On vow renewals and getting weddinged

Guest post by Sophie

IMG_2069I have been inspired by elopement week to write about a touchy subject. Whether we call them vow renewals, “getting weddinged,” blessings, or post-elopement receptions, wedding parties where the couple is already legally married always stir up debate on the World Wide Wed and in the real world.

Life being what it is, not everyone has a year and a half to plan the wedding of their dreams. Military deployment, immigration, health insurance, pregnancy, student loans, or just being flat broke, are only a few reasons why some couples have speedy courthouse nuptials. The legitimate question is: are they still entitled to the wedding they always wanted? Is a big wedding a right or a privilege? There is unfortunately no black or white answer to this.

Most elopements or other small civil ceremonies featured here somehow mention the idea of getting weddinged or having a renewal at a later date. And overall, comments have been very positive. It is often not the case, however, among the couple's family and friends, and on more conservative websites such as the wedding section of Yahoo Answers. Your wedding, they argue, is the day you sign the papers. Having a big and/or religious wedding with all the trimmings at a later date is, among the few insults I've read: “playing pretend” by “parading in a dress,” a gift-grab, and is just done to get the attention. Some say it is okay as long as they do not call it a wedding.

No one would think of screaming “gift-grab!” or “just playing pretend!” Why? …because it was in the groom's culture to do it that way.

Those reactions are extremely North American-centric. In most European countries, all couples who wish to get married first have to do so in a civil ceremony. Then, they are free to have a religious wedding if they want. The city hall wedding is often very simple, with only immediate family and witnesses present, and the bride wears a nice but casual short dress, saving the long white dress, veil and big reception for their religious wedding. The most famous example known to us here in America is certainly Eva Longoria's wedding to French basketball player Tony Parker. She was wearing a short pink Chanel dress to her civil ceremony officiated by the Mayor of Paris, but wore a white and satin silk designer dress with a fifteen foot train for the religious ceremony in a Catholic church the next day. Yet, no one would think of screaming “gift-grab!” or “just playing pretend!” Why? No, it's not just because she's a celebrity. But because it was in the groom's culture to do it that way. In France and almost all of Europe, a bigger wedding after a civil one is not only accepted, but expected.

Where do I, the hoodie-wearing eloping bride, stand on this issue? I have to say that I contemplated the idea of getting weddinged. I never dreamt of a wedding straight out of The Knot, and never cared for favors or chair covers. but I had some music and readings in mind since college, which I could not use at the courthouse. This, and not inviting parents and grandparents, are my only regrets.

So I decided to be content with having followed my childhood dream, even if the internet, movies and friends' weddings often give me a big case of the should-haves.

But then I think of my 13-year-old self watching Braveheart, the part where he secretly marries his beloved in the forest, and thinking: “If I get married one day, it will be that way. Just my beloved and I.” So I decided to be content with having followed my childhood dream, even if the internet, movies and friends' weddings often give me a big case of the should-haves. I have to remind myself that this feeling only comes from the pressures of the outside world and the industry.

But it lasts only a moment, and I remember the beautiful October day when I said “I do” to the man of my life. It doesn't matter that my outfit came from a department store, my bouquet was made of silk daisies from my craft box, and the music in the background was of the elevator kind. That day, and no other, was my wedding day. The only option I am considering would be a blessing of our union by the priest during the baptism of our first child (I even found a gay-friendly Catholic church, which is very important in my values as I have many gay friends and I support marriage for everyone).

I acknowledge that not everyone feels the same way as I do. I know there are couples who will not feel married until they have said their vows in front of all their loved ones and had the reception they always dreamed of. Or others who do so because it is their culture, like a Romanian friend I met on another forum, who eloped to Cuba as her legal ceremony and is now planning a big Orthodox wedding and reception. So it all comes to the same conclusion as every Offbeat Bride article: just do what is right for YOU, and don't listen to the naysayers.

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Comments on On vow renewals and getting weddinged

  1. This is exactly why I stopped buying the Knot magazine or going on it’s website. A girl would ask what the appropriate term would be for her ceremony, since months before her husband had been deployed and they JOP’ed. The comments from the other wives were just …. hateful. Calling her names, saying she didn’t deserve the dress and cake, even going as far as to say that it would make THEIR wedding days look bad.
    The honest truth is that not one of us needs the dress and the flowers and the cake and registry to get married. Every one of us who asks for those things wants attention, and is being gift-grabby. Too bad! Either everyone gets to have that special day, because they’re just as in love and deserving as the next person, or no one is.

    • I agree. I visit Brides.com every so often, and this is a REALLY touchy subject with them too, though from what I’ve seen/heard the girls on the Knot are far worse. I think the name calling is totally out of line. There’s a big difference between not agreeing with someone’s choices & beliefs and completely bashing them to an umpteenth degree.

    • Definitely agree that most folks who have a big wedding (whether it coincides with legal paperwork or not) want some form of attention, but I don’t think it’s fair to call them all “gift-grabby”. I’ve been to quite a few weddings, mostly older couples who’ve already established households together, who say “please don’t give us stuff! If you must give something these are our favorite charities.” My spouse and I told folks “we don’t need STUFF but if you want to give a gift you can contribute to our house fund”. The money we got was worth maybe 1/6 of the cost of the wedding (which we paid for ourselves) so, really, if there was any greed involved we went about it totally the wrong way!! Every once in a while when I look at houses I think “hmm, if we hadn’t done the big wedding we’d be closer to owning a house now” but then I think back to what an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience the wedding was and I don’t regret it – we’ll still get to the house eventually.

      Even if a couple really does ask for lots of stuff I imagine it’s pretty rare for the value of the stuff they receive to exceed what it cost to throw the wedding. Big weddings are not cheap! Smaller weddings can be cheap but then that means fewer guests and fewer prezzies.

