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An Expat Wedding Do-Over?

A Wedding Do-Over?

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

I love love love your advice column and your words of wisdom. My question isn’t child-related, but I still feel like you would have the answers and advice that I need!

Here’s the situation: My husband and I live in Europe. He’s from here and has his entire family here, I’m American and have my entire family in the US. Thus far, we have had two weddings. The first wedding was a courthouse wedding. The second wedding, about a year later, was the church and reception wedding. Both of these weddings were in Europe. The first was basically a formality and super small- us and six other people (no one from my family). We always planned to have a big actual church wedding afterward- and where we live, it’s normal to split up the courthouse wedding and the church/reception if you are planning to have a church wedding, which we were. We had a year between the first and second wedding- also normal here. We definitely have confused some people with our whole we-got-married-now-we’re-getting-married-again thing, but for the most part people from my side of the world have been understanding.

Heres the rub. Our church/reception wedding was about two months ago, and was incredibly well attended by his family, whereas my family showing was four people (out of many, many more). Understandable! It’s far away! We were prepared for that, but most of my mother’s side (aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents) were pretty positive about being able to come until they suddenly all decided not to, at which point it was too late to do anything else.

I was not prepared for how sad I would be afterward that these people missed one of the most important events of my life. I’m not angry at them- if anything I feel incredibly guilty for splitting up my life across an ocean and making it hard for people to see us. Side note- we had a plan to really be able to share the day with my family, in the form of our photographer taking tons of video and making something beautiful. He didn’t, straight up. It’s a whole other problem. So basically, its weighing on me, a lot. To the point where my husband suggested that we do it all over again in America.

That’s right. A third wedding.

Three years, three weddings (the next time we could make it out there and have an event like this is October 2017).

Am I crazy for even considering this? What will people think? Are we going to look like wedding-crazy, gift grabbing, money hungry users? I really want to emotionally celebrate this event with all the people who missed it…I just also don’t want to look insane.

What do you think?

Hmmm. I wouldn’t do it. An actual, for-real third “wedding,” that is. Instead, I would reach out to a close relative here in the States and talk about throwing a party of some kind. (NOT a wedding shower, though.) Find a way to celebrate and party with your family (a reunion, maybe?), give them a chance to meet your husband and gush over your ring, etc. — but leave the vows and the white dress and the toasts and the whole wedding/reception business out of it.

From a strictly etiquette standpoint, I’m sure there will be people who would totally understand your reasons for having the third wedding so more family can attend, but there will likely be many more who will react with a puzzled “huh, really?” at receiving another formal wedding invitation from you. ESPECIALLY if they are aware that this the THIRD time you guys would be exchanging vows in just three years. That part would definitely seem like overkill.  They know you guys got married (twice!), and from an American cultural perspective they probably view the courthouse wedding as the one that really “counted.”  So there’s no need to recreate the pageantry of the second wedding on their behalf. And no, I absolutely can’t promise that some people won’t raise eyebrows at the gift-grab/money-hungry possibility. (Especially any invitees who were unable to attend the Europe wedding who may have sent a gift anyway, unless you were to plaster NO GIFTS PLEASE!!! in all-caps on the invitation.)

But mostly the reason I don’t think this is the best idea (and actually the reason I wanted to answer this letter, even though it’s technically off-topic for this column), is that I think you’re avoiding some Big Emotional Stuff here. Stuff that isn’t going to necessarily get solved by spackling it over with another wedding. You’re feeling guilty about moving overseas. You’re missing your family. You’re grieving over the implications and natural consequences of a Very Very Big Life Choice, probably for the first time, as the wedding truly laid bare how far away and disconnected you are now, and may be in the future.

That’s PERFECTLY NATURAL. I get similar letters from pregnant and newly postpartum ex-pats all the time as they try to navigate the realities of not having their moms or other close family around, and the inherent “unfairness” that comes from living and raising children near their partner’s family and not their own. Hell, I get letters from people who just moved a few states away from home and are dealing with similar feelings. In other words, while the wedding was — up to this point — the “most important event” in your life, you need to get to a place emotionally where you’re really, really okay with living permanently overseas, because there will be other important events in your lives that your family will not be able to be part of. Events that you won’t necessarily be able to fly home and recreate for them.

And then to add insult to injury, your wedding photographer let you down. That also really, really sucks, but again, I don’t think going full wedding do-over is going to make you feel all that much better. You’ll still be missing all those moments. You’ll still get on a plane and fly far, far away, and you’ll continue to get emotionally walloped occasionally by this stuff unless you do the work and deal with it. And yes, if you haven’t gotten my drift, I think you should talk to a therapist, or at the very least find a good, well-moderated support group for ex-pats where you can discuss your feelings openly. Unpack that guilt and sadness like they’re the world’s ugliest wedding presents you’re returning for store credit.

