Wedding (Half) Graduates: Zan & Stephen

You guys remember Zan? She’s the one that hosted the APW book club meetup at her farm in upstate New York with cows. You knew you wanted to know more about this girl, but you couldn’t figure out how you were going to do it, right? Well, today she’s here with her wedding half grad post, as she calls it. She and her English Cowboy Husband (I know, right?) got married at City Hall in Manhattan last month, after last minute immigration issues. They have a full wedding to come, but this story, with lovely truthful photos from APW sponsor Katie Jane Photo, is a must read. How Zan thought through the process of getting married, and getting married suddenly, is so articulate, thoughtful, and helpful. Even to the already married among us.

Having done it myself I can tell you that getting married at City Hall in Manhattan is kind of like getting married at the DMV – but with better seating and a shorter wait. That observation probably doesn’t shock anyone, but the fact that I’m the one who made it is fairly surprising (to me, at least) considering I only got engaged a month ago and am in the midst of planning the wedding on my fiancé Stephen’s farm. Er wait, my husband Stephen’s farm. The story of how we became couple C809 at City Hall a little over a month ago isn’t the wrong story, but it isn’t the one I had anticipated telling either.

It began that summer when I – the New York City girl out for a two-week working vacation on a gigantic cattle ranch “out West”– accidentally got zapped by an electric fence while moving cattle. I shouted something unprintable that made Stephen –the handsome but silent head cowboy I had just met – fall in love with my sass. When I had to hoist myself onto the back of my gigantic horse that made him fall in love with my … uhm, it rhymes.

Long before he formally proposed I knew I wanted to marry him, to be on his team and build a life with him. He told me later, “I knew everything I needed to know in the first week.” When I got my Fellowship offer he followed me back to New York and found a farm within commuting distance of my PhD in the center of the big city. I was so ready to write the rest of this story with him that we went to premarital counseling before we were even engaged for Pete’s sake.  As I imagined it, the story went something like this: we’d have a slightly-off-beat, low-key and very-practical wedding, which would nevertheless be beautiful, joyous, and full of love. Once married the fun would really begin as we traveled the world, herded cows, had babies and tried to install a new kitchen sink.

Then, on January 16th of this year we went for a lovely winter walk. At the edge of the farthest pasture he asked me to marry him. The first thing I thought wasn’t “Yes!” but “Ohmygod I’m going to puke,” which was startling. Even though I had been thinking so much about getting married, even though I had been intentionally working my way towards this moment – this moment that I wanted – I was unexpectedly scared. I was the kid who, after climbing to the top of the high dive, stands there protesting, “No, no, I’m not ready.” But I looked at him. I loved him. I said yes.

I had read the now-famous APW post on Weddings, Love, Marriage and Anxiety many times before, I had mulled the topic over enough times to know that my nerves were more about me than about us or our relationship. Rationally I knew this, but I was still scared. Not even two weeks after announcing our engagement I was dropping hints that maybe instead of the short engagement we’d planned we should postpone the wedding until the next year. I wanted more time to sit with it. Suddenly I craved the knowing, I wanted to feel 110% Certain before we walked down the aisle. An avalanche of questions had been let loose: What if I hated living up at the farm? What if I was totally devastated to leave the city? What if I couldn’t cope and became the miserable Bitch in The House? What if we eventually came to hate each other, divorced and made voodoo dolls of one another that we stuck with pins and dunked in tar?

It wasn’t as if I hadn’t considered these things before, but I hadn’t come up with any definitive answers and now, with a ring on my hand, that started to feel like a Big Problem. Then, on February 1st, Stephen’s immigration attorney called and the universe reminded me what a Really Big Problem looks like. There had been a “technical difficulty” with Stephen’s work visa (he is from England – so yes, for those following along at home this makes him an English cowboy. I know, right?!) and now we had two options: 1) Get married in the next two weeks or 2) Stephen leaves the country when his visa expires, loses the job he loves and might not be able to come back for a long time. “Duh,” went the inner monologue, “We’ll just get married. Done.” The answer came to me so quickly and so naturally in that moment that doubt-filled-Zan nearly melted away. How could I let this keep us apart? I love him and we belong together. War, plague, friggin’ sharks with friggin’ laser beams on their friggin’ heads – those things might separate us, but not this.

But it had been a fleeting moment of confidence. The doubt returned with furious energy. For the next few weeks I talked to every lawyer I knew and the lawyers that they knew, trying to figure out a way around this. I felt painted into a corner and the more I felt forced to get married the more I panicked that I was not ready to get married. I had wanted it to feel like the “exact right moment” when we got married. This felt like being ambushed. It all just seemed so wrong.


By Valentine’s Day, having turned over every single legal leaf, I called Stephen. Exhausted and at my wits end I’m sure I sounded weary and fed up when I said, “I think we have to get married tomorrow.” He said, “I’ll be there tonight,” packed up the dogs, grabbed the clothes he’d been given when he got randomly cast in a Fashion Week show (only in New York City do things like this happen to British Cowboys) and headed to my apartment. I went into checklist mode. I called Katie Jane for photos because even though we didn’t want to make a big deal of it, we also didn’t want it to be a non-event either. Like the champ that she is, Katie agreed to be at my apartment at 10:15 a.m. the next day on less than 18 hours notice. Hell, she even offered me her wedding dress! (alas, not my size). I bought Stephen a tie, and stopped in at American Eagle Outfitters to buy a surfer necklace to Frankenstein into “tying the knot” bracelets in lieu of wedding bands (God bless you crappy teen retailer, I knew you’d have the perfect leather do-dads for the job). I called a friend to be our witness and kept myself feeling busy and competent as I went down my checklist.


