I often think that if I lost my wedding ring and the person who found it wanted to return it to me, they would be very confused as they tried to figured out who it belonged to. My wedding ring has the inscription “MKH & PJD 14-09-2000”. This is the date of my wedding, which took place in beautiful Barcelona. However, the date of my legal marriage, the one which is on the records here in Ireland, is in fact many months later. On June 12th 2001 we walked into the registery office in Dublin, with 2 witnesses, and performed the legal part of our marriage. No one knew about the second marriage, we don’t even have a photograph (although that has more to do with it being pre smart-phone days than a specific desire not to record the event!). As far the 100 or so guests at our Barcelona wedding were concerned, that was the day we got married. We stood before our family and friends and vowed to each other to become life partners, through thick and thin.
‘Why did you get married twice?’ you might be wondering. Well, it was kind of an accident. Our wedding in Barcelona took quite a lot of planning. The internet was not the information laden place it is now and so we used a combination of trips over there, guide books, the phone and some of the few available websites to plan everything. I was not all that fussy about particular details of the day, being happy to trust the recommendations of the hotel on all aspects of the meal, the cake etc. After much deliberation we had decided to get married in a church. My husband was from a non-practising church of England family and I was a non-practising Catholic, but as the first of 4 siblings to get married, I weighed up having to listen to the uproar if I decided to have a non-church wedding with just doing it to keep the peace. Keeping the peace won (you haven’t met my family!).
A couple of months before the wedding we went over to Barcelona to finalise things and tie up loose ends. During our chat with the priest, while we were discussing details of the ceremony, I asked about signing the registry afterwards. ‘No problem’ he said ‘although of course you must know your marriage won’t be legally binding as you’re not Spanish residents’. A brief silence followed while myself and my husband tried to digest this bit of news. Then we smiled and laughed as though we had known that all along…
Thereafter followed a panicked discussion about what we could do. Call it off and do it in Ireland? Not possible with flights and hotels already booked and paid for! Move to Spain and hope the marriage could be legalised retrospectively? Kind of a nice idea (the moving to Spain part) but not all that realistic. Then we had our eureka moment. What if we were to do the legal part separately, in Ireland, and just say nothing…? So that’s what we did. Because it was already too late to give our 3 months notice at home, and were up to high doh with wedding plans, we parked the whole thing until long after the wedding and honeymoon were over. In fact it wasn’t until I got pregnant that we finally got ourselves into gear and arranged the date.
So we got to say “I do” twice. And while the marriage in Dublin was nice because we were finally legally married, it’s the wedding in Barcelona which is the one that we consider to be the real thing. We have so many happy memories of that day and still get people saying to us 17 years later that it was ‘the best wedding they were ever at’ (bring 80 Irish people to Barcelona for the weekend for a party and you’re bound to have some craic!).
As a celebrant I can really understand how people might have reservations about having a marriage that has two parts. However I am speaking from experience when I say that on the day of your wedding, when you’re standing in front of the people you have asked to be there to witness you declare your love to another person, the paperwork is just a minor detail. It’s all about the person standing opposite you, and the people who surround you, as you start your married life together. The fact that you are doing the legal part separately is irrelevant, it’s your public exchanging of vows and rings that matter the most to you both, and everyone there with you, and it is those moments which you will treasure throughout your married lives together.