The unexpected benefits of “getting legalled” before our wedding

Guest post by ynezg
getting legally married before wedding

My Sweetie, J, and I went to the courthouse and got legalled, but it wasn't originally our plan at all. And even so, we're still going forward with our wedding. The impetus behind our legalling came upon us quite unexpectedly: I became aware of a scholarship available (enough to cover the tuition and fees for the rest of my time in school) to military spouses and, as a student scrimping and saving my way methodically through grad school, there is no question that extra funds would be most helpful. The catch: I wouldn't become a military spouse until after the deadline to apply for the scholarship had passed.

It took approximately five minutes of discussion with J to decide that I MUST apply for the scholarship and that WE WOULD be addressing my legal status straight away. I bought a dress, he bought a suit, I made a hat, and we made an appointment to be married by the judge at our local county courthouse with my mother and his best friend in attendance to witness. And there you have it. I am now officially a military spouse and therefore eligible for this wonderful opportunity!

As expected, having the ability to now apply for this scholarship is a wonderful thing. But something completely unexpected happened through this experience that I did not anticipate.

Before I get into that, however, I should explain that oftentimes I make life-altering decisions based on what I see as purely practical and commonsense reasoning. Need money for grad school? Scholarship available for military spouses? Solution: become a military spouse as fast as possible and apply.

[related-post align=”right”]This is the second marriage for both of us. We both went through fairly nasty divorces and we both were carrying a lot of anxiety along with us as we planned to marry again. Forget the fact that WE ARE A TEAM dammit and we LOVE our team. GO TEAM! And our puppies and kitties, and our house, and our quiet time in the evenings, and absolutely everything about our lives. We still, both, suffered from the lingering sense that we had once upon a time loved those things with our former spouses and things nevertheless went horribly, horribly wrong for us before. Our anxieties became the THE THING THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED.

Enter this scholarship. We both saw it as an eminently practical thing to do and so therefore, off to the courthouse we must go. But in the quiet hours and the dark in bed the night before, we held hands and we shared our anxieties, THE THING THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED…

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I'm sure. I want to marry you.”

“Me too.”

I didn't sleep very much that night, and I got up quite early. I'd made an appointment to get my hair and makeup done, and while J slept, I snuck out of the house for coffee and a bagel before my appointment at the salon. When I got back to the house later, J was getting dressed. Normally, a retro-game-T-and-jeans-wearing kind of guy, all I can say is He. Looks. Amazing. in a suit.

He smiled hesitantly, and I smiled hesitantly back. I got dressed, and we drove to the courthouse.

In those moments when we raised our right hands and signed the marriage license, he didn't throw up and I didn't pass out or cry hysterically — though there were brief moments for both of us when we thought we might. Instead, we held hands before the judge, and our witnesses, and all the other couples gathered there that day, we grinned stupidly at each other, we spoke the very traditional vows prompted for us by the judge, and we got married. I married my teammate.

Here's the wonderful, unexpected part: In the aftermath of that day, the anxiety, the fear, THE THING THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED, has disappeared. Poof! Gone, for both of us.

There's a very good chance that our anxiety would have made our wedding, already a very stressful event for anyone, less than the amazing day we're planning it to be. Now, we know that we'll spend our wedding weekend having a blast with our family and friends.

Thank goodness for getting legalled.

Be sure to check out our very-much-related posts about Getting Weddinged (which is when you have a wedding-type event after getting legalled)

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Comments on The unexpected benefits of “getting legalled” before our wedding

  1. i’m living the same thing, thanks for your post, especially the
    thought it was just us….lol

  2. My husband and I ended up getting legalled at the end of December almost 2 years ago, 7 months before our wedding. Our reason? That sweet, sweet tax money. The taxes were a big portion of the money that helped us pay for our actual wedding. It was actually my mother-in-law’s idea! She was joking at first, but the more the two of us thought about it, the more we realized it was a great idea. Highly recommended if anyone needs some help with money for the big party. 🙂

    • I am pushing getting legalled this year for precisely this reason. Our combined income would put us both within the 15% tax bracket, where individually one of us would be taxed at 15% and the other at 25% — however, he’s skittish because he does not know much about tax law and wonders if it’s too late in the year for this idea to be applicable. I think it’s fine as long as the legal marriage happens in 2013 for 2013 taxes. Would you have insight on this Erin? Or any other readers?

      • I don’t know much about the tax laws. We are from Wisconsin, if that matters at all. However, we made the decision mid-December, and got married on December 22nd, 2011. 🙂 We cut it very close to the end of the year but still made it, were still legally married that year, and were definitely able to claim joint taxes in 2012 for the year of 2011! If you plan to do it this year, I think you have plenty of time!