  2. Wow, to be honest I had no idea that this was a big deal at all. My fiance’s cousin recently did something similar to this because she had moved to Norway with her fiance. They eloped and got married in Berlin, then had another ceremony in Norway with his friends and family, and then another one in Saskatchewan with her friends and family. All ceremonies were beautiful, and it was an amazing way for everyone to get to share in their lives together. Not everyone’s lives are conducive to a big wedding, or just one wedding. Why should it be a problem at all?

  3. The only time I have a problem with people getting weddinged is when they’re not honest about it. Like, they elope in secret months before, and then outright lie to their friends and family while they have a big ceremony & reception. I know a few people on OBB have done that out of convenience, which I have no problem with at all with, just don’t lie about it. You really burn a lot of unnecessary bridges that way, if people find out later.

    All that said, I like vow renewals. I think that if they suit the couple’s situation, then we’re not one to judge! I am actually in the process of helping my friend plan a vow renewal for her and her soldier hubby (they JOP’ed, very spur-of-the-moment, while she was visiting him in S. Korea), and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

    • Thank you for the comment about honesty. My BF’s niece went and eloped (without telling the parents – to be clear, the parents knew it was coming, but they weren’t invited to the courthouse or wherever the ceremony was), and she is being completely deceitful with her friends about it. (All of the close relatives know by now.) My BF has taken to calling it “the secret wedding” – he means it as a joke and is alluding to all the tragic secret weddings that occur in opera – but really, the deception is not a joke. This girl is passing it all off like it’s no big deal and shouldn’t bother anyone. Maybe one day she’ll understand why it IS a big deal and DOES bother people. *sigh*

    • I feel like a have to stand up for myself here, because I got married and told no one…

      My family is very segmented and the few that I do care about, I REALLY care about. And they would be devastated to learn that I had a wedding without telling anyone. I understand why they would be upset, and I also understand that they closely resemble the brides at The Knot. The wedding is an important celebration with your friends and family. It celebrates the joining of a tradition that is bigger than the two of us, and part of that celebration includes our community. It is important to us to have our family and friends there to witness and support us in that step in our relationship.

      However, in my situation, it was an ultimatum: GET MARRIED TODAY OR LOSE YOUR HOME! We had a close friend marry us, and a close friend witness, and less than 10 trustworthy people know.

      Why should I have to ostracize myself from the small family I have left just because Groom and I were forced to rush our plans?

      I think you have to be sensitive and make your own decision. Just as with any element of wedding planning, it will affect and matter to a lot of people, but ultimately, it’s your wedding. You need to do what you need to do, even if it means keeping it a secret.

    • My friend did that and only told her friends not her family. I am pretty close with her Mom. The whole wedding I had a hard time looking her Mom in the eye.

    • Considering the feelings shared about sites like Knot and Bride being insensitive towards these situations I feel that this comment shows a lack of understanding and compassion. Isn’t the Offbeat Bride supposed to reflect that in real life things do not always happen just how you expect them to.

      We had a small civil ceremony at home with two friends as witnesses because we need to begin the immigration process for my partner. But we chose to only tell immediate family and to hold a WEDDING (I’m not sure why you need to call it anything else if that’s what you want to call it) next summer with our family and friends.

      Getting married involves two components for me: the legal component where you become legally tied to another person
      (which we have already done), and making a lifelong promise to each other in front of our community, including vows and exchanging rings (which we will do next summer). We are not telling everyone that we are married because we don’t feel married.

  4. My husband and I were legally married last year and are in high planning gear now for our wedding in October. It is precisely because of the potential criticism mentioned that we have chosen not to really broadcast this to people. Sometimes it comes up and we don’t try to hide it because we’re not ashamed but essentially, we tell people on a need-to-know basis. Our reasons for having a civil ceremony first and a wedding later are really nobody’s business.

    I have noticed that among those we’ve told, there’s a fairly strong generational divide between those who don’t agree with the fact that we got legally married first and those who don’t really care at all, with our younger friends falling into the latter camp.

    • See, I think what you’re doing is perfectly fine. You’re being honest about it when it comes up. The thing that irks me is when brides literally lie: “Oh no, we’re not married yet. Look, we’re signing our license, now!”

      My mother actually had a classmate in high school who did this a number of decades ago, and never told a soul. But they got 10 years into their marriage before someone happened to notice on one of their tax returns (small town, word gets around fast) that their wedding date was actually 8 months prior to the wedding date they’d had their ceremony and reception on. It turned into a huge messy family feud that lasted almost 20 years. Grudges, much?

      The way I see it, it’s easier to just tell people right off the bat and let them know what’s going on, let them be mad, and get on with our lives, rather than live with a secret, praying no one ever finds out, and then dealing with the backlash if they do.

  5. My husband and I got married via civil ceremony, and while we married for love and knew we’d be getting married in the near future anyway, we decided to go ahead and do it civil due to health insurance. I have a condition that requires daily medication and my hubby is diabetic. Between us, the medication costs were killing us. So, we did the only really sensible thing.

    That being said, we always knew we wanted to have a ceremony in front of our loved ones. To us, that was when we’d truly be married.

    But, just as you say, there has been some small oppositions. Some family said it was gift grabbing, or that I only married my husband for the insurance benefits. One family member even rudely said ‘Who’d come to a second wedding anyway?’ Well, not her!

    It’s important to my husband and I, and for those who really support us, and hubby and I always achieve the things that are important to us. <3

  6. Wow, good timing on the post. My FH and I are talking of eloping as money is so tight and this has struck a chord with several people. Oddly enough it’s our parents who are the ones that are fine with it and even suggested just having small parties after the fact in both our hometowns. It’s our friends who are upset by the very suggestion of it. In the end we’ll do whatever feels right for US and if anyone isn’t happy about it then they cand o what’s right for them when it’s their day, not ours.