But that night in bed at around two a.m., with no checklist for how to relax and fall asleep, I started to really freak out. When Stephen, sensing my restlessness, asked me what was wrong I didn’t know what to say. Ask me now and I can see it more clearly. I was paralyzed by what I couldn’t know. I was scared to trust myself, because the story I’d been living was one where I had to check all the lists twice otherwise if/when things went pear-shaped I’d be to blame for not being thorough enough, for failing to anticipate each and every potential snag. If I could make sure every box was checked, if everything went according to plan, if we got the story just right, it would be my hedge against disaster. This story was wrong, all wrong – I was panicking. But then, in a moment of clarity that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, I realized that I could change the story.


Stephen is a wonderful man who I adore, he is perfect for me and I wanted to take this leap of faith with him. No one was forcing us to get married. Really and truly we were choosing it, no matter what the lawyers said. I reminded myself that things almost never go 100% according to plan, but that doesn’t make them wrong. The story I’d dreamed up was not an immutable law. I’d forgotten that we were in charge of deciding how to meet the rises and valleys of the road.

I said out loud that I was scared, then rolled over and put my forehead to his, “I love you,” a beat, “I love you too.” I told myself my new story – the one where we make the fabulously brave and exciting decision to take a chance on a big unknowable future, betting everything that it will be awesome, because together we will make it so. The story where we get to have a cheesy city-hall elopement with an officiant whose shirt matched the (purple) walls AND a farm wedding with all of our family and friends. The story where I cannot believe my good fortune to have found this man in the most unlikely of ways. And wouldn’t you know it, I felt better. I held his hand and fell asleep so fast I don’t even remember it. The next morning when I opened my eyes he was the first thing I saw. I smiled. He smiled. I tackled him with the biggest most heart-bursting-hug I could give and down in my gut was a certainty that was not exactly 110%, but exactly right nonetheless.

We got married and, as you can see from the pictures, we were both relaxed, happy and having a blast. Flowers were courtesy of a thoughtful friend and the post-Valentine’s day sale, I did my buttwaggle dance to make my shy cowboy laugh, we high-fived instead of “kissing the bride” and we got to spend the afternoon in the sunshine with our dogs.  It wasn’t at all what we wanted, it wasn’t what we’d expected or planned, but it was what it was. It was good.

Photos By: Katie Jane Photography

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  • As a fellow near-puking-proposal girl, this story really hit home. Whenever there are big life decisions to be made, I get that high dive feeling. Hell, I WAS that kid every time I got up the high dive. (Actually, when I was about 12, I once turned around and went all the way back down the ladder, and all the kids waiting had to get off so I could get down. Possibly one of the most embarrassing moments of my life…) I’ve learned to fight that feeling though, and that it doesn’t always mean you cant– or shouldn’t– take the leap. Because once you jump, it’s often the best feeling in the world.

    This post had me laughing, tearing up, and “aaawww”-ing by turns. It’s a beautiful story, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of it! Congrats to you, Zan and Stephen! :)

    • Shawna

      After my wedding, which took place at a lake, my husband and I had planned to jump off the cliffs into the water (with me in my dress). Now, I am the one who came up with this idea (similar to being excited about the high jump at the pool). All the guests were gathered and watching. And I panicked. My stomach hurt. I couldn’t jump. But I couldn’t not jump either. So I just stood there. So embarrassing. In the end, I did jump, and we have fabulous pictures, but it was scary standing there in front of everyone, so I totally relate.

    • Zan

      Near Pukers Unite! It’s nice to know there are cool people out there in solidarity! :)

      Incidentally, as a kid I actually did chicken-out on the high-dive. Shame drove me back up there at the end of the summer, and I pronounced the high-dive “not that awesome”.

      • clairelizabeth

        Count me in as a near-puker, on the high dive, and right after saying”Yes!” to l’homme.

        In fact, I stayd slightly nauseated for about three days, and it was only when I somehow stumbled through the interwebs to the APW post on anxiety that I stopped feeling equal parts guilty and freakish.

        And your wedding looks like it was a blast, purple shirt and all! Congratulations!

        • Heather G

          Oh, that damn high-dive.

          After a long climb to the high-dive slide (yes, I was actually afraid of the slide), I chickened out. Kids were yelling behind me, “Go, just go!” I looked at my parents, thought that I would turn around and go back. And THEN, an impatient kiddo pushed me and down I went.

          Had totally forgotten about it until just now!

    • Stephen spontaneously proposed twice and I only “officially” accepted and acknowledged that we were engaged after the third, prearranged proposal. At the time, I thought it was about having a “proper” proposal but I now realize that I was just freaked out that it was actually happening and needed some time to get used to the idea that we were getting married FOR REAL. I now totally consider the first proposal the time we got engaged.

    • ka

      Oh man, I’ve never even been on a high dive. I was THAT kid. :)

    • One of my friends actually puked after being proposed to. And her story always ends like this: “He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. And then I puked.” She had some sort of food-related thing, and she always tells that part of the story, but not before people get kind of freaked out. It’s definitely one of my favorite proposal stories!

  • Renee C

    Zan, I so grateful for your honesty. I love APW for posts like this == about how everything in our heads doesn’t have to be (and really *shouldn’t* be) perfect.

    “But then, in a moment of clarity that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, I realized that I could change the story.”

    THANK YOU for this! I feel sometimes like I’m controlled by my feelings, my (sometimes irrational) anxieties. In reality, we are each in control of our own story. What a wonderful perspective you have.

    Best wishes to you both, and hoping for more insights after your big farm wedding :)!!

