Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Q & A: Two Weddings

Reader's Question: My fiance and I have many of the same goals that you had for your wedding and don't want to fall prey to the Wedding Industrial Complex. We are also both teachers in urban schools and not exactly making big bucks, so we want to keep the costs down.

That being said, we have decided that we are actually going to have two weddings. While he is not very religious, his family is Indian Muslim and therefore he wants to get married at the family's masjid so that it is official in their culture. His family and friends are in the Chicago area. I am from a Presbyterian family in Philadelphia, and while I don't care to be in a church I would like to be married by my step-grandmother who is a Presbyterian minister, somewhere in the Philly area.

We would like both of our families and close friends to attend both weddings. Is it too much to ask people to give us two of their weekends? Should we think of one wedding as the "primary" wedding? Also, his family is very religious and do not drink, so the wedding in Chicago will have to be dry. We are worried that this will turn some people off and that the Chicago wedding will end up being without many friends. I'm having trouble getting excited about the details of our wedding because these big logistical things are hard for me to wrap my head around. Any advice?

How fun! (and slightly stressful...)

Honestly, I think multiple wedding events (in this case: two weddings) can help solve a host of issues. For example, if people have really controlling families, they can let their family plan a separate reception and stop interfering with the actual wedding.

However, I do think it's pushing it to expect people to attend both weddings. In addition to transportation time and costs, there's also the issue of lodging and meals not associated with the wedding (and, for some people, the cost of two new outfits).

With that said, I wouldn't necessarily consider one wedding to be the "primary" one; I would just look at them as what they are likely to be: different experiences. They are both likely to meaningful and memorable in different ways.

You might consider sending out a single invitation for both events (with additional information on an accompanying website) with a corresponding RSVP form (in paper or electronic form) that let's people indicate whether they can attend one, both, or neither of the events. I think letting guests self-select the event that works well for them (in terms of date/time/location/style) is the best way to ensure that both events are the best they can be.

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what are your two cents?

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evi said...

I also would invite to both events - every guest can choose which one (or both) he can make it to.
And don't worry about not serving alcohol. A party can be lots of fun without alcohol, I think the more you talk about it, the weirder it will be. Just tell people like it was the most natural thing in the world (which it actually is!) and those who care for YOU, not for free liquor, will come and celebrate with you!

Megilon said...

We had a surprise wedding at his family reunion for his family. (all northerners and we're in the south) It was a casual affair at a camp ground by a lake. We wore jeans and our Harley gear. Then we had a formal wedding in our church locally for my family and our local friends.

We invited his family to the one down here but due to a number of circumstances only his parents were able to come.

Both were equally special to us and both were important.

miss fancy pants (the bride) said...

I agree with Sara, I think a single invitation for both events would suffice. And based on the RSVP's you receive back, you'll have a better idea of who's coming to what. Also, I wouldn't worry about people not coming to a dry wedding, if they're not willing to come simply because there's no booze, I don't think you should have to stress about that. People should be there to celebrate you, not the free drinks.

Kristen said...

I'm having two weddings too. Not my first choice, but if we were going to get my fiance's Long Island parents excited about our intimate NH moutainside wedding we had to give them an alternative party to plan. So we're having our wedding the way we want it, and they're having a wedding a couple weeks later at a fancy restaurant along the East River. The people who are closest to us are invited to both, although the NYC wedding is more for his family. It's not ideal, but it works for us.

So I guess the moral of the story is - do what's right for your situation and people will understand.

Anne said...

We are having a wedding in Kansas with a reception and then a second reception in PA. My parents live in PA and most of the family live there or in NJ. We are inviting everyone to both wedding/receptions and whoever is willing to make the trek either way can. It's ultimately their choice if they come to one or both.

The Introitus said...

I'll chime in here! I think the idea of two weddings is beautiful, but I'd have to agree that you can't expect everyone to make the trip for both. My guess is that whichever one is happening first will most likely be seen as the "primary" wedding.

Have you guys thought of a compromise? For example, what if your step-mother performed a private ceremony with the two of you before the ceremony your fiance's family will be at? That way your are having your two weddings, but during the same weekend so all your loved ones will be there!

Emmalinda said...

I had a dry wedding, and I think it was still a wonderful party. I agree that the more you think about that and play it up, the bigger deal it will become. People come to weddings to see people they haven't seen in a long time, to chat and laugh and be in community. Alcohol is a plus, not a necessity.

Curious Laura Takes on the World said...

A friend of mine had two weddings - one was a Vietnamese Buddhist ceremony and the other a Filipino Catholic wedding. They had the two weddings because neither side would recognize the marriage unless it was in their church. Both were equally "primary" to each side of the family - both sides were very courteous during the ceremony they didn't understand. I was in the wedding so I went to both which was actually pretty neat since I got to see a different cultures wedding traditions - both were in the same region geographically so it was easy to go to both. The bottom line is that people understand when you have two weddings that its usually because of a religious/familial reason. Whether they come to both is not what's important...what's important is that the two of you are getting married - its about the two of you celebrating and acknowledging your love. I would focus on that rather than on what you think others are thinking.

Sarah said...

We're having two weddings too! We live in CA (wedding #1) and most of my East Coast family wouldn't be able to afford to travel out here so wedding #2 is in my mom's backyard in NH.

A little advise - keep them as similar as you can. We sent out 1 save the date and are sending out 1 invitation. The menu is almost identical for both events, as are the potted plant centerpieces and butcher paper table covers. Both weddings are casual and outside. That way you only have to "plan" once.

