We really should have said something earlier
February 7, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

How do we tell his relatives that we got married...one year ago?

Last January (in 2010), for immigration purposes, my now-husband and I decided to get married as soon as possible. We'd had plans to get married anyway (he had been planning to propose that same year), so it wasn't a rushed or undiscussed decision by any means. We married in March, at the courthouse. His parents and mine, as well as our siblings, were there. Our best friends acted as witnesses.
Problem is, we married in secrecy, as then no one knew about my migratory status except for the people that actually attended the wedding. Further complicating things, his cousin proposed to his girlfriend right around the time we got married, and a big wedding was set to happen. This was the first wedding in his side of the family in a long time, and we didn't want to steal their thunder, so we decided to keep quiet about our wedding until after his cousin got married. Since then, one thing after another has prevented us from announcing our wedding to his family. My family already knows, but they are all in Mexico/California. We have been hoping to make a huge wedding party as both of our families are big, but we don't want to lie to them about being married in the courthouse. We think it is time to tell them, ideally with a letter on our anniversary. How do we do this? What do we say in the letter? How do we deal with any possible hurt feelings?
posted by cobain_angel to Human Relations (22 answers total)
Are you sure his family doesn't know, considering his parents were at your wedding?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't a letter be a bit impersonal and, possibly, further alienate them? How about a phone call annoucing the wedding party, but mentioning that you have filed for a marriage certificate in March (make it seem very casual and not-a-big-deal sort of thing). But party, which they are invited to, is YAY-big sort of event, and will make it official in your eyes and in eyes of your respective families.
posted by mooselini at 10:58 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe instead of an apologetic mass-mailing, you could send out Save the Date cards for an upcoming reception. If anybody thinks something is amiss, you can just say that the two of you decided to celebrate your marriage with a private ceremony, but now you're ready to have a big bash for a meeting-of-the-families.

This is a celebratory occasion! Congratulations!
posted by scarykarrey at 10:58 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: His family doesn't know because his parents didn't want to tell them either, as they didn't feel it was their place to tell (even with our encouragement). We wanted to send a letter because everyone is all over the place in the US. We still don't have a fixed date for the party because we're poor students! We have been trying to hold our excitement in for so long that when we do have that party it's going to verge on epic.
posted by cobain_angel at 11:03 AM on February 7, 2011

So my brother-in-law and his wife did this (for health insurance purposes, not for immigration purposes) and their parents were ultra-hurt that they didn't come clean. Be honest, and emphasize that they are going to be important parts of your (eventual) wedding celebration.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:06 AM on February 7, 2011

I mean, as "important" as one's extended family is. So you do the announcement and you write a little note on it that says "Aunt Jane--So sorry you couldn't be with us, but as you see we eloped! We hope you will join us at our wedding celebration later this year" (or "early next year" or whenever you think you might have it).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:08 AM on February 7, 2011

You are cordially invited
to celebrate the marriage of
Cobain Angel & Mr Cobain Angel

Saturday, 15 June, 20011
at Some Location, Somewhere
at 6 o'clock in the evening

RSVP his parents and your parents

In other words, announce the party and not the marriage. Invite people to a celebration and make it crystal clear both sets of parents know and are in on the celebrating.

If they are not being invited to a wedding, the date of the actual nuptuals are not relevent nor are they anyone's business.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:11 AM on February 7, 2011 [10 favorites]

From stories I've heard within my family and elsewhere, the people who may take offense at a small and secretive ceremony are parents and siblings. Everyone else just goes along with whatever the nuclear family is okay with. Since your parents and siblings were involved, I second The World Famous' opinion that you owe no apology or explanation. I think the idea of a note that "a small civil ceremony took place with immediate family" you include with the invitation to your bash is perfect.
posted by paindemie at 11:27 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Was about to suggest using the term "celebrate the marriage". His parents can should help explain it to the relatives, especially since they were "in" on it.
posted by maryr at 11:28 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Once you arrive at a date, send out Save The Date! cards.

I like DarlingBri's approach.

If the eventual celebration is so distant that you really have no idea when you could even set a date for it, then maybe you should send out some sort of similar card that would be more like a marriage announcement? I think in that case you should go for levity rather than formality, though. Maybe some sort of card that says, "Surprise! We're Married!" It would be kind of hilarious if you could get them out so that they arrive around April Fool's day - just make sure in the wording of the cards that you make it clear that this is not a joke.
posted by Sara C. at 11:32 AM on February 7, 2011

It is kosher to send a wedding announcement out up to a year after the wedding took place.