    • Kayakgirl73

      Oh my. I so need to hear these words about being able to change things and not be ruled by our fears and anxieties of the what if’s. I’m having these sort of feelings about taking the plunge to TTC, even though I had always wanted kids, but now I have the opportunity, I’m scared.

      Thank you Zan and Renee C for these words.

      • Renee C

        Hugs, Hugs, Hugs!! Similar experience for me, with the proposal thing rather than TTC (I’ll probably get really anxious about that too…). I flipped out when I knew my fiance was going to propose, and also after I accepted. Total major anxiety taking over completely. It took a couple good chats with a good therapist for me to sort it out. It was so confusing, because I had wanted the proposal for so long, and had been anxious about not getting it in the time frame I had imagined, and then when it was imminent, it seemed way too soon and was so overwhelming!! I still struggle with some anxiety about getting married. APW is wonderful, because people here are SO honest and helpful in letting me know that it’s ok, and I’m not alone. This is life, rough and tumble, learn as you go, mistakes and fears and surprises interspersed with moments of great joy. Hugs and encouragement to you, KAYAKGIRL!!!

  • “I reminded myself that things almost never go 100% according to plan, but that doesn’t make them wrong.”

    THIS resonated with me 100%! I am so afraid of things (especially in my wedding planning) not going as according to MY plan (whatever plan I may have), but it doesn’t make it wrong when they veer off course, as things tend to do. This was a beautiful story, and I loved the part about the hand holding before bed–that, to me, is a “wedding.” That was your sign that everything was the way it should be. That was your “moment.”

    Congrats! You both look so friggin’ happy!

    • Courtney

      I copied that same sentence! I’m the same way – I want things to go according to MY plan, and it’s amazing how rarely they do. Stories like this remind me that there’s beauty in the unknown, too.

  • Gillian

    “I’d forgotten that we were in charge of deciding how to meet the rises and valleys of the road.”

    You write beautifully! Also, you high-fived to seal the deal? This is my new favourite wedding.

  • Beautful story! But I’m going to be really shallow and demand to know where you got that DRESS. I’m in love.

    • Zan

      The “where” has a story! My super-stylish (and lovely-all around) friend Phoebe and I met at work. I think one of her first meaningful comments to me was, “You really have to stop wearing those khakis” (in a loving way!) She convinced me to invest in a designer dress even though I am NOT a designer dress person. I almost peed myself when I saw the price-tag but she was all, “It looks fabulous on you, you can wear it to ANYTHING! Get it you dork!”

      So I got it. That dress is now four years old and I have worn it to every conceivable dress-wearing event and she was right, I always felt utterly fabulous in it. It is one of my most loved articles of clothing (and my attitude towards clothes is pretty utilitarian). So when we had to get married so fast my wedding dress was right there in my closet.

      Answer: The Dress is Diane Von Furstenburg, from her vintage collection, but it was limited run and now they’re only selling it in red. They seem to have a different color each season.

      • I may have to buy that in red. Gorgeous. And congratulations! Oh and fabulous pictures! And I can’t wait to see/read your next graduate post!!!

        • Zan

          Do it!! I can’t pull off red but if you can you should totally get it, you will always feel awesome in it.

          • I love the story of your dress ALMOST as much as I love the story of your wedding.

        • I want to second everything Christy said. Well, except buying the dress in red. maybe if a purple comes around.

      • clairelizabeth

        That dress is awesome-sauce.

        Do you think DVF would give us a discount if AWPers bought in bulk?

        • Zan

          ClaireElizabeth, I think you just gave yourself a mission.

        • Yeah, let us know how far you get with that one . . . I’d definitely be on board. (I need way more dresses in my wardrobe . . . )

      • That IS an awesome story! I love friends like that. And I’ve been on a hunt for ages for a wear-it-anywhere dress, so I might have to take a peek at DVF the next time I’m in, you know, a city with real stores.

    • Kayakgirl73

      Love it too.

  • Basically what I have to say amounts to this is AMAZING! Great story and a great way of telling it.

  • clampers

    I love this story so much!

  • Yay, Zan! You make me laugh and cry, all at once. So beautifully written, and I was so happy to be a part of it. I ADORE you and Stephen. But, you knew that.

  • Love the pictures–you two totally ROCKED the city hall wedding. So glad you were able to work things out in a way that both felt right to you (even if it took a bit to get there) AND took care of the immigration problem!

  • ok “friggin’ sharks with friggin’ laser beams on their friggin’ heads” !! this is the second goldmember quote I’ve seen on apw this week..!! this is a very good week!!

    but seriously. this story was amazing. I don’t like to say things like “this was my favorite post” but since nobody has ever written a half graduate post before (right?) I think I can safely say this was my favorite half graduate post I’ve ever read. ..that doesn’t even sound like a compliment but it is!! I laughed and teared up a little (maybe both at the friggin’ sharks line), the pictures are amazing and you guys are amazing. Can’t wait to see your (whole? 2nd half?) graduate post after the farm wedding.

  • Jo

    I was tearing up! You’re hilarious, and should definitely write more!

    I had that same “of course it’s us, knew right away!” and then unexplained panic at proposal time. The story and pictures are beautiful, and you guys just make me happy! Congratulations!!

    • Zan

      Aw thanks Jo! I love to write but I’ve always been shy and a bit nervous about my personal writing abilities. Funny that you suggest I should write more, Lauren had to edit down my post because I wrote too much! :)

      The original is on my blog which you can get to if you click my name right up there. And yeah, I know you meant, “write more stuff” and not “write more about this” but I couldn’t resist. I am trying to write more though, hence the blog! Big ups to APW for being a great place for just-starting-out writers like myself!

