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.

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