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Courthouses & Quick Weddings: 14 Military Spouses Tell All

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John and I were able to have a planned, traditional wedding– the white dress, the reception, the wedding party. We were engaged for about 14 months, and so I spent John’s year-long deployment planning the wedding down to the color of ribbon on our centerpieces.

At the time, I didn’t realize that many military couples don’t have the luxury of time to plan out their wedding. Many of them have no choice but to jump in with both feet– sometimes with only a day or two to plan.

I asked the Jo, My Gosh! Facebook community for their stories of their “non-traditional” weddings and was blown away by the diversity of experiences and the resilience of the spouses who responded and shared their stories!

"No one but the Navy knows we're married." #marriage #wedding #weddingplanning #weddingideas #military #milspouse #militaryspouse #engaged #militarygirlfriend #jomygosh #weddingadvice #weddinghelp

A cold wedding day

“Well, we got married on the beach. I was in a cocktail dress. With it being 40 degrees I was freezing and none of our family was there. I [wish I] would have had our family there and had our dream wedding. ” -Emily, Marine spouse

“My mother was truly my saving grace.”

My now-husband proposed to me shortly after coming back from tech school while visiting me a state away on a three-day weekend. We had two months to plan the wedding and I was so wrapped up in wanting to be married already, I didn’t pay much attention to the ceremony. My mother was truly my saving grace. I figured, it’d be on a beach nearby, my then-fiancé already had the pastor, I’d buy a consignment shop wedding dress, and we’d be married with just us and our parents there. Simple. My mother would not have that though, she pushed me to get a tent and flowers, and she helped me pick out decorations and plan a bridal shower. She also called up my family and just about made everyone be there even though it was last-minute and quite a drive for some of them. It still ended up being a simple wedding on the beach, I bought that consignment shop wedding dress, I was barefoot walking down the sandy [a]isle to a beautifully decorated tent with flowers and drapes, and my husband waiting for me. In the end, while my wedding was simple, it was beautiful and filled with the people I love the most. That’s what I enjoyed the most about my wedding day, that my closest family was there to share that moment with me.” -Michaela, Air Force spouse

A wedding with coworkers

“I was on my way to Chicago to get cross-rated. We got married on my special lib day from the chit I got for re-enlisting. Nobody went [to our wedding] except for a couple of coworkers. It was in my backyard, with $200 worth of Dollar World stuff and [an] Albertson’s red velvet cake. My MOH was my buddy’s wife in a bridesmaid dress she had for her best friend’s wedding. My uncle officiated via Skype. My brother was supposed to cook and bring my niece and nephew around, but he spaced and didn’t cook…So no food, no babies, and a hurried ceremony with mismatched lawn chairs. I was in dress whites with a skirt with wilted hydrangeas, him in dress blues… No one but the Navy knows we’re married.” -Felicitas, Navy spouse and active duty member

A courthouse wedding

We got engaged and then we found out he had to PCS sooner than planned and so we got married sooner because we didn’t want to be apart again. My husband and I got married in the courthouse. We had just my family and his and my best friend there. I would have liked to have an actual wedding first but we are not shying away from the though; we are planning a wedding exactly a year from when we got married so we don’t miss out on that part of it.” -Shannon, Marine spouse

Planning a wedding in 5 days

“We had our wedding planned for October 4, 2014. We had all the vendors lined up and the whole thing was planned. Then my (then) fiancé got a 10-day notice that he would be deploying on October 2, two days before the wedding we had planned. This was on a Monday, so we only had one weekend left we could move the wedding to. So we did. We managed to rearrange the whole wedding (approx 80 guests) to 5 days after we got his deployment notice. We had to get a new venue, new officiant, and miss out on his family being able to come from out of town. But we managed to do it and it was beautiful. We had the help of two awesome friends who spent tons of time and money to help us. And everything turned out perfect.” – Dannielle, Air Force spouse

Getting married in South Korea

My husband and I were married in Seoul, Korea. My husband was stationed a few hours away at Osan AB. We rode the train for over an hour, I was in my first trimester, and had morning (all-day) sickness. We were married at the American/Korean consulate. It was just us, so we have no photos of it. Our original plan was to have a small wedding on his mid tour, then a bigger wedding on a cruise, that way I could be put on his orders to Okinawa, Japan. But the day he landed in Korea we found out I was pregnant. God really does laugh at our plans, lol. I would have loved to have my parents there, and pictures. We were so rushed, [it] wasn’t even on our minds.” -Ashley, Air Force spouse

“In some old guy’s office…”

“We were planning our big out of state wedding for March 28th, 2015. February 18th he got PCS orders for Iwakuni, Japan with a report date of June 1st WHILE sitting in the Before I Do’s class (and yes it was 30 seconds before the teacher started talking about stress in marriage). We ended up doing a quick marriage in some old guy’s office on February 27th, 2015 so we could start the overseas screening as fast as possible. We still had our big wedding as schedule.” -Kelly, Marine spouse

“We were married in his mother’s house.”