Therapy does not imply that there’s ANYTHING wrong or abnormal about how you’re feeling, by the way. (It has only been two months since your wedding when you wrote this letter, and I think an emotional crash after all the build-up of a wedding is pretty typical. I also promise weddings in general start to fade in the review mirror of Most Important Thing Ever with time.) But obviously you’re struggling pretty damn hard right now if you’re feeling so low and overwhelmed by guilt that your partner is offering up planning a THIRD WEDDING as a way to make you feel better. I want you to feel better too; I just think there’s a different way you can (and should) get there.

Also, weddings are stupid expensive. Save your money so you can spend it on more plane tickets back to visit your family more often. Plan to renew your vows back home at some point in the future, for a more significant anniversary year. For now, I think it would be perfectly Fine and Acceptable for a close relative to throw a party of some kind for you guys next time you’re in the States. Keep it to a fun, casual celebration: no ceremony redo or wedding dress or anything like that. You’ll be completely clear from an etiquette/gift grab perspective AND you’ll still get the most important part of the wedding: a fun, happy time surrounded by the people you love, including the man you’ll be spending the rest of your life with.

Photo source: Depositphotos/iliveinOctober


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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • D

    We got married three times (albeit twice in one day), for this reason and a timely legalisation of our (gay) marriage coinciding with being in the US. I think the white dress hoopla is probably off the table, but we had a guy marry us in my MIL’s living room and had a party and that was surprisingly magical, in fact I felt more connected to those vows than the “real” ones. So I think do it on the next trip home, make it low-key and cheap and insist that no-one bring a gift. Like no entry with a gift, insist. But I do agree that this isn’t going to solve any other issues you have with being far, far away, so have a gut check and go talk to someone if you think it’ll help too.

  • Hi, OP! I’m a European expat living in California, and I can relate to a lot of what you say. The really sad thing about living so far away from family is how much they—and you—miss out on. (For example, my daughter is 2¼ years old, and my mum has met her twice and my dad only once.)

    As it happens, I think the advice Amy gave you is good—a third wedding isn’t going to fix anything. If it were me, I would be feeling very hurt by the fact that some of your nearest and dearest couldn’t come to one of the most important days in your life. And maybe they had good reason! Like, money or illness. But it doesn’t change the fact that they weren’t there and it STILL HURTS.

    (And, wow, I also know what it’s like to expect to have a wedding video to share with others and for it not to manifest… in my case until 8 years later… another long story!)

    The downside of getting tangled up with someone from the other side of the world is that at least one of you is probably always going to live far away from home. It sucks. And unless you’ve lived multiple time zones and a long-haul plane ride away from your family, you can’t understand it.

    I think you should save the money you would have spent on a third wedding and put it towards a long trip home. A party is a great idea—I bet there are loads of post-wedding celebration ideas on Pinterest 🙂

    So there’s my two cents’ worth—along with a hug in solidarity!

  • Sarah S.

    Both my sister’s married their (European husbands) in Europe, where they were living. Very few members of my family were able to attend. In both cases, my parents threw a party for them to celebrate the marriage with friends and family in the US. The parties were very low-key – more like back yard bbqs. I think gifts were involved, but no registries, etc. Mostly some people just really wanted to bring gifts. I think this type of casual gathering was a great way to celebrate with the US side of our family. No one was offended by it or voiced an opinion that it was a “gift grab”. Good luck!

  • K

    Agree with other posters on the “maybe no third wedding, but a party instead”. We ended up doing a courthouse wedding and never getting around to the church situation, for several reasons. In the moment, or maybe even for a year following, I felt sad that my family didn’t see us tie the knot…but then babies and new big jobs and more moves and really just actual life happened. And it became way more important to connect with my family over those things than to ever create/recreate this image I had of sharing the “most important day of my life” with my family. Because I’m with Amy, after a bit of time and more life, that one day all of a sudden isn’t the most important or impactful anymore. It’s beautiful for what it is/was and what it symbolizes, but there are so many big and beautiful things ahead – no single event (or three!) will ever compare 🙂

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    My cousin had a destination wedding, and a bunch of us couldn’t go. A month later they held a big party/family reunion in our home state. (We still had to fly in but Midwest to New England is a lot easier than to Aruba). The 3rd actually wedding would be such overkill, although you could consider a vow renewal at say your 20th anniversary or something.