A big wedding isn’t for everyone, which is why many couples choose to elope or have a small courthouse ceremony. However, there are also those who like to have their cake and eat it too, with an intimate vow exchange followed by a classic big celebration at a later date.
There are many reasons why a pair of lovebirds might go this route, but it most often relates to needing the benefits of marriage before there is time to put together a full event. Military couples often choose this path in order to get housing together, as well as more protection for the spouse left behind while the other is deployed. Or if both people are in the same branch of the military, they won’t have to worry about being stationed across the world from each other. If one person desperately needs health insurance, marrying their partner to be put on their plan can literally be a lifesaver. For someone who fell in love while living abroad, getting paperwork for a green card sorted out before the big day can help put your mind at ease.
Particularly for religious couples, newlyweds in this situation may still want to have a “real” wedding, which is perfectly fine! Some don’t even consider themselves truly married until it happens in the church. That said, it is important to be honest with your guests about the situation, as some people may feel duped if they don’t learn about your earlier legal marriage until after the fact. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to call the big fête a vow renewal – just don’t try to hide that fact that you’ve already tied the knot. If you’re certain doing this will cause hurt feelings and judgment, then you need to make sure no one knows. Secrets always have a way of getting out.
An intimate ceremony followed by a big reception party can also be viewed as a compromise, whether between families or between the couple getting married. If one of you is anxious in front of crowds, it may be calming to exchange vows in front of only one witness without depriving the other of the party they’ve always dreamed about.