Three countries, two brides, one wedding
February 15, 2013 2:26 AM   Subscribe

We've each left our home countries to be able to be together in a third country. It's working out wonderfully, and we want to get married eventually. But how - or rather, where on earth?

My partner and I are both female. We're currently living in England, where the house of commons very recently approved same-sex marriage (as opposed to civil partnership). I'm from Sweden, she's from the US.

We don't have any kind of social network in the UK yet - a few friends, but pretty much everyone we want to have at our wedding, is either in the US or Sweden. There are people we love in both places who could not afford to fly internationally. My parents especially would find it very difficult to even take more than a day or two off, due to financial constraints. Sadly, we're not well enough off that we could fly people anywhere - it'll be a while before we can afford to pay for the wedding itself.

Talking about it, we discussed the idea of having one small, intimate ceremony in Sweden (where we could actually get married-married, no caveats) and then a bigger celebration of the marriage in the US - or possibly the other way around. Because it's something we want to share with the people who are important to us, and having two ceremonies, one in each of our countries, seems like it could be the best way to do that without forcing anyone to give up all their savings just to attend.

Except neither one of us know anyone who's ever done anything like that, so we don't know what kind of arrangement a post-ceremony, other-country party would look like. Is it tacky to dress up and have a second ceremony where the couple affirms vows of an already officiated marriage in front of completely new people?

Our opinions on how accepted this sort of thing is differ a bit, so I'm very keen to get feedback from as many sources as possible. Would you feel insulted to be invited to post-marriage celebration, rather than a "real" wedding? Is it weird to have technically-married people reaffirm their bond as part of such a celebration? Would it be better to just throw a big "We're married, yay!" party and not have any wedding dresses or vows or anything the second time around? I'd really love to hear what other experiences people have of international couples and their weddings! Other people have done this before us - it would be silly to reinvent the (trans-Atlantic lesbian wedding) wheel.
posted by harujion to Human Relations (22 answers total)
One solution to this quandary that I've known other couples to adopt is to have a religious ceremony in one country and the civil ceremony in another. A bit tricky for a same-sex marriage, of course, although, as it happens, the Swedish Lutheran Church does allow same sex weddings.
posted by Skeptic at 2:39 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is common: for example, a friend of mine got married in the UK before select friends and family and two weeks later had a larger church ceremony not in the UK where her husband was from. This was nearly 10 years ago so it felt more unusual but definitely not now. If I was in the US and invited to a ceremony for friends rather than the alternative - no ceremony - then the ceremony would absolutely be preferable. What's not to celebrate?

Perhaps this is just me, but a caveat is timing: do the two ceremonies as close together as possible. Then the whole business of celebrating the start of your married life feels absolutely fresh and true. A month later and it's still a nice ceremony but, for me, would feel less like the celebration off the start of the marriage and more like the celebration of the marriage. Hair splitting undoubtedly, but freely flagged as my personal view. I say this as much as how I would feel as the person getting married, rather than just as an invitee. Particularly if you have lived together for a while beforehand, weeks into your wedding the ceremony can seem a long time away (er.. in a good way). It's a bit of a whirlwind.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:43 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it would be totally fine to do two weddings. In fact, if that's the best solution for your respective friends and family, why not make it, like, a thing?

For instance, you could "twin" your weddings, like towns and cities are twinned. You could have guests in the first location record messages or write them down for guests at the second ("watch out for Bride A near the tequila, we shouldn't have let her have that eighth shot") and then post messages from guests at the second wedding up on a facebook group for the first lot.

You could have little mini informal competitions like the best joke heard all night, and put them up against each other. You could take photos where everyone stands on one side of the frame and makes faces into the other side (thin air) and then photoshop them together.