My husband proposed over text while in tech school. He researched engagement rings online and sent his mother to every jewelry store within an hours drive to find what he wanted. I flew to visit him one weekend and brought the ring with me – it was sealed in an envelope with his mother’s signature across the back, in a cosmetics bag locked with a small luggage lock (so I couldn’t peek). We decided to marry while he was home for Christmas break (our anniversary is New Year’s Day). I planned the wedding with our mothers’ help in less than 3 months. We were married in his mother’s house. She had a formal living room type of room and we rented chairs and had a JOP officiate. We had about 80 guests. Our reception was held in an estate house a few towns over. Honestly, I was incredibly lucky to have a wonderful and beautiful wedding day. The only thing I didn’t get to pick or plan was our wedding date (it was the only appropriate Saturday that he was going to be home), but it all worked out perfectly. Our families were able to attend, even those who were out of state, because it was over the Christmas holiday. BUT, we did not have a honeymoon. We spent two nights in a hotel in the city, and then he went back to tech school. I didn’t see him again for a few months. Now that was hard. I was married, but nothing concrete had changed in my life except for the addition of a new ring, and I had no husband to hug. All that excitement and then poof! back to normal life without him.” -Emily, Air Force spouse

Marriage by proxy

My husband was in Korea when we were married. He was in Korea, I was in Texas. I married my Aunt. By proxy marriage at its best!  I wish I would have had an actual wedding and said “I do” to my husband and not a telephone.” -Nahtana, Air Force spouse

In a nursing home courtyard

We got married in a courtyard of the nursing home my mother-in-law works at. 20 of our close friends and family were there, my younger brother walked me down the aisle and gave me away, our oldest son was the ring bearer and our niece was the flower girl ,my best friend of 23 years was my maid of honor and my husband’s best man was his childhood best friend . We were suppose[d] to get married Sept. 20th, 2012 but he couldn’t come home until October 1st. We spent 2 days getting everything ready. I bought my wedding dress at a local thrift store for $20. Luckily my husband’s aunt knew how to sew and did last minute alterations for me. We got married on October 3rd, 2012. It was a beautiful fall day, nothing about our wedding was according to plan but it was perfect for us. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.” -Ashley, Marine spouse

A last-minute wedding

We had a small last-minute courthouse wedding! Our best friends were there as well as my daughter and parents. If I could have done anything different, I would have wanted an actual small wedding where I wore a wedding dress and had my husband’s family there.” -Lynn, Air Force spouse

"No one but the Navy knows we're married." #marriage #wedding #weddingplanning #weddingideas #military #milspouse #militaryspouse #engaged #militarygirlfriend #jomygosh #weddingadvice #weddinghelp

Right before basic

We both graduate high school and he is leaving in about a month for basic. He asks me if I would want to before he leaves. I am blown away, but I knew we would get married eventually. It takes some time for me to think about it and finally say yes. Then by the time I tell everyone I have about two weeks to plan the wedding. I borrow my cousin’s dress. We have it in a church with about 50 friends and family. I made ribbon flowers. I made the cake and used mason jars and candles for the centerpieces. And then about another week and half he leaves for basic. I wish I could have had a bridal shower, I wish more people would have been able to come and I wish more people would have known about us getting married. I wish I could have had more of those wedding moments over the process of planning a wedding.” -Keely, Army spouse

A not-so-secret wedding

We planned on doing a small secret wedding with only our parents and siblings until we could save enough money for a more traditional wedding. Well, our small secret wedding ending up being about 50 family members at a local arboretum with a party in my parents’ backyard. The “real” wedding never happened but we had the best time and it ended up being such a special day. If I knew that was going to be it and the traditional wedding wouldn’t end up happening, I wouldn’t have changed the ceremony or party at all but I would have made sure that other people were there that I wish I would have invited instead of stressing over having too many people.” -Melissa, Army spouse

“He married me twice!”