    • That’s very similar to our plan and the only real grief has been from friends. Oh well, gotta do what’s right for you 🙂

  7. Thank you for writing this post.

    I am amazed by how many “indie” wedding blogs seem to scold you for vow renewals. My Husband and I were married four years ago. We did it quickly (the wedding, that is!), as I was immigrating to Canada to be with him. None of my friends were able to attend and the distance made it impossible for my Mother or Sister to attend.

    When I have spoken of vow renewals, I have received my fair share of flak. Not from my family or friends, mind you–they want to see our vow exchange as much as we would like them to. Instead the backlash has come from the online community. I’ve been told to call it an Anniversary Party or anything other than a Renewal. People seem to feel that it is a slap in the face of our vows four years ago. I don’t think they understand that we will not be speaking new vows, as the vows were never broken. We will say the same words to each other in the same way, and STILL MEAN THEM. We will do this when we can afford to and in front of anyone who cares to attend.

    The bottom line is that if you choose to do anything in this world and it’s based out of love, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be embraced with open arms.

    • “The bottom line is that if you choose to do anything in this world and it’s based out of love, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be embraced with open arms.”

      Amen. Can we get a “like” button for this? Or an “exactly” button, like at A Practical Wedding? *:P

  8. My future hubby and I are set to get married in May of next year. We talked about doing a civil ceremony this year just so we could file our taxes jointly for 2011 (the return would most likely pay for our wedding). Not very romantic, but certainly practical. No one could really accuse us as being “gift-grabbers” as we’re asking for charity donations in lieu of gifts, but it baffles me that people are so judgemental. Before this article I’d never even considered the possibility of it being negative to have a civil ceremony and then a wedding later and didn’t realize there were such negative feelings about it. Everyone’s situation is different and it’s no one’s business but the couples as far as I’m concerned.

  9. Thank you for writing this 🙂 You put to words how I feel perfectly. I never was a big dreamer when it came to my someday wedding, but like you, there were certain things I imagined I would include–a song and a reading–but they weren’t possible for our detention-center-to-beach elopement. We made the day ours by getting civilly wed at the magistrate’s office housed in the county’s detention center (haha) and then went to the beach where we exchange personal vows and rings. It was the most incredible experience of my life to date, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Our friends/witnesses doubled as photgraphers and we ended up with a wonderful album.

    Prior to our elopement, my husband and I played with the idea of a reaffirmation or later reception, but I feel it’s needless now.

  10. What a perfect article! The FH and I want to elope but we want to have our vow exchange/religious ceremony in a year, and the reception as well. We could either be engaged for a year while he’s away and have the wedding in a year…or be married and have the wedding in a year – the difference? The benefits, health insurance etc from the military mainly. Either way, we plan on being together forever. The only part I’m struggling with is how people are looking at it, because I don’t want a reception NOW, I want it paired with the ceremony later. Since he’ll be away, it’s almost like yes, we are married, but no, we’re not anywhere near together so we aren’t living like a normally married couple. But the older generation around us is frowning upon this a lot. We had planned on having the wedding this year, so I have some decorations, as well as my dress, which I fully plan on wearing in the following year for our religious ceremony.

    It’s a big party in the name of love, who cares whether it before, after or during the “legal” deal for anyone?

    • Yup, we’re looking at the same thing. My dude is military, and he’ll be gone for a year. If we get married before he goes, I get health insurance, which I don’t have, and BAH, to cover my rent, and we’d get seperation pay, or whatever that’s called. We haven’t told anyone our plans yet though, because of basically this entire post. I want it to be something happy, not something I have to defend.

  11. We’re having a courthouse ceremony so that I can get on his health insurance. I kind of just view it as government bureaucracy and nothing more. We told my parents about it since I knew they’d pretty much feel the same way as us and my dad has offered to take the afternoon off work to be a witness and the four of us will have a nice dinner afterward. Score!

    BUT, if we told my fiance’s parents we were doing this, they would FLIP. THEIR. SHIT. I just don’t get it. Who really cares in what order this stuff gets done? In most other countries this would be the natural order of things anyway.

  12. My fiance and I wanted to have a simple courthouse ceremony and nice dinner celebration with just our parents, grandparents and siblings (about 10 people total). We knew that if we started inviting extended family, it would just spiral and get big, and my fiance didn’t really want that for the ceremony.

    I wanted to have a party with extended family and friends, because when else will we get all of the wonderful people in our lives together at one time? We decided we wanted to get married, then have a big, casual bbq-type party next summer to celebrate and just have a big time – no gifts, no chair covers, no matching toasting flutes, etc.

    When we told my fiance’s parents of our plans, they weren’t supportive. His dad said “Well, people want to see you get married! They won’t come if it’s just a party” his mom said “Your grandmother won’t travel twice (3 hour drive)and it’s not fair to leave her out of the ceremony or the party.” etc, etc.

    As it is, we’re having a regular old wedding-and-party-in-one-day sort of thing, trying to keep it small and casual. It will be great in the end, and I can’t wait to see all of our friends and family, but I’m realizing it’s something we’re doing more for others than ourselves.

    If I could hop in my time machine and go back 5 months, we’d be at the courthouse. I agree that if the civil/legal aspect was separated from the religious/spiritual aspect in United States culture, this would be less of a big deal to many folks.

  13. This is a problem for me too, in a way. My groom and I have been living together for over 15 years!! Yes, that’s right, I said 15. We raised his kids together, got me through college together, bought a house together, and more. We didn’t get married because of his disabled status and not wanting him to lose benefits. But now I have a great job and I can afford to replace some of those benefits and we would like to get married.

    You should get a load of what some people say about it. “Why would you do that after all this time?” and “You just want attention” and “You just want to throw a party and/or buy a dress” and on and on.

    Well, yeah, duh, I do want all that, even after all this time. I wanted it all along, but I didn’t want his health care to suffer just so I could have a wedding. I want everyone to be there so we can tell them how we feel about each other, and celebrate with them and have that to look back on just like any other bride and groom.

