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. We did this too, since my husband came on a fiance visa. We needed a little time to plan and the date that worked for my brother (the only out of state guest) put us right up against the 90 day limit, which would have stressed me out to no end. Also, the sooner the marriage is, the sooner you can file paper work, and the sooner the immigrant will be allowed to start working, which was important for our dwindling bank account.

    We invited immediate family and grandparents only to the courthouse and had dinner with them at a restaurant afterwords and then had the big shindig with everyone a couple months later. We didn’t make a big announcement or anything but between parents/grandparents knowing and changing our relationship status on facebook pretty much everyone knew by the time the wedding came around, and no one seemed to care. It made the day of seem a lot less stressful because we already had all the legal stuff completely taken care of and it gave us an excuse to not have a pastor officiate (we did it with no officiant) since we are an atheist and a catholic and as far as I know all but 1 of our guests are protestants, some of whom don’t know that I am not.

    When all these plans were coming together I really thought the wedding would be “the big day” and the anniversary we would celebrate, so I was surprised when getting legalled ended up feeling more “real” to me in terms of beginning our marriage and is the anniversary we celebrate, with the wedding just a one time celebration of it, and that date now just any other day.

    • ah the fiance visa and 90 day window-that is something we are dealing with right now.
      i too am planning a similar ceremony-courthouse with a few close friends, big shindig within a few months.
      no one seems to mind, the people who love and support us just want to share the moment with us and make memories however and wherever.
      then again it could be because they know i’m a bit of a bohemian and the fact i’m even getting married on dry land makes it more attendable for them.
      i’m still considering getting married on a boat in the middle of the lake. for real. so you never know.
      the legal day is what i’m planning on as the official day too. it feels more official than the day that we’ve chosen for our public celebration.

      • For those of you who went this route, I’d love to hear some more about your ‘wedding’ ceremonies. We’re going the fiancé visa route and so it makes more sense for us to sign the paperwork first, then have our wedding later – but I just can’t shake the feeling that it’d feel fake to me. I don’t know how it would end without the officiant declaring us husband and wife, and us signing the papers then and there. We’d given some thought to holding two ceremonies, one in my country and one in his, but again it would feel strange having a ‘wedding’ without actually getting married. And don’t get me started on the families responses if we told them that we weren’t actually getting married at the ceremony…

        Would love to hear how other people did it and if you had the same thoughts.

        • For those of you who went this route, I’d love to hear some more about your ‘wedding’ ceremonies.

          Oh, I do believe we can help you with that:
          http://offbeatbride.com/tag/getting-weddinged

          That’s our massive archive of posts about “getting weddinged” … which is what we call the “weddings” that happen after you’ve already gotten legalled.

  2. My hubs and I made it legal in March, got married in Oct. In Texas we have informal marriage certificates. Wham! That’s enough to have gotten him on my insurance. We very informally went to the County Clerk and knocked that out along with DBAs for our new businesses and then went and had pancakes afterward. We didn’t really tell anyone at the time either, and I count the big party date as the anniversary. As soon as we were engaged, I felt committed to him forever, so it just felt like a little legal paperwork and the ceremony was the ritual/spiritual/community side of it for us.

  3. I have been thinking about this real hard. We are getting married Jan 25th 2014 in upstate NY. We have vaguely talked about getting legal-ed in a NYC courthouse in between Christmas and New Years.

    The reasons pro doing it: It could be something little secret, just for us. It would be like on Mad About You when then did it. It might help us financially. We are thinking about buying a house soon, maybe it would help us with that? Our friend we want to marry us isn’t legal to do so, and has a new baby, so if we get legal first, then she could “marry” us without doing the paperwork.
    The reasons against doing it: It might not feel right on Jan 25th. People’s feeling might get hurt if we don’t tell them about it. It might just make things more stressful. (Though maybe we could just go, dressed as ourselves, and go to the courthouse and do it, and then go see a movie.)

  4. In some places, the legal stuff and the wedding are completely different things. In Japan, for instance, getting married is pretty much filling out government forms. Romantic, eh? A wedding has no legal standing, and can be done at any time after the marriage is franked.

  5. We miiiiight be doing the legal bit before or after our wedding as we are considering getting married in France. We did (breifly) consider living there for 3 months, but since you have to do the registry thing there first anyway we thought we may as well do it in our own country with close family to see ‘the vows’.

  6. My fiancé and I are getting legalled this year as well. Our officiant is our roommate from when we first moved in together, and he lives out of state and can’t really deal with all the legal aspects of marrying us, like getting ordained and filing paperwork and junk. So, we’re going to elope to Vegas! (Shhhh, it’s a secret!) we’re going to spend a few days there, have a blast, get hitched, and then come home and finish planning the wedding for 8.2.14. I was afraid of getting married before the wedding at first because I was afraid the “wedding” part would never happen, but since we’ve pledged to keep it a secret from everyone (except my mother and his brother), we really don’t have a choice but to go through with the big stuff! I’m excited, and I’m hoping getting married beforehand will make the wedding a lot more fun next year. Great post!

  7. I love this! But maybe I am missing something… here in Canada, if we are common-law (which means we’ve lived together and/or have a child together for over a certain amount of time), we are allotted the same rights as a legally married couple. He can be on my benefits, our taxes are filed as common-law, etc. Is getting legalled more pertinent to the US? Or are there other legal-marriage-benefits here in the Great White North that I don’t know about? Anyone have any insight?

    • Two words for you: HEALTH INSURANCE.

      That’s the biggest difference between common law and legally married in the US. Also, common law takes a much longer time down here.

      • And many states, like the one I live in, doesn’t recognize common law marriage at all.

        Furthermore, it’s difficult to have a secular/ non-religious/ atheist wedding outside of a courthouse here. Judges, JOP’s, and registered clergy are the only persons who can perform legally binding ceremonies. Now, I know a number of people who are registered as “clergy” with the parishes here under the auspices of any number of religious “traditions,” but for folks who don’t feel they should have to pay lip-service to religious tradition in order to get married, a courthouse wedding before the ceremony is the only way to go.

  8. 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–
    Gah!!!!!!
    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.

  9. Getting legalled a few days before the wedding itself was a great decision for us too. We JUST had out wedding this past Sunday, and we have both been calling it Our Perfect Day… everything was great. But because VA is tough for getting non-religious-affiliated people to be able to perform a wedding and we are both agnostic, we wanted to have a friend officiate, but had to do the legal part on the Friday before. It was nice to have both very different ceremonies. The legal one was a private moment with us and our dogs outside – I still got sappy, and it was a big emotional moment. And then Sunday we had a great time having the public ceremony with our friends and family and dogs. It helped my husband relax since he was super nervous about the wedding, and it helped me relax that he wouldn’t run on Sunday 🙂

  10. My husband and I got “legalled” this past July. I am in the military and wanted him to be able to use my GI Bill since I wasn’t planning on using it. The benefits (extra money and insurance for him) alone were more than enough reason to go ahead and get married. I’m glad we did it though. I only told my parents, immediate family, and nearest and dearest the plan and they were in favor. He didn’t tell his family though for his own reasons. We were engaged for a while before and are still going through with the ceremony in May 2014. Everyone at work knows because they announced it at muster without my knowing but that was ok.
    I’m happy we did it this way because I don’t have to lie to my traditional parents about us living together. I also feel like a lot of stress for the big day has lifted. Even if the day of turns out to be a disaster, at least we’ll still be married 🙂

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