Please Join Us For the What Now?

The lovely Rebekah wrote to ask this somewhat complicated question about wedding stationery:

My fiancé and I are eloping later this month. He wanted to get married sooner rather than later, but we’d still like to have a big wedding sometime next year. (Have your cake and eat it too, anyone?) I was thinking that perhaps we could send out wedding announcements combined with a “save-the-date” announcement for a vow renewal and reception. So, how would one word a “We got married and you weren’t there, but you can be at the next one” card without sounding tacky?

First, I’ll tell you what not to do, which is go with the flippant phrasing you used in your question. Not that I think you would, mind, but there are people reading who might just think it’s a good idea because it sounds just a little cheeky. Usually, engagement announcements and save-the-date cards are the place to get a little silly or sarcastic, and wedding invitations are the place to convey the main deets in an elegant and dignified way. Usually.

hollywood wedding chapel

But your stationery will probably be a little different. First, it won’t exactly be a marriage announcement (since it’s also a save-the-date for your reception) or a wedding save-the-date (since you already said your vows). Second, while you want to convey the information in most save-the-date cards, you may want to make it more solemn or serious than not since elopements can cause hurt feelings among those people who reeeaaallly wanted you to have a “proper” wedding. And third, there’s the vow renewal complicating matters. Some couples will have a reception to celebrate an earlier wedding ceremony, but you’ll be throwing a second ceremony in there, too. (As an aside, this stymied The Beard, who wondered why you wouldn’t either keep the elopement a secret and just get married or just have the reception without the vow renewal.)

So to recap, you need wording for a marriage announcement combined with a not-quite save-the-date for a vow renewal with a reception to follow. For those who don’t know, a marriage announcement or wedding announcement announces that a couple is now married and includes details like the bride and groom’s names and the date of the marriage. Maybe a photo of the wedding, too. They are most often sent out when a couple has had a very small wedding or eloped, but they’re typically not serving as save-the-dates.

My advice is to make sure that word gets around that you’re married and that you eloped so you’re not fielding confused phone calls from relatives asking why they weren’t invited to your wedding or “What do you mean, vow renewal?” or “You did what?!” It seems to me just a tad iffy to spring your being married already on people on your save-the-dates. Better that as many people as possible already know if you’re truly sold on the idea of combining marriage announcements with save-the-dates. Once the grapevine has been primed, go with simple, straightforward wording on whatever cardstock floats your boat. Something like:

We Did It!
The newly married Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So
invite you to share in their joy as they
renew their vows and celebrate their marriage
on Saturday, April 10, 2010
Save the date!

This is where I’ll freely admit I had trouble coming up with wording that wouldn’t lead to shocked phone calls or hurt feelings or clucking tongues, but frankly you run the risk of fielding all those things (and more) when you plan a plain old regular wedding. If you want to elope first, do it. The Beard and I contemplated doing the very same thing, so I don’t know where his objections are coming from. Now I’ll open the floor — since this is a toughie, I welcome our awesome readers to give their word suggestions. Let’s help a sister out!

11 Responses to “Please Join Us For the What Now?”

  1. Rebekah September 11, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    I’ll add more information about the situation since, well, it’s my question! :-)

    The reason for the “quickie” wedding is so that I can be added immediately to his health insurance (my student insurance ran out and my work insurance won’t kick in for a year), and for tax reasons.

    Also, all of my family is out of state – so they would need lots of time to plan to travel halfway across the country!

    And traveling in winter in Wyoming?? Ain’t going to happen.

    I didn’t want to keep the elopement a secret because eventually everyone is going to find out anyway – my handsome man just can’t keep a secret, and I think it would be better to be upfront and honest with everyone rather than just tell a select few.

    Thanks for all of your awesome help – looking forward to the responses as well!

  2. Stephanie September 11, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    “Celebrate the marriage” is a good way to say it. We eloped, but then knew our parents would never keep the secret, so everyone was properly informed when they got our “marriage party” invitations later.

  3. Anonymous September 11, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    I don’t quite understand the need to renew vows that are only a year old, seems a little stagey. But eloping and having a big party makes perfect sense. How about, “Chris and Terry are delighted to announce that we were married on 1 September 2009. We will celebrate our marriage with friends and family on 12 April – please save the date!”

  4. La BellaDonna September 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Without wishing to cluck too loudly, I do think NtB has found the most graceful way to identify the occasion. When next year rolls around, Rebekah, you can have a renewal, you can throw a splendid party to celebrate with your friends. What you CANNOT call it is your “wedding.” You will have had that already. That is what your elopement is. Your ELOPEMENT is your real wedding. You will really be married once you get that license and say those vows.

    For all the hurt feelings and cluckings that might follow on the heels of your elopement, I promise you they will pale in the face of trying to pretend that your “real” wedding is a number of months later; having a Big Wedding after one has married at one’s convenience via elopement or City Hall is generally seen, unfortunately, as a grab for wedding gifts. It is often seen that way, because that is often the underlying motive. I’m not saying that’s YOUR motive, Rebekah! But it is both more graceful and more accurate to say, “We got married! Come and celebrate with us!” If you want the Big Wedding Dress and the Big Wedding Do-Dads (and I’m not saying that wanting those is a bad thing), there are two kinds of occasions upon which they can properly appear:
    1) The Day of the Wedding; and
    2) The Day of the Wedding Vow Renewal – and there’s a pretty good-sized school of thought which believes that the vow renewals shouldn’t be of a size and scope to be mistaken for a Big Wedding – no veils and orange blossoms, for instance.

