Purpose of weddings: It’s not about the legalities

Alternative titles for this post:

A case for multi-wedding marriages
A dress! You guys, check at this dress!*

M and I are New Zealanders. In New Zealand, once two people have been living together as a couple for three years, the de facto partnership they are in has practically the same legalities around it as an actual marriage. For instance, if you break up, assets would be split fifty-fifty. You enter this phase of financial union without doing a thing – the couple doesn’t have to go somewhere, or sign something, or make any declarations. It just becomes a truth that everything is now jointly owned.

We reached our three year mark right about the same time that we moved to Singapore. Before that though, we’d already completely merged our finances anyway. We were in it together, man. And then Singapore happened, which just further cemented the fact that as a couple, we were a done deal. Obviously emotionally, yes: if following your partner to a foreign country because he got a job there isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is. But also legally: the way the visa  situation works, M is here by what is known as an employment pass, while I am here as his dependent. The paperwork included going to the NZ High Commission to write signed statements, witnessed by an official, about how long we’ve had joint bank accounts and the like. We are officially recognised in Singapore as having a common-law marriage, and it’s what allows me to stay here with him.

It gets worse. For years we’ve had the habit of referring to each other as each other’s partner, but here in Asia, a lot of people don’t get that. And most people I’ve come across really don’t get living together before marriage.  Seriously, the number of times I’ve had to explain that we’re not married, but we live together, but it’s like being married, and actually, this is very common in NZ and it would be unusual not to live together first. So for the almost two years we’ve been living here, we’ve gotten used to just calling each other husband and wife when talking to locals. Makes conversation with a chatty cab driver that much simpler.

So why are we even getting married, when it doesn’t really change much? Well, for one, its going to be a bit more convenient to actually have a marriage certificate instead of having to prove our commitment in other ways. But for us, getting married, or more accurately, having a wedding, is not about the legal stuff at all. We’re doing it for two main reasons:

1. Making explicit all the implicit promises that we have already made to each other, and doing it in a way that our community recognises. I hate to be quoting Sex and The City, but Miranda put it perfectly, in the episode where she marries Steve: “I do actually wanna say those vows, out loud, to Steve. In front of the people I care about”

2. Acknowledging, along with our family and friends, that loving each other so much that we want to share the entire rest if our lives together, is awesome. We’ve been lucky enough to find our person, and that’s amazing, frankly, even if it is a miracle that happens to lots of people. It’s worthy of a big-ass celebration.

So once I figured out that the legal part of this wedding will be much easier to handle in Singapore than in Indonesia (for starters, Singaporeans use English), we made the decision to get the meaningless, five minute, registry office ceremony done a few days before the emotional, poignant readings, personalized vows, ring exchange ceremony at the resort.

My intention was to approach the legal thing as much like paperwork formality as possible – we’d show up in whatever we were wearing that day, sign what we needed to sign, and be done. But, it turns out, we need two witnesses. And there’s a dress code. The info online literally specifies that shorts and flip flops aren’t appropriate. What up, we live in those things.

So that means my man can wear his office wear, and I…well, I don’t look my best in my formal office wear. The thing is, for men, formal professional wear and formal social wear are the same thing. For women, they are kind of vastly different. Miss Manners discusses this issue here. And since our legal ceremony will be socially formal, and not professionally formal, I was instantly launched into fashion fantasies of a Kate Middleton-like nature.

Which brings me to this dress. I won’t bore you with listing the ways it is perfection, I’ll just let you see for yourself:

Karen Millen, I salute you.

I tend to be uber fussy, I mean discerning, about my clothes, but this one is hitting so many nails on so many heads, that when it comes to this dress, I just can’t. I just can’t not obsess over it. 

You complete me.

The only nailhead it doesn’t hit is the price.

Don’t speak. I know just what you’re saying.

You’re saying, “Lindsay, I thought this was a frugal wedding, you sell out.”

Yeah, the dress is over SG$500, and that’s not even addressing the shoe issue. So here’s the deal: it’s not coming out of my wedding budget, it’s coming out of my everyday budget. Plus I can totally wear it again. Right?! Also, you know how I just said my taste is very discerning? When my local friends just read that, they were all surprised and thought about how my ubiquitous plain t-shirt with denim shorts does not exactly reflect a keen sartorial eye. Here’s the sad truth: I’m so damn fussy about clothes, that I almost never find something that fits the bill, and hence I almost never buy new stuff, and hence, I mostly wear pretty old things that were acquired as gifts, or purchased in the days before my fussiness went stratospheric. The upshot is, I spend so little on clothes, that I can actually justify this.

