Three weddings, three states, in 30 days...are we insane?
November 7, 2006 12:07 PM   Subscribe

My fiancée and I need to have three wedding ceremonies in three states. Um, help?

It’s that old story…I’m from Texas, she’s from Michigan, and we live in Chicago. We figure we should have a city hall ceremony, with just a few people, so that we are married in Illinois (wedding #1!)

She has relatives in Michigan who can’t travel for health reasons, much like my mom in Texas. So, we want to “re-create” the ceremony in Michigan (#2!), and then in Texas (#3!), about two weeks apart (at least).

Pros: I used to DJ weddings, I’ve produced theatrical shows large and small (size and budget), I’ve worked as a party planner, a business trip/meeting/conference organizer, and a bit for catering companies. I am also excellent with logistics and planning. My fiancée plans conference meetings, and is great with small details. We can probably use a relative’s farm for the wedding in Michigan. A friend of mine is going to “stage manage” for me (as opposed to DJing) in Michigan.

Cons: We’re not rich, or even well-off. Her parents are semi-loaded, but we don’t know how much we can count on them, without them trying to control things. They are religious, we aren’t.

Has anyone else in the hivemind ever done something this crazy? I’d appreciate any advice I can get, on any of the varied things I might not know about planning weddings. I’m not asking for a “how-to” (although I wouldn’t refuse one), I just want to know some of the pitfalls and landmines we should watch out for, and any tricks or tips that could help.

I’ll stop before I get too long-winded. If you have any answers that require the answers to specific questions, ask ‘em, and I’ll answer ‘em, if they aren’t too private. Thanks in advance.
posted by weirdoactor to Human Relations (23 answers total)
Response by poster: I should mention: the Michigan wedding will be 120+ people, Texas will be around 40+; she has a LOT more family than I do.
posted by weirdoactor at 12:09 PM on November 7, 2006

Best answer: Are you talking about bridesmaids and walking down the aisle and exchanging rings and saying vows and all of that -- performed twice in different venues two weeks apart? I have to say such an idea (putting together a touring company of your wedding) sounds odd and (more to the point) sort of quixotically expensive. I say quixotically because you'll be spending money twice over on flowers, bridesmaid dresses, formal wear rentals and such, without a whole lot to show for it in guest satisfaction.

What sounds more likely here is that you want to host two wedding receptions in two different places. Basically, then, you are talking about two large-scale parties, presumably with catered food and a certain amount of free booze, possibly with entertainment (the DJ-ing you mentioned).

I would try to enlist the aid of the families, and not only on the financial level. The bride's family will have a better idea of what sort of venues and caterers are available (and at what cost) in their home town, and coordinating this kind of affair is always easier if you're actually on-site instead of a thousand miles away. Same idea with your family in Texas.

One possible idea: assuming you're having photos or video taken of the actual civil ceremony, you could put together a presentation to be displayed at the parties -- not as a "home movie" kind of thing, but perhaps on a continuous loop on a large screen TV somewhere off to the side of the main festivities. Meanwhile, people get to eat, drink and dance, which is the fun part of a wedding anyway.
posted by La Cieca at 12:38 PM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

We figure we should have a city hall ceremony

Why? I guess I understand the point of recreating the wedding in two places, for each of the sick family members (are they so sick they CAN'T travel, or do they just not want to?), but what's the point of the third (i.e. IL) ceremony? And if it's just your Mom that's really so sick in TX she absolutely cannot travel, not even by car or plane to Michigan, why have a whole separate wedding for 40 people? Why not just do something special with her?

Do you really *need* three ceremonies, or do you just want them?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:40 PM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Please note that there is no reason for you to have a Chicago wedding if you're getting a license in Michigan or in Texas; it'll be legally recognised in IL no matter what state you choose to do the paperwork in. In Michigan, you don't need to be a resident to get married (but you do have to apply for the license a month beforehand.) See here for info on Michigan marriage laws.

And Chicago and Michigan are close enough that you can reasonably expect Chicago friends to attend a Michigan ceremony. I speak as someone who spent the odd weekend in Chicago as a teen in Ann Arbor.

Or, in short, don't make this harder than it needs to be - try sticking to two weddings instead of three.

Good luck, and much happiness in your marriage!
posted by Andrhia at 12:41 PM on November 7, 2006

On preview, La Cieca's idea of making it more about 1 wedding and 2 parties than 3 weddings sounds perfect. And maybe that's what you meant in the first place.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:41 PM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Instead of thinking in deadly metaphors (pitfalls and landmines), think about the advantages. Everything you like about weddings, you get to do three times. You get a chance to make everyone happy (fewer compromises) because you split the crowd into your family, her family, and the people you actually chose. You have three chances to get the words right. You have three chances to get all the good pictures right. Three chances to play the right music in the right order. Three chances to wear those silly clothes. Three chances not to trip/faint/puke. Three times to announce to the world that you love her.

