First, it’s hard to resist making a comment about how completely adorable Jenifer and Rob are, and how they just steal your heart in an instant. And goodness knows I have a soft spot for the struggle (and triumphs) of international weddings, with visa problems, and multiple ceremonies, and families meeting for the first time. But what I find most compelling about Jenifer‘s post is the way she talks about the evolving process of becoming a wife. Because however we get there (I had a transformative wedding day moment, but even still) it’s a long and evolving road. So here is Jenifer, three years into marriage, sharing her story.
My husband, Rob, and I were married in Devon, England in the summer of 2009. Rob is English and I am American, which lead to wedding planning that involved quite a bit more planning and preparation due to international constraints. And, no, I don’t mean that it was a pain to have my mom ship me shepherds hooks because they are impossible to find in England. I am talking about the legal side of getting married.
We were actually married March 21, 2008. I couldn’t obtain my British visa without being his wife. We looked down all the other avenues (student visa, fiancée visa) and none of them would work. So, three months engaged, with a venue booked for August 2009, we got married in the Spokane County Courthouse. I have seen many of you post fabulous courthouse weddings, but it wasn’t what I wanted and it was hard. My family wasn’t there. We didn’t tell people for quite awhile because we weren’t sure how to handle it. I knew I wanted to be married to Rob and he wanted to be married to me, but having to do it this way just to be a legal immigrant was hard. For one, I didn’t know how I wanted to behave after this signing of the paperwork. Was I going to act as if Rob was my husband at this point, or would I wait until the ceremony the following year?
As neither of us really knew what we were comfortable with, we grew into it. Slowly over time, we started referring to each other has husband and wife. I was already Mrs. Hislastname due to the legal stuff and introducing myself that way also made me feel that, though our wedding was months away, we were already married. I can’t pinpoint when he stopped being my fiancé and started being my husband. And though I am comfortable with this now and feel that it is a reflection of who we are as a couple, at the time it was odd.
Looking back on it, makes me laugh, because there is no doubt in my mind now that we are married and have been for quite some time. I have been hesitant to share these feelings with people, because generally you don’t grow into being a married couple. Or at least, I have never had someone express that feeling to me. Brides talk about how their wedding day was magical and powerful, I felt like my second wedding was a celebration of a commitment and a promise that had already been made.
Having gotten married somewhat secretly also brought a whole wealth of issues regarding what to tell our friends and family. There was this fear that if I told people we had already signed the paperwork they wouldn’t be willing to fly halfway across the world for a “fake” wedding. It made me feel one small corner of the pain LGBTQ couples must feel, having a wedding that some people will consider “fake”. It is rubbish. I slowly told people and they were all, thankfully, pleased and supportive. My minister’s wife commented that at least my parents didn’t have to worry about me moving in with someone who wasn’t my husband. Which works for me.
Fast forward to the planning of wedding number two. I encountered quite a few cultural differences along the way. Our venue had a gorgeous lawn and amazing views but had never done an outside wedding; it isn’t legal in the UK (most of the time). Having already done the legal part, we were the first to have a wedding on their lawn. We decided to have a best woman, rather than man, which turned some heads. The idea of having a Christian ceremony outside lead to some confusion—the venue seemed to think that due to the outside wedding we would want an atheist officiant. Luckily, my minister from home was willing to make the trip. Other than that it was just little things. Cupcakes are just becoming a trend here, many of my guests thought it was unique and different; I felt like they were pretty run of the mill. I did use my grandparents’ cake topper from their wedding, which was a nice tribute; neither of them was up for the ten-hour flight.
My hair doesn’t curl well and I don’t like wearing it up so I wore it down and normal. I spent a bit of extra time blow-drying it and I put a flower in it and that was it. When people found out I wasn’t having an updo it was like I had said I was walking down the aisle naked. Why would I pay someone to do my hair when I like the way I do it? Eh… There were a few places that the wedding industry won. I became convinced that I had to have unique amazing favors. We ended up having jam tarts from a local bakery and while they were great, they weren’t worth the effort. No one would have noticed. I also was told that I didn’t have the right body type for a short dress; it would be unflattering on me. I will let you guys be the judge, but I was pretty damn happy with the way I looked in my short, off the rack dress.
The day itself was amazing. Being from two different countries, it was the first time our families met. Rob’s dad and my dad hit it off spectacularly well and spent the rest of the day telling each other jokes. One thing that I was particularly pleased about was the getting ready process. It was the first time my mom and sisters and I had been together in over two years and it was great to be with them. When I hired our photographer, I hired her because I liked her work and she was a great price. When she was doing the getting ready shoots I realized that having a female photographer was a huge benefit for me. She was able to act like one of the girls and get shots I wouldn’t have been comfortable with if we’d had a male photographer. Something I never would have thought about beforehand, but definitely a bonus.
We chose to take photos before. If you don’t feel strongly about not seeing each other beforehand, I would say it is the way to go. We had a half hour just with each other and the photographer. We were able to relax and just be with each other without worrying that everyone was waiting on us. I am a nervous person by nature; the idea of having fifty guests waiting on me would have made for some very uncomfortable looking photos.
Due to finding out I had gallstones and being in the hospital for three days before the wedding, I had to let some things go. I didn’t get to make my perfect playlist. I didn’t get a spray tan (another WIC idea perhaps?). I wasn’t as calm and collected as I had hoped. I had to eat a completely fat free meal on my wedding day (no wedding cupcakes for me). And the day still went well, amazingly well. The power went out at our venue right before we were set to have our first dance. They gathered candles in the courtyard; someone drove up their car so we could use their CD player. And it worked out just fine, more than fine. We had our first dance as the sun set over the valley. There were a lot more things that went wrong, but at the end of the day you don’t notice. It wasn’t what was important.
We chose to do both traditional and handwritten vows, which turned out to be the best choice. Our minister is not only our minister, but a close family friend (his daughter was my maid of honor). He does lovely ceremonies, very tailored to the couple. I felt wrapped in tradition while still maintaining what was important to use as a couple, which is exactly what I wanted. He asks for the bride then the groom’s parents’ blessings. I felt that this was more reflective of what Rob and I viewed marriage as—not my parents giving me away to him, but all of our parents cheering us on as we create a new family unit.
It has been almost three years since our wedding. In that time Rob and I have successfully moved to California. He is an engineer and I am a law student, soaking up the sunshine. Our time in England seems like a foggy haze in the past now, even though we were there for three years. We are still just as happily married, figuring out our lives here, and starting to *maybe* think about adding a baby into the mix.
In the beginning of planning our wedding and marriage I was worried about having definitive start point, where we became husband and wife, but now, I see that it is an ever-evolving process. I am unable to pinpoint when I went from fiancée to wife, and it hasn’t mattered the slightest. We will constantly be evolving and changing in our relationship and I am so pleased that it is him that I get to grow alongside.