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“So, after you’ve been married for a year, you’re going to have a wedding?”

When my friend suggested that she and her fiancé were going to exchange vows in her pastor’s office then have a “big wedding” the following year, I had to make sure I heard that correctly.

Apparently, she didn’t see anything ridiculous about the prospect of getting legally married now, then planning the ceremony where they would get fake married later.

Yes, “fake married”.

A wedding is a ceremony in which two people are united in marriage. If those two people unite in a courthouse, an office, a church, a backyard, Times Square, mid-air, Taco Bell, or the TJ Maxx where they met, then they just had their wedding. Whether they exchanged vows in front of a judge, and an Elvis impersonator or three thousand of their closest friends, that was their wedding. Anything after that is a vow renewal ceremony, a blessing, or an elaborate costume party.

I liken the idea that you can get married now and have a wedding later to the idea that you can turn 21 now but have a 21st birthday again next year. At that point, it’s not your 21st birthday it’s your 22nd. Why would anyone wish you a happy 21st birthday when you’re 22?

Apparently, this “get married now, wedding later” happens more than I think. I recently read about Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa’s decision to get married now before their baby comes, but have a “traditional wedding ceremony” later. What’s traditional about not actually getting married at your wedding? And considering they’re already living together and have a child on the way, is tradition really that important to them anyway?

Of course, there are all sorts of reasons why couples say they want to get married now and have a wedding later: finances, military deployment, undesirable seasons for a wedding, a family member on his or her deathbed, etc. Still, if a couple gets married now then they won’t be getting married at their “big wedding later” because, unless you get divorced, you can only get married once. A wedding is a joining together of two people. How can you join what is already joined? How can the father of the “bride” give her away if she is already someone’s wife? How can you commit your life to someone you’ve already committed your life to? It’s not possible.

This isn’t to say I’m against the idea of having a wedding now and a reception later. In those instances, the couple isn’t trying to hide the fact that they’re already married. And they’re certainly not pretending to get married again. A reception is an optional post-wedding party and many couples elope or have a small, private ceremony then throw a big bash to celebrate their union. For these receptions, couples can still register for gifts, send out fancy invitations and even wear a wedding dress and tux. That still sounds like a thinly-veiled gift grab, but it definitely makes more sense than having two ceremonies, one legal and one for show.

And speaking of “show”, maybe that’s the problem. The prevalence of wedding planning shows and televised reality-show-special weddings have a legion of women thinking that they’re not a bride unless they’ve got a ball gown, fifteen bridesmaids, three-tiered cake, ice sculpture, six-thousand dollar Christian Louboutin Daffodile Strass shoes and enough flowers to fill the White House lawn. That, to them, is a “real wedding” and only the whole nine yards will make them feel that they’re a “real bride”. However, it truly doesn’t take all that. If you’re getting married, you’re a bride. If you’re already married, no matter how lavish the ceremony, you’re a wife in a wedding dress. I’m all about the dream wedding, but I don’t think getting fake married is the way to live out that childhood fantasy.

Not surprisingly, plenty of couples that say get married now and say they’ll have a wedding later end up never going through with it. That’s likely because, once they get into the throes of planning, they realize it’s a lot of money and hassle to do something they’ve essentially already done. Wedding planning is taxing – especially when trying to plan your dream wedding – and I imagine that if a couple is already married then that takes away a lot of their motivation to plan an expensive spectacle.

Also, it’s understandably difficult to get others onboard for Wedding 2.0. Few would shell out beaucoup money for a bridesmaid’s dress, plan a bridal shower, throw a bachelor party or fly across country for a friend’s wedding who is already married. Of course, oftentimes the couple doesn’t tell their friends and family that they’re ceremony isn’t real. In those cases, I wonder why the couple would even want their friends and family there if they were okay with lying to them about being married already.

Maybe I’m old school and “getting married now and having a wedding later” is the new thing to do. To each his own. As for the friend I told you about earlier, I got a Facebook message from her several months after she tied the knot in her pastor’s office: “We decided not to have a wedding next year. Maybe the year after.” I didn’t even respond.

What do you think about you (or one of your friends) getting married now and having a wedding later? For those who have successfully gone through with the get married now and have a wedding later, when is the anniversary? Do you celebrate the day you were legally married or the day you had the big ceremony? Would you be ticked if your friend lied to you about already being married while she was planning her wedding?

 Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

 Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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