We already had a big wedding, now how do we celebrate getting legalled?

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An image from JE's recent wedding.
So here's the thing: my wife and I had an amazing wedding celebration. We wanted to express ourselves and share our love and happiness with all of our friends and family. We had our wedding already, as we never knew when, if ever, Prop 8 would be repealed.

Thankfully it did! We can now legally get married.

How can we have a “part two,” without it being as big as the first and having everyone ask so many questions?

Any ideas on how to pull that off? Is anyone else in the same position as we are in now? -JE

With the shift in marriage equality laws, we've been talking a lot lately about “getting legalled.” Now we'd love to hear from those of you who've navigated your own second celebrations: did you acknowledge finally being able to make your marriage legal? How did that second celebration compare to your wedding?

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Comments on We already had a big wedding, now how do we celebrate getting legalled?

  1. We first got legalled and celebrated our marriage with a big party one month later. We wore the same clothes for both occasions.

    For the legal wedding, there were no official invitations: I just told everyone who wanted to join in to come to the town hall. A lot more people showed up then I expected, but it was great!
    After the official part, I invited them all for drinks in my favourite bar (at walking distance from the town hall).

    We also had lunch at our place with my parents and grandparents. We were only 20. A friend cooked.

    I don’t know if this works for you, but for us, the day couldn’t have been more perfect.

  2. There a couple pieces of information that make it difficult for me to feel like I can offer any super tangible “I’d do it like this” advice.

    First, how long as it been since you got married? If it’s only been a couple months, then you can TOTALLY celebrate everything as a “new development”. If it’s been, I’d say, between 6 months and a year, then it becomes trickier and you may want to get everyone together to just celebrate the legal union only with something more subdued, as you’ve been married to your guests and they may not get the significance of the legal aspect.

    If it’s been a year or more, I’d say tie it in with an anniversary party of the wedding and add that you have more to celebrate since California now legally recognizes the married you’ve had the support of all your guests for however long its been.

  3. I think same sex marriages that become recognized by the state after they happen are a special case in terms of people’s willingness to participate/excitement about vow renewals. Normally, I wouldn’t be so excited for a vow renewal, as I don’t understand them so much (coming from a culture in which they aren’t a thing). But for same sex friends getting legalled, I’m down to celebrate any way they want, and I will be so excited. We went with some friends who got legalled by a rabbi at the SF courthouse at pride, on the day of the month anniversary of their wedding. It was fabulous. If you wanted to do a bigger celebration, I think that would be awesome too. Doing it at the courthouse ( with like 20 people there) seemed like a great way to get legalled, since it is sort of the site of where the new rights are coming from. But if you wanted to have a full on ceremony, repeat your vows, and have a catered dinner with dancing to celebrate, that would be awesome too, and anything in between. I really don’t think there is a wrong way to get legalled when you’ve been denied that right in the past. In your living room, at the courthouse, in a haunted house, in a hotel ballroom, with friends or just the two of you, or you and any kids you have, with pizza after, or lunch out after or a catered dinner after or nothing after.

    • I’m with Caroline on this one. Do what feels right to you, and (hopefully!) your friends and family will be right there with you. It sounds like you want to do something a bit more subdued and are worried about getting lots of questions about double-dipping or whatever. As to the first part, I guess that depends on how NOT subdued the first event was. You could do a courthouse thing, a backyard thing, a church thing – whatever is right for you two.

      And as to the second part, I think most people will understand that while the last wedding celebrated your personal commitment to each other, this one celebrates your legal commitment to each other. And you can always head off questions in an invitation (or email or conversation or whatever) by clarifying that presents aren’t necessary, no need to dress up, or whatever is right for you all. I’m guessing that most of your guests (at the first and second events) were at least somewhat aware of the changing state of marriage equality.

  4. I think in your case, being able to “get legalled” is a big deal, and you could probably celebrate it however you wanted. I understand that you probably don’t want to go to the fuss and expense of throwing a whole other wedding, but you could certainly do the courthouse with close friends and family followed by a big party thing. Or you could have a smaller, less fancy ceremony in a meaningful location with whoever you want to celebrate with. I think that whatever you choose to do, your friends and family will understand your excitement and how much this means to you. Even if you wanted to go all out again, I think most people would get why and be into it.

