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“We’re Marrying Early for Health Insurance”

My fiance and I are moving to South Carolina in a about a month because I was recently offered a new job. My fiance has been searching for a job as well and has found a few prospects, but none of them come with health insurance. We’re contemplating marrying in front of just immediate family before we move, so that he can be on my insurance, and then having a celebration of our marriage either later this year or early next year where we invite the rest of our families and our friends. My question is: how do you go about telling people that you’re going to do this? Do I wait until afterward to tell people, do I tell people before, do I tell everyone via a phone call, do I send out an announcement? I want to make sure that everyone knows how much we want to celebrate with them but that we were unable to have a wedding with everyone we wanted to be there on such short notice.

I have told my two best friends, one of whom is very pregnant and out of state and can’t come, and the other, who will be in attendance, suggested that I videotape the first wedding and show that at the celebration along with a slideshow and send a photo of us on our wedding day to friends and family with a small letter explaining what we did, etc. I want people to know that we love them and want to share in this next step of our lives with them but had to make tough decisions based on what was best for us. — Fast-track Bride


First of all, congratulations on your new job, your move, and your upcoming marriage! What an exciting time in your life. And because your decision to marry early for insurance purposes, let alone marry at all, is a personal one, however you choose to share the news is totally up to you. No one has to know the reason you decided to marry early, but if you feel more comfortable sharing that piece of information, go for it. There’s no right or wrong way to go about sharing your news, as long as you let the people you love know how much their support means to you and that you look forward to celebrating your marriage with them at a later date.

I love the idea of taking a photo of your first wedding day and sending it as an announcement (you could even make it a postcard announcement) to your friends and loved ones saying something along the lines of: “We wanted to start our new life together in South Carolina as husband and wife, so on [date of wedding] we made it official! We are incredibly happy and excited about this new chapter, but won’t feel it’s completely started until we’re able to celebrate our marriage with the people whose love and support mean so much to us. We’d be thrilled if you joined us at a formal gathering later this year, and look forward to sharing more photos of our special day with your then. We’ll share more details about that event soon.”

Don’t be surprised if people want to send you cards and gifts right away, so be sure to include your new address in your announcement, and start a wedding registry if you haven’t already. I would not include wedding registry info in your announcement, but it’s good to have one started if someone specifically asks for it. Make sure your mother or other close relative or friend knows that particular information to pass along to anyone who might ask. And, again, congrats and best wishes.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

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{ 38 comments… add one }

katie Katie May 16, 2011, 3:18 pm

I made a wedding cake for a bride who got married in vegas, just her and her husband, then about 3 months later, they had a reception, and then like 6 months later had their honeymoon. her invitations said something along the lines of, so and so will be married at a private ceremony in las vegas… join us as we return as husband and wife on whatever date. I thought that was a neat way to do it, as in dont actually celebrate the wedding part, just celebrate the fact that we are married now! im sure people will understand and be happy to be invited to the kind of party you are gonna throw, wether its a legit wedding or not.

avatar SGMcG May 16, 2011, 3:25 pm

Congrats LW! It doesn’t matter WHY you’re getting married, it’s exciting all the same! Announce it however you want, whenever you want!

I don’t know where in South Carolina you’re going to move, but (speaking as a current resident of the state you’re moving to) if you are having a celebration to include more people in celebrating your marriage, you can also have them witness you renew your vows. They have awesome services for that in the beach resorts whether they be Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head. By the time you have your celebration later this year or early next year, peak tourist season would have ended and the crowds won’t be so bad – yet the weather is still nice (breezy, but nice!)

avatar sarolabelle May 16, 2011, 3:27 pm

why does anyone have to know? It’s a legal document….I would just go legally do it if you must and then plan for a wedding where you will say your vows and have a reception.

avatar Jess May 16, 2011, 3:30 pm

this is what iw ould do. i would want the dress/vows/religious part in front of all my friends and family. I dont know if I would tell people the license became active/legally married a few months earlier. I wouldn’t NOT tell them, but I wouldn’t announce it as us being officially married. But I could use the “religious ceremony” thing as an excuse.

avatar SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 4:28 am

My only problem with this plan is that I have read of and heard of people who felt cheated that they were invited to a “fake wedding” when the couple was already married. Sometimes they see it as a gift grab. Not that I necessarily disagree with the idea of doing it – but it can come across that way.

avatar bostonpupgal May 17, 2011, 12:58 pm

Honestly, I’m one of those people who doesn’t look very fondly on couples who pretend they aren’t married already, and do the whole vows/church thing in front of their friends and fam. You only get one wedding, one set of vows where you officially become man and wife, and I would be really upset to learn they’d lied and tricked their loved ones into believing they’d witnessed it.