      • The basis for how you file your 2013 taxes depends on your legal status on December 31, 2013. So long as you are legally married by that day (or get married on the day), you can file your 2013 taxes as Married Filing Jointly.

      • To echo others, if you make it by 12/31/13, you are golden! Non-wedding related, but related: My son was born 12/21/06. Taxes ’07….tax return score!

    • My fiance and I are planning on doing the same thing, but we have no idea how to have the actual ceremony after we’ve already done the legal bit!! What kind of ceremony did you have? We aren’t religious so we don’t want to do a church thing and we’re not sure what our other options are. Also did you tell your family and friends? What did they think about you having a wedding ceremony 2 years after you technically got married?

  3. This might be a dumb question but…..what date do you consider your anniversary? The legal date or the ceremony?

    • We got legalled and this is the question we get ALL the time. My answer is, both! We have a “marriage anniversary” and a “wedding anniversary”. We do one up big and one low key.

    • I didn’t get legalled, but the first thing that jumped to my mind with your question was that had I done so, I would consider the legal date to be the date I celebrated, just because it’s going to be the date I have to remember more often for other legal things. But I am not very sentimental, so that could just be me.

    • My husband and I don’t consider the date of the legal wedding our anniversary- we celebrate on the day that we had the actual wedding. I honestly don’t remember the date that we got “insuranced” (as we call it!)… all that I remember was that it was sometime in early October.

      But to be honest, the wedding anniversary isn’t nearly as important to us as our dating anniversary. The wedding was a nice way to celebrate our love, but it was by the day that we met is much more special to us.

  4. I love everything about this post! I also think it’s amazing that they got to share the experience together. Im engaged and both my guy and I had terrible marriages prior to this so I think I’d love to share the experience with just him because I am selfish with our love and time lol but on the other hand I want a wedding with my friends and family so I juggle the two ideas daily :/

  5. I must confess something. Months before our November wedding my soon to be and I were both extremely stressed. I was finishing the first semester of my senior year in college, working, and wedding planning. We were also trying to decide where we would live after I graduated. We were both snapping at everyone and I felt on-edge all the time. One night we just decided to secretly elope. So we did. I bought a dress on sale at a department store and we booked a bed and breakfast in Savannah with packages for small weddings. We invited a few very close friends, drove to Savannah and BAM, married! It was wonderful! We got to spend a couple days in Savannah by ourselves, just relaxing and NOT talking about the wedding, school, etc. After we were both much more calm and when the “real” wedding rolled around we knew that even if a complete catastrophe should happen that we were already married! I full support “getting legalled” before the wedding if it feels right or is practical for you!

  6. My current issue is that my partner and I got legally married in summer of 2012 and we are planning for a family wedding for summer of 2014. While we don’t have the pressure on us for the big day, whenever there are complications with wedding planning or stress in dealing with our families my partner wants to cancel the wedding. Even sometimes I think the wedding is a stupid idea when I am feeling stressed but I know deep down in my heart that it is really important to me. In some ways I feel more stressed being legally married and planning a ceremony two years later because it feels “too late” and that it has to be amazing in order to justify the celebration (which I realize shouldn’t be the case and that our families and friends are awesome people who love us- just I am compounding my stress at work with planning stress).

    • I have the same problem. My husband and I eloped 13 years ago with the plan of a wedding on our 1 yr, then our 5 yr, then our 10 yr. It just never happened. This yr we decided that we are going to do it. Since we got married on Halloween, 13 seemed to fit and we had most of the stuff already as I have been buying stuff here and there. But now even though we are both really wanting to do it hardly anyone is interested. We have less than 20 people that have said they are going out of 150+ that we have invited. All of my hubby’s siblings have said “If I don’t have to work but I’m not going to ask for it off” even my “bridesmaids” won’t fully commit to coming! It’s heartbreaking that we are going t so much work and hardly anyone wants to come because “it’s not a REAL wedding”

      • Wow I’m so happy to see all the support for “getting legal” out there I saw a similar post on a more formal wed site and this girl was asking how to word her invitations and all the replies were very negative and made me feel very unsure about going on with my wedding. My husband and I got engaged in July 2008 and planned on a wedding in 2009 however we ended up pregnant before we could set a date so we got legal for taxes and I wanted my last name to be the same on the birth certificate (just a personal value of mine). Despite others telling me this isn’t a real wedding because we’re already married I’m still going through with it less guests means more intimate and less money!