Then there’s the witnesses issue for the legal ceremony. M wants his brother to be his, and I would like my mother to be mine. But since I’m all dressed up and such, and all our immediate family members will be in town, it doesn’t seem right to leave them out. We’re allowed to bring up to 20 guests to the registry office. So we’re going have all our immediate family come. And since we’re doing that, well, maybe we should all go to TWG afterwards and drink champagne and eat a macaroon or two.

Suddenly, it appears I’m having two weddings. But I don’t want to look at it like that. I still consider our non-legal ceremony on the beach to be our real wedding, the one that’s important. Now we just also have a fancy family morning tea to go with it. And the fact that I get to have both beach party princess, and elegant urbanite dresses, well, I’m not too sad about that.

*Yes, check at. That’s how we spoke where I grew up, mmkay?


10 responses to “Purpose of weddings: It’s not about the legalities

  1. Pingback: It's The Bride In Me – Purpose of weddings: It's not about the legalities | Frugal Wedding

  2. LOVE that dress! And that’s definitely a new way of looking at the legalities – could solve many problems!

  3. The dress is divine. I love it, lace and all.
    Frugal weddings are fine and all but a touch of something divine that costs more than you would put in a frugal wedding will become something memorable too. It’s the balancing act between saving on things that you can really do without and splurging on something that will mean something to you. I designed my own red wedding dress, spent $1800 on it and wore it on another 5 occasions to formal balls thereafter (making it $300 per wear). To me that was money well spent. So go and splurge. It is a classy dress that can be worn to other formal occasions or cocktail parties. By the time I get back, I hope to see it in your cupboard.

    • Thanks Silv, that was just what I needed to hear. The shop called me back to say they have it my size, so yes, it will be in my cupboard when you get back 🙂

  4. THE DRESS!!! I love the dress, and I am very happy you get to wear that dress AND your beach party princess garb. Keep in mind, you’re having two celebrations, not quite two weddings. And the more celebrations, the better.

    Very interesting on the legalities over there, and the social differences in Singapore. Living together is very common in the US, though not with the uber-religious conservative set (the vocal minority).

  5. That dress is smoking hot while still being really occasion appropriate and re-wearable. Nicely Done!

    We ended up having a somewhat impromptu civil ceremony immediately after becoming engaged for legal reasons, and then almost a year later had our international ceremony, and then six months after that had our local wedding. Even though in retrospect we probably could have waited to have our legal wedding, I am so glad that went to beautiful city hall and knew that it all worked out instead of trying to make sure our wedding in another country would actual be legal. I personally believe that all weddings (for ALL adult couples who seek marriage) should occur in a government building as recognition of the civil rights their marriage bestows. Then people can have whatever spiritual/community event they want to celebrate their marriage. Being a secularist, it seems so strange to me that a religious officiant can legally sanction a civil contract instead of just recognizing a spiritual commitment.

    So, to sum it up, a marriage is a legal (or should be legal for all couples) civil agreement between two people and a wedding is a community celebration of the commitment two people are making based on their personal belief system and philosophies. Some people might not understand or give you a hard time, but what you are doing is very smart and will allow you to really enjoy your Indonesian wedding as a celebration of you as a couple and your community of friends and family.

    • Thank you Erin! You know, I always freaking love your comments. I wish you had a blog.

      But yeah, I 100% agree with you about the roles of government versus spiritual leaders.

      Actually, I think a legal union, that allows two people to become each others’ next of kin and to share assets, should be something that any two adults can do, including say, two siblings, or a parent and their adult child, or just two best friends. Why does this legal agreement have to have anything to do with a sexual relationship? Let the government unite any two people who want to be united. We don’t even have to call it marriage. Then each church or other religious institution can still have their own non-legal ceremonies and call it what they will. I think this would also handily side-step the issue of institutions that are opposed to same-sex marriage.

  6. So….. have you got the dress yet? It is GORGEOUS!!!!!!

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