A delayed reception, though, I’m all for. Have your wedding, say your vows, and throw the big beautiful party any way you want at a later date.

avatar SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 2:44 pm

One of my friends from high school got married in NY because that’s where the bride’s family lived, with just family and a couple close friends attending. My friend and his bride, however, live here in Iowa. So they rented a hall and had the main reception here, and they wore their wedding clothes, we gave gifts, they cut the cake, there was a slideshow of the wedding, and it really was special that way. It didn’t feel that we’d been “excluded” from the private ceremony. Plus, can you imagine only having to stress about one thing at a time? NICE!

avatar kali May 17, 2011, 12:51 pm

One of my best friends did exactly this. The only problem is that she sometimes has difficulty remembering their ‘correct’ anniversary in front of friends and family. They still haven’t spilled the beans about the real wedding date and it’s 15 years later!

avatar Jess May 16, 2011, 3:27 pm

can you still do the wedding cake and wedding toast and all that? And wear a wedding dress?

avatar me74 May 16, 2011, 5:38 pm

As long as the bride and groom are honest and let everyone know it is a “renewal of vows” and “celebration of our marriage” you can do it up as big as you want at a later date.

avatar spaceboy761 May 16, 2011, 3:31 pm

Just to offer another option, your job may also extend health insurance to your fiance if you are in a recognized domestic partnership, so you may not have to go through with the marriage just yet (if you really don’t want to). I know that SC is not the most liberal of states, but it was something my then-GF (married now) considered back when my job was in danger a few years ago here in NY. It could be something to look into.

avatar Quakergirl May 16, 2011, 3:43 pm

A lot of companies offer partner coverage even if the state doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships/civil unions for opposite- or same-sex couples, or same-sex marriages. The company sets the policy as to who is covered by the insurance they offer, not the state. I know I get insurance through Quakerboy’s company and we didn’t even have to do a legally registered domestic partnership. All we had to do was show that we had lived together for a certain amount of time and had some joint assets or property. It was super easy.

Granted, if that’s what you end up doing, the employee will pay federal income tax on the market value of any benefits received for a non-spouse (and by that, the federal government means opposite-sex spouse), so that is a factor to consider as those benefits can be valued pretty highly and that can bump up your taxes significantly. But if you don’t want to get married yet (or can’t), then it may be worth it to bite the bullet and pay the taxes for a little while.

avatar spaceboy761 May 16, 2011, 3:47 pm

Thanks for the clarification! My wife is a public employee, so we never had to make the company policy vs. state law distinction since to us, they were one and the same.

avatar Quakergirl May 16, 2011, 3:52 pm

Happy to jump in wherever there’s chaos and confusion surrounding benefits for unmarried couples…which is pretty much everywhere. I actually wrote my undergrad thesis on the appropriateness of the LGBT rights movement’s focus on attaining national marriage recognition, hence why I know all sorts of odd details and specifics about taxes and FMLA leave and vision coverage. Comes in useful every now and then.

avatar spaceboy761 May 16, 2011, 4:02 pm

My undergrad thesis was on the price discovery relationship between cash market equity indices and their tracking ETF’s. Comes in useful exactly never.

avatar SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 4:37 am

My undergrad thesis was on the idealization of the female religious in the poetry of Victorian priest/poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Comes in useful exactly never ever ever.

avatar kali May 17, 2011, 12:58 pm

I adore G.M. Hopkins!!

My undergrad thesis was on the veiled self-references and symbolism in Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott. Only useful once in Jeopardy. Too bad I was playing along at home.

avatar pinot23 May 16, 2011, 8:24 pm

just fyi, I am a public employee, and even though the law doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships in our state, our state health insurance still does allow it. It’s a personal decision of the employer, despite and legalities. It just falls as far as keep the rule consistent. If that makes sense? But that’s just my state.

avatar SGMcG May 16, 2011, 4:21 pm

The ability to have his insurance was one of the reasons why after we got married my husband and I planned for the wedding in only four months. Although South Carolina does recognize common law marriage so that your loved one can stand to inherit property (you have to demonstrate to others that you intend to get married), to extend health insurance to another is not without it’s costs. Sometimes it’s as much as the cost of getting your own insurance plan or double that. With South Carolina law also explicitly stating that same-sex marriage is prohibited and against public policy, some companies have even done away with domestic partnership benefits and only offer family/spouse.

avatar SGMcG May 16, 2011, 4:24 pm

Argh – I meant to say ENGAGED instead of married. The ability to have his insurance was one of the reasons why after we got ENGAGED my husband and I planned for the wedding in only four months.