      • Jo

        Yay! Added to my Reader! Expect regular ridiculous comments.

        • Zan

          Alright, expectations are set — you better deliver!

          • Oh she does. She’s pretty much the only person who comments on my blog (that’s a lie — there are 2 others) and she makes me smile and feel good every time!

      • Ooh, I love your full version! And your blog!

        • Zan

          Thanks duder!!

  • Ever have one of those grad posts where you read something (like this “War, plague, friggin’ sharks with friggin’ laser beams on their friggin’ heads – those things might separate us, but not this.”) and you think that you really want to be friends with the person writing it? Yeah, this is one of those times.

  • I loved seeing your photos on Katie Jane’s site, so knowing the full story (well, half of the full story? since you’re a half graduate? :) is really really nice. Thank you for the fantastic post.

  • Kaitlyn

    As a fellow immigration-frustration bride, I so much appreciated this post. We have so many questions – what if being in a strange new country is too stressful for a newlywed couple? What if the process doesn’t work out, and we have to start from scratch and wait even longer – and spend even more money – before we can be together?

    In the end, like you, we have to remember that we’re making this decision together, and every day we choose the next part of the story. In our more frantic moments, I imagine that we’ll jump out of the a plane side-by-side and patch together a parachute on the way down – with shared materials. In our calmer moments, we’re just wandering down a muddy path, helping each other along and marveling at the bizarre scenery. In any case, the point is that we choose to be there together. We could make a different choice, at any moment – he could stay in that airplane, I could hustle up a tree on the side of the path.

    We’re sticking to our plans, but having that freedom of choice makes all the difference. We’re not trapped in a bad movie, and neither of us is being forced into anything. It’s choose-your-adventure, and the options are infinite. That we choose to stay together, to work towards being together, when we could be doing anything else – well, that is the magic and the romance.

    • Kaitlyn

      Also – LOVE your dress and the pictures – especially the one with your passports!!!!

      • Zan

        Ha! I call that my “What NOW Immigation-Biatches?!” picture.

  • So, go back to the part about you got (get) to marry a British cowboy?

    Oh yes, right. Ok – we’re no longer speaking. :)

    Seriously though, this post touched (hilariously) on so much of what’s true in wedding planning and is highlighted when you have to wedding plan FAST.

    I also really like the fact that, even though you got married only a month and some days after getting engaged, it never sounds like you weren’t ready (besides the puke feeling), because you guys prepared yourselves for marriage long before there was a ring involved.

    I kind of just love you guys. I don’t care that I’ve never met you.

  • I love your story, and your oh so perfect articulation of the leap of faith that marriage is!

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    Damn, Zan, you beat me to it. By which I mean I have my Half Graduate post written, having been proofread by the boy last night, waiting to be sent to Meg later today after I read it over one last time.

    (I want to comment more, but my head is swirling because so much of your post resonates with me. And my labwork is calling. I’ll be back later, I’m sure)

    • Zan

      Do it!! I can’t wait to read yours!

  • I really connected with your ‘puke’ moment. The same thoughts ran through my head as my lovely got down on one knee. In my head it was ‘sh*t! this is happening now! Do I really want what we have been saying we want for three years now?’ What came out of my mouth was the word ‘really?’ about 50 times. Hubby almost had to grab my shoulders and shake me to make me focus on the moment. I must have said yes eventually, but I don’t remember it.

    That wasn’t the story he had planned, but it makes a good one now. Reality is almost always preferable. (except when it comes to immigration lawyers, UGH!!!)

    • Denzi

      Ha, I am a fellow “really?”-er. And this is after a: I proposed four months before the fancy with-ring proposal, b: I tried on the ring before he proposed with it, and c: I was pretty sure of exactly what he was doing when he took me to our favorite park so I could play on the playground. And what came out of my mouth was STILL “really? really?”.

    • K.

      Those things always do make better stories later on. When my fiance proposed and revealed the ring I yelled out “Is that FAKE?!???,” much to his surprise at the time and to the amusement of everyone now.

      • ML

        f-ing hilarious.

      • JEM

        hahahah! Mine was a lot of unattractive gasping and a “Yes????”

      • Lol my response was a near out of body experience. And the first thing I blurted out when I saw the ring was ‘I can’t wear that! I work in non-profit!’

        • JEM

          LOL Sharon!!!

  • Great post. Thanks for reminding all of us that the anxiety and nerves can be overcome and have such a beautiful result.

    Also, love that you refer to yourselves as “couple C809.” haha! That’s perfect.

  • meredythbyrd

    AH! I love this! I love how sweet, funny and most of all, honest your (half) graduate post is. I can’t wait for the full one. You guys are seriously adorable and I would totally be your best friend if such a thing were possible (and not creepy).

    I get you about making this decision but also feeling backed into a corner. And about the puking. I did the asking but I have felt like puking on every first date I ever went on. I like that you discuss reframing the issue so that you focus on how you get to make the decision and how you are deciding to make a leap into an adventure. For me, focusing on the decision I am making to live my life to its fullest helps take away some of the anxiety about it. Also, helps take away that miserable feeling if the venture failed that I made a mistake. No, I made a decision. A choice. And now I have to live with that decision, good or bad. Focusing on the freedom to make that choice helps me take full responsibility for how I live my life.

  • I love this story probably more than any I’ve read on APW yet! It hits SO close to home. While we aren’t fighting the law or anything like that, we haven’t had exactly what I had always planned: the surprise engagement, the thrilling wedding planning, the elaborate wedding. At the end of the day, though, I need to stop and realize the most important part–getting to marry the man of my dreams.

