(This post is a few days late, Oops! Pretend that it is July 30th)
Your engaged! Congratulations! What an exciting and wonderful time in your life.
Now all your energy and focus has shifted to that one big day that all women dream of: The Wedding
Let the planning begin!
If you are engaged to someone in the military, that planning can get complicated pretty quickly.
First off, how can you pick a date a year from now when you don’t know what country or state your service member will be in next month?! Second, it really sucks to not be recognized by the military as a “fiancee”, especially when facing things like moving (very expensive when the military doesn’t pay for it and you aren’t “allowed” to live with your fiancee) and deployments (wouldn’t it be nice to be included in all the spouse events? Some medical benefits would be nice too!)
Believe me, I felt the exact same way when I was engaged to my Marine. So what is the solution? One that many military spouses jump to (just like I did): have a quick courthouse wedding and either a) hide it from everyone or b) only tell a few people, and then plan a big wedding for later on when you can afford it and he is out of the military and/or is at a steady location/deployment schedule.
It’s the perfect plan! The courthouse ceremony gets you legally married, which means medical benefits, living together, being included on his PCS orders, etc. Plus, if you keep it on the down low then people will still be excited for your “real” wedding and it won’t take away from your big day in your big white dress. Then you can still get all the military benefits and have your big dream wedding late on when you have time/money to plan it.
That was my exact plan when I got engaged. I figured that we were going to get married anyway (that wasn’t a question), it was just a matter of when. My lease was up in a few months and Jeremy and I wanted to move in together. But since he was a lowly enlisted “single” Marine, he was required to live in the barracks until he got married. Jeremy’s brother was also about to leave on a year-long deployment, which meant that if we wanted a big formal wedding, it would have to wait at least a year, and we couldn’t live together during that year. So we decided to get hitched at the courthouse and then have a big wedding later after his brother came home.
I remember telling my Dad about our plans and he was not thrilled. Besides that fact that his little 19-year old only daughter was going to elope with a guy she had been dating for 6 months, he hated the idea of a courthouse wedding. I told him my plans, that our courthouse wedding wouldn’t be a “real” wedding, that our wedding day would be when we had our big formal wedding. The courthouse wedding was just paperwork and legal stuff so we could move in together and be recognized by the military.
I remember him telling me that I was wrong (I was 19, so in my mind, I was never wrong lol). He told me that the day you say your vows is your wedding day. No matter where it is, what you are wearing or who is there. The moment you say those vows and legally become Husband and Wife, that is your wedding day and the day you will remember and celebrate for the rest of your life.
I refused to believe him, of course. I fully believed that when we had our big wedding it would be our wedding day. It would be the magical day that all girls dream of, walking down the aisle to the man of their dreams in a big white dress with all their friends and family to witness.
So I rejected his appeals to wait a few months and have a cheap backyard wedding (since money was an issue as well) and went through with the elopement. He did manage to guilt me into a wedding dress (he had dreamed of walking his daughter down the aisle in a wedding dress), and on February 14, 2009, in a dark and tacky courthouse, I became the Mrs. to his Mr.
The emotions I felt that day are almost indescribable. I was so happy, content, excited, and nervous all at once. The feeling you get when you promise yourself and your future to the person that you love with all of your heart, is incredible. To make those vows publicly and be recognized as having committed yourself fully to this person is a joyous moment in life. There has never been a day where I have regretted my elopement, because of the fact that it is the day that I became the wife of a man that I love with all of my heart.
But the wedding planning continued. After two date changes, one deployment and a magical homecoming, Jeremy and I, along with our family and friends, gathered in Wisconsin on July 30, 2011 for our vow renewal.
I wore a wedding dress, he wore his dress blues. There were bridesmaids and groomsmen, flowers, a DJ, cake and a photographer. The venue was beautiful, the food was delicious and we had an amazing night.
However, that day felt nothing like my wedding day. Nothing happened on July 30, 2011 other than a pretty awesome party where I wore a very nice white dress.
I didn’t marry the man of my dream, I had already done that over two years ago at the courthouse. I didn’t get butterflies when I walked down the aisle towards Jeremy. I didn’t tear up when we said our vows for the second time. And the ring he put on my finger had been on that same finger for the last two and a half years.
I say all this because I wonder if I would have done things differently if someone had told me all of this when I was engaged. Now that I am involved in the military significant other community, I see so many military fiancees asking for advice about wedding planning and courthouse weddings vs. traditional weddings. I always like to tell my story, not to convince them to avoid the courthouse, but just to give a different perspective. A perspective that I wish I had been given (although my Dad did try lol).
My advice is to have the wedding you want. Whatever that may be. The day you exchange those vows and become Husband and Wife is your wedding day, it’s up to you on how you want to remember it.