  5. I second all of the “do what you want” advice. If you’re concerned about people complaining about you “double-dipping” to steal another poster’s term, you could ask that people donate money in your name to something like The Trevor Project or something else instead of giving you gifts. You could even do that yourself instead if you want. I know there are plenty of people on here who have donated money instead of doing things like flowers or favors. If people ask questions, then just view it as a great opportunity to talk about your new privileges/rights/abilities. If you want to do something really small with your nearest and dearest, do that. If you want to get legalled on the biggest float at the SF Gay Pride parade, do that instead. You wouldn’t have to worry about decorations if you go that route.

  6. I definitely think you get to go how you want to on this one. My husband and I got legalled over three years ago now and are in the planning stages now for our get weddinged ceremony. I think it’s important to remember that you aren’t inviting “those people” or “them” who will get bent out of shape over celebrating with you. You’re asking your nearest and dearest to celebrate a huge milestone.

    The fun part is that, there aren’t a lot of social guidelines here, so you get to right the book. Want to wear your original clothes, throw a huge party and otherwise go all out? Go for it. Want to wear something new, more/less formal, have a bigger/smaller shindig? Go for it. There are, quite literally, no rules for this so you get to have all the fun.

  7. I’d love to go to friends’ getting legalled party of any kind! Just be clear you are not asking for more gifts.

    • Just a word on that: if you decide to go this route, send the “no gifts please” message by word of mouth ONLY. I suggest casually mentioning it to any important people in your life who have a lot of contact with the rest of the family/friend group/likely guests so they can informally tell the rest of your social circle, or saying “we don’t need anything, just want to celebrate with loved ones!” IF you are asked. If you use invitations, don’t print anything like “no gifts” on them, because 1. people who want to give you something to mark the occasion will do it anyways, and 2. it makes it appear like you expected gifts in the first place. Some people can be really touchy about multiple wedding celebrations (although, in your case there is absolutely nothing wrong with a second celebration since you were denied the right to a legal one before), and they may take offense at the “presumption” of mentioning gifts at all.

  8. I’m in the same situation. Getting married on November 30th this year but we’re not sure when we’ll be able to legally marry here (Sydney, Australia). I imagine what we’ll do when it is legal is dress up (another opportunity to wear my wedding dress- hell yeah) and go to a registry office with our immediate family. We may do a dinner and/or drinks at a restaurant and/or pub afterwards but it’ll be very informal. Our emphasis is focused on our first wedding, when we’ll be married in the eyes of all our friends and family. Our wedding to make it legal is still important but I really want the focus to remain on the big day in November with our loved ones.

  9. I think it’s absolutely okay to have any kind of celebration you want, since you were denied the ability to be legally married on your chosen wedding day. If you were a heterosexual couple wanting to have a “second wedding,” then I’d think you were being a bit gift grabby or attention-hogging, since you would have had the opportunity to get legalled the same day you took your marriage vows, but obviously, that’s not the case with you and your wife. I completely understand why you wouldn’t want to host another large celebration with all the typical expense. If it were me, I would probably plan a nice courthouse ceremony or a quick vow renewal followed by a laid-back meal for any guests you invite, maybe a slightly nicer version of a house-party. Something meaningful and beautiful without all the stress and fanfare of a typical wedding. Depending on how long ago your wedding celebration was, could you plan this legal vow renewal for the same day as your past marriage ceremony? I think that would be nice just so you could tie it into your wedding and then you don’t have to remember two different dates!

  10. My partner and I are booked in for a civil partnership in the UK and it’s been planned as a big family wedding. Since we booked and started planning, gay marriage has become legal but not yet available, With no clear message about when it will be this means we will most likely be having a civil partnership with a marriage “upgrade” later. We are currently toying with the idea of doing the upgrade as an elopement on our first year anniversary, ie just the two of us at the registry office and then announcing to everyone after. This would keep our wedding as the main event and tie the two anniversaries together. Plus we get to have a big family do and elope!