    I guess all I’ve done for our relationship over the years means I don’t deserve to have that huh?

    • Of course not! There is a very clear time limit to when you can get married, and it’s back before you’ve actually had any experience at being together.
      *obvious sarcasm*

  14. My husband and I got married in January in NY City Hall. We are planning church wedding back in Poland as we’re both Polish and only ones living in US. Our civil ceremony was more emotional than I expected, even though it was short and well… regular. We had small dinner party after for a few US friends (and our families met on the same day for the first time in Poland – come to think of that I didn’t met my mother-in-law yet 🙂
    We actually had a dinner after only because one of my friends insisted on it, saying that it wouldn’t be fair to do it in secret. Our plans were different when we were getting marriage certificate, we wanted to have “white wedding” with our families and friends in Poland and just a quick ceremony in US to straighten our immigtation and insurance stuff. This change of plans left us with few weeks to find the place, organize the wedding etc. In the end we had a great party with my husband dancing shirtless to AC/DC “Back in Black”, but I would be as happy just to go, get married and have evening for ourselves.
    The only thing is, we already feel married (although it took us few months) and the whole “second wedding” idea seems a little theatrical. Maybe it’s a good thing, as we are a little shy. It might have as well serve us for rehearsal party 🙂

  15. “So it all comes to the same conclusion as every OBB article: just do what is right for YOU, and don’t listen to the naysayers.”

    Agreed 1000%!

    I have to admit I’m one of the ones you mentioned for whom this would never work. We’re both atheists and already living together so the importance of the wedding for us is all on declaring our love for each other and our intention to stay together forever in front of our family and friends, it would’t really work if we were alone. (The legal benefits are good too, but a lesser priority at the moment.)

    However I’ve never been able to see why there’s so much fuss about it.

    I think it comes from growing up in the UK: we have this weird law that the building you get married in (and it does have to be a building) must be liscenced and it’s only recently that’s been allowed for anything except churches and registry offices (think JOP). Even now the majority of places are on the small side. So you’ve generally got three choices: Have a small wedding, invite a small group to the ceremony and a larger one to the party later on or have a basic legal ‘ceremony’ (pretty much confirm your identity and that you want to get married and sign a form) preceeded/followed by a bigger and more elaborate ceremony done wherever and however you damn well please. Given that the law also says you either have a religious service in a place of worship conducted by a minister or a civil service that can not include religion of any kind (big woop for the atheists, sucks for everyone who would like to include a little bit/combine religions) the 3rd option is pretty popular.

    Anyhoo my thinking is that if there’s more than one ceremony then the one that means the most to the couple is the one they should invite guests to, which seems to generally be the non-legal but highly personalised one (and this goes for those in the USA as well from what I’ve seen here) and if there is only 1 ceremony and it’s private then it doesn’t matter if the party is on the same day or not. The point is to celebrate the marriage.

  16. *sigh* The concept of “right and wrong” in how people choose to be united in love frustrates me to no end and makes me want to bang my head against my keyboard like that angry muppet!

    As I see it, there are two to three components of every “wedding” (as the word is typically understood): (1) The celebration of love and committment in front of family and friends, (2)the purely legal, clerical paperwork that is filed with your state that deems you a married couple and (3) the joining of two souls in the eyes of god (if that is your thing). So what if you decide to break those components up and conduct them on different days?? No matter how or when you choose to go about the paperwork portion, you are entitled to the celebration of your choice at the time of your choice to be called what you choose to call it! Please don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise!

    • Yes! This exactly! However, when I tried to use this argument to defend a bride in this situation who was getting a ton of nasty comments on an online message board, I became a target of their evil attach as well. Too bad this article didn’t come out a couple of weeks ago – I had no idea it was such a touchy subject! People should be able to celebrate their love as they please!

  17. Yeah, I *really* can’t see the big deal with this, either. My aunt and uncle had to do this – they had to have a quickie civil ceremony so that my aunt could move to Italy with my uncle, and then had their fancy church wedding on Capri later. No one in my family had a problem with this – then again, that side of the family is a bunch of sensible people with brains, so I suppose that helps! 😀

  18. I had no idea this was a big deal! We had some friends that got married at the courthouse in 2008 so they could pay for their 2009 March wedding with the joint tax return and I thought “Now, that’s a good idea!” I didn’t think anyone would ever actually care.

    I’ve been married before and we just did the courthouse wedding and never had an actual wedding. My mother told me at the time they would actually pay for us to have a big “wedding party” when they came down a few months later if we wanted it. I just figured all families were that way.

    Very interesting post!

  19. I’ve seen both sides of this fence. My best friend had a small secret wedding and a big beautiful wedding about a year and half later, but didn’t tell anyone she was already married (it was a deployment thing). I wish she had told me because I wouldn’t have cared and could have been a support for her, but she thought that people wouldn’t take the wedding seriously if they knew, and it by peoples reaction after they found out she was kinda right. Recently I got married but due to some flakiness and over excited emotions we forgot our legal wedding paperwork at home! We had the ceremony, reception, and the whole nine yards…but we weren’t legally married according to the paperwork until two days later! We consider the day we got married to be the day that we said our vows, so really it’s all in your personal perception of the day and what it means to you. I told my friend that she got married before the wedding while I got married after the wedding, so between the two of us we’d eventually get married on the day of our wedding 🙂

  20. Interesting. I live in a state where same-sex marriage is illegal. Over the past year, several couples I know have gone to East Coast states to get legally hitched–alone or with a small group. Then, they’ve returned home for a party/reception and all the bouquet- and garter-throwing that they do or don’t want.

    The separation of legal ceremony and celebration is mandatory for most same-sex couples who want to wed. So, it’s pretty normal in our communities, though hardly voluntary.

