Private legal ceremony before the big wedding? Opinions, please!

posted 3 years ago in Ceremony
Post # 3
11022 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2009

@HeyKaraoke:  Will your religious ceremony also be without an officiant?

Post # 4
7471 posts
Busy Beekeeper

@HeyKaraoke:  Honestly I don’t see how this will lessen your anxiety. You will still have to stand up in front of everyone and do what you would have to do whether or not you sign the papers before hand. infact it might heighten your anxiety if people find out about the wedding not being what they deem the actual wedding and that they were infact excluded from it.

If you are really concerned about your mental health (anxiety) then cancel the big wedding and reception and have a private ceremony. Everyone will understand.

Post # 5
1248 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

This may cause more drama and anxiety trying to plan two “weddings” (well, one wedding and the other a celebration).  If it is the crowds/people that make you anxious, they will still be there at the larger, second event (allthough, less people tend to show up to celebrations knowing that the couple has already eloped/been married). And just to warn you, some get rather angry about it too.  I’m not sure how it solves anything. This is assuming that at the second event you would be redoing your vows/going through a “ceremony.”

I think rather than trying to multiply the number of events, you need to make a decision with your FI as to what you both want and do that one.  Go for simplification rather than complication.

You could have a private ceremony and then just a party a week or so after to celebrate with family and friends rather that to do it all in one day, or worse, do both twice over.

Post # 6
381 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

So actually, DH and I did this. Our reasons were legal. Our application for his visa was rather delayed, and we wanted to begin the process of getting him a greencard ASAP (and we couldn’t do that without first being married). Also, in order to have a bilingual ceremony, we had a friend perform our ceremony, and we were too lazy to get him official online. 

It ended up being wonderful. DH, like you, always wanted a private ceremony. We went down to the SF courthouse, which was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been, and had a very small, simple ceremony with 2 friends as witnesses, and then ate sushi. He was really happy because it was the wedding HE wanted, and it made him feel more confident in case something went wrong in our big wedding (which was only 2 weeks later). This might be the case with you; you can relax because, no matter what, you had your private ceremony and those memories will last forever. 

There are some caveats though. I didn’t tell anyone except my mother and father, and honestly, they were pretty mad. They felt that our wedding was sort of “fake.” Ultimately, they understood why we did it and supported us, since they love us and are that kind of people, but told us not to tell any of our guests in case they got mad about traveling halfway around the country and the WORLD for a ceremonial, rather than legal, wedding. I didn’t see the big damn deal, (our wedding was OUR WEDDING to me, nothing could take away from that) but a lot of people don’t see it that way. So you might want to talk with your parents about whether or not they will be angry, or it will make your guests angry if they found out. 

Also, think about why you really WANT to do this, and whether it will actually lessen the anxiety. It seems like your wedding day is too close now to cancel everything easily. 

Post # 8
11022 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2009


Would it be possible to have the legal ceremony earlier on the same day as the larger ceremony with your guests? If so, I think this might be the perfect solution. That way, you would be able to have the special, private sharing of your vows with only your parents present, and your actual anniversary would still be the same as your public anniversary. I actually know of a couple who wrongly obtained their marriage license in the county in which they lived instead of the county in which the church where their wedding was to be held was located. The pastor legally married the couple at the bride’s home on the morning of the couple’s scheduled wedding day and then proceeded with the previously planned ceremony in front of the couple’s larger group of invited family and friends.

Post # 9
1599 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@HeyKaraoke:  We are doing this, but our legal ceremony is the same day as the “wedding.”  We sent out invitations to what is penned as our wedding (basically a big party from 7-midnight) to our guests and included an insert for about 20 others to be invited to our “intimate ceremony” earlier in the day. Our friend is ordained and registered so she will perform both ceremonies- the longer legal one during the day and then a little re-cap/re-exchange of the rings at the evening party.

The reason was similar to yours- we both wanted a small, intimate ceremony with our family and closest friends but also wanted a big party, so we’re doing both! We’re having the ceremony around 2pm and then having a lunch (bought out a small restaurant) then we have a break till the reception later. It’ll be nice for just our families and closest friends to get to spend some time with us too- it’s only immediate family and siblings, plus about 12 really close friends (mostly married couples) and our photographer.

I’m really happy with our decision. I could never picture myself walking down a mile-long aisle…I would def end up tripping and tumbling down it. I literally have nightmares about standing in front of that many people for such a emotional moment!

Post # 10
2419 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

I think your problem is not so much the getting married but more of being processed into the sort of wedding you don’t want. So in truth, I can’t see that having two “weddings” is going to help the issue. If you are anxious and dislike being in the limelight then already being legally married isn’t going to change anything. But it might well add the sort of drama of hurt feelings and claims that you aren’t “really getting married now” that will cause you even more stress.

I’m concerned that your FI appears to care so little for your feelings that he’s prepared to carry on regardless with the sort of wedding you are reluctant to have. 

Post # 11
7630 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: January 2013

Personally, I wouldn’t. You’ll still have all of the pressure of the wedding and you will be keeping a secret which makes everything worse. I also think it’s a snub to your guests who would be left out. I understand your anxiety. However, you have agreed to have a wedding so I would try to accept that. Relax as much as possible and you can get through it. Best of luck. 

Post # 13
11022 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2009

@HeyKaraoke:  You’re welcome! I actually was thinking exactly what you’re thinking –about doing it immedidately following your first look — but I wasn’t sure of your timeline, so I didn’t end up posting that in my last comment. I hope everything works out perfectly for you! 🙂

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