    It is charming that your fiancé wishes to be your husband sooner, rather than later – but if elopement is his solution to that desire, one of the things that he has to forego is the Big Wedding, because you will already be married. Whether it’s because one of you has to ship out, or someone needs medical coverage, or the person who loves you cannot live without you for another entire week, it is seen as Really Bad Form to get married on Date A for the sake of convenience, and then on Date B, have a Really Big Wedding celebration, pretending that the earlier wedding never really took place.

    Rebekah, is it truly not possible for you to push up your plans and have your Big Wedding earlier? Is the elopement that necessary?

  5. La BellaDonna September 11, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    Most curious. There was only ONE post when I posted – and that was Stephanie’s, not Rebekah’s! And now Rebekah’s post is on board – ostensibly TWO HOURS before I posted!

    There are gremlins about!

  6. Rebekah September 11, 2009 at 6:25 pm #

    The big celebration with family and friends will be a casual weekend at the lake complete with fishing, horseshoes, bocce ball and cook outs. So it won’t be a huge “to do.” We also will be suggesting donations to the United Way in lieu of gifts. The plan in the first place was to have a fun reunion type gathering that was relaxing for all involved. It’s a second marriage for us both, so we felt that a huge white wedding would be somewhat tasteless.

    The point of the wedding annoucement plus a save the date was to prevent just that – us trying to pretend that the elopement never took place. My family is completely supportive of this, and it was my mother who suggested having another “wedding” later – I have five sisters who would want to be there, first time saying the vows or not.

    And unfortunately, yes – it is necessary – I need back surgery, and my extended student health insurance runs out in October. The surgery is scheduled for December. If I am not on another insurance plan by then, my back issue will be treated as a pre-existing condition, and all the surgery costs will be out of pocket unless I waited for 18 months, which I cannot.

    I understand that you can’t please people all the time, and really, if you’re not in favor of it, then checking the box that says “regrets” isn’t going to hurt my feelings at all.

  7. Anne September 11, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    I think the wording is perfect and I don’t see why one shouldn’t have a vow renewal “only” a year into a marriage. For whatever the reason. I had a friend who eloped to las vegas and on their one year anniversary she and her husband had their marriage blessed in a church ceremony followed by a big reception. They were unable to do the church ceremony initially because they were still waiting for an annulment. It was very important to them to have the church blessing and to have family and friends share in their commitment. As an attendee at the blessing and subsequent party I was happy to be included and did not at all feel this was a bid for gifts!

  8. Melissa B. September 11, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    Rebekah, I think that’s exactly the right attitude to take — you’re having a party to celebrate your marriage, and if people don’t like the kind of party you’re throwing, they can simply decline! And I like NtB’s wording, although instead of “We Did It!” I might put something like “We’ve tied the knot, it’s time to celebrate!” or simply “We’re Married!” When I read “We Did It!” I tend to think of another, uh, “it.” Yes, I’m 12.

  9. Johanna September 13, 2009 at 4:59 am #

    This post made me swet a bit about my own wording in the invites. We’re going to the register office a week before the seremony and it makes it harder when you can’t say “we DID it” but have to squirm around “we’re going to but you’re not invited until after” in the invites! But as for my opinion, weddings do not have to be so serious and when the ceremony is not of the most official kind then the couple can do what ever suits the occasion and them and their guests. The suggested wording to me sounds appropriate.

    I could not imagine any such party a plan to get gifts. Of course you have the reception and renewal of vows because you want to share them with those people, not with their money.

  10. Alles September 13, 2009 at 5:36 am #

    Without wishing to cluck too loudly, I do think NtB has found the most graceful way to identify the occasion. When next year rolls around, Rebekah, you can have a renewal, you can throw a splendid party to celebrate with your friends. What you CANNOT call it is your "wedding." You will have had that already. That is what your elopement is. Your ELOPEMENT is your real wedding. You will really be married once you get that license and say those vows.

    For all the hurt feelings and cluckings that might follow on the heels of your elopement, I promise you they will pale in the face of trying to pretend that your "real" wedding is a number of months later; having a Big Wedding after one has married at one's convenience via elopement or City Hall is generally seen, unfortunately, as a grab for wedding gifts. It is often seen that way, because that is often the underlying motive. I'm not saying that's YOUR motive, Rebekah! But it is both more graceful and more accurate to say, "We got married! Come and celebrate with us!" If you want the Big Wedding Dress and the Big Wedding Do-Dads (and I'm not saying that wanting those is a bad thing), there are two kinds of occasions upon which they can properly appear:
    1) The Day of the Wedding; and
    2) The Day of the Wedding Vow Renewal – and there's a pretty good-sized school of thought which believes that the vow renewals shouldn't be of a size and scope to be mistaken for a Big Wedding – no veils and orange blossoms, for instance.

    It is charming that your fiancé wishes to be your husband sooner, rather than later – but if elopement is his solution to that desire, one of the things that he has to forego is the Big Wedding, because you will already be <i>married</i>. Whether it's because one of you has to ship out, or someone needs medical coverage, or the person who loves you cannot live without you for another entire week, it is seen as Really Bad Form to get married on Date A for the sake of convenience, and then on Date B, have a Really Big Wedding celebration, pretending that the earlier wedding <i>never really took place.</i>

    Rebekah, is it truly not possible for you to push up your plans and have your Big Wedding earlier? Is the elopement that necessary?…

  11. La BellaDonna September 14, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    Well, THAT’S a little odd. Proof of gremlins, if any was needed: a post under “Alles” which duplicates mine from two days earlier.

    [La BellaDonna looks around for Bug Off gremlin spray.]

    I think you’re making a very sensible choice, Rebekeh, and it sounds as if it will be a lovely party! I wish you the very best of luck with your surgery, and hope you will come back to let us know how you make out.