My Fiance and I did this. We will have been legally married for two years (almost to the day) by the time we have our formal ceremony and reception. I do not regret my decision to marry him early, but I can say that there have been some serious draw backs.
Let me first explain our reasoning. My Fiance had to unexpectedly deploy to Iraq for a year long tour. We had already survived a very rough deployment to Iraq while we were dating, and recognized the advantages of getting married before he deployed again. This was the brunt of our decision, though there were financial considerations as well. Our immediate families know, my Maid/Matron of Honor knows, and, well, the entire military knows. We have not told anyone else, have not held ourselves out as husband and wife except when we needed to disclose it for insurance and other purposes. We still do not live together because the military still owns him and I am finishing up grad school in a different state.
Now, keeping this a secret has been very difficult on both of us. I have 6 bridesmaids, and four of them do not know. Each day I feel worse and worse that I haven’t told them I am already married. I often find myself in situations where I have to act evasive (what? you’re not signing a pre-nup? that’s crazy. I can’t tell them we didn’t have time to worry about a pre-nup before we got married).
My FI’s parents were out of the country when we got legally married, and therefore, we had to tell my own parents that it would not be fair to allow them to come. My mother holds a grudge about this and a year and a half later it came to a boil and we almost had to completely rearrange our wedding plans (since my parents are paying for the brunt of it).
We have not yet decided whether we will tell people at the wedding that we are legally married, but we are leaning against it. If my own mother still does not understand our reasoning, I don’t know how we can expect a room full of 200 people to understand and it will take the focus off of the fact that we finally get to begin our lives together and place it on a legal formality. However, there are enough people that know we’re already married that will be drinking alcohol that evening, and we recognize that we may have to tell people anyways.
On to some of the advantages. It really does take some of the pressure and anxiety off of planning a wedding. While planning the big event is still stressful, neither one of us have to worry about cold feet and we can often take solace in the fact that this is just a big party in many respects. I am very excited about our wedding, but I don’t entirely feel like a true bride at this point (maybe I will after my first dress fitting). We won’t feel guilty about using wedding gifts before the wedding since there isn’t a chance of one of us changing our mind before the wedding.
On a whole, I feel very dishonest about the whole situation, but we are trapped in it now (it’s been well over a year at this point). I do not regret my decision, as it was very, very important to me to have the wife recognition from the military, but my advice to you is to consider how many benefits you will really gain from getting married a couple of months early. Is it really worth the lies you will have to tell to some of your closest friends to have a discount on rent for 4 months and not have to pay your own health insurance? Consider how well you can handle it, because it’s harder than it seems.
That being said, I just attended another (military) wedding where the couple had gotten married in August (they needed to be married for the military to assign them to the same base when they relocate). They have held themselves out as husband and wife since then, and just had their big church ceremony now. No one seemed to care, and everyone supported them.