  7. I’m curious about how wedding guests feel. Do they feel cheated of sharing the big day? I’m probably going to end up doing the same thing and am unsure about telling people we are legally married before the big day.

    • I’d suggest not hiding the fact that you already got married. Be up front with people that want them to witness your vows/party with you/bestow blessings/etc.

      I have a friend who went to her cousin’s wedding a few years ago. It was a fairly large, traditional affair. At the reception the couple thanked everyone for coming and announced they had actually gotten married the year before. Apparently the family was livid. The bride’s parents didn’t even know and they paid for the wedding. Some people walked out and took their gifts with them.

      We had a courthouse wedding in October 2012, mostly for insurance and tax purposes, and a bigger celebration in June 2013. Even though our families aren’t as traditional as my friend’s, I was very worried that people might feel duped, so we made sure to tell everyone that this was not a “typical” wedding. If anyone was upset, they didn’t say anything. We had a great mix of family, friends, and coworkers and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time. Our party was in a park and very casual.

      • My parents paid for my brother’s wedding, and it was on really short notice. They were pissed that my brother had actually gotten legalled a few months earlier, because they felt like they were tricked into paying for his new wife (who they had had conflict before)’s party and if they had known they were already married they might still have paid for it, but it would have felt emotionally different.

        I also had some friends who got legalled a month/two before their destination wedding and she was posting on facebook about how excited she was to be a Mrs. and some of her friends thought they had missed the wedding, and some were pissed that they were flying across the country to witness something that my friend was already bragging had happened.

        So I think being honest up front if you have family that might take offense.

        • Honestly? Just- honestly??!?!?!

          People really upset me sometimes. A wedding ceremony is a wedding ceremony. It often, but does not always also, encompass a legally binding element. This is so plainly clear-cut. I am not sure where people get confused, but I find it offensive that people would use their ignorance to justify nasty behavior.

          People who get butthurt because they “missed out” on the boring legal part actually really deeply and truly irritates me. Taking gifts back from a wedding reception? THAT’S tacky. THAT’S gauche. THAT’S inappropriate, and ungracious, and, quite frankly, just plain, flat-out, unjustifiably wrong. So is feeling entitled to inclusion in every private decision that a couple makes.

          Where do people get off feeling like they even have a right to an opinion over this? If one is invited to a wedding ceremony and reception, one has been afforded a tremendous honor from the couple. To turn around and get pissy because one feels excluded from something the couple did privately or because one thinks one has the right to declare one or the other event more/less “real” than the other–


          My intended and I have been thinking about getting legalled before the ceremony. If we do, we won’t tell anyone- we’ll either pull in “witnesses” off the street (the way my grandma and grandpa did for their wartime nuptials) or we’ll have our witnessing friends swear some kind of Harry Potter-esque vow of secrecy or something, because quite frankly, neither A or I consider it anybody’s business what we do for personal finance, tax, health or legal reasons. These are all private, personal matters that no one outside of us (and the specific government or medical agencies involved) is automatically afforded any kind of access to, unless we specifically decide to share that information with them.

          I can promise you that I will most certainly have some strong words to share with anyone who would dare feign umbrage over a personal decision A and I make about our personal, private lives.

          Oh! People really get me worked up sometimes! And it isn’t even 9 in the morning, LOL.

          • Well said! I totally agree with you! My beloved and I plan to have our ceremony and reception sometime in 2016, but for financial and health insurance purposes, we’re going to get legalled early next month. Apart from me and my beloved, my dad will be the only person who will know about this, because he was the one who suggested getting legalled in the first place. If I tell everyone the truth, I know someone’s gonna give me shit about it and I just don’t want to deal with it.

    • I also think it’s best to be upfront and I prefer if people have a party to celebrate their marriage or reaffirm their vows instead of doing a mock wedding. But to each their own.

      • What? Since when does a wedding have to be about a legal commitment?

        My FH and I are probably going to “get legal” before or after our ceremony. We are going to ask a friend to do our handfasting because she has a great spiritual and personal connection to us. But she isn’t legally ordained. For us, the ceremony is about our personal and romantic connection, not taxes. Those are important too, but I’m not putting on a white dress and throwing a big party to celebrate tax breaks.

    • We got married really quickly (border issues…) and the majority of what we heard was “aw man, does this mean there won’t be a wedding? I want to wear a pretty dress and embarrass you!!!” So when we invited people to our big wedding, they were all just glad they still got to go to a wedding!