Ok I'm getting carried away. I will pretty much be your wedding planner for cake and cuddles.
posted by greenish at 2:47 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree that two weddings would be fine, and actually, I bet your friends and family would appreciate having the chance to see a ceremony in both the US and Sweden. I have an acquaintance who got married to an Indian guy (she's American) a couple of years ago and they did a ceremony in the US and in India. Don't know her well enough to have been invited or anything and I lived in a different part of the States by the time she got married anyway, but the fb pics were great - so cool to see the different traditions. That being said, you might want to think about how extensive a ceremony or party you want to throw in either place. From what I hear, organizing weddings can be a stressful undertaking.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 3:03 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

We did this (Irish, German with a diversion into Brittany) and one observation I would have is it depends on how you want the two groups to interact after this. If the distance, culture, etc., is very different and you don't expect them to interact a large amount, then have the wedding near the close family that value that experience most.

the way we got around it is we have a pre-wedding Polter-abend in Hamburg and my better off in-laws flew my parents in for the weekend. We then travelled back by car, and another pre-wedding party in Brittany and the wedding a week later in Cork my home town.

Very few of the German family came to the Irish wedding and this actually caused comment and bad feeling that we had to deal with later. It was compounded by large socio-economic differences in the 2 groups with the Irish side believing that I was being snubbed by the wealthier German side. Some of that definitely rubbed off and hurt in the early years.

In a way it may be a little harder for you guys in the sense that there is real excitment about gay marraige that there isn't about cis but just go by the understanding that you cannot possibly make everybody happy, find out which of you is more wedded to the concept and marry in that person's country with a pre-wedding bash or blessing (not post) in the other country.
posted by Wilder at 4:06 AM on February 15, 2013

Best answer: We did this too. Official wedding in the US then a renewal of vows ~7 months later in the UK. The time frame was for various reasons, one being I couldn't leave the US until I had a a green card (you might need to look into visas for same-sex marriage?). Neither ceremony we had was religious. The renewal of vows was basically the same ceremony, except we walked down the aisle together both ways (i.e. no one 'gave me away' again).

We did have the same whole discussion about invitations, and we actually ending up inviting all guests to both ceremonies, and on the rsvp asked them to say which (or both) they were coming to. We felt we'd rather they made the choice than we assumed they would/wouldn't come. I'd say we had about 20 family/friends from the 'other' country at each wedding, most of whom made the trip into a vacation. We were also very lucky to have our wonderful officiant perform both ceremonies.

I totally got to wear my wedding dress twice :)
posted by atlantica at 4:26 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Perhaps you could do sort of what Charles and Camilla did and have the legal wedding where that's possible (Sweden) and ththanksgiving/blessing in the other place (USA). There's was on the same day and the second was religious but those could be changed.
posted by plonkee at 4:42 AM on February 15, 2013

What I mean by the Charles and Camilla reference is that theire order of service is online so you could adapt it for your needs. Similarly the Church of England has a standard order of service for the blessing of a civil marriage which you could adapt. It would give you something to call the ceremony and something to help explain it to your friends and family.
posted by plonkee at 4:49 AM on February 15, 2013

A small ceremony in Iceland, and post-marriage celebrations somewhere else?
EasyJet har tickets from London to Reykjavik from around £100 one way. From the US, it would cost from around $300 one way with Icelandair. If you can plan ahead and get low flight fares, it could be cheaper for you, your parents and a few others to meet "in the middle" than to have the wedding in Europe on in the US.
posted by iviken at 5:05 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is pretty common I think for multinational couples. My friends, who met in the US got officially married at a courthouse in New York, where they live, with three friends attrnding. Then, a few months later they had a small Hindu family ceremony in Singapore (the bride's home country), then a full year and a half after they were already married, had a big traditional ceremony with family and friends in NC (groom's home state). So technically they had three weddings. Do whatever you want to do.
posted by greta simone at 5:54 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Talking about it, we discussed the idea of having one small, intimate ceremony in Sweden (where we could actually get married-married, no caveats) and then a bigger celebration of the marriage in the US - or possibly the other way around. Because it's something we want to share with the people who are important to us, and having two ceremonies, one in each of our countries, seems like it could be the best way to do that without forcing anyone to give up all their savings just to attend.

Except neither one of us know anyone who's ever done anything like that,

My husband and I did that. We had a tiny ceremony in the garden of a Toronto B&B because we wanted to get married somewhere same sex marriage was legal. My father and mother attended. Then two months later, we had a Big Fat Scottish Wedding in Edinburgh with all of our friends, some of my family (mother, step-father, sisters, etc.) and all of his family. We basically faked a second ceremony, but what was nice is that because it wasn't legal (as we were already married) we had a LOT of flexibility with the ceremony. Ours was done by someone from the secular humanist society but you can have whomever; it's a nice way to get married and then have the wedding you actually want.

