The Other Time We Got Married

January 26, 2015

In September I married the guy I met on Twitter.

But we also got married in February.

Our two weddings were completely different: one in a courthouse with just a photographer as a witness; the other a traditional all-out celebration with our families and closest friends, complete with a lacy white dress.

And for much of last year, while we planned the family celebration — learning a lesson I’ll never use again: that planning even a small wedding is a massive task — we considered that the “real” wedding. We’re both close to our families, and the marriage just didn’t feel official until everyone was here to celebrate with us.

But now that the big day is over, as absolutely glorious as it was, I see how beautiful our courthouse wedding was, too.

The reason is simple: it was just for us.

The story behind our courthouse wedding

We got married the first time almost seven months to the day before our family-and-friends wedding because waiting to get our family in one room (everyone is scattered around the globe) was messing with our life plans.

My husband is British, and his visa was tied to his job, which meant he couldn’t easily change jobs or start his own business and stay (legally) in the States. It surprised me just how few options exist for highly skilled workers who want to live here; if you’re not a student, you pretty much have to be sponsored by a big company with a lot of resources, which almost certainly means signing up to work in a corporate environment. Want to start your own business or work at a startup? It’s almost impossible, unless an American has the hots for you. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg and the tech community are pushing for immigration reform, to make more visas available for the high-tech workers startups desperately need.

Lucky for us, we were planning to get married.

We decided to say “I do” (the first time) on a cold Friday evening in February. Ben got out of work early (big deal) and I got my hair done (also a big deal). We walked hand-in-hand to the office of the officiant who had agreed to marry us, smiled at each other as we said our vows (OK, I may have gotten a little teary-eyed), had a beer at our favorite neighborhood pub, then went out to dinner.

No one besides our lovely photographer knew we were getting married that night (we told our families later), so no one asked about the details that are such a big part of most traditional weddings. We didn’t worry about choosing shoes that were fancy enough, whether the food would meet expectations, or how we’d get from one point to another. There was no obsessing over invitations or vows or desserts. We didn’t over-think or over-plan.

We just did it and enjoyed it.

So why was that first wedding special?

We didn’t make a big deal out of our first wedding because we considered the September event to be the real deal. But that night in February also reflected who we are and how we choose to spend our life when no one’s watching: comfortable, fun, simple, and focused on what matters.

I thought about that as I prepared to walk down the aisle in September, all dolled up with my father on one arm and mother on the other. I was nervous, but it had nothing to do with the commitment I was about to make, since I’d already made my promise. Those nerves were about being on display in front of 65 of our friends and family, and hoping that after all the planning we’d done over the previous nine months, the night would go smoothly. That realization in itself put me at ease, for the big thing that mattered — marrying the love of my life — felt natural and easy.

In many ways, life events feel more special when they’re shared with family and friends — and that’s what made our second wedding so meaningful (and fun!). But I now see just how fortunate we were to also have a wedding that was just for us. A night that wasn’t bogged down with details and decorations, when no one watched us on the alter or dance floor, when we could just be ourselves with each other.

Courthouse wedding

My favorite shot from our courthouse wedding

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    16 Replies to “The Other Time We Got Married”

    • Oh my goodness, I love that you did this and shared it with us. You are the real deal. I love it and wish I’d done this too! Congratulations again!

    • Marc Howard says:

      Hi Alexa I can relate so much to your story. My girlfriend is German and I’m a city boy (now expat) from Washington, DC. She happens to be a wedding photographer although we did not meet at a wedding.

      That magic day may be coming and I like how you split the events–something I will keep in mind since her family lives in Germany and Korea! Thanks again for sharing and congratulations!


    • Corina says:

      Thanks for sharing a little part of your life with us Alexis. It´s great to have a glimpse at the person behind the online website.
      Every experience, every moment we live is pretty special and we should get used to acknowledge and enjoy it. It´s so easy to fall in “what others want” trap, telling yourself you´re happy if they are happy. But at the end of the day, you only respond to yourself: have you lived your day at maximum, have you enjoyed each minute?
      Have a great week!

    • Susan Shain says:

      Love this story! You guys are the best!

    • AJ says:

      “comfortable, fun, simple, and focused on what matters” — such a great manifesto! I’d like to tape this to my wall!

      …Also, that black and white photo is so gorgeous! You two look so classy and in love.

      Congratulations on all of your weddings. 🙂

    • Dena says:

      Thank you for letting us in on this beautiful story. My husband and I also were married before a judge, alone, then followed with a family celebration. The vows we took alone were the ones that mattered, too personal to do in a ceremony with others watching. Kudos to you and your husband for making a commitment to each other in exactly the way that fits your love for one another.My husband and I are about to celebrate 23 marvelous years together. It gets better and better. May it be the same for you and yours.Dena

    • So happy for you. :)) xoxo

    • Congrats! My husband is from Ghana so we did a similar process. Reading this article only makes you cooler in my eyes! You’re amazing!

    • OMG says:

      Congrats, very cool story! My wife and I did the same thing, she’s Jamaican. But we did the courthouse first, then later we did one party with her family out in Florida, and another with my family here in California.

      Been trying to get in touch with you but its really difficult. No contact forms on either of your sites. I doubt you’d add me back on Twitter given your followers to following numbers. And can’t add you on LinkedIn unless I know your email address. Are you still actively working?

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