When I first met my husband, we were lucky to have almost a year of dating under our belt when the inevitable happened…PCS orders. Insert gulp.
Not only were they PCS orders, they were PCS orders to an unaccompanied overseas tour. Insert double gulp.
After sharing news of his orders, my then-boyfriend said
“I want to marry you.”
It came so nonchalantly, but very sincerely. I started to turn red. He couldn’t see it though because this was all over the phone and not what I pictured my proposal would be.
However, my gut immediately told my mouth to say,
“I want to marry you too.”
Well, there you have it…we were engaged. He still had 4 months of class before his overseas move, so we had only months to plan for a wedding. Insert yet another gulp.
I was somewhat heartbroken because it didn’t give me enough time to 1) plan and 2) have dearest friends and family attend. Also, I told my fiance that I wanted to be a little traditional i.e. get married in my childhood church, have my dad walk me down the aisle, do the Filipino ceremonies, etc.
That’s when he brought up the idea of 2 weddings.
I scratched my head. Hmm, 2 weddings?! I was hesitant at first, but we discussed the pros and cons. After have a long dialogue about it, we decided that 2 weddings was a fit for us.
Since then I’ve learned that the idea of 2 weddings isn’t an uncommon practice for military couples. The military has a way to nudge things forward unexpectedly like a wedding.
The concept of 2 weddings was my strategy to have my wedding cake and eat it too. With my 2 weddings I could still get married when time wasn’t on my side and still have the wedding of my dreams.
So, that became our plan. We scheduled a date for a courthouse wedding 2 weeks before he shipped off and then another one for 2 weeks after he arrived back in the United States.
Are you finding yourself in the same boat? Here are 5 tips that helped me during the process of planning 2 weddings.
5 Tips for Making the Decision to Have a Courthouse Ceremony or a Chapel Wedding (or Both)
Talk about it. Getting married is a huge decision and is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Despite knowing I wanted to be with my soldier for the rest of my life, there were things that needed to be thought through before we picked out rings.
We used the Military & Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Program at Fort Drum to have a third party opinion on this decision. The MFLC Program can be utilized even if you aren’t married (at least we used it) because it’s for the well-being of the service member. I was pleasantly surprised that I was allowed to be counseled with him as a girlfriend. Go Army!
Compromise. As military significant others, we hear that word “compromise” a lot (and I mean a lot, a lot). But seriously, compromising becomes your friend, your very best friend.
Compromising was really the foundation of our decision to have 2 weddings and the reason for us to go through an unaccompanied tour at that time.
Timing was the driving force in our compromise and despite NOT wanting to be apart, the year apart gave us the time to plan for a wedding, have our loved ones save the date and come celebrate with us and helped me establish a work-from-home job that I’m currently doing today.
It’s all about you and your loved one. Ultimately, you should only be concerned with yourself and your beloved. To be honest, at first, I was concerned what others would think about our decision. Even if the first ceremony was only for each other and the military in a way, I still had to notify my employer for tax purposes and as a result, the cat would be out of the bag.
Then, I thought about it more and realized I shouldn’t be concerned because what we were doing helped us ensure a strong future together. I was happy and still am happy about our decision to have a courthouse ceremony 5 years later.
Don’t be afraid to lean on friends and family. Luckily, I had an awesome support system. My family and friends were behind me and made the whole process seamless. I was happy to be able to have the chance to celebrate with them the second time around. Trust me, it was hard to let go of the reins (I’m Type-A all the way), but one of the best things I did was let people help me with getting married, twice.
Focus on the marriage and not the wedding. I did want to wear the white dress and veil among other wedding-y things, but I didn’t see everything as the event – or two in our case.
We saw our courthouse wedding as the first step in our marriage celebration and our church wedding as the time where we celebrated with the world.
Everyone is different and I’m an advocate of really doing what is best for you and your soon-to-be spouse.
If a courthouse wedding is what you want, then go for it. I’ve had military spouse friends have their wedding celebrations 10 years after their courthouse “I do” – and that’s amazing too.
It’s your wedding. Do what’s best for you and your future spouse.