My son walked me down the aisle and the three of us exchanged vows, promising to be family forever, while my little son did somersaults in my belly. It was a perfect day.
In the winter of 2010, two days before Christmas, the love of my life asked me to be his wife. Over the holidays, as we shared the news with our families, we had another bomb to drop on them: I was pregnant.
The first real step when you find yourself pregnant and engaged is to determine if you are going to have the wedding ASAP or wait until after the baby is born.
In today’s world, our ideal of a wedding is still two glowing young people — one in a poufy white dress — pledging their lifelong devotion to each other before their lives have even started. Clearly, a blushing bride I was not. Not only was I pregnant, but we were blending our family, as I already had a seven year old son from my first marriage. As Miranda memorably said on Sex and the City: “I’m not a virgin, I have a child. The jig is up!” My pregnancy meant that my husband-to-be and I had to throw out the old rules on what our wedding would look like and determine for ourselves how we would celebrate the start of our marriage.
The first real step when you find yourself pregnant and engaged is to determine if you are going to have the wedding ASAP or wait until after the baby is born. I think that it is important to state from the get go that this is purely a personal choice. There isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some brides want to wait until they’ve given birth and their body is back in great shape before they walk down the aisle. I, personally, have been at least chubby, if not full on fat, every day of my life, so I was going to be a round bride regardless and this sticking point didn’t matter much to me. And I’m not much of a drinker or partier, so the idea of missing a wild bachelorette party wasn’t something I was concerned about either.
Some people feel pressured to hurry up and get married as soon as possible so as to not upset their conservative family members. This didn’t really weigh on my decision. I was 29 when we got engaged. I lived on my own, had graduated from college (twice) and had a job with good insurance. Nobody from MTV was coming to cast me for the new season of 16 and Pregnant. If any of our relatives were clutching their pearls over the tenant renting space in my uterus, they kept it to themselves.
We chose to get married as soon as possible mostly for logistical reasons. I’m a fan of keeping things simple and the truth is, if you are having a baby with someone you aren’t married to, there are more legal hoops to jump through. It’s not impossible by any means, but for me, it was just easier to be married. It also had a lot to do with my doctor’s office – stupid, but true. In their office, they could classify you one of two ways: single or married. Since I wasn’t married, I was single, which meant the office kept sending me helpful brochures on being a single parent, and even though my fiancé came to every single appointment, each time a medical person came into the room, they’d look at Joe quizzically and say, “and you are…” Somehow, after we got married, that big question mark in my medical records magically turned into, “Joseph Dean: husband.” Additionally, it bugged me that on all my sonogram pictures of our new baby, my name plastered across the top said, “Halley Bullock-Hines.” Bullock-Hines was the last name that my ex-husband was kind enough to give me for a few years, but I didn’t like that Joe had to look at pictures of his baby and see my ex’s name on them.
And so the wedding planning began.
My first wedding was a big, expensive, princess wedding, and I remember thinking at the end of the night that we should have just gone to Vegas.
I should mention that I think weddings are a dumb stressful waste of money. I also happen to think that the wedding industry (which generates millions, if not billions, of dollars annually) is responsible for a good number of the divorces in this country. When little girls grow up flipping through wedding magazines and looking at giant rings and wondering when their turn will come to Say Yes To The Dress, it can become sort of an “insert groom here” situation. Remember when Kim Kardashian married Kris Humphries and she and her mother planned this huge multi-million dollar wedding where he was given no input, and the day before, they realized that though they’d hired a fleet of Rolls Royces to take Kim and her family to the wedding but forgotten to reserve any for Kris and his family? Insert groom here. I’m just saying, that marriage lasting 72 days was not the shock of my life.
My first wedding was a big, expensive, princess wedding, and I remember thinking at the end of the night that we should have just gone to Vegas. The months leading up to my first wedding were a giant ball of stress, not just for me, but for my mom. I’d often get calls at work and barely say hello before I’d hear a crazed woman on the other end of the phone scream, “THERENEEDTOBEMORETABLESNEARTHEDANCEFLOOR!! HOWWILLYOURGRANDPARENTSSEE??” and then she’d hang up just as quickly.
When my sister got married, my mom went to the restaurant where the reception was being held and decorated the tables, including the large topiary centerpieces. When we arrived the next day before the wedding, all the topiaries had died. When I tell you I was pretty sure we were going to have to give mom a low dose of whatever that stuff is that they gave Michael Jackson, and then put her in a dark room for several days after, I am not kidding. I was truly afraid For years afterward, we couldn’t so much as say the word “topiary” without her eye twitching.