We planned our big, beautiful, wedding for May when we had time off to travel across the country to be with all of our loved ones, and then hubby’s deployment date kept getting pushed closer and closer and closer to our May date, and we (I) maybe had a little bit of a panic attack…So we got married in March, in Colorado and only our parents attended. We hired a retired army chaplain to perform the ceremony, and had dinner in a beautiful historic hotel afterwards. We continued to plan our May wedding as well, which hubby did make it to, so we were able to have our big celebration after all, but we were happy with our “Just in case” wedding too. My husband is now able to tell people that he loved me so much he married me twice!” -Love the Everyday, Army spouse

Want More Military Wedding Tips? I’ve Got You. Read More:


8 Responses

  1. I think the beautiful thing about marriage is that it’s the part that matters more than the actual wedding! :)

    1. Absolutely! The wedding is great, but it’s only one day. The marriage lasts a lifetime. :-)

  2. My sailor and I had a “get-er-done” wedding. He was headed out to sea soon thereafter and wanted to make sure I was taken care of before he left. No one was there, and NO ONE thought it would last. Fifteen years later, I guess we fooled them all! <3

    1. I can certainly relate to some of that. its a good thing my sailor wanted me taken care of … lol. my story is posted below yours in comments. no one has said it wont last yet. still waiting for there.
      good on you though. <3

  3. I was visiting my now husband for what I like to refer to ask PrePOM leave. I was able to take a week vacation before his leave so I jumped at the chance for more time before deployment to see him. Well, while he was on duty we talked and I could tell something was the matter. He said well, its now, or its 8 months from now, so do you want to get married tomorrow? i of course agreed and he said we’d talk after work tomorrow. he got off work and we talked. in the end, we decided to put it off until I visited the next month. we wanted to be married before deployment, and that we knew we were it for each other so why wait was our logic. we didn’t have the money to plan the wedding we wanted, but we could go to the courthouse for now. chaos ensued in the planning, too much to go into detail, but we decided to tell no one except my sister, who was our witness and our photographer for after. we got married at the courthouse, just the two of us and my sister, so we have pictures. we already have the venue for our big day in two years. i have no regrets about my special day. though, since i had to go for emergency surgery two days before he deployed…our families found out anyway. best month of my life though. i wouldn’t change any of it.

  4. My now husband, sister and couple of friends talk me into into getting married before he left for deployment he wanted to make sure that if anything happens I would be taken care of. We got married in the courthouse with just a couple of friends and one of my sisters we didn’t tell her other family because we are planning a wedding anyway in March when he was supposed to be back. A couple days later we called his dad who is retired army and told him that we had gotten married he congratulated us and come to find out his parents have done that too. A month later my husband drop me off at the airport as his deployment had been delayed and I was already going on vacation because I thought he would already be gone that was the hardest thing ever was saying goodbye at the airport. I called my mom when I was in New York and just talking to her right before I got on the plane to Vietnam she told me she wished I had wish gotten married before we both left just in case anything happens while you’re over there I broke down and told her she cried and ran and yelled at my sister asking her why she didn’t tell her that I had gotten married. I guess it was a good thing we had told their families because coming back from Vietnam I found out that I was already a month pregnant. In may we had a little girl and in June we had a big wedding with all of her friends and family coming in. My husband tells me that he loves me so much that he married me twice

  5. Me and my sailor have been together for 8 mouths and we have have been best friends for 12 years :) and now engaged for all most 3 mouths love im more than anything! Now we are going to do a little court house wedding because just before deployment and also so i can be by his side instead of 1000s of miles apart making this next step together and to help us in our future we are both young and my parents are having a hard time understanding how a military life is and what is best alot of the time its hard to talk to friends because they dont understand what i go through when i found this blog and i am so happy i did because i know that i am not alone and me and my sailor are making the right choice even though no one else does

  6. It’s so crazy how different everyone’s experience with marriage is in the military. We got married almost two years ago now in the courthouse, just us two. It was a personal decision as it just made sense with us living together and how un-involved I would have been able to be in his life on base if we hadn’t, as well as medical and financial reasons. No one to this day knows we’re married except two of his co-worker friends. We are still planning on having a family and friends wedding some day- alot of people think that’s wrong. I’ve actually read blogs and such that discourage people from doing that because it’s not “right”. Well, we were legally married for reasons personal to us and because we loved each other, and when the time is right we will do it the traditional way and everything. We don’t even wear rings- that’s a process that we’re going to be able to go through some day when the timing is right financially and life wise. I don’t look at it as a negative- in fact, some times I forget we’re even married. I hate when people judge others who do this though, it makes me so sad because everyone’s relationship is differnet. We’ve been together five years and hopefully for 100 more. This makes me feel not alone in this, so thank you for this interesting and awesome article!

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