All That Mattered Was Love

Two weddings. Neither quite what I'd imagined.

Kimberly & Landon

From the time I was a little girl, my mom laid out how things were supposed to go. You go to college, get a degree, get married, have babies. That was the prescription for life. The get married part seemed like a good idea, but I was in no hurry.

That didn’t stop me from planning my wedding. Not in the “every last detail” kind of way, but certainly in the “who is going to be there and how do I want the day to feel” kind of way. I never spent much time picturing my dress or the flowers, but I knew exactly which of my cousins I wanted to be ushers, who my bridesmaids would be, and how the reception would go (a big, rocking dance party, btw). I knew that I wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle and my mom to cry in the front pew. And I knew that I wanted all my family and friends to be there.

It turned out that the day I got married looked almost nothing like that… and neither did my wedding day.

My husband and I like to joke that we got married twice. That’s not technically true. We got married and then had a celebration of the marriage, but whatever. Twice we stood in front of the church, said some vows, and swapped rings. We celebrate our anniversary on the day we got legally married (mostly because it is easier to remember—6/9/12), but we are also marking the “anniversary of our wedding.”

When we got engaged in January of 2012, I started planning a traditional wedding. We talked to a minister, booked a reception site, and I found a dress. Then life got in the way.

At the time, I was living in one state, my fiancé in another. The plan was for me to quit my job at the end of the summer, move to where he was, and start graduate school in the fall of 2012. The wedding would happen the in May of 2013. Then we realized that we could save almost $20,000 on my tuition if we were married before I started graduate school rather than halfway through. Practicality won out and we decided to get married early.

But we had already put down a deposit on the reception hall and bought a dress that wasn’t ready yet. So I talked to the minister again—asked if it would be okay if we got married and then had a wedding. Once he agreed (wholeheartedly I might add), we were full speed ahead for two ceremonies.

All of a sudden, I found myself planning two weddings. One was only a few weeks away, while the other was just under a year out. One was going to be simple—mostly just a legally binding ceremony—and one was going to be a more traditional wedding. One was planned quickly, via four or five phone calls while the other took months to plan, and involved a series of vendors and contracts. But I quickly realized that neither was going to look much like the vision I had of what my “Wedding” should be.

Our first ceremony was simple. We called our families, found a Saturday where everyone was free, and asked everyone to show up at the church. There was no walking down the aisle, no fancy white gown, no music. I wore a dress I bought at the mall. He wore a suit we bought for his new job. I had a bouquet made from flowers I bought at Kroger that morning (thank you APW!) and everyone at the wedding stood up front in a circle around us.

The guest list was limited to our parents, our siblings and their spouses, the minister, and the photographer (who graciously offered to shoot the ceremony for no extra cost). The entire thing took about ten minutes. Afterwards, we went back to our house and had a barbecue for our families and our closest friends (who would eventually make up our wedding party). It was perfect—and nothing like I thought it would be.

Our second ceremony was much closer to the wedding I had always pictured. We sent out close to a hundred invitations. I had a white gown. My dad walked me down the aisle. There was music and flowers and pews full of people. Afterwards we had a rocking dance party. But even that didn’t look exactly like what I had planned.

My mom wasn’t crying in the front row—I had lost her to cancer ten years before. And my cousins weren’t ushers—most of them didn’t even come. My sister was my matron of honor, but we were barely talking on my wedding day thanks to her skipping out on a bridal shower. And while a lot of our family and friends were there that day, a lot weren’t.

When I think back on both of our ceremonies, a lot of the details are blurry. I don’t remember missing all of the people who didn’t show up. I don’t remember missing the things we omitted (like a cake, the bouquet toss, and the garter toss). I didn’t even notice the details that didn’t go right—the favors not being put out, the flowers ending up on the wrong tables, the mix up with the reception order of events.

What I do remember is how both days felt. I remember the feeling of love as we celebrated our marriage in the backyard surrounded by our closest friends. I remember being totally overwhelmed when I came through the church doors at the number of people who showed up to celebrate with us. I remember my husband and his groomsmen pulling out a magic eight ball during the vows and making me laugh. I remember feeling like a little girl as I twirled with my Dad during our father daughter dance. I remember laughing at my college friends as we danced the night away. I remember feeling loved. I remember being—as Elizabeth Bennet says at the end of Pride and Prejudice—perfectly, incandescently happy.

Maybe the story of my wedding didn’t go the way I thought it would. It really couldn’t have been more different. But in the end, it didn’t matter. In the end, what mattered was that on my wedding day—on both my wedding days—I was left with the feeling I wanted. The details were different, but the essence was the same. We started our life together surrounded, both times, by the people who loved us the most. In the end, what mattered, was love.


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  • What happens in life is often much better than anything we could have dreamed or planned. Kudos to you for allowing life to happen the way it needed to. Being surrounded by love is an awesome thing.

  • I am coming out of lurker status to say that we are having our tiny, for practical financial reasons ceremony TODAY followed by a religious celebration in the fall. Two wedding baby families are the best!

