ruth are celebrating their marriage.” That's what it is!

save the date for when youre already married
This was our final design!

We feel like our marriage began when we decided to do it, not when we said “I do.” Truly, every day will be a celebration of our marriage. That Sunday in August will simply be a bigger celebration with our friends and family.

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Comments on How to write honest already-married wedding invitations (when you’re already legally married, but having a wedding anyway!)

  1. Congratulations and best wishes for your lovely wedding celebrations, all of them! 🙂 My partner and I also had a tiny legal ceremony and subsequent international tour. Our postcard invitations were worded very similarly to your Save-The-Date cards, for the same reasons. I send you a big hug and high-five — planning international celebrations and balancing families is no easy task!

  2. We had separate weddings too. Only two witnesses at the legal one. 150 of our “closest friends” at the Jewish one. We simply made the invite say “join us as we meet under the chuppah”. Didn’t mention the legal stuff at all on the invite. We did mention in the program that folks wouldn’t see us sign legal paperwork, and that we wanted people to see our chuppah date as the anniversary they recognise with us. This of course only works if your non-legal celbration has an official term like chuppah ceremony, or whatever.

  3. We are getting legal before our destination wedding and honeymoon in August just a couple days before we leave for wedding. We don’t plan on really making a big deal out of it because our family is literally spread out across the entire US and our destination wedding is more about us getting married AND everyone getting to see and meet each other. It gives us more options for our intimate ceremony in the mountains, like having a very close friend officiate the ceremony and handfasting that we have completely written ourselves. We are keeping this “courthouse” stuff underwraps because only 20-30 people will be at our destination wedding, and all of them know we got legal beforehand, and it was just easier to sign the documents at the court house before leaving. Everyone else, however, meaning those not attending, will probably just think our friend was a registered celebrant. I really believe a wedding is what 2 (or more!) people make out of it. It is about commitment and all those things. Legal documents are just a formality, and it is silly how worked up people get about signing paperwork BEFORE a ceremony…

  4. We are also doing the multiple wedding thing- Legal wedding at the courthouse in France in February with only 7 guests, Church wedding in France with 80ish? guests in May, Dedication(thingy?) at my church in the states in October. We went ahead and told everyone we were married, shared pictures, consider ourselves properly married now. The only people who even hinted at being upset about not being invited to the February wedding were his aunt and grandma. I don’t mind too much, they’re the type to get upset over everything anyway. I dunno, I don’t feel like I’m rubbing it in peoples faces, we’re happy, we’re married, why hide it?

  5. I have strong feelings about this subject. So much so that this is my fourth attempt at writing a comment. Let me preface by saying that I love the wording the author chose about celebrating their marriage, I think it’s a sweet way to phrase what a wedding is all about anyway.

    I wonder where the hesitation to call a wedding ceremony a wedding ceremony comes from. Because, generally, a celebration of marriage is called a wedding. Yet, etiquette everywhere tells couples that legally wed first that it’s a huge faux pas to have a “wedding” after they’ve legally wed. Etiquette they can be called “vow renewals” but those shouldn’t occur until closer to ten years or after someone breaches the vows. Etiquette says that those “brides” are not “brides” and should not wear white. Etiquette says it’s tacky and all about a gift grab. Obviously, we know the OBE stance on tacky. But do we perpetuate this attitude when we hesitate to call our wedding celebrations weddings?

    My husband and I eloped in 2010 so that I could move with him to Germany. This summer, the day before our fourth anniversary we are having a wedding celebration with family and friends. I struggled a lot with wording so as not to pretend to something that isn’t true. My Save the Dates just said “Save the Date” and our names – including our shared last name. I agonized over invitation wording, I probably have a dozen different versions floating out there on the internet. Until I found the perfect invitation, that invited people to our “wedding celebration” and I realized, that’s exactly what we’re having. It’s a celebration of our marriage and those are usually called weddings, so that’s what I decided to go with.

    I realized through the process that I am not responsible for the way others feel about what I choose to call this day. I’m not responsible if they feel it is a farce and they are welcome to not attend if that is how they do feel. I am not responsible if they feel tricked because when we pledge our love in front of family and friends we don’t also sign a piece of paper

    I’m responsible for enjoying the day and celebration with my husband and our loved ones. It may be four years after we first said I do, but this is still our wedding celebration and we’re going to rock it. It isn’t about rubbing it in people’s faces or pretending we aren’t married so they aren’t upset – it’s about celebrating our love and marriage with the people who love and support us.