    Side note: Those few states with legal same-sex marriage have led to a marriage boomlet! I’ve been to more weddings/post-wedding parties in the past year than I had in the rest of my life. Love it! 🙂 The most recent one included a video of the ceremony in Vermont. More of us than care to admit it cried at the vows, even on video.

  21. Very interesting topic. My nephew was going to have three separate ‘weddings’ One legal in his country, one big one in her country and a party back in his. I was surprised at some family members reactions. They are only having two events now, and there is an almost two year gap between the first legal ceremony and the reception. I think its a great idea.

    • That’s pretty much exactly what my partner and I are doing~! People have been happy about all of them ^^

  22. My FH and I are having three ceremonies. Since we’re currently attending different schools and will be very far away from each other for so long, we decided to wait until we actually tied the knot. In the coming weeks, we’re having a handfasting ceremony, a non-legally binding religious marriage for us. After we’ve had a chance to live together we’re having a civil ceremony. Only after that will we have our huge family celebration. We want to wait until we have enough money set aside to have a nice wedding celebration. We’re essentially having three separate weddings. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
    I didn’t even know there were other schools of thought on this topic. I guess I just didn’t think anyone would think that someone else having multiple ceremonies would make a person feel cheated or wronged. My older brother got married in a Petsmart as a spur of the moment opportunity presented itself (he’s currently in the Navy) and then we threw a reception for him afterwards when he got home.

  23. The strange thing is, here in the UK if you want to have an offbeat wedding, for example in an unusual location, or even outdoors, if the venue you have your heart set on does not have a marriage licence then you cannot legally be married there. My partner and I would love to be married in a theatre, preferably on the stage, as we met at Drama School and both work, and have long histories in theatre. however to do this we would have to have a civil ceremony first, otherwise for all the beauty of our wedding and the vows…we still wouldnt actually be married. So i suppose the issue isnt as big here!
    thanks for posting this, i find it hard to believe that anyone can shun the way a couple wish to celebrate their love.

  24. My weddinged (noun?) is in two weeks and while we haven’t gotten too much explicit backlash about it, I do feel there’s been some snide comments from extended family.

    My sister went into the Peace Corps at the end of June and we really wanted her to be at the ceremony…. so we had a mid-June ceremony. Immediate family and close friends only, snagged a relatively unused section of a public park/lake and set up lawn chairs and a table for food, played music on a cd player and then went to an amusement park in the evening. We thought about inviting extended family members in the area and who were really close to my spouse, but it just opened a can of worms of who was invited and who wasn’t.

    I think some people are making it less of a priority to come to our party because there’s no marriage vows (and because it’s on a Friday – hard for out-of-towners), but at this point I’m really not too worried about it. If people make it, awesome, if not, I’ll be sad but it won’t be the end of the world.

    Some of my new extended family members have made comments like “we’d have had the wedding shower BEFORE the wedding, but there wasn’t enough time.” Really?! I don’t care if or when we do things like that, I just want to celebrate our commitment with people we love and have a good time doing it.

  25. We’re planning a religious ceremony next year in Mexico. But legally, that wedding won’t count, so we’re going to be legally married in the US by the same officiant. Both sets of parents know about the plan.
    But now, my fiance’s parents want to come to the legal paper signing. If they come, my family will want to come, and I know it will spiral out of control…To me, the only one that really matters is the wedding, and I’m just doing the legal one because it makes financial sense. We don’t want a big event for the legal one. I have no idea what to do!

    • I had the same problem. I wanted it to just be us, the officiant, and two witnesses. But as we were mentioning it to the parents, his parents wanted to be there, and at the time I wasn’t sure if I even wanted my dad to be there (divorced and re-married parents) and really didn’t want his wife, and my mom wouldn’t be able to be there as she and her husband live on the other side of the US (whom I would have loved to be there). So now his parents, and possibly my dad will be there too. From reading the other comments, I feel like I should tell the other people. I’m trying to figure out how to say: we are getting hitched so we can afford the wedding we want to have for our friends and family. I want to walk down an aisle to music and say personal vows in front of our family and friends and all that fancy stuff. So our wedding will still happen, just in a few more years.

  26. My husband and I got married at a local park and it was only a few people there. we met with my minister to have at my favorite park and not at a church or court house because I love nature. Because we did it at the park only a few came so my husband felt bad because I did invite like 30 only three showed up. His side of family could not make the trip to see us marry so for our second wedding anniversary his family is throwing us a wedding and no one ( thankfully) has given us any grief for calling it second wedding or wedding renewal. I guess everyone knew our situation and felt bad about so many things went wrong with our park wedding. So sometimes its the people who give others negative comments because they either jealous or just mean people. I would just ignore them and not invite those negative people because who really needs them??? life is tooooo short to worry about people like them. Enjoy life and if you want to have a second wedding and call it whatever you want wedding or renewal or celebration… its your choice and your life not theirs. Besides who says its require to bring gifts to a wedding ??? Im not asking for gifts or expect them either, but if I do get gifts I will make sure I thank them for it.

  27. I totally agree that civil and religious marriage are two different things and that people should do what they want, but I have a caveat that people might want to take time to talk to their families about what’s going on rather than springing it on them. My husband’s brother was engaged and had a wedding planned for the spring, but because of immigration troubles he married his gf in a civil ceremony, without telling anyone, right before showing up at his mom’s for Christmas (she lives in a beach town and puts guests up in a property she manages). Problem was, unbeknownst to them, the rest of the family was showing up too! So the couple was expecting a super-romantic honeymoon getaway, but the fam had arranged togetherness plans for every day. Friction. Plus the mom was pretty p.o.ed at having this dropped in her lap. If they had mentioned it beforehand, instead of saying “guess what we did,” I think she would have been much less upset. It was very uncomfortable for all. Not a great start to the marriage. And they were divorced 3 months later. Just saying.

