Trying for Children Before Wedlock?
June 4, 2019 5:13 PM   Subscribe

What are the downsides for actively trying for children before being married?

My fiance and I are both in our early 40s. We are trying to plan the wedding we want but are running into a number of external timing constraints that are really complicating things. My fiance wants to start trying for children ASAP as they are very worried about their age. Ideally I wanted to be married before trying for children but given all the roadblocks we have been running into arranging the wedding we want I am becoming more open to the alternative. My fiance does not want to go the quick city hall marriage route but I am open to that.

Obviously people have children all the time out of wedlock. What are some of the downsides (or maybe positives) for actively trying to do so? I have thought of a few things but there are other aspects I am sure I haven't thought of.

A few of the things I have thought about:

1) Timing: We can't really control timing. Pregnancy could happen quickly, after some time, or never. This makes arranging a wedding date later difficult from potential travel restrictions, not wanting to be in late pregnancy during the wedding, or trying to take care of an infant during a wedding.

2) Health care: We both have good health insurance but I suspect it would be good idea to have access to broader health care options and networks.

3) Legal: I am not sure if there are any legal issues but I suspect there might be something from custody and with regards to the prenups we were planning on.

4) Perceptions: I don't think any of our close relatives would really have a problem with it but you never know. In some ways they are conservative in this area.

What other aspects am I not thinking about or details of the things I have considered should I be thinking about?
posted by cycleback to Human Relations (25 answers total)
We tried before we were even officially engaged and got pregnant right away. We got married when I was five months pregnant. No down side as long as you don’t care if most people assume it wasn’t a planned pregnancy and think you got married because you were pregnant. But you’re engaged already and in your 40s so there’s little chance of people thinking that anyway.

Also, we had a courthouse wedding so the wedding planning stuff didn’t present any sort of obstacle, as it may for you. Also didn’t have a prenup, so no idea how pregnancy could impact that.
posted by amro at 5:47 PM on June 4, 2019

You could have a small private ceremony now so you’re “married” and then have the big wedding later if the actual being married thing is important to you.
posted by Weeping_angel at 5:53 PM on June 4, 2019 [17 favorites]

I'd definitely also vote for the courthouse wedding so you have it taken care of, with party later. And start trying. Just to add to the anecdotes: I was 36, had never once been pregnant, and definitely expected it to take a while for all sorts of reasons (what I'd heard from friends, me coming off decades of the pill, my age, etc.), and we got pregnant the 2nd month of trying.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:59 PM on June 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you were 20 or 30, maybe I could think of some downsides. But if being a parent is important to you and you both feel very committed to the journey you are on, I can only see downsides to waiting.
posted by amanda at 6:05 PM on June 4, 2019 [23 favorites]

It’s kind of cute in a yin/yang opposites attract way that one of you wants the baby ASAP but doesn’t want a courthouse wedding. And the other is fine with a courthouse wedding but wants to be married before the baby. I think it’s time for you both to be really open and raw and talk about your fears, all of them, related to baby making, co-parenting and how you feel about marriage and what your vision is. If your goals align and you both agree on shared goals and life vision (or pretty close) then I think the answer will fall into place. I actually think a courthouse wedding, especially when you are late in life, is kind of romantic. It’s embracing the fleeting nature of life and time and flinging yourselves at each other with certainty and a little devil-may-care.
posted by amanda at 6:11 PM on June 4, 2019 [15 favorites]

We did this! It was not a huge deal. I will say planning a wedding while parenting baby twins was not a priority, so we didn’t actually get married until the kids were over 2.

Almost nobody commented about it (only one elderly relative), and I’m glad we did it that way.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 6:56 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Here is some anecdata. We started trying 5 months before the wedding (in our late 30s) and finally got pregnant 6-7 months after. Being the serious, responsible person I am, the potential downsides I gave a lot of thought to were how to buy a wedding dress that could be adjusted if I needed more room by then, and whether or not I'd feel bummed about not being able to drink at the wedding. I do think health insurance is definitely worth pondering. Also, much as I hate that this is a thing, if you guys don't have the same last name (before or after the wedding), consider what last name the baby will have.
posted by slidell at 7:07 PM on June 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Depending on life situation, it can be a bonus. One of my friends waited to get married until she and the kid stopped qualifying for WIC, which they wouldn’t have qualified for if they had been married already. It’s worth looking into what programs for unmarried mothers are available in your area.