    • I agree – I’ve seen some people get very defensive about this particular issue (even here and on the tribe) and it’s a little bit baffling. I assume that it comes from a good place – people want to feel involved, and it’s easy to get upset when we feel like we’ve been left out. But ultimately, the legal side of things seems to be a personal (or, sadly, political) decision often connected with but not married to (har har) the ceremony. I really do think that if people want to separate the two for whatever reason, they should feel free to do so without feeling the need to put a big old asterisk on it. At least in the ceremonies I’ve attended, I’ve never seen the Signing of the Document be a part of the ceremony itself and would never think to follow up on that before I handed over a present and drank the complementary booze.

  6. My FH and I are common law married. We had no ceremony or anything but we are considered legally married by the state. We aren’t hiding it from people but we also aren’t announcing it. Our invitations are going to say we’re inviting people to our wedding, but we aren’t going to say anything like “getting married”, since we technically are already. I don’t think we’re misleading anyone. We don’t consider the marriage *complete* until we have the ceremony.

  7. So glad we aren’t the only ones. We will be legally wed seven months before the actual wedding, and not a single person in our family aside from his stepmom will know about it, ever! When the topic came up I was absolutely pit roasted by the traditionalists with the standard stuff about being a liar, gift grabbing, etc. The truth is that I am so amazingly glad that we did it this way rather than wait until the ceremony in October and I don’t feel like we should be ashamed of how we’re handling it.

    1. Telling people we got married and they weren’t there is definitely going to hurt their feelings and accomplish nothing

    2. Our officiant isn’t ordained so it was going to have to happen that way anyhow

    3. He got hurt at work…legal stuff made it prudent to get married now so that he can have insurance and if the case goes south or Bad Things happen in surgery doctors and the attorney can speak openly

    4. I don’t feel like we should sacrifice our wedding plans or move them up in an emergency situation making them stressful for all involved just because of #3, especially given #2!

    5. The feelings I had at our legal ceremony are not ones that I would want to work through in public, and would probably give the wrong impression of how I really do feel about our marriage. I certianly wouldn’t want our only wedding photos to be of me having a panic attack as he looks lovingly at me…I was terrified during the legal ceremony. The judge thought I was going to bolt I was so visibly scared. I don’t remember anything from it other than the image of an accidentally crushed flower and the texture of the courthouse paneling that I was concentrating on so I wouldn’t throw up. We definitely weren’t able to do loving vows and had to barrel through the bare minimum before the fear of commitment outweighed the xanax. Having the legal out of the way means I can actually ENJOY our celebration.

    • As a workers’ compensation adjustor, let me thank you for Xanax-ing your way through getting legalled. It’s so much easier when I can just say, “Oh, Mr. Amanda’s check for $X was mailed Tuesday.” Having to tell a ‘legal stranger’ to put zir 4 days post-fusion (and drugged to the gills) partner on the phone because I legally can’t even confirm the existence of the claim to a non-party…. It’s not fun on either side of that conversation. It may be just a piece of paper, but it’s a hellaciously useful one!

  8. We also got legally married before our wedding (married in January, wedding coming up in July). It’s been far less of a “big deal” than I expected. We aren’t sharing the news globally because, honestly, it’s not everyone’s business. But we’re not hiding it either. When we do talk about it, I’ve found that referring to it as “signing the paperwork” or “getting legalled” feels less weighty than “getting married”. Sometimes I give a sideways look and say “health insurance” in a mock-serious tone, and people nod knowingly and that’s that.

    For our invitations, we used the wording “as they joyfully celebrate their marriage”. It’s simple and true.

  9. Thanks for all the support, everyone! Offbeat Bride is awesome. My one and only experience with the forums on The Knot was about this very topic, and I was shocked at how uptight everyone was about it. Who cares what we call it? It would be a gift grab if we invited 100 people to the legal ceremony, expected gifts then, and then invited 100 people to the “wedding” ceremony and expected gifts then also. As it is, we don’t expect gifts at either, and only 9 people were at the first one, including us. And also, to echo what Amanda said above, being married means that I’ve had time to work through all the emotions of commitment, and I will just have a blast at the wedding party in the summer.

  10. I completely understand what you’re going through! I’m American and my boyfriend is Korean. We both live here in Korea at the moment and plan to have the legal part taken care of in fall, 2014. Then we’ll have an American celebration at some point (uhh, whenever I next go to America?) and then a big Korean wedding whenever his older brother FINALLY gets married (we’re waiting, man!). I guess the legal part is what we’re going to use as our official wedding date, but I’ve been on the fence about how to coordinate three different weddings/ceremonies/celebrations. In the end, I think it’s awesome that I get three parties! And if you’re still in Korea, we should hang out!

