Jenifer & Rob

American-English Wedding

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?

American-English Wedding

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.

American-English Wedding

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.

American-English Wedding

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.

American-English Wedding

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.

 The Info— PhotographyLydia Samuel / VenueThe Horn of Plenty / Bride and Bridesmaid’s Dresses: David’s Bridal / FlowersAmanda Randall / RingsBlue Nile / Suit: Burton

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  • carrie

    Yep. Adorable. And THE DRESS! How I love it! Congrats to you!

    PS, I am also a big advocate of having pictures done before the wedding because it gives you some time to relax a little bit. The moment was still really big when I was getting ready to walk down the aisle.

  • Your dress is fabulous. I love the spinning skirt picture. :)

  • You guys are so cute. I loved your post, so wise. And I could relate on many levels, because our civil wedding was separated from the religious ceremony by 5 months… and at the time it was a bit “weird” in that I always felt the “real” ceremony would be the religious one. Though for the boy, the real deal was the civil stuff, and the rest more of an acknowledgement and a celebration. But looking back, it is like you said, an evolution, and the civil wedding did feel like a start, it was full of emotion, a big day nonetheless .
    I love that picture of you dancing and your skirt twirling and of Rob looking at / smelling the flowers.

  • Just me

    YES! A thousand times over yes.
    And if I could hug you right now Jennifer I would.
    Because I too “grew into” being a wife.
    My husband and I joke that we had 3 weddings.
    Our first one was when we stood on a street corner and declared our vows to the universe (I was admittedly frustrated we weren’t engaged at that point, but it was still pretty amazing)
    We were legally married about 6 months before our religious ceremony. (Not for visa reasons, for personal ones)
    And then there was the wedding ceremony.

    So I grew into being his wife. We got legally married because we needed to move into together, and felt strongly that we didn’t want to live together without being married.
    And then we felt strongly that we wanted to save our ‘first time’ (Wedding night virgins represent!) for our ‘actual’ wedding day.
    Which we did. And it was totally the right thing for us, though it is d*** hard, and I do not recommend that you undertake it lightly.
    (Ok, that was a segue, my bad)

    But I LOVED growing into being a wife. I still am. But I think we couldn’t have done it any more perfectly. It just…it felt right. In a way that I would be hard pressed to explain. I love that he was around when the wedding planning was going on. That we could curl up in bed together and talk about it. That he was always there when I hung up the phone in frustration to hug me while I muttered curses under my breath.

    After our legal ceremony, it didn’t feel like much had changed. (I mean right after). We belonged to each other sure, but no more then we already did. And after our ceremony, it felt different…like we had completed the last step of a puzzle. I like that we had those six months to get used to living together. That we had those 6 months to navigate life and work out how to live together.
    I’m probably explaining this badly, but I love that we had this “step” process to getting married. It just felt right. It gave us time to slowly adjust rather then adjust all at once.

    And now I will stop babbling. But Jennifer? *BIG hugs* I think not having a definitive point makes it that much sweeter. For me, we already felt as committed to each other as if we we’re married. The marriage was just a logical outcome. We’ve always belonged to each other. The point at which it happened doesn’t really matter that much.

  • mimi

    Your flowers are beautiful! And I love your dancing sandals!

  • julia

    Love the dress, and the photo of your husband with your bouquet is adorable!

  • sarahrose

    “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.”

    This! People are so confused. The way I explain it to people is that I already had my real marriage/fake wedding, but after I finish school we are going to have our fake marriage/real wedding!

    We had a flipped situation; my Swedish boyfriend-at-the-time moved here and we got married so he could get a green card, but we weren’t even “engaged” at the time though we firmly planned to marry — I had three years of college to go, and we didn’t want a wedding until after.

    And I totally understand the process of “growing into” being husband/wife. It’s different from the transormative moment many people talk about, but it’s still wonderful.

  • Becca

    Thank you for such a heartfelt post — crying right now :).

    And your dress looks *AMAZING*!

  • Lovely post, I do think you rocked the short dress!
    I liked how looking back at the details you can think about those things that seemed to matter so much beforehand and then weren’t that great (the jam tarts) and the grace with which you guys dealt with the lack of electricity: the car stereo first dance to candlelight is an amazing story.
    congratulations on a beautiful ceremony and a down to earth marriage.

  • MDBethann

    The dress was awesome and you looked radiant. I especially love the twirling photo. ALL dresses should be able to be twirled like that!

  • Anna

    Oh look at Rob, perpetuating the idea that all British males are Hugh Grant :) Also, that dress was MADE for your figure.

    • meg


  • Meg

    First off – gorgeous dress! Suits you marvelously. Second – this is exactly the post I needed to be reading. Thank you, Jennifer & APW, from the bottom of my heart.