Cause she's once... twice... three times a lady. (OK, now you can puke.)
posted by pracowity at 12:45 PM on November 7, 2006

Best answer: My friends recently did a "wedding tour". They are living in L.A. but were married in Maine with immediate family and a few guests. The groom's family then hosted a reception in Connecticut the next week. They did not do another ceremony, although the Bride did wear her dress again and the groom wore a tux. At one point they had a blessing, and they also did another cake ceremony. Like La Cieca recommended, they had their wedding photos on a powerpoint presentation showing during the Connecticut reception.

Is the marriage in Illinois really necessary? I'd think one marriage in Michigan with all the trimmings, a reception in Texas with a few small rituals, then one more party with your friends back in Illinois just to celebrate would do the trick.
posted by saffry at 12:47 PM on November 7, 2006

Best answer: My wife and I did something similar. Teeny tiny "ceremony" in Seattle where we live, I got a friend (and mefite) to get ordained for it and he did an amazing job. Then we held receptions in each of our hometowns. She wore the wedding dress three times, but there was no re-exchanging of vows. That much wasn't all that hard to do.

Now, if you want three actual ceremonies which all look like weddings, it's the same thing, just more planning for each one.

And if you want to actually get married three times...I'm not sure that's possible.

This could range from totally doable and not a big deal to complete impossible nightmare depending on where you set your sights. Good luck.
posted by Shutter at 12:53 PM on November 7, 2006

Best answer: No matter what you do, try not to invite people to more than one of the events unless there's some reason for them to be there. We got invited to an out of town wedding (where the bride and groom were getting married away from home) AND to the hometown reception/party they threw when they got back home. We lived in neither place and would have had to pay for two separate trips complete with airfare. We ended up attending neither, for unrelated reasons, but I was a bit put out by it.
posted by cabingirl at 1:05 PM on November 7, 2006

My friends had a simlar predicatment - lived in Boston, friends scattered across the country, families in midwest and Argentina. The eloped to Vegas and broadcast their wedding on the internet. They just had a best man and a maid of honor with them.
posted by FreezBoy at 1:09 PM on November 7, 2006

I hope you mean three parties, because three weddings sounds bizarre - how are the third-time people going to feel knowing you've already vowed-it-up twice before? It will seem like a play you put on for them because they missed "the real deal." And YOU'LL be tired of it all. ONE wedding is exhausting, never mind three.

Parties, indeed. They don't even need to be lavish, just "huzzah, we're married" parties.
posted by agregoli at 1:22 PM on November 7, 2006

Best answer: The traditional way to do it would be to have the wedding itself where her parents are (her parents being involved in, and perhaps paying for, it), and a party where your parents are (with your parents paying for that), and then your own party for your own friends who can't or won't attend either. Seems like this is one situation where tradition actually makes more sense.
posted by bingo at 1:47 PM on November 7, 2006

If her parents are religious and you want to make/keep them happy, instead of another 'wedding', you could have a brief ceremony where their minister blesses your union, followed by a reception.
posted by essexjan at 4:19 PM on November 7, 2006

Best answer: We did something similar. We got married in San Francisco, with four friends as witnesses (we're lesbians - this was during SF's "Winter of Love", and it was all very last-minute). Then, the following January, we got hitched again, in Canada, since we'd be legal there if nowhere else. Again, friends (not the same friends) as witnesses. The following June (18-ish months later), we finally had The Wedding, wherein all friends and family gathered here in SF (well, Berkeley) - we sent out invitations, had a caterer, a DJ, etc. The first two were officiated by Official Government People (although the SF one was later annulled against our will by the courts); the last was officiated by a seminary-trained dear friend.

The first two ceremonies required very little planning; we had parties after each of them, but nothing really elaborate. I nth all above who suggest a one ceremony/multiple reception way of handling it. Although, having stood up three times to say "I do" to the same woman, I'd do it again (and again!) in a heartbeat. There's something about saying that in front of people you love, and who love you, that's just...amazing.
posted by rtha at 7:25 PM on November 7, 2006

Two friends of mine, from different states, met at college in a third state. They had a leetle tiny wedding, I forget where, with just immediate families attending. Then they had decent, receptions in each of their hometowns, in their families' respective church houses. Then they came back to the college town and had a barbecue for all the rest of us. It was brilliant.
posted by eritain at 1:32 AM on November 8, 2006

Response by poster: Sorry it took me so long to get back here; real life and all that.

Just to be clear (and apologies for not being clearer before), we're having two ceremony/receptions (more on that below) in Michigan and Texas. We may do the city hall ceremony (with just witnesses), but no third party in Chicago.