  28. We are legally marrying in November, on the anniversary of our first date, in order to have the tax returns pay for the big wedding later. We just bought a home, and the savings account is empty… To have the ceremony and reception we both want, we need cash! So, a good friend is Internet-ordained to legally marry us… We will stay at a nice hotel and celebrate with them. Haven’t decided whether or not to even tell my parents yet. Not sure how they will react…but, it’s nontraditional, just like our relationship and the proposal!

  29. I have to admit while I love Offbeat Bride, as an introvert I am struggling with the idea of his family being at the registry office.

    I want a low key affair where nobody judges us, being married is a big deal to me but the making a big deal out of signing a piece of paper really puts me off (as while it is nice to have legal recognition, in my mind we are married whether we get around to signing papers or not).

    So for those who feel it is dishonest to not let family know about courthouse marriages, well, I don’t quite understand where all the hurt comes from, especially if it is going to be as deliberately low key as ours (in my mind, there’s nothing worth gawking at, and if the families come they’ll just be disappointed at how anti-climactic it is).

    We already had an engagement party for people to celebrate with us, which was enough of a nightmare for me (being in the spotlight). I don’t know why but I feel like my marriage is so private and needs to be protected from scrutiny, yet after hearing that we wouldn’t be having a proper wedding, countless friends and family are begging to be present at the courthouse and be witnesses etc. I hate the idea that they will be disappointed by just how much of a non-event it turns out to be, but I hate the idea of putting on a show even more.

    I just want to sign the damn papers and be married, but apparently since we’re cheating everyone out of a real wedding they’re going to try and turn our courthouse paper signing into a bigger deal than it is.

    I guess I just have to put up with it for the sake of making people happy, and then find a safe place to complain about it later. But if it was up to me, it would be secret so that we could sign the papers in peace.

    While I love Offbeat Bride (and admire those brides who can ignore judgement and stand up for the wedding they want), I hate the fact that some people in the world (like those in my family and friends) can’t conceive of just skipping the wedding part altogether and just being married, and take personal offence if a couple decides to do that.

  30. This post was a real eye-opener. I had no idea that these sort of things go on. How intrusive and rude to give opinions on how someone should celebrate their love?

    If they don’t like it, then perhaps they aren’t the supportive, loving people that you would want at your wedding anyway?

    Perhaps that is me sprouting ignorance, but in Australia these things are done without anyone blinking an eye and we can also choose the venue we desire too (that UK one floored me!)
    I can’t believe that some people are so bigoted in their own beliefs that they choose to try and make other loving couples miserable too.

    Your wedding. Your choice (as long as it is morally right and with the best interests of all involved). It should be simple.

  31. I’m having a secret wedding. This is to let me destress with my controlling mother at the helm of my wedding in a year. We will marry and then decide if we will tell. I know my family very well and I know that 80% of my family wouldn’t come to a vow renewal but would love to come to my “wedding.” My mother would be upset at first but I think she’d get over it. She’d also probably pressure me NOT to have a renewal here.

  32. I love this post. And I am sorry but honestly, it is the couples business on whatever they do. Me and my husband got married 5 years ago for our own reasons at the court house and have been happily married.

    However, for our 5th anniversary coming up we decided to have a vow renewal for ourselves to celebrate our marriage. I have gotten so much negative feedback from family and as everyone else, on-line community that we decided for it to be just me and him.

    This is my honest take on vow renewals:
    They are for the husband and wife. It does not matter what they do and how they do it. It is for them, celebrating their marriage, which to me so many people do not take the time to do so. It is not in poor taste or take away the significance of weddings, because they are celebrating their marriage! The whole reason weddings happen!

    We are going to have our ‘first’ dance we never got, our cake we did not get to shove in each others faces, a photographer to capture memories and all the other fixin’s.

    I wish people would be happy for others and be excited that they wish to celebrate something as beautiful as their marriage, no matter what.

  33. The animosity toward people that have secret ceremonies puzzles me. IMO Most people don’t say anything for this very reason, they don’t want to deal with the drama, not because they are interested in pulling off some fantastic ruse.
    My fiancé and I are going to have a civil ceremony and then have the big wedding in 2012. We can’t tell his parents because they would FLIP, they are old school and believe that you aren’t married in the eyes of God until you have a religious ceremony(plus he’s their oldest and only son).
    I told a co-worker of mine and she really let me have it. It would be a lie yada yada… her cousin did that… it was wrong not to tell people she was already married… blahblahblah.
    So I asked her this: Would you have gone to the wedding if you knew she was already married?
    Her response: yes.
    Would you have bought her a gift if you knew that she was already married?
    Her response: Of course.
    So in the end did it really matter?
    Her response: No, but…
    Me: Exactly. So what is the big d*mn deal. Are you mad because you feel excluded from the legal part of the ceremony? Or is this a temper tantrum because you weren’t let in on her secret?

    In the end it doesn’t matter. If you are going to support your family and friends, do it. Celebrate with them, however and whenever they choose to celebrate.

  34. Oh I completely agree!
    DH and I were just talking about this recently.
    We got married a lil over a year ago after he returned from his tour in Iraq. It all happened so suddenly only my best friend, mom and sister attended the JOP ceremony…sooooo, we didn’t get our big White Wedding.
    We’ve both expressed that we want to have “some sort of ceremony” since no one else was able to share our special day with us.
    My mom was the first one to say “whats the point now?”
    Husband and I really want something, and being non-religious we obviously dont want something at a church. So what do we call it?
    “wedding”? “vow renewal”?
    We plan to do this after he returns from his next tour to Afghanistan.
    We’ll be married almost 3 years by then.

    So I guess until then, we have almost 2 years to decide.