    • Kitzress, it’s so great to hear about someone in a similar situation~! My Korean man and I got legalled in December 2013, and we just had our ceremony in Korea in March ^^ We’re planning on having a celebration back in Canada in the summer of 2015 when we move back. I have to say that my friends and family have been really supportive of the idea – my older brother even gave me a big talk about how sometimes people don’t decide to go through with the second ceremony and how disappointed he’d be if we did that 😉 Anyway, we found a WONDERFUL photographer in Seoul – don’t know if you’re in Seoul or if you want a photographer, but if you do, just let me know ^^

    • Yes please! I just saw this, sorry. We should start a Offbeat Brides of Koreans group or something 🙂

      • Oops, I JUST saw this and am majorly late to the game here, but just in case you’re still waiting for that older brother to get hitched, here is the name of the stellar photographer we used in Seoul: Jeong Yi. Google that and you can check out his website ^^ (Wasn’t sure if I was allowed to link to his site…)

        • Clearly this comment is quite old, but this makes me jump for joy because I’m in a Korean/Canadian relationship too! My husband and I actually got married in September 2014 in Reykjavik, Iceland, because that’s where my family is from. We had the legal ceremony there, and only invited our immediate families so everyone could get to know each other and be our witnesses. We’re having a traditional Korean ceremony and party in May here in Seoul for his family and all our Korean pals (for which his grandparents are footing the bill), and are having a giant-ass party in Ontario in August for my family and our Canadian friends (where my parents are dropping cash). I find it worked out perfectly because nobody feels offended that they weren’t invited to the “real” wedding, and it made legalizing our marriage feel really special, because it was just us and our parents and siblings.

  11. I can’t tell you how relieved this thread makes me! My guy and I made it legal in a tiny ceremony in Hawaii, where we currently live, back in March. Our wedding with all our family and friends is coming up in December, back in New England where we met and have spent the majority of our relationship together. My best friend had come to visit us in Hawaii, and we had been toying with the thought of getting married early (he is military and was going to be gone for the entire summer & fall, so for logistics it made the most sense), so we decided to seal the deal while she was here and we had her officiate. The only other people present were a few close friends who live here and a few of Husband’s shipmates. It was beautiful and memorable, and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. Initially we wanted to keep it a complete secret, to avoid hurt feelings. I had (stupidly) looked at other threads on the topic on more traditional websites and been dumbfounded by the hateful nature of the majority of the comments.

    We did tell our parents though, as they are paying for most of the “big” wedding and we felt that we owed it to them to be honest. We asked them not to share though, as we felt it wasn’t really anyone else’s business. Well, what we learned was that 1)they weren’t nearly as trustworthy as we thought, which hurt our feelings, and 2) they now felt that the “big” wedding was all about them, since we “had the wedding we wanted.” Of course, that last part wasn’t true–if it was the wedding we wanted we wouldn’t want to have the one in New England! So truthfully, it has been an uphill battle trying to get our New England wedding to be something we are happy about, which is too bad. But, after lots of disagreements and a few bouts of tears, things are getting better. By the time the wedding actually happens, I think we will be really happy with it. As the months have gone on since wedding #1, I’ve had a few pangs of regret that I couldn’t share the news and photos of our first celebration with some of our other close friends, and I have told a few of them. They have all been delighted, and not an ounce of hurt feelings or resentment was present. This was my big fear, and now I can see I was worrying over nothing. The people who really care about you will want what is best for you. For us it meant doing the paperwork early, and taking advantage of being able to have a small celebration on that day. Husband really wants to just tell people and put it all in the open, but for now, we are just telling people as it comes up (our officiant for the New England wedding, for example, who is also a friend). We are going to have a full ceremony before our reception, because we both want the experience of saying our vows surrounded by our family and friends. Our parents also really want to witness it, as they weren’t present for it the first time. I am really looking forward to it, actually!

    So, moral of the story? Do what’s right for you, tell who you want (or don’t), and enjoy every opportunity you have to celebrate your partnership!

  12. Gah! All the things. My hubby and i got legally married in Auguast with only my mothers, one set of grandparents, 2 close friends, the JP and a few nosy neighbors. We did this for a few reasons. My stepmothers father will not be making it to the nig wedding and he is very close to all of us. And with my recent unemployment and health issues we needed to so I can still have a doctor. Also because the plan is to have a ceremony in another state and neither one of us wanted to deal with the pain of waiting for all the legal junk to go through. It was a wonderful little ceremony on the lake dock with all home made things and flowers all over. It was perfect in every way, but only a few knew about it. So i have been trying to find a way to tackfully tell the other 90 people that we are already married. I am so happy im not alone in this!

  13. Hah, slightly too late for our invitations (we JUST sent them out). I believe we said “join us for our ceremony.” We got married at my mom’s bedside before she passed away, so we actually have a “Getting Legalled” section on the back of one of the pages of our invitation that explains the situation. So, people know we’re legally married, and why we’re doing the ceremony “still.”

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