    Thanks for the reminder of what’s really important.

  • Absolutely wonderful. Beautifully honest. Thank you for sharing [and for your touch of humor!]

  • Andee

    Thank You for saying you felt like throwing up when your fiance proposed! I felt the same way, and I felt like a freak for feeling that way. I too knew I wanted to marry him for months before he asked but in the moment when he actually asked my brain couldn’t find that confidence. I had to trust what I knew before, and just say Yes. Thank You for making feel less alone in the proposal = puke game!

  • Erin with an E

    I love the idea of being a “half-graduate” and this post makes me happy to have such good company in the “quickly planned City Hall Marriage for legal reasons, but still planning a wedding event” camp. Between getting engaged and being married by a justice of the peace, I spent two days signing up and paying for the license and ceremony on my smartphone and telling immediate family and that was it. I am struggling with what to tell people, as I feel that I don’t consider myself married as we purposely didn’t make the ceremony mean that to us (although a city hall marriage *can* be an incredibly meaningful way to have your ceremony, of course). When I tell people “Oh yeah, we’re engaged” and they think I’m being weirdly underexcited because I am feeling incredibly weird and guilty about the giant omission of truth that we are actually married. So I don’t know what you and your lovely English cowboy are telling people (Not that is anyone’s beeswax, I know), but just sharing your story has made me feel much better about the many steps along the way one can take to becoming a full-fledged wedding graduate.

    • Erin with an E

      Oh yeah, make sure you tell your witness that city hall has security so they are not madly stuffing a certain item down their pants at the last moment. And yes, this is a true story, and no, we did not just grab someone off the street although maybe we should have…

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      Me too, me too! If you don’t mind me asking, how long ago have you been “married”? My feelings have definitely changed over time.

      The boy and I eloped three months ago for immigration reasons but we’ve stuck with our pre-existing wedding plans. We’ve only told our immediate families and a few super-close friends, and I tend to talk about it all over APW. Everyone else will find out after the wedding if we decide to tell them at all. When we eloped, I was adamant that it was “just the legal thing” and that we wouldn’t really be married until we were Jewishly married in front of friends and family. In practice, though, that’s been hard to maintain. When the boy whispers “we’re married!”, I can’t really insist that we’re not. We are, after all, legally bound, in love, and committed to being partners in crime. So now I consider us to be privately married and publicly engaged, and I secretly enjoy the public/private dichotomy.

      No need to feel guilty! Your omission isn’t hurting anyone… it’s just letting you live the reality you would have had if the uninvited legal reasons hadn’t decided to crash the party.

      • Erin with an E

        Aw, thanks, that is a great way of thinking about it! And I call my “Husband” my partner in crime, too, as sometimes that feels more accurate. I think I am one of the only people who actually likes fiance/e as it a gender-neutral pronounced word, too.

        We went to city hall two months ago, and I had crutches and a leg wrap (our legal reason involved health care). Some of his family members found out through his Dad and called with huge guilt trips, so that’s why I worry about the word getting out in an unauthorized way and people feeling hurt. We hadn’t started planning a wedding yet, even though we were definitely at the right place in our lives to make the commitment to each other. So now we are just trying to figure out a good private/public balance. And dealing with things like “If you are going to change your facebook status, please tell me first so we can talk about it and do it together!” It’s much harder to keep things a secret now in the 21st century, isn’t it?

        • Zan

          We did something similar to Hype up there (which, HypotheticalSarah, is how I think of you in my head). We didn’t have a big announcement about the making-it-legal aspect, so a lot of people don’t know, but a lot of people do. I wanted to share our awesome pictures with my friends, so most of them know, and our immediate families know, but other people only find out in drips and drabs. Of course, we were spotlighted by Freedom to Marry (something we are loud and proud about) and now APW so yeah, it’s been hard to keep a secret.

          We’re lucky though, no one has guilt tripped us, everyone understands. We sort of get the best of both worlds this way.

      • Privately married and publicly engaged . . . what a lovely phrase . . .

        • Hypothetical Sarah

          Kimberly, your Wedding Grad post came out about two weeks after we eloped… exactly when I needed to know that other people had done this and made it through to the other (married, post-wedding) side. That it was ok not to tell people and keep planning the wedding. I wasn’t commenting on APW back then, so here’s a big belated thank you!

          • Aw, I’m so glad. I’ve found it so refreshing to hear and see those of us who are using — or writing — different scripts. Hope the grass is green on your other side as well. :)

            When is your wedding?

    • anonymouse

      ooh, I’m a half graduate, too! Ours was for health care reasons, and we did it about a month after we got officially engaged. The only people that know are our parents, and we’re still planning our wedding for this summer. For us, we don’t consider ourselves married yet. Just legally bound. I get a giggle when I have to refer to him as my spouse to the insurance company, but it’s more a thrill of what’s to come. But seriously, if we lived in a state or I worked for a company that recognized domestic partnerships, we would have done that instead. We consider what we’ve done as paperwork that allows him to get care. We won’t be married until we say our own vows that we’re writing in front of our families.
      As for telling people other than our parents, we don’t plan to. They absolutely buy into our feeling that we’re not really married yet. At first I felt a little funny about this “lie of omission” to other people: right up until we talked about it and agreed that we wouldn’t consider ourselves husband and wife until WE considered ourselves married.
      Has anyone else out there gotten legally hitched and not told people?

      • Mistakenly Called Melanie

        I’m also “privately married, publicly engaged.” It’s funny to see someone else use that phrase because it’s been pretty much only in my own head for months now. We didn’t make a decision about whether the legal ceremony would mean we were actually married, and even though we live in different cities even when he’s not deployed (the big reason we did the legal version of things in the first place) and our Wedding isn’t for almost a year and a half, we FEEL married. And it’s awesome. I’m really enjoying getting to work on building our life together before the whole world knows we’re married. It makes it so much more OURS.