  35. Thank you so much for writing this. My soon-to-be husband and I have decided to just elope next month for a few reasons (health insurance, finances, we’ve waited since we were 16, etc). I have been worried about how to respond to people that may give me a great deal of grief over eloping and then doing the big shindig next year (we’re going to phrase it that we’re “solidifying our vows in the presence of family and friends”). I bought a simple cocktail/party dress from Torrid, he’s going to polish up his shoes and press a tie, and we’re driving to the place on the Columbia River where he proposed and make it official. Thank you for showing me that we aren’t alone in taking this route. 🙂

  36. I appreciate this post because I am currently debating the same thing. I became engaged in Feb, and did a civil ceremony in June – strictly to have my fiance-husband on my health benefits. Had I not, I would continue to be heavily taxed on the value of the benefit,which took more than significant chunk of my paycheck. This would happen on the 1st of the month making things like rent etc almost impossible. I felt that I had to do this out of necessity, so that we could get things settled (he relocated to my area) and start saving so we could have a wedding we both wanted. There is a teeny part of me that thinks it was kinda cool – we did it on the fly and it was something that was truly “ours”. But there is another part that wishes that I had the means to have the ceremony/celebration/bride-y type things that I want. We were aiming for June of next year but it doesn’t really seem feasible.
    So, we will have to wait to have our party until we are able and have the means to do so – whenever that is. Even though we are official, we both feel that it won’t be “official” until we do it the way we wanted to – a party with friends, family, invitations, flowers and the like.

  37. Sooooo happy to see supportive people on here!!! My FH and I are doing this. Getting married in June at the JOP for financial reasons. We both have children from previous relationships, but tax laws changed… And we just bought a house so we are broke!!! We are having a big shindig next June on the same date for our family and friends. My family is soooo supportive and understands entirely, even my grandparents, who are helping me with the hall! It all depends on your own situation. And we aren’t registering or asking for anything except our loved ones to be there for us.

  38. Uhm, I love the idea, but to say it is “the norm” in European countries is not entirely true.. Yes, if you want to get married in a church you have to get married at city hall too. However, if this is done, it is mostly done on the same day. Sometimes they can even have someone of your city-hall at your church so you can do it both at the same time. Sometimes they do the legal thing on a Friday and have the ceremonial/church wedding on a Saturday.
    But church weddings are a dying breed, so this is by no means “the norm”!
    Certainly “most” European people are too down to earth to have a legal wedding AND a weddinged party weeks/months later. Most guest/people will not have it!
    I am Dutch, and I tried this.
    My husband and I eloped last year (due to my fathers health and our financial situation), and after being a member of Offbeat bride I was totally feeling the elopement and then having a weddinged party in a few months. I was stoked! I was sooo looking forward to it! I thought it was “ok” to do this. Boy, was i wrong! (Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I blame Offbeatbride, but I just got the impressions that it was a “normal” expectable thing to do. (Or maybe I wanted to believe that..) I loved Offbeatbride, and all the support it gave me leading up to the wedding! I most definitely miss being a part of Offbeatbride sometimes, even if it’s just for the support.. But I digress) But people were so upset that they didn’t get to share “the” day with us, that some of them are no longer speaking to us… (which pisses me off, but it also still hurts because they are our family and friends, and we did not mean to hurt anybody!)
    It is not something I had expected, and in hindsight I might have wished that we didn’t get married the way we did…
    Needless to say our weddinged party did not happen… And to be honest, I would feel silly now to have one.
    In my own opinion I would have loved to be able to have a weddinged party, and if anybody is giving one I would go in a heartbeat and be so happy and supportive to them! But in my own experience, it doesn’t quite work like that…
    I do not regret eloping, but I would have done it different had I known we would not have a weddinged party. I would have gotten a nicer dress (as in one that made me feel more like a “bride”) and would have spent more time with the people who were there (it all was just so short!). Also, I would have gotten a photographer, or at least made more pictures. But that’s just me.

  39. To me, the difference between getting married and weddinged is like the difference between sexuality and gender. They’re not the same thing. Often related, but not the same thing. There’s a difference between signing your name on a piece of paper, and professing your love to all your friends and family.

    • I’m in a little different situation. We got married about ten years ago. We were very rushed due to some looming INS documents. My MIL planned everything (I got to pick my shoes & that was it). We always said we would do it our way for the tenth and that’s what we are doing. It’s amazing the comments people make. Online that wonder veil of anonymity, makes people very rude and opinionated some times. Most people around me have been excited but I started noticing who wasn’t or who was rude about it. It was mostly people who: had issues with their own marriage,didn’t get the wedding they wanted, or just like to rain on parades. It led me to believe that their anger is really aimed at their own unhappiness or desire to do the same. I find it similar to the people who mock celebrities for owning five cars, yet given the same amount of cash would likely do the axact same thing. It has helped in one respect tho; most of the people saying this sort of thing are extended family who will in effect cross themselves off the guest list and leave room for people who matter.

  40. I’m getting married in 25 days here in the UK and have encountered a similar problem.
    It’s already been stated in an earlier post that here in England there are a limited number of options, the usual wedding consists of church do or registry (JOP) office.
    FH and I aren’t religious and we felt that the standard ceremony the registry office provide (no real room for personalisation and limited numbers) didn’t fit with our view on how we want our wedding to be.
    So we made the decision to have a registry office ceremony at 10 in the morning with immediate family only, followed by a Humanist ceremony at 3pm with the big dress, friends and family all present with the music and reading that are personal to us. Big party to follow.
    Strangely both sets of parents were fine with this and it’s my Bridesmaids who have caused the most fuss!
    By not inviting them to the registry office, they felt like we were excluding them from our real wedding and this left them feeling really hurt as they wanted to see us sign the certificate.
    I was incredibly hurt by this especially as one kept referring to it as the real wedding, as though our Humanist one is a fake one!
    To FH and I, the Humanist ceremony is our REAL wedding, it is the point were WE consider ourselves married, it is where we will exchange personal vows and promises to each other and exchange rings. At the registry office all we will be doing is signing the paperwork and nothing more.
    My Bridesmaids and I all went out for a drink and over a bottle of wine we sat and discussed our feelings and why they felt so hurt and excluded. It turned out to be ignorance as to what a Humanist ceremony is and they thought they were missing out on something. Once I’d explained it all to them, and they fully understood why we are doing it this way, they all seem to be totally on board now.
    However their reaction did completely surprise me as I had thought they were more accepting and open minded than that.