    My fella and I have been engaged since summer of 2011 and aren’t getting “married” until Fall 2013. But…we’re about to get legally hitched for health insurance reasons. Not lovey-dovey romantic reasons or even one-of-us-will-have-to-leave-the-country-otherwise reasons. It makes me irate and happy at the same time. Furious at the state of health care in the US and thrilled that I have a job with solid healthcare benefits that I can extend to my man once we’re legally wed. Right now I’m keeping this decision completely under wraps – for many of the reasons expressed in this awesome post. I’m just not keen on the idea of everyone in my life knowing that we are performing a self-uniting ceremony for purely legal reasons while planning a wedding that’s more than a year off. I’m worried that it’ll take some of the excitement out of the whole thing…which is probably ridiculous.

    But reading this post and the comments has helped tremendously. We’re making the right move for us right now. We get to have a secret wedding and be an undercover married couple for a year before our “big day” – if nothing else, it’ll make some juicy gossip for the grandkids.

    • A to the Z

      We are in exactly the same boat. My guy and I have been living together for two years, the whole time he hasn’t had health insurance. Once we decided to get married, I have been chomping at the bit to get him health insurance (it drives me crazy that my state doesn’t have partner benefits in general). We are getting married in what I’m referring to as our “Super-Secret Covert Mini Wedding” next Monday at the courthouse. 10 of our nearest and dearest (it helps they all live in town) are going to join us. Then we are going to have Mexican food down the street.

      I have been feeling a mix of emotions about how this will change our transition from engaged to married. But practicality is winning out for me. I am worried how friends/family will react and if it will “take” away from our fall family wedding. But at at certain point I decided I’d much rather deal with that than have my guy be without health insurance for one more day.

      Thanks for this grad post and for this comment. It’s nice to see so many models for weddings and how we all make it work.

  • Snow Gray

    Yay for US/UK marriages! We are also getting married so I can immigrate to the UK as a wife (from California), though our big ceremony will be here because my family is about 10x bigger than his.

    AND we hope to move back to the States eventually, so this hit so many buttons for me!

    I am really stressed about the immigration paperwork and it’s refreshing to see someone else has gone through similar things. And you make a beautiful bride!

  • SW

    “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.”

    This is lovely. This would have really helped me a week ago (my fiance and I tried, and eventually failed, to resist my mother’s months-long tearful campaign for our wedding invitations to be worded as coming from my parents rather than us – aaaah, mamadrama). You have articulated exactly how we see our parents’ roles but couldn’t express. The blessings from both sets of parents during the ceremony is a beautiful idea, one I might steal!

    Congratulations on your gorgeous wedding and (more importantly) marriage!

  • Rockin’ dress! And it sounds as if you have done quite well on your journey together. I wish the two of you all the best!

    (Also, as a lady married to another lady, I did have some of those fears about people not wanting to travel to a ‘fake’ wedding. That is, my wedding was completely and totally REAL, but it was not legal where we had it/where we live. So thanks for voicing that.)

    • Karen

      A friend of mine is going through that exact situation. She sent out save-the-dates for her wedding and her stepmom called and said “This will only confuse people since it’s not a real wedding since your marriage isn’t recognized where you live.” I say dammit it’s a real wedding if you say it is!

      • It’s me – Jenifer. And that is exactly what I was getting from some people. They won’t come to a fake wedding. Why bother doing it? You are already married. This is a waste. Especially since it was a “destination” wedding. It made me so scared to tell anyone that we were already legally married.

  • Elaine E

    JEN!!! I told you that Rob looked like Hugh Grant. :D

    This was seriously such a fabulous and sweet recap of your wedding/marriage journey with Rob. I also love that your personality shines through your writing.

    I think your wedding pictures are gorgeous, and I actually gasped when I saw the panoramic photograph of your ceremony. You two march to the beat of your own drums (I promise that’s not code for “you’re cuckoo”), so I think it’s appropriate that you did the same for your wedding.

    Ahhh! I can’t believe your wedding story has been featured on A Practical Wedding (which I’ve loved for forever), and I’m ecstatic that you’ve received this honor. See you later today, love. And good luck with finals!

  • Taylor

    Wow. I had to double-check to see whether this had been written by Future Me.

    Last week I got (legally) married to my (Aussie currently in the UK for work) fiance so I could get my visa and move over there. Same immigration situation — went through every other possible avenue, including lawyers, just to find out this was the only way to make it work. We’re getting married — in Devon, no less! — in about a year and on Sunday I put down a deposit on my tea length wedding dress. Long live the short wedding dress!

    Both our immediate families — and my coworkers, since they threw us a little “ceremony” — know what we did last week, and while we will be happy to tell people that’s what we did if it comes up, we’re trying to avoid advertising it for exactly the reasons you had… confusion, what if they don’t want to fly in for the “real” wedding, etc. It all makes perfect sense to us and we certainly don’t feel any more “married” this week than we were two weeks ago, but we know it may appear different to some of our potential guests. For us, the wedding is chance for us to make our commitment to each other in front of family and friends, and that didn’t happen last week — plus this is probably the only time our two families will ever be in the same room, or even on the same continent, together. To us, that’ calls for a “real” wedding, paperwork be damned.