You can have them done up for cheap like wedding invitations.

This is where I did mine.

Ours was phrased thusly:

"Zizzle and Dr.Enormous are please to announce their wedding, which took place on October 14, 2006 in [city, state] at [venue]

The happy couple resides at [address]."

And that was it.

Then when you're ready to throw the party, you can send a separate invitation for that, or if you have the date set, you can include it on the announcement.

But I would strongly suggest breaking the news in a more traditional fashion.
posted by zizzle at 11:55 AM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

You could just wait for them to Google your name and discover this post. (I'd consider having this question anonymized.)
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:58 AM on February 7, 2011

If it were me, I'd lean towards sending a formal-ish announcement, including year, and then enclosing a handwritten note that you all were married in a very small ceremony and were waiting for the right time to tell everyone but you are too excited and cannot wait anymore, and you hope that when the time is right for a big party/celebration that they will join you. Your hand will hurt from the writing, but it will be worth it.

Some of them are going to likely still be hurt, but those people probably still would be hurt any way you chose to tell them - probably the same people who would be upset not to have been invited to the wedding (on principle).

Emphasize how excited and happy you guys are, and let people be happy for you - if you get trouble over it, smooth it over with individual people, and you can follow up the announcement/note with phone calls so that you can have that extra step to be sure feelings are not too hurt.

Talk to his parents about how to handle it, above everything, because it's their family and they were there at the ceremony, so his parents have been keeping the same secret - they may want to give you some advice on how to handle certain people.
posted by mrs. taters at 12:57 PM on February 7, 2011

Send an announcement. Honestly anyone but parents and siblings don't really have a right to get mad unless you are especially close to them. Whether you're married or not doesn't really affect their lives in a meaningful way.
posted by elpea at 1:36 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

*ok, add grandparents to that list.
posted by elpea at 1:37 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Talk with your immigration lawyer about what you say in writing about a wedding with an immigration element to it, especially one you kept "secret" from anybody. (Don't freak out, though -- people accelerate their weddings for immigration purposes all the time, and it's perfectly well understood as legitimate, as long as the relationship is authentic as yours surely is.)
posted by MattD at 2:22 PM on February 7, 2011

You could just wait for them to Google your name and discover this post. (I'd consider having this question anonymized.)

I'd go out on a limb and guess that cobain_angel isn't her married name. And a quick Google shows she's safe, even with her name in her user page.
posted by maryr at 2:33 PM on February 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you for checking about the name, maryr. I was freaking out about that, and I know that Google looks at your previous history and location to give you results...so naturally I was all over the first page!
Thanks everybody for your suggestions. It looks like an announcement is the way to go. Is there an specific format to those? Both my husband and mother-in-law are reading this thread, so any suggestions for them would be great as well. Thanks!
posted by cobain_angel at 3:08 PM on February 7, 2011

Best answer: I like DarlingBri's approach, but the thing is it doesn't sound like the party is coming up any time soon.

So yeah, if you don't know when the party's going to be, send out an announcement now. Don't let it go another year (if that's the timeframe you're looking at).

As for wording,

are happy to announce
their marriage (or, "that they were married," or "that they were married in a private ceremony")
on DAY
CITY, STATE, COUNTRY (if necessary)

is the norm, though some people go old-fashioned with

are happy to announce
the marriage of their children
on DAY
CITY, STATE, COUNTRY (if necessary).
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:39 PM on February 7, 2011

You can also add after either wording something like "We hope to see you at a celebration of our/their marriage in {range of dates}" if you have gotten that far: "We hope to see you at a celebration in Summer 2011" or "We hope to see you at a celebration in 2012" or what have you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2011

Two friends of mine who got married and didn't tell their families planned a wedding bbq celebration and sent out announcements/invitations that said, "Guess what? We're married! Surprise!" then listed all the party info. I thought it was cute.
posted by easy_being_green at 10:05 PM on February 7, 2011

Response by poster: Just as a follow-up, we followed the formal announcement sort of thing. Everything went much better than expected and no feelings were hurt. Celebrations are forthcoming, but people sent in gifts anyway (yay!) Thanks tons for your help!
posted by cobain_angel at 10:12 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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