      (Also, we did (more, better) vows and the ring exchange again at the big wedding, so while it wasn’t the first time, everyone who came still got to witness it)

    • A pair of our friends got legalled a couple of months before their wedding and attempted to keep it a secret. One of the groomsmen/witnesses accidentally outed them while drunk at a party, and while we all had a good chuckle over it, I don’t think anyone who accidentally found out was in the least bit put out, offended, or even annoyed. We were going to their official wedding to support them and celebrate with them…it never felt like it made a difference that they had signed the legal docs on a different day. And, despite both of their families being rather high-maintenance, there was no drama coming from that quarter either (at least regarding their marriage…there was plenty of other drama).

    • None of our guests cared. We had a legal city hall ceremony because Ontario is pretty strick on who can marry you, and we wanted a friend to be our officiant. As far as we were concerned, the city hall part was just paperwork and while our parents wanted to be there, no one else really wanted to see us sign papers. At our non-legal wedding, our officiant pronounced us married “by the power of Greyskull!”

  8. Woah… How does OBB know exactly what I need to hear today?!
    We have just begun the planing journey (aka, trying to save money and stress about planing/family/logistics-journey), and yesterday, out of the blue, my FH just blurted out, “You know, we might have to just do the legal part and plan a long engagement for another year or so.” Just… casually… ACK! What?! Where did that come from?
    He does have reason. He is planning on attending the police academy next year and training to become a peace officer, and if hired by an agency, will have neat-o legal things like health insurance, retirement, and benefits (neither of us have any of those at work now), as well as kindof scary legal things, like life insurance, next of kin, and a beneficiary in case of emergencies. So his thought was if he does get hired somewhere, we should just go get quickly ‘legalled’ while we are still trying to scrimp and save for a wedding-wedding.
    I completely understand the logic behind it. I have had these considerations myself at times… but while my rational brain was like “Okay, maybe we should think about that,” my inside, girly, sentimental, full-of-feels brain went, “Wait… No. That’s not what we’ve been thinking about since we were little… That’s not romantic. What about the white dress? What about the ‘surrounded by family’ moment? … Gah! No! I don’t wanna! …” And other, seemly out-of-nowhere irrational in-brain discussions.
    So now the next day, I’m all stressing about it, struggling to wrap my head around the idea, and wondering if that would make me sad, or feel like I’m compromising on my wedding dreams, or feel like I’m leaving my family out of the ceremony…
    I don’t know. Am I being irrational? What are the downsides to getting ‘legalled’? What other things did you guys see as positives? :-S

    • We kept it under wraps, just our immediate family knew, and one friend who witnessed. We told no one else, because I didn’t want the, i guess, stigma of “getting weddinged” when we were already legal. I didn’t want people to think we were fishing for gifts, or anything of the sort. I wanted to them to feel like we wanted them to witness our bonding, our promises, and the start of our life together (which was all very true!!) rather than a pointless ritual.

      By not telling anyone, i felt so much better about it. I wasn’ t ashamed, and we’ve told people since, I just wanted everyone to feel like they were there for that moment, for the beginning. And in all terms except legal… they were!

      Anyway, that’s my suggestion to get over that “but my dreeeeaaaam!” feeling…

    • Getting legalled doesn’t exclude you from having a surrounded by family in a white dress moment! It’s not what I planned either, but I’m getting legalled today with a wedding in December, and I think it’s the best decision I could have made. It’s really taken the stress out of things.

  9. We did ours for similar reasons… my hubby had a tooth go on him, and since he had no insurance, and I had decent dental, we figured we’d quickly tie the knot and get him on my insurance. We picked up our license on a friday, his sister (who is ordained) married us on Saturday (no real ceremony, we wanted to save that for our wedding!) and on Monday I added him to the insurance. In August we had our Big Damn Wedding, and our friend who officiated didn’t have to get ordained since we were already wed already!

    It did help with the nerves… cuz we were already “official” neither of us were nervous and we just had a blast!

  10. We are considering doing the same, for tax reasons. Really, we probably should have done it last year for that reason. But I’ve been timid because we have had our share of fighting, etc. We kind of had a breakthrough on that this year, and I feel confident and ready. I guess I see the legal ceremony as just that – legal, for legal reasons, and our personal business (we don’t announce to our friends and family how we file our taxes, or what insurance policy we use, etc.) So I like to imagine getting ‘legaled’ as a personal thing, just for us, our business. And I look at our big ceremony we are planning for next year as something big, for our friends and family, and a spiritual event. We are both spiritual people, and have put a lot of thought into what kind of ceremony we want to have, and we both want to share this profound and sacred event with our loved ones. So that’s how I’m dividing it up in my head.

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