  • Hazel

    You look stunning in that dress! You can see how happy you guys are, this has made me even more excited for my wedding :)

  • Christina

    I am so glad to read this, my bf and I have just found out we may have to get married much sooner then we wanted due to work permit rules. We are planning on getting engaged very shortly but it looks like we might have to have a courthouse wedding right after. I’m so disappointed! I don’t want to tell anyone as I feel like why would they bother coming to our wedding if we are already married. And I don’t know if I want to just do it quick and quiet with no fuss or even dressing up so that it doesn’t seem special at all, or if I want to make it a bit special. I’m really confused.

    I’m glad to see others have struggled with this. I don’t even know if I want to tell our parents but then I feel like I will be lying if I don’t.

  • I loved this post for so many reasons, but just had to comment on some superficial things: I LOVE your dress and it looks perfect. And the yellow sandals you wore for the reception? Well, I looked all over for something like those for my own and had to give up. This whole post just radiates love and happiness. Awesome.

  • YAY for hair down! I hate having mine up but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bride wearing hers down. Until now :D

  • Lisa

    I love your dress! I’m about the same size/shape as you are and I really want a tea length dress too. One of my favorite sundresses is a vintage dress that has a very similar silhouette to your wedding dress and I’m hoping to get something like that off the rack for my wedding.

    • Would you like my dress? It’s not doing me any good in my closet. It’s a size 14!

      • Just me

        This is why A Practical wedding rocks. It’s like this online community of really fabulous girlfriends. I mean, what other website would you see someone just offer up their wedding dress like that?
        Meg, can we please make a big summit meet up happen? One for the East Coasters one for the West?
        I’ll help plan and bring the tequila! (Well not all, but some :) )

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I like the idea of easing into marriage. While I respect celebrating clear transitions, marriage is so huge a thing, I think everyone eases into it. Some people do it like Jenifer and Rob. Some people do it through dating, cohabitation, wedding, marriage. Some people do it all after the wedding, which is find, too, as long as you realize you can’t go from being “good friends” to “most intimate lovers” overnight.

  • I, too, wanted a short dress (very much like yours) and I, too, was told it wouldn’t flattering to my body type. I listened to the naysayers and chose a different dress, which I do love very much, though a small piece of me will always be wistful about the dress that wasn’t. All this to say: you looked GORGEOUS. Seriously, seriously beautiful. that is the perfect dress on you! Other people are idiots; rock on, girl!

  • AshleyMM

    This post really resonated with me, so much so that I had to take a day to really process it.

    As a wife with a wife, I’ve been learning the hard way about growing in to the role rather than having one moment where everything falls in to place. The closest thing that my partner and I had to a “legal” wedding was the two of us signing a document inside an ugly FedEx (they have a notary). We were on our way to a camping trip, so we looked like crap and were in a rush, and we just dropped the document into the mail and waited patiently to get a Domestic Partnership certificate in the mail, some 6 months later.

    A year and a half later, we held our non-legal wedding. We battled up until about a month beforehand over whether we would even have a ceremony. My partner really felt strongly that people needed to know that we CAN’T get married, and since she’s not religious, she felt that a ceremony might give people this false sense that everything was great for us because they saw the ceremony. The truth of the matter, from a practical standpoint, is that nothing would be different after the event. For similar reasons, I really did want a ceremony–I felt it was important for our community to witness our commitment and to stand up to help us, since we don’t get the legal protections or benefits that come with marriage. (Hello, 4 separate tax returns.) With the help of Pride Week at APW, I was able to finally convince her, and we had a beautiful ceremony and a super fun reception.

    All that said, though, I think I’m only just now starting to feel like a wife. I had already been wearing the same ring I have now as my engagement ring/Domestic Partnership ring. We lived in the same house. We had the same routines and the same level of commitment. Our community views us differently in some ways, which is starting to contribute to our sense of ourselves as married. Over the last few months, I have started to feel a certain sense of calm, a sort of, “Okay, that part is sorted. What’s our next adventure?” feeling has cropped up since the wedding that I’ve never had before. The tenor of our conversations is oh-so-subtly different, with less stress on who handles what and more on how to get things done together. There’s more of a sense of our time, money, health, and resources as “ours” rather than something one is sharing with the other. Unexpectedly for me, this has even applied to the ways I’ve stopped worrying about gaining weight because I’ll be less attractive to my wife, and instead focus more on staying alive as long as possible so that we’ll have that time together.

    TL;DR. At any rate, thanks so much for sharing your story. I love the idea that the label matters much less than our willingness to grow together. Also, loved the best woman and the fake mustaches! Too cute!

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  • We’ll also be having a courthouse legal wedding and then our ceremony months later. My fiance is in the military and we need to be legally married before he gets his next orders overseas. So we’ll sort of be in a similar situation of easing into being married. As of now, we’re not planning to invite anyone to the courthouse and don’t plan to refer to each other as husband and wife until our ceremony in December. And since we’re both a little bit commitment phobic (ok, a lot commitment phobic) I think it’ll help us to enjoy our wedding day since it’ll be more a reaffirmation of a commitment we already made. But I do wonder how it’s going to feel to be in a sort of marriage limbo for five months. So far, nobody who knows we’ll be legally married before the ceremony has felt like they were coming to a sham wedding, so at least there’s that.

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