I would have been happy to elope. Initially, we considered hopping on a plane somewhere and getting married, just the three of us. I knew I wanted my seven year old son, Lucas, to be present but beyond that, I was fine with it not being any kind of production. But even that quickly became too complicated. Unless we wanted to share our honeymoon with a first grader, we’d need to bring someone to watch him. Who to bring? My mom? How would we invite her and not my dad? If my family was going to be there, we really needed to invite Joe’s too. It just spiraled from there.
One of the benefits of being a pregnant bride, at least for me, was that I cared about very little, and no one argued with me. We decided to have a small wedding in Kansas City where we live. I knew that I wanted to get married on a weekday. Not only is it really fun to feel like you are sneaking off from the world to have this incredibly special day, but everything is way, way cheaper. Just mentioning the word “wedding” drives up the price, but who gets married on a Wednesday? No one. People are excited to rent their venues and services on days that they don’t normally, so you get most things for a small fraction of what they would cost on a Friday or Saturday night. I’m a big fan. If anyone started to look at me sideways regarding my weekday wedding request, I would simply state, “I’m pregnant and I don’t want to discuss it.” Boom. Magic words. Keep the pregnant lady happy and no one gets hurt.
One of the most surreal experiences for me was wedding dress shopping. I really felt like I did not want to get married in a typical white wedding dress. I went to every formal dress store in the metro area and tried on dresses of every color and shape. Dress shopping pregnant is logistically harder than when you aren’t pregnant because you just don’t know what your body is going to do. With my first pregnancy, I didn’t wear maternity clothes or even really show until well into my third trimester . The first time you are pregnant, those abdominal muscles really hang on for dear life, but once they wave the white flag, there’s no going back. With subsequent pregnancies, it happens much sooner. By 12 weeks into my second pregnancy, I was as big and round as I was the day I delivered my first baby. In 2014, when I was pregnant for the third and final time, I took the pregnancy test, watched it turn positive, and then immediately went to my closet and pulled on maternity pants. This is to say that wedding dress shopping with the beginnings of a pregnant belly complicated matters slightly.
I was four months pregnant when we got married. I was right in that weird spot between being very obviously pregnant and just being unfortunately misshapen. When I finally gave up on my search for a non-wedding wedding dress and made an appointment at an actual bridal salon, the Russian woman who was assisting me kept pushing on my stomach and saying, “You wear corset.” I didn’t want to wear a corset. Most days I didn’t really want to wear pants. Any kind of shapewear was totally out of the question. I must have tried on every dress in the store. I was avoiding the last dress because it was really expensive. (Ugh! Weddings!) About four times as much as the dress I wore to my first wedding, and I could tell just looking at it on the hanger that it was going to look amazing on me. When I put it on, it was like it was made specifically for me. It required no alterations and was actually really comfortable around my belly. My friends were misty eyed at the sight of me glowing in my wedding gown, but I was mostly just annoyed by the price. I scribbled my signature onto my check with a scowl on my face, but no one said a word to me about it. A lot of times when a woman isn’t actively smiling, some well-meaning dummy will tell her to smile. If someone had told me to smile then, I probably would have punched them, but no one did, because most people are wise enough (or scared enough) to not ask pregnant ladies about their mood swings. This is another bonus to being a pregnant bride!
As I mentioned earlier, being pregnant brought me an interesting mix of total apathy and completely wanting my own way. Without fail, I got both. I wanted a Chinese food buffet at the reception. Done. I did not care at all about almost anything else. I turned most of the planning over to my mom and sister and just showed up at the church the day of the wedding. Even though I think weddings are dumb, I also strangely really love going to them. I have to say, my family planned the most beautiful little wedding on a Wednesday afternoon, with crab Rangoon at the reception. It was literally the best. My son walked me down the aisle and the three of us exchanged vows, promising to be family forever, while my little son did somersaults in my belly. It was a perfect day.
Yoda once said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I think that applies to so many things in our lives. Do be a pregnant bride or don’t be. There isn’t a right answer except for what makes sense to you. No matter when your wedding day is, a million things will go wrong. All of these things are meaningless. If, at the end of your wedding day, you are married, the day has been a success. All of the outside voices and opinions really are meaningless. What is important is that you and the person you marry celebrate in a way that is meaningful to you. A wedding is one day, but a marriage, if you do it right, is forever. I knew I was marrying a man who loved God and me, my son, and our son-to-be, and that as long as we kept that as the focus, even if all the topiaries in the world died, everything was going to be alright.
Halley Dean lives in Kansas with her husband, three children, and attack cat. By day, she puts her extensive social media stalking skills to use as a the head of her company’s special investigations unit. She is a would be writer and passionate advocate for social justice, particularly as it pertains to issues involving women and children. She has degrees in American History, Organizational Administration, and Communications, but is often unable to locate her car keys.