We've divided the online RSVP on our website so guests can RSVP to one or both events. We've listed lodging for both locations as well. We've been very careful to not treat either as the "primary" wedding since the NH ceremony is chronologically after the CA one and we'll be legally married. The upside of this is being able to ask my uncle to "marry" us in NH :)

We fully expected guests to choose 1 ceremony with very little overlap. We knew my mom would be at both but we've been surprised that G's family (spread from CA to IN) is planning on coming and a few of our CA friends have told us that they want to come to NH too!

Mrs. Merrel said...

My husband and I had 2 weddings, 2 weeks apart. We live on the East coast and so does my family, his family lives in CA.

We were lucky enough that my parents paid for the East coast one, while his paid for the CA one, which was in his father's backyard.

We got married by a justice of the peace in CT and got married in a First Baptist church in CA.

We selectively sent out invites to both weddings (close family and friends that we thought could make the trip), while the majority of people were invited to whatever was closer to them. It turns out, my husband and I were the only ones that were at both weddings! Our families elected to attend the closer event, which was why we had planned two in the first place because we knew there were some that couldn't afford the trip.

As far as keeping the styles the same as Sarah suggested, I disagree. We used it as a way to have two of our ideas for our wedding, mainly, I got my idea and my husband got his. The CT one was kind of a classier backyard barbecue, while the CA one was a costume party reception. We also used the trip to CA as a mini-honeymoon (although we plan on taking a real honeymoon for our 1st anniversary).

As for one event being dry, if the majority of people attending are from your fiances friends/family, I think ti will be understood. They are probably aware of his lifestyle. I wouldn't worry about it.

I think that is what is most important in the end though is that you plan your weddings for you, not for others. Don't feel you need to conform! I mean, we had fake eyeballs in our egg salad in CA! Its about having fun, even if the planning can stress you out. But I think that we few are lucky to get to marry our soul mates twice!

megan said...

my sister-in-law had a traditional Indian ceremony the night before her Christian ceremony. Both families were from there area, so it worked well, as everyone who travelled were in the same place and could attend both, anyway.

my question is, does he have a lot of friends in the Chicago area? can the majority of his family travel? because if he feels his roots are more grounded where you're at, maybe you can do the same thing my SIL did, by inviting everyone to where you are and having 2 events that weekend?

A. Smith said...

I think the key thing will be in how you word the invitations. You could send a single invitation for both events and say something like "In our perfect world, all of our friends and family would be able to attend both events - but in the real world we realize that this just might not be possible. So please pick whatever event (or combination of events) works best for you. We look forward to celebrating with you!" or something like that. So people know you aren't valuing one reception or group of people over another, but you are fine with whatever they can attend.

Also, for your guests who live in either Chicago or Philly, they would still only really need to travel once (as one of the events will be in their own town). So, there may be more than you think who will take you up on your offer to attend both...and if that really would be your ideal, that would make you happiest, then why not try for it? :)

The Lady Wind said...

This fall, my fiance and I are planning our wedding. My family background is Indian where has his family has been in the US for many generations.

When we started planning our wedding, we both decided to combine cultures/traditions (add the mix of his Jewish and Christian backgrounds) and my Muslim background. Neither family is very religious (a few individuals are), so we took what we liked from each culture and we are making them our own.

We are doing a Mehendi party the day before the actual wedding, where there will be Indian foods and a mehendi party (mainly a way for both sides of the family to get to know each other) and then the next day, we are doing both a Nikkah (Muslim ceremony) and an aisle ceremony (with a breaking of the glass at the end).

We are having this all in one weekend, because many of our guests are out of towners. This way, they would be free to attend all the festivities. We did not want to separate cultures, as this was a marriage..and you want to unite, not divide.

In the end, so what feels right for you.
I hope this helps, feel free to email me if you wish :) Congrats!

Meg said...

I really like this:
"Have you guys thought of a compromise? For example, what if your step-mother performed a private ceremony with the two of you before the ceremony your fiance's family will be at? That way your are having your two weddings, but during the same weekend so all your loved ones will be there!"

My two cents (which may not be right for you) is that our wedding was powerful because it happened ONCE. The huge once-ness of it, was what blew me away. Doing it again? It would have felt like a bit of a re-entacment, and lost some power. That said, we have interfaith families, so we mingled things. Also, I loved having a private ceremony (our Ketubah signing) before the public ceremony. It was grounding and had a special intimacy to it. That's traditional at Jewish weddings, but if you combine, you would steal that (it's a good steal, trust me... and do something with your aunt first).

As for your geusts, yup, *most* people won't make it to both. I'd just make sure people don't feel pressured to go to both (as I suspect that would result in a lower turnout all round). I'd think about splitting the geust list (you could even call people and ask them which they are more likely to attend, and send them an invite to that one... which would be a lovely way to get to chat with people one on one about it). OR, if you invite everyone to both, make it clear that you only expect them to attend one.

Final thought - could you make one a wedding and one a reception? That would take a lot of pressure off, and then you wouldn't say your vows twice... and for me, I could never say vows twice for anything in the world. That's what I learned from our wedding.

Good luck, and GO WITH YOUR GUT. Seriously. If you're not getting excited about this, ditch the plan and figure out something that does make you excited. We put too many "shoulds" on ourself during wedding planning.

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