        Our way of avoiding a witness-pants-stuffing incident was getting married in Texas – where they don’t require witnesses. But there was a pocket knife on my partner’s keychain and he had to go back to the car because security wouldn’t let him through with it. It was especially funny because I remembered to leave MY pocket knife in the car!

  • Faith

    “but it was what it was. It was good.”

    My motto. It’s simply about me and my man. We have each other, and it’s good:)

  • Great post! Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to be a little (or a lot) nervous. I can definitely relate… And, the “friggin’ sharks” quote just made my morning.

  • Class of 1980


    “War, plague, friggin’ sharks with friggin’ laser beams on their friggin’ heads – those things might separate us, but not this.”

    “But then, in a moment of clarity that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, I realized that I could change the story.”

    Words that apply to everything in life.


  • Another Alice

    I loved this story when I first read it, and I love it even more seeing how you present it now after a month of afterthought. It’s powerful to read about you changing your own story and making it all work for *you*. Watch out, I’ll come visit your farm and meet your English cowboy husband if you’re not careful.

    And now you’ve made me want to go get that one fabulous designer dress myself… I hate trying to figure out what to wear to semi-formal occasions and always feeling a tad frumpy. Way to knock it out of the park.

  • Tirzah

    Wonderful story of inner searching and revelation. I am waiting (8 months) for immigration to come through and have been through the ringer of doubt and conviction many times. Thank you for sharing your story it helps to read and share your experience. I sometimes think I’m crazy for getting ready to marry a man I’ve only physically been around for 16 days but the deep convition of “rightness” is what makes lays my fears to rest. Never doubt you did the right thing, you look wonderful and in love and your second wedding will be all the more fun for the memories from the first!

  • CW

    A thousand times Yes! I echo Erin with and E’s sentiments about feeling relief seeing other “Half Married” couples out there, keeping their heads held high! Our story almost mirrors your to a T! The chance meeting ( me from NYC him from Dublin while doing summer theatre on Nantucket.) To him finally moving over here on a visa, to us realizing the visa was coming to an end – o sh*t! To us realizing that nothing was going to keep us apart and that we had long planed to be married and deciding to take the leap of faith. To anticipating the engagement so much and then totally freaking out when the moment came! (to add another Austin Powersism, I totally had a “a buhhhh” moment- staring at the ring for a million years with my mouth hangning open and wanting to puke.) Days and nights of anxiety, and then the civil ceremony came and it all just clicked. Now I am so grateful that we are “technically married” as we plan our religious catholic wedding in Ireland. This time there is no leaping in feet first (which is wonderful in its own right). We will be able to joyously celebrate our choice, our commitment, and our first year of marriage with both our families. Best of luck with wedding number two! Know there is another NY gal out there who totally sympathises with the awesome and crazy transcontinental marriage quest!

  • jary

    “If I could make sure every box was checked, if everything went according to plan, if we got the story just right, it would be my hedge against disaster. This story was wrong, all wrong – I was panicking.”

    Bless your heart, thank you for sharing this!!! When my fiance proposed I not only felt like puking, I actually took the ring from him, then immediately put it down and ran from the room crying. Now there was a lead up to this reaction, obviously, but by the time we finally got it all sorted out (later that night, after hours and hours of crying and many hurtful words exchanged) I felt like the whole damn thing was just completely ruined, and why persevere with the wedding at all? It was SO SO HARD to accept that this was how our engagement went down, that our amazing, loving, supportive relationship that’s all about communication fell apart for a few terribly crucial hours. But, then I found APW, and started to accept the reality of my life and our love and its imperfections, and view these things not as flaws but as opportunities for real growth. And seriously, your description of your reaction to not feeling in control of the (first) wedding resonates deeply. It took me a long time to re-tell myself the story as the time I freaked out because I NEEDED to freak out, and the time he was hurt because he didn’t understand, and then we both fought tooth and nail to claw through all that hurt and confusion because we love each other so much, and this relationship is so worth the effort. Which is why we will decided to build this (by no means pain-free) partnership in the first place.

    Sounds like you have also found an amazing partner and are going to have a wonderful, full life with him :) All the best to you both!

  • Ali

    I love your writing – you are hilarious but you also portray the difficult emotions you were facing so well!

    This might be my favorite wedding-grad post! And it’s only a half-grad post! So much of this applies to what I am going through right now…thank you!

  • ML

    Zan! I love, love, love what you’ve written here (and you, and your dress, and your english cowboy.. and can we talk about farm-envy?!).

    But mostly, I just love your smiling bravery and willingness to talk about fear, and uncertainty and deciding not to ignore those feelings but to accept them, feel them, and then not let them convince you to run away.

    I’m not engaged, probably still a few years away, but three years in with a man I love. My sixteen year old self once said, a month after meeting him – “If he didn’t live two hours away, I could so marry him” (we didn’t make it through that summer.. who knew we’d end up in the same city seven years later?).

    But my 25 year old self? Every now and then my 25 year old self is all – “the rest of your life is a really really long time” (cry face cry face cry face). While I know I’m not ready now, I think I’m getting there. And I also know all the ways I feel about “the future” are really, totally normal.

  • Jillian

    There are so many wonderful things about this post that it may just be my favorite grad post.
    (Or maybe I’m biased because you have a farm in upstate NY! Yay!).