On the flip side, consider insurance coverage. Generally it’s only extended to married partners, so if the uterus haver has worse insurance it may be worth getting married before pregnancy.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:00 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been to weddings before where the legal ceremony happened a year or so before for reasons. It wasn't publicized obviously. For insurance, citizenship, custody, other reasons are fine reasons to do the legal bit to benefit the child before doing the expensive bit for the relatives you've never met before.
posted by TheAdamist at 8:13 PM on June 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Given your ages I think it's great to start trying right away. That said you don't know what a pregnancy will be like. I had preeclampsia with the first and nine months of constant nausea with the second. Neither pregnancy would have made planning a wedding possible. I did have both my wedding and my kids in my 40s. you two might have an easy pregnancy but you never know.
posted by biggreenplant at 8:17 PM on June 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you want a WEDDING wedding, it will represent a not-insubstantial amount of time suck. If you happen to have a small child while planning a wedding, then Godspeed, my friend, you are a more organized person than I. But my kid's already 3 and I cannot fathom the idea of having enough free time at this point to take on a major planning project again until she's like 15.

To say nothing of the expense; if I'd had a kid while planning a wedding I would probably have been more conservative about my spending on it (which maybe is a good thing, but it definitely would have taken some of the 'La la la! We're only doing this one, live a little!' aspect of it that was actually pretty fun).
posted by catesbie at 8:54 PM on June 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

We did this, as have a number of people in my age cohort. It is very special to have your child at your wedding. We did half our vows while holding our then year old son, such precious memories!

As for optics, people will understand, given your ages especially. Both my mother in law and my mom were ecstatic about the baby news. Because grandkids makes everyone starry-eyed regardless :)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:56 PM on June 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

I’ve had friends who had babies before getting married. The main thing was that the wedding was delayed a long time.

For one couple they didn’t have one until after their *second* kid (she had her first a bit before turning 40). So yeah, life happens and once kids arrive all of a sudden a wedding doesn’t seem that important. On the upside it was SUPER CUTE to see the kids walk down the aisle with them!

The other couple had a baby and he’s almost 2 now and they got engaged a few months ago. She just found out she’s pregnant again. So I’m pretty sure the same story as above is going to play out here too.

Third couple have two kids and engaged but still not married (the second is I think 3 years old?).

So, if you have babies before marriage be prepared for your wedding visions to be very delayed or change dramatically.
posted by like_neon at 2:03 AM on June 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also as a new mom who struggled getting pregnant due to age related challenges, you can get married anytime. Getting pregnant will only get harder. These are hard facts.
posted by like_neon at 2:07 AM on June 5, 2019 [16 favorites]

The longer you wait, the more likely you end up with very expensive fertility treatments that will likely be more expensive and logistically challenging than a wedding. People like to say there is plenty of time, but the experiences of those around me do not support that idea. There is just plain no time to lose, and the social/emotional importance of getting married doesn't hold a candle to the often unchangeable limitations of time+biology.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 3:10 AM on June 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

That being said, trying to get pregnant can be so fraught and stressful and wearing on a relationship. It seems like a courthouse wedding would be something to push for in this case, so you feel secure. That sense of security could even help your fertility, as woo as it sounds. I dont think you have to do something this big that you're uncomfortable about, while he gets to avoid something he feels uncomfortable about (courthouse wedding), when it is the obvious fair compromise to get the most people closest to their desired result. Good luck.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 3:21 AM on June 5, 2019

I have a child and am not married, with no particular intention to ever be (if my partner asked I suspect I'd agree, but I'm 95% sure that's not a question on her mind). Somewhere north of half of people my age that I know with kids are in this boat and we aren't aware of any downsides.