avatar Quakergirl May 16, 2011, 4:35 pm

The cost can be extremely prohibitive, for sure, depending on your ability to get your own plan. For me, I’m basically uninsurable on my own, so the cost was worth it because it was that or nothing. We’re pretty lucky because Quakerboy works for a giant firm that has great (and relatively inexpensive) benefits, so the taxes plus the cost of the actual insurance were still worth it. Those taxes can really screw you over, though, if you can get your own insurance. My brother’s girlfriend is a law student, so she doesn’t have a full-time job anymore and now gets insurance through my brother’s company. I guess he didn’t realize they would have to pay taxes on that, so he freaked out when he saw his adjusted W-2 and did the math on how much federal tax he owed this year. Never a fun surprise.

avatar TheGirl May 16, 2011, 4:36 pm

I asked my company about it, and they won’t let you claim a domestic partnership if you’re straight. So, we did what the LW did and got married quick.

avatar napoleon1066 May 16, 2011, 3:32 pm

My wife and I actually did this.

Frankly, it’s just a piece of paper. Your actual wedding day is meaningful, but not because it’s a wedding. It’s means something because all your friends and family have gathered together to celebrate the fact that you’ve fallen in love with somebody and are going to spend the rest of your life with that person.

Don’t delay getting the papers signed and getting your fiance on your health insurance. The longer you wait, the more time you’ll have for something unfortunate to happen. We told a couple of close friends. Other than that, what did it matter? The whole “being married” reality didn’t change our lives one bit.

mandalee amandalee May 16, 2011, 4:39 pm

Completely agree! I did this as well. Our parents and close friends knew, but that was it. We didn’t keep it a secret, it was just considered a private thing. I lost my job in a terrible way and was already dealing with a huge amount of drama from my ultra conservative extended family because I was “disgracing them by not getting married in a Catholic church.” We met up at the courthouse on a random Thursday afternoon, had the quick exchange and signed the papers. To us it was the legal start to getting married, but knew our extended family wouldn’t understand. What I truly cared about, despite all the drama, was getting all my family and friends in one place to witness me marry my husband. So, we’re still having the ceremony and reception this summer.

avatar sarolabelle May 16, 2011, 5:54 pm

hope your family understands that a peice of paper from the government is not a Catholic scarament….

mandalee amandalee May 16, 2011, 6:41 pm

My extended family really doesn’t understand much or try to lol Our parents and siblings have been great throughout the whole process so it’s been helpful.

avatar Amy May 16, 2011, 3:42 pm

Very classy advice Wendy! And congratulations and best wishes to the LW.

avatar demoiselle May 16, 2011, 3:50 pm

My husband and I just let people know that we were having a civil ceremony at the Manhattan City Hall at the end of the summer with just parents, siblings, and grandparents. Afterwards, we had a nice meal at a favorite restaurant near our apartment and then coffee and berry tarts at home instead of wedding cake. The news was passed on by word of mouth, email, and facebook.

The decision to marry like this was threefold: 1. we wanted to be married sooner than planning a large-scale wedding/our schedules would allow, 2. he wanted something this personal to be intimate, not in front of a big crowd, and 3. I got good insurance with my PhD program and wanted him to be on it too.

We were going to have a big reception this summer, and originally told people so. In the end, we were so happy with our low-stress, intimate civil ceremony that we decided we didn’t want anything more. It’d been perfect already.

avatar SalMarie May 16, 2011, 3:55 pm

My best friend and her fiance did this same thing for immigration reasons. They had the civil ceremony about 7 months before their wedding. They just invited a few close friends and family members to join them at the courthouse for the ceremony and then we all went out for a nice lunch afterward. They didn’t keep the legal ceremony a secret by any means, but they didn’t formally acknowledge it before their “real” wedding other than to the people they had already invited to the first ceremony. They did the whole traditional wedding thing 7 months later with the white dress, the vows, a wedding party, cake, etc, and it worked out beautifully. But, as Wendy suggested, a nice announcement would be a good way to go, as well. It should just be whatever you and your fiance feel is right for you! Congrats!

TaraMonster TaraMonster May 16, 2011, 3:59 pm

Congrats! This reminds me of some wedding porn I saw on Offbeatbride.com a while back. If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s not actual porn, it’s just pictures of all the cool stuff at other people’s weddings that brides-to-be can ogle and get ideas from.

This one couple had a big joint birthday bash and then surprised everyone at the party with this badass video of their wedding. They eloped in the Nevada desert and the video is so well done. Ya gotta watch it. It’s so damn cool and creative. I’m not saying surprise your loved ones since that may not be your style, but a video of the event that’s played during the later celebration would likely make everyone who couldn’t be there feel awesome. Not to mention it could be really fun to make!