    I thought you articulated so well your journey from feeling “forced” into the marriage by law, and realizing that no one could really FORCE you into it. It was purely your decision to own (and you did!)

    “I’d forgotten that we were in charge of deciding how to meet the rises and valleys of the road.” —-I love that statement. It’s so easy (for me anyway) to get lost in details and lists/planning and trying to make everything perfect when in reality…you just can’t. And that’s okay.

  • Raqui

    Thanks for the post and beautiful pictures! I bet your kids will love the story, too. So sweet. City Hall and a farm balance beautifully. We might do a NYC or Brookyn county clerk wedding as part I, so your post gives me confidence for the experience, even if it is like DMV.

    I had a post traumatic stress episode involving shaking and writhing when I thought mister S. was going to do a surprise proposal. He backed off and then we talked it out and hashed it out and picked out a ring together and that was much easier on my nervous system. Mon dieu.

    Many blessings to you!

    • clampers

      Hey yeah that’s what happened to me too! I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so nervous he was going to surprise me. I am not good with surprises. So one day I said, “I hope that you would talk to me first before proposing to me,” and he was all like, “Oh yeah, OK, let’s talk.” We discussed when (generally) he would propose and I picked out the ring. Whadda relief.

  • ka

    “I was scared to trust myself, because the story I’d been living was one where I had to check all the lists twice otherwise if/when things went pear-shaped I’d be to blame for not being thorough enough, for failing to anticipate each and every potential snag. If I could make sure every box was checked, if everything went according to plan, if we got the story just right, it would be my hedge against disaster.”

    Hello, and welcome to my brain. I’m a listmaker, and a crisis averter, and a general crazy person when it comes to trying to anticipate disasters. It’s what makes me a stellar personal assistant and a horrible bride-to-be. So it’s so reassuring to hear your take on “rewriting the story.” Our own wedding has strayed so far from the story I had in my head at the beginning that I can’t help but I think in a way that’s the attitude I’ve been adopting towards it even though I hadn’t put it into words.

    And of course my shallow side loved the British-cowboy-husband, DVF wrap-dress, gorgeous ring aspects on this post. ;) (I’m totally passing along your dress story to a friend in dire need of a khaki–or in her case, brown pant–intervention!)

  • Kate

    I loved these lines: “I was paralyzed by what I couldn’t know. I was scared to trust myself, because the story I’d been living was one where I had to check all the lists twice otherwise if/when things went pear-shaped I’d be to blame for not being thorough enough, for failing to anticipate each and every potential snag. If I could make sure every box was checked, if everything went according to plan, if we got the story just right, it would be my hedge against disaster.”

    I was engaged for over 4 years before we got married because this was how I felt – not about the wedding but about every single day and every single thing I did. I thought that if we weren’t 100% perfect at solving disagreements, if every day didn’t go exactly as planned, we were doomed. So I was waiting and waiting and waiting until I could check all the boxes and call myself & our relationship perfect. I thought that if I was anxious about all of the possible things that could go wrong over the next 50+ years that I was keeping myself safe and somehow preventing those things from happening. (I recently saw the saying “Worrying works! 90% of the things I worry about never happen” and died laughing at how applicable it was to me.) Finally I realized what you said about “we were in charge of deciding how to meet the rises and valleys of the road.” I realized just how much I loved the entirety of him as a person, whether or not we always solved disagreements the “right” way. I realized that he was already family to me, marriage license or no, and whatever happened in our life together would happen whether I worried about it or not. Quoting you again, “we made the fabulously brave and exciting decision to take a chance on a big unknowable future, betting everything that it will be awesome, because together we will make it so.”

    That’s a long comment about my story when this post is about yours, but I wanted to explain to you why this is now my favorite post on APW (and that’s saying something!) and let you know how much this touched me. Thank you for writing it.

  • Can I just say I am SO JEALOUS that when people ask you how you met, THAT is your story? It sounds scripted, it’s so perfect!

  • Sarabeth

    This is pretty much EXACTLY our story. Getting married scarily soon after getting engaged because my husband, also British, had no legal status in the US. Rushing to city hall in literally less than a week. And a big celebration (in our case two–one per country) a year later. And it was hard to deal with everything happening so fast. But now, with our two year anniversary coming up in a month, the narrative has come to feel really right. We were always people with complicated feelings about marriage, and (I, at least) kind of needed an external reason to take the plunge. And when I did, it was amazing.

    And, despite a lot of anxiety on my part, the party the next year was still as special and wonderful as I had always hoped.

    And, and! I’m moving to upstate NY in July. If you host another book club on your farm, I will totally be there.

    • Yea, Sarabeth! Welcome! Where will you be living?

  • Ms Ditz

    I love your realization of “changing the story”. I think a lot of times this is why weddings can be so stressful, because we realize that the story of the wedding (and the proposal, and the rehersal dinner, and dress shopping, and that one Wednesday when you stuffed envelopes) are most likely going to be the stories we are telling for the rest of our lives. And we start to freak out thinking, “Well, what if it isn’t perfect? What if the story is boring? Or stupid? And no one wants to hear it?” But in reality, no matter what happens, the stories end up wonderful, just maybe not what we had originally thought they would be.

  • Jen

    Ladies! Thank you so much for writing this and to those of you who commented about being in similar situations – thank you!
    The boy and I are also engaged and planning a farm wedding for next June – but this week we made plans with a judge and secured a photographer for a civil service ceremony at the capitol building here in Madison.

    We’ve been domestically partnered for the last year so that boy could be on my health insurance but we’re still paying ridic amounts for it that we wouldn’t be paying if we were married. And then there’s our Gov. who’s threatening to do away with the domestic partnership bennies all together…so yes, these are all good reasons for us to make it official a good year earlier than originally anticipated. Not to mention that the money we’ll save on health ins costs this year will help to pad the budget for a kick ass party next June!