It worked well and we've no regrets.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:12 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had two weddings--three actually. One civil service in our current city just to get it done, one religious wedding in partner's home country, and one religious wedding (that didn't have any official bearing) in my home city. Had we not been required to have a civil service before the first religious wedding, we would have only done the two religious weddings.

Yes, it was expensive. You could keep costs down by inviting fewer people to each one. Each of our immediate families and a few well-off friends chose to come to both, but mostly I asked people beforehand which invitation they would prefer to get. The two weddings were very culturally distinct, which delighted me. And the last one was quite a bit more relaxed, as we had already done this twice and nothing official hung in the balance.

Another couple I know had to have an unplanned second wedding when a hurricane bore down on them on their original wedding day. They went through with the ceremony that day despite the weather, and then held a mini-ceremony and the big reception several months later.

It seems to be done all the time. People will understand that you're doing it to include as many of your loved ones in your special day.
posted by Liesl at 6:17 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I will tell you what I wish we would have done. Husbunny and my parents could not be more different. His folks were rural homebodies and experienced extreme stress leaving their holler in Appalachia. My folks were living abroad in Europe and will go anywhere for any reason at the drop of a hat. We lived in Florida and had a bunch of friends.

What we wanted: A Vegas wedding. My folks were on board, but his folks REFUSED. He's an only child.

What his folks wanted: They wanted us to get married in their Fundy church in southern Kentucky with their friends and family. I'm Jewish. The compromise would have been for us to get married in Gatlinburg, TN. My Mom REFUSED!

What we ended up doing: We got married in our UU church in Ft. Lauderdale and had a fun-filled reception at a Cuban place. We rented a car so his folks could drive down, his friends came from Gatlinburg, my friends came after work, my family flew in from all over.

It was a fun wedding and we threw the whole thing for under $5,000, including our outfits, his folks rental car and motel (Motel 6 as it turns out, but it was one of the nicest ones in a great neighborhood. My parents stayed there too. Don't judge me.)

His parents were freaked out and on edge the whole time. Think agoraphobia and xenophobia. But they did it. They left the wedding at about 10pm, checked out of the motel and drove all night until they got home. About 16 hours. Sheesh!

If I had it to all over again, I'd do a Vegas wedding with my family, a Galinburg wedding with his family (since only his parents and best friends came) and a big party in Florida after all of that.

So just to re-cap. Do a nice party and ceremony in Sweden, do another party and ceremony in the US. And, do a nice party in England for your friends there. Done and done.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently attended a wedding that involved two parties, one on each side of the US. They had their wedding in one place (where they live), and a second reception in another place (where one of them grew up) about two months later. Invitations were sent separately, and the first invitation said "commitment ceremony" (because it was before the vote in WA) and the second said "reception." I don't know anyone who thought it was anything but charming.
posted by dizziest at 6:48 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Come to DC, and I'll do it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:58 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have friends (opposite-sex couple, both from the US) who had two weddings and two receptions and I went to one of the weddings and the reception for the second one, and it was very nice. The legal wedding was in the US state where the bride grew up and was in the bride's family's religious tradition and it was fairly small but formal. A week and a half later in the state where they currently live (and where the groom grew up) they had a ceremony in the groom's family's religious tradition (mostly attended by relatives and longtime family friends) followed by a larger reception for pretty much everybody.

Anyway, you guys don't sound like you have two different religious traditions involved, but you do have some cultural differences, and even if you didn't I don't think there's anything wrong with having two wedding ceremonies if you want! But keep them short! (Unless mandated by your religious/cultural traditions.) (That's not just for having two ceremonies, that goes for all wedding ceremonies as far as I'm concerned.)

Oh, also I would keep them close together (time-wise) if at all possible, and have the bigger party second, so that the smaller ceremony/reception doesn't feel like it's getting leftovers.