Here's my plan: the ceremony and the reception in the same space, be it a tent at her uncle & aunt's farm in Michigan, or at a banquet room in Texas. We'll walk down an "aisle", but people will be sitting at tables. Less moving = less complications, and more time for fun.

The wedding in Michigan will be bigger and fancier than the one in Texas. We're cool with that. Some Texas people are going to both. My dad is my best man, so he'll be at both, as will my brothers and my niece.

ThePinkSuperhero: we definitely don't WANT to have three weddings. We'd rather have one. My mom has a variety of illnesses (which I won't detail here) that make travel impossible for her. My fiancée has relatives in Michigan in a similar position.

essexjan: it will be a non-religious ceremony, in spite of her parents beliefs. I don't think they are petty enough to not help us because we won't be blessed by their god, but you never know.

rtha: your comments made me mist up a little. Okay, a lot. Very sweet.

Thanks for all the constructive comments! This has been a big help.
posted by weirdoactor at 7:31 AM on November 8, 2006

we definitely don't WANT to have three weddings. We'd rather have one.

Then have one. The wedding is about you two, not trying to make everyone happy.
posted by agregoli at 12:08 PM on November 8, 2006

Response by poster: You've never been married, huh?
posted by weirdoactor at 12:19 PM on November 8, 2006

Are you speaking to me? I've been married for awhile now.

Anyone who does a wedding (or three) to make other people happy could end up cheating themselves out of the experience they want. I'm sympathetic to the problem, but if you don't want three weddings and want one, then have one. Nothing will be damaged forever, I promise you. There are plenty of ways for people to participate in your union then to be there during the first, second, or third iteration of it.
posted by agregoli at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2006

And if you think that your marriage or the wedding ceremony is about making everyone happy, instead of about the two of you committing to each other, than I'm very worried for you indeed.
posted by agregoli at 2:25 PM on November 8, 2006

To be even more long-winded - not to say that I wish you ill. Good luck with this - but it sounds completely exhausting, and if you don't want to do it, you should find another solution, in my opinion. You will NEVER be able to satisfy everyone with this type of situation. Settle for making yourselves happy.
posted by agregoli at 2:31 PM on November 8, 2006

Response by poster: Wow. Your husband must be a terribly...happy man.

Since you persist in your trolling, I'll bite: my mom has bone cancer, combined with Grave's disease. She has about two years to live, at most. She's pretty vocal about me being her favorite of her four children (note: I'm not awesome or anything; of the other three, one is a junkie, one moved to NZ to get away from the family and one is a she hasn't much choice). My fiancée and I getting engaged was, according to her, "the best birthday present ever". She can't WAIT to see me get married.

Problem: Due to extreme pain, there's no way she can travel. None. Zero. Zip.

On my fiancée’s side, she has two aunts who suffer from painful diseases, and also cannot travel. She is their favorite niece.

See the problem? Without some sort of Star Trek transporter device, we have a problem.

The only solution that doesn't result in heartbreaking sadness for all: two weddings in two states.

And if *you* think that the wedding ceremony & reception are NOT for the family, friends, and loved ones of the bride & groom; you are much more naive than I could possibly imagine. Seriously. Stop. Smoking. Crack. And. Posting.

I'll close by suggesting that you read the questions more carefully before injecting (what I'm sure your husband must think is) your "charming" insight. I didn't ask SHOULD we, I asked HOW. This is a LOGISTICAL question. We are WELL AWARE of our own insanity. Please note the question text.

Good luck out there. Don't sit on any sticky "L" seats.
posted by weirdoactor at 2:44 PM on November 8, 2006

Best answer: Yeah, have as many ceremonies/weddings/parties as you want. It is, after all, your wedding (/ceremony/party).

Logistically, I'd suggest trying to keep all of them as similar as possible. They don't have to be identical, obviously, but the fewer variables you have to introduce, the fewer variables you'll have to keep track of. Can both events have similar menus? Can you load all your music onto an iPod, with playlists clearly labeled "Texas" and "Michigan" (if they're going to be different)?

Pick one or two responsible friends/relatives who live in the town where the ceremonies will be held and ask them to do some of the basic groundwork (pricing floral arrangements, e.g.), and make sure you've got one person, in each place, who on the day of there ceremony will be responsible for giving the checks you (or the parents/in-laws) have written to the caterer, florist, etc. You don't need to be bothering with that!

We got a ton of logistical help and ideas from this place. I think the best suggestion was to keep the details that need tracking to an absolute minimum - and delegate, delegate, delegate!

I'm sorry about your mom; I've been there, done that. By all means, make her happy! It will mean the world to her - and you.
posted by rtha at 3:30 PM on November 8, 2006

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