    I know it’s the right move for us, and I don’t feel anxious about the actual getting married part. I’m just struggling with what this all means for the wedding that we’re planning with all our family and friends next June.

    So, I guess this is all to say that all of your comments and perspectives are helping me sort this all out. I can’t wait for Zan’s full-grad post for her perspectives on the farm wedding to her husband :)

    • Heather G

      Aack! I HATE the bureaucratic stuff. But here’s to a wonderful civil service. :)

      (And soon we should chat about the civil service before the wedding thing…)

      • Jen

        yes, please.

        p.s. you have a photo! now! I dig. :)

    • anonymouse

      us too! I would guess we’ve saved 1000s in health costs in the past year (and that he’s been able to get treatment we just couldn’t have paid for without the insurance!) yay!

  • Laura Mc


    I know your friend/witness in the photo! She was in my sorority at Northwestern University. Imagine my surprise when I checked my daily APW and I know one of the faces on it! What a delightful surprise.

    And, congratulations :) Can’t wait to see part two!

    • Zan

      She’s pretty freaking awesome. Who do you think came through with the flowers? :)

  • Marchelle

    I am just SO GLAD to see a bunch of people who got married just like we did. (Except in our story, I was the one with the immigration issues AND the one with all the worries about getting married so quickly/suddenly. Go figure.)

    Congratulations, lady. And may your 2nd wedding be everything you desire.

    (Also, having multiple wedding anniversaries ROCKS. ;))

  • “I was paralyzed by what I couldn’t know. I was scared to trust myself, because the story I’d been living was one where I had to check all the lists twice otherwise if/when things went pear-shaped I’d be to blame for not being thorough enough, for failing to anticipate each and every potential snag. If I could make sure every box was checked, if everything went according to plan, if we got the story just right, it would be my hedge against disaster.”

    THANK YOU! I needed to read this today. My fiance is jazzed about a job opportunity in St. Louis, and I spent last night in full blown panic mode (we live in Los Angeles). It’s really easy to let the anxiety take over, to say that he’s selfish for choosing an unpredictable career, or to worry that his job will always come first and that I too will be “that bitch in the house”. But really I’m just scared of what I can’t know. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and see what unfolds. This post was a perfect reminder of that.

    • Reading this post and all the comments, at first I kept thinking, “MAN I am so glad I don’t have to deal with immigration issues,” but then thought, “awwww the immigration problems forced her to get over her issues…how sweet/handy!!”

      Which is to say that I think we (our generation/society/etc.) have SUCH a hard time going with the flow. People want to choose exactly the “right” moment for major life events, but those moments don’t exist. And there’s no such thing as being ready when the change that’s coming is something for which you can’t possibly prepare.

      I’m so glad this post helped you to remember that! …and I was going to ask that you keep the InterTubes posted on the St. Louis developments via your blog, but it appears to be exclusively about (amazing) food. Le sigh.

  • Love the story, love the photos. Congratulations!

  • Immigration wives unite!

    Zan! There you are! Nice you see your Half-grad post, and glad to see you trucking along on the immigration wagon, and that you decided to hire a lawyer (at least there’s someone to turn to if things get wonky, right?!?).

    What a great lesson too, that there’s always a choice, whether or not it was imposed upon you by outside forces. I know that it’s good for me to think about the choices that I do have when I’m feeling helpless in a situation . . . because it’s rare that I’m really helpless. Sometimes you need to just throw caution into the wind and trust your gut, because you just can’t control everything. What you can control, however, is best taken by the horns and owned . . . which is what you guys did and I’m sure you’re much better for it.

  • I know I should probably have something insightful to say but all I got is…

    Um hi I want your life! You’re working on getting your PhD in NYC? Live on a cattle farm? Take working vacations on ranches? Yes please, sign me up.

  • Love these photos! Such a beautiful couple :)

  • I love everything about this. The joy, the excitement, the frankness about nerves & striving for perfection.

    Congratulations – you two look wonderful <3

  • Jo

    I just want to point out as a married lady that you can totally totally have those feelings (seriously, like 5 times during our engagement I was sobbing how scared I was about getting married to a friend/the fiance and feeling very lost) at the time and then now? Now I feel like those feelings were another lifetime. Now I can’t imagine wanting anything but the miracle that our life has become. If it’s right, it’s right. If you keep coming back to wanting it, and knowing with your best self that you want it for the right reasons, then that feeling will (I think!) quickly replace your scared unsure feelings once you cross that threshold.

  • Zan, I demand that you write a book! This story was hilarious and wonderful and I want to know mooooore. :)

    • Zan

      Sharon you just made my day! But seriously, I think Ree Drummond and Kristin Kimball have saturated that market. Not sure there is room for me!

      • Mmhmm. OR they show that there is clearly a market for this kind of thing… ;) (I will, in the meantime, content myself with reading your blog.)

        • Zan

          I like optimists. :)

  • I love that you took a picture of your number!

    • Zan

      Actually, when Katie Jane took the number from me I was like, “The h*ll do you want that thing for?” and then when I saw the picture I was all, “Oh THAT’s what she wanted it for.” Let me tell you something, that’s the mark of a great photographer — she got the picture of the thing I didn’t even know I wanted a picture of.

      • Anon

        I read the other comments and don’t see anyone mentioning the fact that she offered her own wedding dress to wear! So glad APW has such awesome sponsors and Meg (and others) work hard to keep them that way.

  • Alexandra

    So much awesome. Congratulations!

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