What is different to you is our culture and legal systems, we are in inner city Australia where this is normal and there's no difference in legal status between long term partners and spouses. If you control for those potential practical downsides, and it sounds from your description that you are at least aware of them and so can ask a lawyer for help etc, there's not much else besides your own residual cultural hang ups, which we probably aren't going help with much.
posted by deadwax at 4:40 AM on June 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Given your ages, the chance that you'll need some sort of intervention to get pregnant is fairly high. Take into consideration both the costs (maybe infertility treatments are a higher financial priority for you than a wedding) and that you'll need to assess what, if anything, is covered for infertility diagnosis and treatment with your Healthcare plans and employers. Being married may impact your access (like one spouse's plan can cover some things for the other spouse). The fertility clinics have extensive financial counseling to help you figure this stuff out.
posted by k8t at 5:16 AM on June 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

N-thing the fact that you don't need a wedding to get married. They are two different things. One is a ceremony, possibly religious, that perhaps has social implications within your community. Marriage is a legal matter that provides a package of rights and privileges that aren't easily replicable outside of it (that's why SSM is so important!).

This is particularly true in the US with regards to healthcare, property rights, rights to inheritence, insurance and social security as well as a plethora of other things. It varies state by state in the US and even more greatly throughout the world.

Unless you are independently wealthy children outside marriage is riskier than children inside marriage. You have to judge the risk but make sure you understand it.
posted by jclarkin at 5:31 AM on June 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

We are located in the US. My fiance, in there head, emotionally doesn't separate marriage and the wedding. Are there any specific legal issues that we need to be aware of?
posted by cycleback at 7:43 AM on June 5, 2019

When the child is born to unmarried parents, paternity is not assumed legally. There are a handful of minor legal things that need to be done to establish paternity.
If two unmarried parents seperate from each other, some of the legal protections afforded to married people are more complicated and there are slightly different paperwork things to file when working through financial support of children and coparenting agreements.
posted by k8t at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not differenciating between a wedding and marriage is actually a big problem.

There are thousands of legal benefits to marriage, many of which can't be duplicated through contracts even if you were aware of the issues.

Wikipedia has an overview.
posted by jclarkin at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

I will answer this from a queer perspective: the wedding and marriage are COMPLETELY different things. The wedding is a party, it alone has no legal significance--queer folks were having these decades before they had any legal rights. The legal marriage is the thing that gives you the right to visit your spouse in the hospital and make medical decisions, the right to custody of your own children, the right (in some states) to joint goes on and on. In states where queers can't get legally married, they have to file separate paperwork to adopt their own children. They have to worry about someone else making life support decisions in a crisis. Etc etc etc.

Basically, you really do want to be legally married before the baby is born for a variety of practical reasons. Sure, people don't always do this, but it smooths things out if you run into a sticky legal situation. The party, you can have that whenever.

So I say, start trying, and be prepared to get your legal marriage on during pregnancy if needed.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:20 AM on June 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

If you're in your 40s, try now. I know this may come off as harsh, but I'm constantly shocked at how many people are surprised by fertility issues due to age. At 40, you are lucky to get pregnant naturally. We're living in a culture that tells us we're perpetual children and there's no need to rush anything. That's a lie. No legal issues that I can think of - make sure both names are on the birth certificate.
posted by namesarehard at 11:22 AM on June 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend and I started trying in our early 40s for a baby. We were successful when we were both 42, and our daughter turns 2 in a couple of weeks. We are still not married, as we are not in a huge hurry and have both taken the "someday" track. I'll be completely honest, there were some rough times during the first year of parenthood that I didn't particularly *want* to be married to him, but that has been getting better.

My suggestion would be to start trying now, since the challenges of conceiving after 40 are very real. You just don't know how long it will take. Continue wedding planning, and if you run into roadblocks with insurance or anything you can do the quickie courthouse wedding in a pinch. Not too many will blink at a pregnant bride, and I definitely agree that grandparents will be thrilled enough at the prospect of a baby to not care.

Good luck!
posted by weathergal at 7:19 PM on June 5, 2019

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