We had a tiny ceremony (family only) about 4 months before we did a larger reception-type deal. Personally, I think it’s fine to do–and you don’t have to offer any sort of practical reason for the JOP deal, you CAN just do it because you want to–so long as you observe the following caveats:
1. Your JOP ceremony must be small and there have to be strict “rules” about who is invited to that. Generally, that means things like “immediate family only” or, in your case, “Canadians only, except for his parents.” The more you “pick and choose” the greater the likelihood that someone out there will be offended. And by small, we’re talking maybe 10 guests, max, unless your immediate family is particularly large.
2. You MUST tell your guests to your second event that you are already married and that they are not going to be attending a wedding in the traditional sense. There are people who disagree on this, but I’ll tell you why I think honesty is important here. Weddings have a cultural significance that are unmatched by most other events and as such, they are events that people will rearrange work schedules and babysitter needs to attend, travel long distances to attend, and incur bigger personal expenses to attend. Some people, as much as they might love and care for you, might NOT make the same accommodations just to celebrate your marriage or witness a re-enactment of your vows. And it is their right to make that decision. There are quite a few people that you’ll offend if you imply that they are going to be witnesses to your nuptials, when in fact, they will not be. And don’t htink for a second that your JOP deal won’t leak, especially if your parents are involved and/or you have a few guests. So please be honest with your guests.
Now, I think that in some cases, particularly with international couples, two weddings are more common because of the fact that it’s difficult to require everyone from Iowa to travel to Japan and vice-versa. But I dunno–even then I think it’s prudent to tell whomever’s 2nd that you were already married and that they’re going to be either celebrating or witnessing vows.
Having said that, that’s not to say that you can’t do all the fun wedding things–you can wear the dress and re-state your vows in front of all your friends; you can cut the cake; you can do it ALL, essentially, just not under the premise that it’s a wedding. The invites should contain verbiage like, “celebration of their recent marriage” or something. THe other really cool thing that you can do, which I’ve seen at after-the-fact celebrations myself–is consider hiring a videographer or photographer to shoot your JOP ceremony and then showing the video or doing a slideshow or having some albums out to share with your guests at the second affair. Lots of people will find that enjoyable–but again, only IF your JOP is just you or just you and like, your immediate family.
3. Don’t expect gifts. You can register all the same, but don’t be surprised if people forgo the gift for the reason I outlined above (that a wedding-celebration is not the same is an actual wedding). It’s kind of a hard fact to accept, but by doing a private ceremony and a separate reception-deal (or eloping and then doing a separate shindig), you are kind of having your cake and eating it too–you’ve essentially decided to keep people out of the ceremony and then making yourselves the center of attention for a party–sort of like, “I had an awesome birthday that you weren’t invited to, but that’s okay because we can celebrate ME now!” I KNOW that’s not your intention or anything, but I’m telling you that’s sort of what’s going on. So expect that for some people, they won’t consider it necessary to give you a gift since you didn’t consider it necessary to include them in the ceremony. It’s not pettiness; it’s just a reality of the fact that they wouldn’t be attending nuptials, just a celebration.