    • anon

      congrats! and enjoy! my hubby and I got secret married right before christmas (health insurance, ftw) and our family wedding is in 3 weeks. best decision we could have ever made :)

      • ART

        we were thinking about doing this but knew we wouldn’t keep the secret :P

  • Kat91314

    We are a two-wedding couple as well, and mostly for logistical/financial reasons. We did a quick civil ceremony before a judge last month when we realized that 1) it would save us a bunch on our health insurance, and 2) since our actual “wedding” is in a different state than where we live, it would make the most sense to just do the legal part of it here and then do the whole ceremony/reception thing that we had been planning all along this September. So we did. Just my dad, and two very close friends of ours in attendance as witnesses, and we were married. We’re not really treating it as our wedding date, though…..we both feel like September will be our wedding date. And I have to admit that I’m still TOTALLY excited for September, and actually a little less stressed now, which I hadn’t expected. For whatever reason, knowing that we already have that first memory and the same last name has really lifted some of the stress off me, and now I can go relax and enjoy the celebration in September :-) Congrats!!

  • Shotgun Shirley

    My husband often jokes he loves me so much he married me twice! We had a civil ceremony for tax savings; since he was a student making approximately $0, filing jointly meant a refund that about covered half the cost of our wedding the next year. Win!

    • mere…

      Ha, I love that he says he married you twice. I’m going to have to start using that!

  • Kendra D

    We’re another two wedding couple! We had a quick civil ceremony in 2010 so I could join him on his orders overseas. This year, on our fourth anniversary we’ll be having a big ceremony with family and friends! I’m super excited to get a second chance to stand up with my husband and celebrate the love that binds us!

  • Now you have me dreaming of a backyard barbecue wedding.

  • Lisa

    It makes me happy to hear of other two wedding couples! Unlike some of the others, only a few close friends know about our “real” wedding. I had no idea how cruel my sisters could be until I tried planning my wedding. after being criticized on every wedding decision they heard about, my husband said enough and we asked our pastor to marry us on the first day that worked for all of us. Since we had already planned and paid for the majority of the other ceremony, we went ahead with it. As my sisters grabbed their husbands and kids to leave after dinner, my heart was filled with joy that I did not have to have a memory of that disappointment on my wedding day. My wedding day was a cute Target dress, my new husband’s tear filled vows, and pizza at our favorite spot. It looked nothing like I would have planned, but it was a day filled with love, laughter and a few dear friends.

  • Amy

    Love this! We also did two ceremonies: one last October, when I was quitting my job to move for his, and needed to get on his health insurance plan; and the Big One in a few weeks. Only my Mom and my sister know about it, and no one but us, the officiant and his wife was present at our tiny civil ceremony in the officiant’s living room. I did get to wear a rockin’ multicolored Alice+Olivia maxi dress I fell in love with on deeeeep discount at Nordstrom Rack, though!

    As another commenter said, it has made me feel a whole lot more chilled out about the Big Wedding, since hey, we’re already married anyway! We can focus on having an awesome party with the people we love.

    We don’t really feel married yet – I think that will come when our families come together at the Big Wedding. We’ll celebrate the Big Wedding as our anniversary and we don’t plan on telling people about the earlier ceremony. My only twinge of worry is about people finding out we’re already legalled and feeling left out or duped… but since I have chronic health issues that make good health insurance a top priority, I don’t see how anyone could disagree that we made the right choice.

  • Claire

    Yay for two weddings! We had 3 as we’re from two different countries, and the UK doesn’t let you get married just anywhere, so we had an official ceremony, and then had a UK celebration, and a New Zealand celebration that were a lot like the wedding we might of planned if we had just done the one.

    • EF

      this is pretty much what we’re doing! one legal registrar’s appointment, and then wedding some months later as we want it. and a later celebration in the states. wooo!

  • Caitlin

    My husband (!) and I went to city hall to tie the knot today! Getting legally married overseas in another language seemed like a nightmare to us, so we got the legal bit out of the way today. I did have weird conflicting feelings about wearing something non White (red) and not dressy…

  • The title of the post is perfect…all that matters is love!

  • titaniumjewellerysmart

    These are all amazing!! Will be sharing this.

  • Allie

    Did people not come because they didn’t feel like it was a “real” wedding since you were already legally wed? If so, FORGET THEM. Ugh! I hope that’s not why….

  • mere…

    We call our October anniversary (the date we legally married in our church’s coffee shop) our “Marriage Anniversary” and our July anniversary (the date we hosted a wedding with all our friends and family) our “Wedding Anniversary”. Our entire engagement/wedding season definitely ended up looking differently than I had ever dreamed it would, but I love that we had two ceremonies.

  • Another Meg

    I love seeing all of the other two-wedding people on here! We got married last June in a small civil ceremony with immediate family only. On our one year anniversary, we’re having our big, messy dream wedding and I couldn’t be happier. Also entirely not how I thought our wedding would be, but hey. In-state tuition for the win.