Oh and also also: Congratulations!
posted by mskyle at 7:22 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

A co-worker of mine had three weddings, to accommodate family in different places, who couldn't travel far (due to budget and health reasons). They had their first wedding near the bride's family on the east coast, then the second ceremony near the groom's family on the west coast, then they flew themselves to Hawaii and had a third ceremony on the beach with a few close friends. The first two were done on a tight budget, and the third was their wedding, with only their closest family (siblings) and friends, so they could finally relax and do everything how they wanted. I think they made a good choice, but the whole thing was super stressful for them, because they arranged everything themselves. If you can afford a wedding planner, or enroll trusted non-dramatic family to arrange things, I think you can do two weddings.
posted by Joh at 7:41 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know some people who did this. They had Ceremony A in the groom's country on the groom's birthday and Ceremony B in the bride's country on her birthday. Of course it wasn't ideal, but everyone seemed happy.
posted by steinwald at 7:41 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: we discussed the idea of having one small, intimate ceremony in Sweden (where we could actually get married-married, no caveats) and then a bigger celebration of the marriage in the US - or possibly the other way around. ...

Except neither one of us know anyone who's ever done anything like that

Actually, every International Couple I know has done exactly that -- two weddings, one in country A and one in country B.

If for some reason it's just totally impossible to have two weddings, I'd probably opt to get married in Sweden because you can legally get married there* and in my opinion it behooves you to pick the country wherein everyone's parents can attend their child's wedding (assuming her parents can fly to Sweden, of course).

In terms of appropriateness, etc. everyone I know who's done this has had one bigger wedding and one smaller wedding, or one "official" legal ceremony and one more freeform creative one, or one religious wedding and one secular wedding. I guess what I'm saying is that there were differences between the types of weddings, beyond the setting. I have a feeling this was mostly for pragmatic reasons like budget or local laws. But it also seems like it might be easier, psychologically, for some reason.

*As I'm sure you know, the US is vast and only certain states allow gay marriage. It would only be convenient to have your one and only wedding in the US if your partner's family happens to live in one of the right states. And, again, then your parents couldn't even go.
posted by Sara C. at 7:55 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We had THREE weddings (I'm half Indian half Chinese, he's Australian). And 3 FULL weddings, with the Australian being the legal one, and the Indian and Chinese ones the cultural ones. One was in Australia, 2 were in Singapore (where I'm from).

Yes, we thought it may be a bit over the top, and that people would think it was weird.

But you know what?

It. Was. Awesome.

It all happened over 2 weekends, we had SO many people fly in from all over the world, some came for both, and it ended up being a 2 week reunion of everyone we loved.

Everyone is still telling us how it was just the best thing ever, people loved seeing all the different cultural stuff, and some got to travel!! Just do it.

The planning will be madness, but it'll be so worth it, and you will honour BOTH your traditions and families in the process. Think of it as the best parties you'll have of your life!
posted by shazzam! at 7:40 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Huge thanks to everyone who shared ideas and opinions with us in this thread. We read it together yesterday, and it made us feel really excited about going ahead and just having two weddings. No more being weirded out by how it isn't a thing - it totally is, and we will make it our thing. We have yet to make any kind of solid plans at all, but at this stage, just knowing that what we want is possible and even appreciated by friends and family makes it feel like something to really look forward to.

Since there were so many great ideas, I would like to say that, yes, her family can easily come to Sweden, where we can get just as married as straight couples (since 2009 the Swedish law on marriage is gender-neutral). The ceremony in the US would most likely be in a state that allows same-sex marriage, but for an international lesbian couple it's not really the same thing under the pall still cast by DOMA.

It's also really great to hear that some people have done some version of three weddings, since the paperwork to get legally married in Sweden as an emigree and a US national is a proper pain. Possibly we might want to get the paperwork done in the UK so everything is nice and settled for the actual ceremonies...

Thanks again! It's possible that this isn't the last time we'll need to pose wedding questions to the green, so this informative and supportive turnout has been wonderful.
posted by harujion at 1:10 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know a couple who are both women, and I believe they've gotten married in Massachusetts (that was the big one they invited their friends to), civil unioned in Vermont, and I know they had a wedding planned in California when it was legal. I suspect them of getting married in Canada, as well. I don't think it's that unusual to travel to where you can legally be married.

I also know a few straight couples who have been legally married at city hall but had the big weddings at other times, either before or after the legal marriage. Once was for medical insurance, once was because the groom was technically married to someone else. These things happen.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:10 PM on February 16, 2013

« Older Who does the best milkshake in London?   |   Create online, password protected form template. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.