  11. I officiated a legalling for two of my friends on their second wedding anniversary after Prop 8 got repealed (thank you ULC). They wanted a low-key thing, so we had the signing at a friend’s house, then went out to a lovely, lengthy formal brunch with plenty of mimosas and great food. We took video of the signing for friends and family who weren’t able to make it, and the brides recreated quite a few of their poses from their wedding day. We wore what we had to the wedding or to the rehearsal dinner, and even broke out some streamers they had made so their wedding colors were in full force.

    Some couples have wedding renewals every few years or so, and they have big dos, so if you want to have another big bash, I say go for it. If you just want a quiet affair with friends and family, do that too. Just do what feels right for both of you. If you do have a small ceremony, though, you may want to consider sending out “we got legalled” announcements, or mentioning it in an annual holiday letter if you do those sorts of things. My friends are still fielding questions about when they’re going to ‘finally tie the knot already’, and they signed the paperwork in July.

  12. I think everyone has great advice! I think something I want to flag up is the bit you ask about dealing with everyone’s questions. Are you concerned that they’ll ask why you’re making a big deal out of the legal aspect – particularly perhaps friends/family who don’t really understand why this is such a legal milestone? Perhaps then you could include a section on your wedding website or in the invitation about (a) why this development has such social significance and (b) why it matters to YOU! You could do this in a lighthearted way, so it doesn’t feel like a history lesson.

    And I guess what you’re also telling people is: “the wedding you attended doesn’t mean less because now we can get legally married. We still think of that day as one of the most special of our lives and are proud that you shared it with us. But even on that special day, it hurt that our country, unlike you, didn’t recognise the validity of our union. Now we can celebrate that the nation finally gets what you already did – that we love each other and deserve to have our union recognised.”

  13. Thank you for all the wonderful feedback. My wife just celebrated our two years since our ceremony. I think after all the help we’ll ready to celebrate this time next year.

    our idea is less formal more fun lovin.
    Rainbows encouraged .

  14. Whoot! Another couple getting legalled! My wife and I just did this last month on our 2nd anniversary(September 2013) and it was far more profound that we ever could have imagined.
    We got un-legally married in the Deep South two years ago with all of our friends and family there. It was a huge wedding weekend with camping, s’mores, canoeing, great food, and great people.

    When it came out this summer that DOMA was overturned and that the federal government would now recognize all marriages, we knew that we needed to get married again! We are both federal employees so our employer was now required recognize our marriage, even if our state won’t.

    We made our getting legalled event into a vacation. The destination was chosen on where we wanted to go and what each state’s marriage requirements were. Since we were traveling in from out of state, we couldn’t get hitched somewhere with a waiting period. We didn’t invite anyone to come with us and we didn’t send out announcements when we got back, even though we did talk about it. We did text and email pictures to family and friends after the ceremony was over. We did tell folks what we were doing and everyone was very excited for us.
    We didn’t wear our wedding dresses again, just nice clothes that we already had. I did make us boutonnieres with dried flowers from our wedding, which was a surprise to my wife. The ceremony was short and sweet- we reread our vows from the wedding and I cried through the whole thing again. We had planned to get married at the courthouse, but ended up getting married in the Unitarian Universalist church across the street- I’m a UU and it felt so right!

    Everything was very simple: we took our own pictures, wore clothes we had, went out for amazing cake afterward, and laughed and cried more than we thought. It was fantastic and small things came together over and over again to make it really personal and just what we wanted.

    I hope you and your wife have a celebration that fits you both! I think we are all in new territory with getting hitched after getting married so do what makes you both happy.

  15. We are doing the same thing but opposite. My wife and I got legalled shortly after New Jersey made it legal in our town courthouse. and our now planning a big party to celebrate. It is your day do it how you feel is best. When we got legalled we went out to brunch at the diner where we had our first date and then went back to our place and played cards against humanity with our friends. A really cool laid back day.

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