    More so now than ever I firmly believe that talking to those that don’t understand your choices can lead to greater understanding and for more positive relationships.

    Of course there will always be those that refuse to compromise or accept your decisions and ultimately you have to be true to yourselves and your future together

  41. We were(grrr)plannng a quick civil ceremony elopement and told my parents 1st.my mother said some mean things about feeling exluded so when my partners parents reacted similarly we caved and are having a tiny wedding with emidiate family and close friends because “we should share this day with our loved ones thats what its about” and I trying to be the peace keeper didn’t spout out like I wanted to with “I thought a wedding was about taking vows with your beloved and prtomising to love each other not throwing a party for everyone else”

  42. Thank you so much for writing this! My husband and I eloped in June of last year – we didn’t tell anyone but our best friends and one of them was there to be our “witness.” We just did a little ceremony on the grass in front of the courthouse on a saturday morning, me barefoot in a little white dress and him in jeans and a white shirt. I have gotten so much backlash since then about not going about things the “right” way so that I have taken to calling the ceremony that we are having THIS June a “Wedding Part Duex” as one of my best friends called it, or just a vow renewal/celebration of our union.

    But the one thing you wrote that made me so happy to read was “That day, and no other, was my wedding day.” That is absolutely how I feel, and that will always be my “anniversary” day, my wedding day, and the day I married the man of my dreams.

    Thank you again… this made this “off beat bride” feel so much better about her choices 🙂 and glad to know there are others out there who feel the same. <3

  43. It’s so lovely to read all of your different stories~! I had a bit of a meltdown about a month ago, reading another site’s opinions on the idea of being “weddinged”. My partner is Korean and we are planning to live in Canada permanently. I always imagined us getting married in Canada, but being already married makes his permanent residence application process so much easier! We were still debating about whether to get legally married in Korea or just do the more difficult amount of paperwork to prove our relationship is genuine, when we mentioned the idea of just having a simple engagement party in Seoul to his parents. They were so disappointed. In Korea, the wedding is as much about the couple as it is the parents, and I think they just wanted to be able to have their day too ^^ So we decided to get married in Korea and have another celebration in Canada.

    A lot of people online say that the reason why couples have another wedding celebration is only to make the bride feel special (they often forget to mention the groom). I’m not denying that I don’t like feeling special, but if we’d only chosen one country, we would have disappointed a lot of people who love us in the other one.

    To make our story more interesting, you cannot be legally married in a wedding ceremony in Korea. You must visit the district office and basically just fill in a lot of paperwork (no vows, no officiant, no payment, no congratulations – I don’t think I even needed to be there as long as my guy had all my paperwork, haha.) So we decided to get legally married on a Friday that we both had off (a rarity), that also happened to be my dad’s birthday, who has been gone 10 years.

    So now, we’re looking at three marriage-wedding-celebration type things total. Some days I feel nervous that people will judge us in Canada, but they will know that we are already married and can choose for themselves whether to attend ^^

    One thing I saw a lot of on *another* wedding site is comments along the lines of “we’re just being honest cause your family and friends won’t tell you to your face that they don’t like it”. But I think that goes both ways; strangers don’t know you and feel free to judge anything you decide/think/say/feel (take a look at any online comment section other than OBB), but your family and friends know you, love you, and will most likely be excited to celebrate with you whatever way you choose ^^

  44. I came across this site accidentally and read a lot of the comments. 41 years ago my husband and I half-eloped, in that we were married in the courthouse with only “my” side (comprised of 12 people) in attendance. We’d been planning a small church wedding but the two families squabbled and made so much trouble for us we felt it best to just get the ceremony over with and get on with our life together. The ceremony itself was nicely done, and of course, the opposing side of the family had hysterics but got over it. Twelve years later my husband and I had a renewal of vows and a church blessing, our choice, with only our two children in attendance. No parties, no gifts, just ourselves reaffirming that if we had to do it all over again, we’d of course have chosen to marry each other. All the relatives who were around at the time of our courthouse wedding are long dead, we’ve outlived them all! My point is this: whatever type of ceremony you choose to have, wherever, religious or not, multiple ceremonies or only one – remember, it is the marriage that is the most important thing, focus on that and enjoy however you choose to celebrate it. Don’t let anyone interfere with your plans and don’t let anyone try to make you feel bad for not having the type of wedding they prefer. You only get one go-round at life, so live it as authentically as you can. Best wishes to all for a long and happy marriage!

  45. Like a few of you, back in 2002, my husband & I eloped, due to it made more sense financially; Dan being fresh out of Basic Training and he was going to be in Iraq. We’ve been married into the Army for 14 yrs this August. We had our friend and his wife as witnesses in a park my husband grew up as his back yard in NY (Buffalo area), due to me and my family being 8 hours away in another state. (Massachusetts), we did on a Thursday before In-Laws came over to see their son before we left for his first duty station, also my parents worked Saturdays and they just wouldn’t be able to get there in such short notice. We told everyone as soon as we did it. Our honeymoon was driving to his first duty station in Colorado. in 6 years, will be our 20 year Anniversary and hubby be out of the Army in 6 years as well. Not only will be renewing our vows in our 20th Anniversary but a closing one door and opening another new door. Out of the Army and into the Civilian World. So far the select few we’ve told, it’s been very positive. We’ll be doing it our way and how we want, also the fact that by the time we do renew our vows, I will be 46 then, and Dan will be 43. So no one will be able to say shit of our ideas, or even better, we will be telling just a couple of things and surprise the rest.
    I see fuck the naysayers, celebrate your love anyway you and your beau want to. In the end people will enjoy themselves and feel like dookie afterwards.

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