Life seems to be moving at breakneck speed despite moving to the middle of nowhere. All the paperwork and getting set up with DEERS took weeks longer than anticipated, mainly because the state of Massachusetts “lost” our marriage certificate, leaving us in limbo as to the actual legality of our marriage for most of October. Being unable to access dependent privileges was a huge pain in the ass and involved me being accompanied by my husband whenever I needed something on base, from shopping to attending unit meetings. Additionally, we did not realize that despite being allowed to put our name on a waiting list for base housing 30 days prior to getting married, our names were not activated until I enrolled in DEERS–putting several families ahead of us on the list who had not been waiting as long.
If I had to do it over again, I would have done a legal marriage first (as seems to be extremely common among military couples) and the ceremony later. That way there would have been no gap in my health insurance coverage, our base housing wait would have been activated weeks sooner, and most importantly, we would have had the time to have our marriage certificate in-hand and physically bring it with us to California. If you are moving to another state not within a day’s driving distance or out of country and debating about getting legally married ahead of time, just do it and save yourself the trouble.