Would You Have a Secret Civil Ceremony Before Your Big Day?

I wonder if all brides have thought about it. The temptation has been dangling in front of me like some sort of sinister little treat. It's saying, "Come and get it! Your shot at happiness is waaaiting." I'm talking about legally getting hitched months before the big hooplah of the reception.

Every couple gets overwhelmed at some point or another during wedding planning but how many brides have caught themselves daydreaming about buying a cute dress from the mall and showing up to a secret spot where their future husband awaits to tie the knot? Guilty as charged! I fantasize about my fiancé Chris and I finding a pretty location by the water that doesn't require a permit, thousands of dollars, or even shoes, for that matter. One of my best friends or Chris's relatives would be the officiant and — voilà — we'd become husband and wife without any drama.

beach wedding
Photo Credit: Panama City Beach Weddings on Grey Likes Weddings via Lover.ly

There are moments when he'll whisper to me, "Let's just get married right now," and it makes my heart melt every time! However, that moment of giddy love quickly leads to thoughts of which loved ones I should text to tell them to join us. Which family members can drop everything to meet us on a whim? (We're still in a long-distance relationship: He's based in Sacramento and I'm in San Diego.) What if my mom doesn't answer her phone, my brother is too busy studying for med school or Chris's mom can't book a flight that quickly? As you can see, the desire for a wedding "to go" can become overwhelming if you actually want your loved ones to be a part of it.

As much as secretly getting married sounds fun, I worry that we might hurt the people who mean the world to us. The last thing I want is for our loved ones to think that we don't care about them enough to invite them to our special day. I know we won't be able to please everyone but there's a fine line between accommodating everyone and alienating them completely. I've waited 34 years to get married and I've met some really amazing people along the way so I want them to share in our joy. That's why we're still in the process of searching for an affordable wedding spot near the beach that'll cater to about 250 people. This has been no easy feat so all of our plans are still pending.

I had some friends weigh in on the subject and they didn't seem too surprised that I was considering getting hitched quickly on the sly. My friend Em urged me to do it, saying it'll be a big de-stressor. My best friend Alisa came to visit us a few weeks ago in San Diego, and she said she would go online to become ordained and marry us in our swimsuits at the beach, right then and there!

I was shocked to learn that my pal Karoline had a civil ceremony prior to her "official" wedding with friends and family. "We got married on the same date so that we'd have the same anniversary," she explained. Yet another friend, Margi, confessed that she and her husband got hitched three months before their big day, too.

It was eye-opening to realize just how many people entered marriage before their actual wedding. I love the thought of knowing that my friends shared their nuptials in their own private way before (or instead of) throwing a grand wedding celebration. 

city hall wedding
Photo Credit: Connie Lyu on Bridal Musings via Lover.ly

So my other question is this: Would you fess up to everyone that you are legally married now and if so, would that lessen the excitement of your wedding night? I'm not good at keeping secrets, especially if they're my own (I find it far too stressful). I would have to share the news with friends and relatives and hope that people would still be willing to celebrate at the reception as if our marriage was brand-new.

If the roles were reversed, I know I would never be any less thrilled for a couple who got married months (or even years) prior to their wedding. But although I would be happy for them, will everyone else see it the same way?

Since I'm still pondering our plans, the only advice I have is that there are no rules. I'm learning that the happiest of couples follow the path that's best for them. Your heart will guide you if you just stop to listen. I'll keep you all posted and let you know what we decide!

— Neda Iranpour

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neda iranpourNeda Iranpour's fiancé, Chris, proposed to her after she ran three marathons in three days around Lake Tahoe. In keeping with the couple's adventurous spirit, they plan to have a four-day destination wedding somewhere in the United States. They can't wait to enjoy a fun-filled wedding experience with their guests, complete with paddleboarding, kayaking, running, dancing, sipping fine wine and drinking craft beer. Chris is a fun-loving, dedicated police officer and Neda is an Emmy-award winning news anchor who loves to share stories, even her own.


Featured: David Tutera on How to Keep Your Reception Fun. See more Q&As with David