Here’s the link and best of luck!
http://offbeatbride.com/2009/11/nevada-desert-wedding

avatar BoomChakaLaka May 16, 2011, 3:59 pm

Kudos on the announcement Wendy. That was really classy and well-put.

avatar DramaQueen224 May 16, 2011, 4:52 pm

I know a couple of people who’ve gotten legally married way before their wedding (we’re all in grad school and the official marriage made the tuition/insurance stuff way easier). None of them really bothered to formally announce it and everyone understood and still treated their wedding day with all the respect and joy it deserved. Definitely do whatever you want to do, just know that you don’t have to announce the legal marriage if you don’t want to.

avatar QTKT May 16, 2011, 5:35 pm

My husband and I were married 5 months before our wedding… His job was transferred to another state and getting married just made the whole move and legalities (including health insurance) so much easier! Only our parents were there and no one else knows about it. We celebrated our wedding as if it were the ‘first time’ with all of our family and friends months later and still celebrate that date as our anniversary. But he always does something a little special for me on the official date and I always pretend not to know what he is talking about – a silly little secret just for us!

avatar me74 May 16, 2011, 5:42 pm

LW, you know your family and friends better than we do so you need to use your best judgement. I know of a lot of people who would be offended if invited to a “wedding” then found out the couple had been legal for a year. Personally I wouldn’t care. However I am all for honesty in general if you don’t have any concerns. If you are sure about the celebration at a later date I would send a save the date (or even just save the month) as part of the announcement.

avatar Leyahn May 17, 2011, 9:40 am

A couple that I know, announced their engagement and their impending “elopement”. They had decided, mostly due to financial considerations, to run off to Vegas and get married – just the two of them. She bought a nice white dress, he packed his good suite, and off they flew. Alas, they did not have an Elvis impersonator as an officiant.

The wedding was streamed, in real time, for any of us who wanted to watch their nuptials live. And, a few weeks upon return, they had a house warming/wedding celebration at their new home. They played the video, served finger foods and had a wedding cake made by one of their friends.

It was a really lovely gathering of friends and family to celebrate their union.

We all knew beforehand that they were getting married, and we all knew that we would be a part of their celebration after they got back.

Congratulations on your nuptials and beginning the next chapter in your life.

avatar K May 18, 2011, 5:06 pm

One of my cousins tried to do this, and my extended family flipped out at being “tricked”. She ended up not having her big ceremony for financial reasons, but when her marriage was found out via my grandparents reading about their marriage license in the local newspaper, they told the rest of the family. Her grandmother (my great aunt) first tried to say that Cousin wasn’t married, and then backpedaled and demanded to know who else knew and how they found out. No one was supposed to know. The secrecy started a lot of shit, basically.

LW, your family might be more accepting or understanding than mine. However, it’s something to consider. If friends/family might feel tricked or put out by witnessing a ceremony that isn’t your actual wedding, you might want to think about it.

avatar Kayd May 25, 2011, 5:42 pm

I had a couple friends who got married similarly (immigration reasons, after dating for years they wanted to actually be able to live in the same county). They had a wedding in the living room of the house they had just bought and there were probably about 20 of us there in total. They video taped it and had a big reception in her hometown when she went back to visit about 3 months later. They showed the video, and had the cake and dance then. Then had another reception for all of his friends (and her new friends here) about 6 months after the actual wedding where they showed a slideshow of the time they dated, the wedding video and another slideshow of the more traditional reception they held in her hometown so no one felt like they got left out of any part of it (and they were able to do it on a very tight budget if that’s another worry about splitting the day up). Point being, they invited only immediate family and BEST friends with the attitude of “we’d love to have you but if you can’t make it on such short notice it’s not a huge deal”. But they let everyone know what was going on beforehand. That way, there were no hostile feelings, everyone they would have had at the wedding got to be part of it somehow, even if it was spread over the course of half a year and they were still official in the eyes of the government, everyone wins.

avatar sesl May 27, 2011, 11:59 am

My fiance and I are seriously considering doing this and I just might have to steal some of that wording if it’s alright with you, Wendy! We’re planning a wedding for next summer, but I start a new job that offers free housing, but you have to be married in order to live together and it’s feeling less and less worth it to live apart for a year when we’ve already been living together for two years. The fact that we’d save lots of money on rent and I could get him on my health insurance sooner rather than later adds to the appeal. But we definitely want to celebrate with our friends and family and want to be completely up front about what’s going on, so this post obviously spoke to me=)

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