I’ve been married for over seven years, but my wedding day was almost four years ago. My spouse and I married in New York City at City Hall in October 2016, and then in Cambridge, UK, in July 2019. It’s not that we didn’t want to be married sooner. We couldn’t afford a large party with all of our family and friends, and we wanted to marry in 2016. We also had to follow the requirements of my visa. I’d just relocated to the US from the UK, and we had to marry within 90 days of my arrival (romantic, I know).
I’d been in New York for years but had to return to the UK when my visa expired. We had been dating for two years and living together for one. We made it work despite hearing that long distance is impossible. We met each other twice in person because flying was too expensive, and we watched TV over FaceTime when we ran out of topics to chat about (which occurs when you don’t have common experiences). And we threw ourselves into our jobs: I started a new career in London, and he started his first job out of law school.
Then, when he came to see us for New Year’s, he proposed in Paris. I said yes, and we married a few months later. I’d never been happy in my life. However, as we planned our 2019 wedding, I became concerned about how others could perceive us having two weddings. Part of me was concerned that they’d make assumptions about our relationship (thank you, “90-Day Fiancé,” for spreading stereotypes), but in retrospect, I wouldn’t alter a thing. Our City Hall wedding was simple, but it was ideal for us.
I couldn’t wait to marry, even if a courthouse wedding wasn’t what I had in mind. It seemed appropriate for my husband, an attorney. Besides, Carrie Bradshaw made it fashionable, and I intended to do the same – on a tight budget. We’d already spent a significant amount of money on my visa and wanted to save for a larger wedding.So, instead of a gown from Kleinfeld’s, I chose an ASOS dress for £17.50. We sent a group email instead of invitations. We reserved a table at a Tribeca restaurant instead of a venue. I did my own makeup and went to Drybar for my hair.
I went downtown to get a bouquet from a florist. We didn’t even think of a cake until a few days before our wedding. (A special thanks to my maid of honor, who braved the Cronut queue at Dominique Ansel Bakery to get it.) For the occasion, our relatives flew here from Malta, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Austin, Texas. My in-laws came all the way from upstate New York. We also invited a handful of pals, my husband’s roommates from when we met as neighbors living across the hall.
We stood in line with other couples being processed by security. It was similar to going through TSA, having our bags scrutinized, and stepping through a metal detector. Then, like picking up a sandwich at Katz’s, we bought a ticket and waited for our number to appear on a screen.When the moment came, we entered a small room and performed a 30-second ceremony. Our officiant warned guests to get their phones ready to shoot pictures at the start of the ceremony because “it’ll be quick” – words I’m used to hearing before a bikini wax.
We were not asked to repeat anything after him, so we simply said, “I do.” It was a simple room with no fancy words, but that didn’t matter. Nonetheless, my heart was racing. Our guests threw biodegradable confetti at us as we exited before we walked through City Hall Park to get our pictures made (my father was our photographer). Then we ate lunch, cut our cake, and took the subway to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we sipped cocktails on the rooftop as the sun sank. It was a wonderful day in New York.
The following day, my husband’s aunt held a nice lunch for us at her apartment and gave us matching “Spouse A” and “Spouse B” T-shirts from the City Hall store. Naturally, I received Spouse A. It may be unusual to organize a wedding with your husband, but that is exactly what we did. We gathered money and, with the aid of our families, put down a deposit at a lovely venue: Downing College at the University of Cambridge. We hired an officiant for our vow renewal ceremony because we couldn’t legally have a marriage ceremony because we were already married.
We invited 100 people and hired a band (Soul Patrol), a photographer (Alice the Camera), a videographer (McGill Sister Films), and a florist (Riverside Rose). I hired a makeup artist (Makeup by Mary) and a hairstylist (Glenda Mooney Hair) this time, as well as a custom cake (Compton & Kennedy). To celebrate our home countries and my Greek-Cypriot heritage, there were British, American, and Greek touches. Pimm’s cups and fish and chips in newspaper cones; a peanut-butter-and-chocolate tier in our cake and “Sweet Caroline” on the soundtrack;
and Greek dancing and almond-cookie favors from a Greek-Cypriot bakery rounded out the festivities.Concerned that having a second party might make us appear vain, I tried to scale back on anything that felt “too much.” I went for simpler hair and did not wear a veil, something I now regret. But none of that mattered when the big day arrived. In my Pronovias gown, I felt like a million bucks, and walking down the aisle to my husband felt amazing all over again. Being married also relieved some of the stress. My only concern was that I wouldn’t be able to perform the moves to our first dance on my train.
We had the fun of our lives dancing the night away with our guests. The evening ended with a tune from “Dirty Dancing,” and sure, we lifted!Immediately following our 2019 celebration, many couples canceled or altered their marriages because to the pandemic – and many had more than one. It taught me that weddings aren’t one-size-fits-all affairs, and it made me wish I hadn’t let my fear of being judged get the best of me.
I consider myself fortunate to have had our two weddings now, especially considering we considered waiting until 2020 to save more for our big day. We wouldn’t have been able to gather our family and friends in one spot, which was the most significant element for us. In retrospect, having two weddings was a way to honor our love in my two homes, the United States and the United Kingdom. They were the two most memorable days of my life. Now we have two anniversaries.