February 15, 2018

I’m spilling all of my secrets lately!

Here’s one that most people don’t know about Nick and me unless you’re a fellow military spouse or a close friend. On February 15, 2013, six months before our wedding, Nick and I put on some jeans, dragged my brother and my dad, and went to the courthouse to get married.

We didn’t make a big deal out of it. We didn’t even have rings (which sent the officiant into a frenzy as she scrambled to get us paperclip rings as we said, “No, really, we’re good…”). My dad wore his carpenter’s uniform and went straight to work after. My brother, Nick, and I went to the Cheesecake Factory after, where my brother insisted we feed each other cheesecake.

There was no honeymoon. The next day, Nick flew back to Washington and I stayed in New York. Nick went on one more deployment. Then we had our big wedding and moved to Hawaii together.

It’s a pretty common thing for military couples to do. There are a lot of reasons why a couple might get married before their wedding date. If you are not married when you receive your orders to your next duty station, then your spouse is not on your orders. This can be annoying for a lot of things.

This is probably not an issue for many couples, depending on when they decide to get married. Our wedding was planned for after Nick was going to be relieved from his boat. He would leave Washington, where he was stationed, and together we would go to his next duty station. A fresh start.

Our problem was the timing of our wedding. We wanted to get married before Nick was told where to go next so that I could be on his orders. We had been together for 6 years at that point and were actively planning our own wedding, so I didn’t really see the big deal for myself.

I didn’t tell anyone at the time because I felt like it would have taken away from our actual wedding. Also, we got married in a church in August, which meant something very different from our legal wedding, at least to my family. I also didn’t want people wondering why we were having a wedding when we were already married. I didn’t want people talking about me or gossiping or not taking our wedding day seriously. I’ve seen it happen and I didn’t want the drama or the judgment.

There are many couples out there who will bite the bullet and deal with whatever annoyances come because it’s important for them to get married on their actual wedding day. I totally respect that.

For me, I think it actually alleviated a lot of stress about our wedding. I knew that things weren’t going to be perfect, and I let go of a lot of that because, heck, we were already married. I will say that on our actual wedding day in August, I didn’t think about it once. I think that I might have joked in the morning that I didn’t have to worry about Nick showing up because he really had no choice at that point. I think that the entire day was less stressful overall.

We always say that this is our “fake” anniversary, but we always end up celebrating, because it does carry meaning for us. Nick gave me a beautiful necklace the day before we got married… I thought it was a Valentine’s Day present but he said it was for our wedding. And ever since, we have always celebrated our anniversary in a small way. It’s always been fun because no one else knows. I asked Nick if he wants to keep celebraitng and he said, Yeah, why wouldn’t we want more things to celebrate?

But I wanted to write about it today because this can be a difficult decision for many people to make. Among my friends, we are pretty split — and we all have pretty strong opinions on it. For some, it wasn’t an issue because of their timing. Some were adamantly opposed to getting married early, some didn’t care, some did it but didn’t tell anyone. But we all understand that decision and how hard it was, no matter what decision you make.

This was the first time that Nick and I had to do what we felt was right for us, despite what anyone else told us. My family didn’t really understand why we felt the need to do this. No one in my family is in the military so I really can’t blame them. I never was one to keep things from my parents, so I told them. While they didn’t really understand it, they came to support it.  Now we joke about it, like, what was the big deal, really?

The #1 thing that this taught me was how important it is to do what is right for you and your spouse. Military life is really challenging and anything that you can do to make it easier on yourself and your spouse, do it. I’m glad that we started off our marriage strong by knowing what was best for us.

So, happy 5 years to us! And yes there will be another anniversary post come August. The perk of two wedding dates is two days to celebrate!

10 responses to “That time we got married before our wedding”

  1. Jenn says:

    One of my best friends did this. Her and her husband had a small wedding in her parents living room before their “big” wedding. Her husband was being deployed and their wedding was set for after the deployment. He wanted to be married in case anything happened, she would be covered. It was the best decision for them.

  2. Rachel G says:

    Happy five years to you!! Here in Malaysia, typically pastors or other religious leaders have no power to marry couples, so everyone has a legal wedding first and usually will later do a ceremony–sometimes 1 or 2 years later if they want to save up and do a really big ceremony! My parents eloped at the courthouse and didn’t have any other ceremony, and so did my BIL and SIL (he was in the Navy, so it was similarly practical!).

  3. Audrey says:

    Happy 5th Anniversary! I kind of love that you did this. It’s very JIM&PAM (The Office), though for a different reason. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I always tell friends/brides that the main goal of your wedding day is to be. married. As long as that happens, no matter what goes wrong or weird, you accomplished all that you set out to do. I love that that aspect was most important to you two and you took matters into your hands and did what was best!

  4. Jen says:

    When we got married it was a relatively quick ceremony and we had every intention of having a “big” wedding but we never did. I know so many people who did exactly as you did! 🙂

  5. So almost the same thing happened to Chris’s aunt. She was going to teach for the army and the only way her future husband could go with her was if they were married, so they got married at the courthouse and then had a big wedding later on. There’s already so much other crap that goes on after you get married- like changing your name and merging finances, that if you can help things out by getting married a little early legally so the military stuff is less complicated, you might as well. Then your wedding is just an even bigger celebration of the two of y’all!

  6. Nadine says:

    I totally get why you got married before your planned wedding. I love that you celebrate the anniversary in some way, that is so sweet 🙂

  7. Karlynn says:

    Not military, but we almost did this as well. I lost my job thanks to the Great Recession between when we got engaged and our wedding date. We debated long and hard about whether to do a secret wedding so I could get on Will’s insurance as COBRA was way too expensive. Luckily, I found a new job pretty quickly and we decided to leave well enough alone. I wholeheartedly agree with your point that you have to do what is right for you and your spouse. They are your new family and you need to make decisions for what works best for your unit.

  8. Julie says:

    My friend did that too, got married a year before their actual wedding because they were moving to Dubai and well, you definitely need to be married in the UAE to live together..! And even people I know that are getting relocated to the US, they do have to be legally married if they want to move their spouse/partner with them. But yup, definitely do what’s right for the situation!! Happy anniversary!! 😉

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Happy (late) Anniversary!!! The husband and I actually planned to do the same thing and had a small wedding with the intention of having the ‘real’ one after he come home from deployment. But the deployment was canceled so we never did. I still have family members who have a problem with our wedding so I completely get why you didn’t tell anyone. Everyone has to do what’s right for them!

  10. Erica says:

    Loved reading this! It seems like I know more military couples that had two weddings than had one wedding. Love it! It’s always such a big secret until one person says “Oh yeah, I had a courthouse wedding first” and then someone else says “Me too!” We sped up our wedding and got married in seven weeks, but otherwise we would have done the same thing you did. <3

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