Second Weddings: Myths and Facts

My sister-in-law is engaged to be married and she has been married once before, which got me to thinking about second weddings. And third weddings and fourth weddings, all of which my very own father has had. It’s a very interesting topic and one I’m rather familiar with, having been to second weddings that were nothing more than a recitation of vows with the requisite number of witnesses present and second weddings that included white wedding dresses, tiered cakes, and all of the other accessories one associates with the traditional wedding.

As divorce and remarriage (due to divorce or the death of a spouse) become more common, I think we’re going to see less of the former second weddings and more of the latter second weddings. The “rules” surrounding second weddings have been relaxed, if in fact they even exist at all anymore. Still, there remain many myths about second weddings floating around that cause second-time brides and second-time grooms no end of anxiety. Imagine trying to plan a wedding and thinking that all of the things you truly want are verboten! Tragic, no? So let’s clear a few things up just in case any of the above applies to our readers.

second wedding

Myth: Second-time brides and grooms shouldn’t have big and/or formal wedding ceremonies.

And why not? Divorce isn’t something people whisper about anymore — remarrying is nothing to be ashamed of and should be celebrated. Plus, as was mentioned in the comments, divorce isn’t the only reason people remarry… widows and widowers deserve nice weddings! Consider, too, that those vocally opposed to grand second weddings tend to forget that the other member of the marrying couple may never have been married before. Perhaps the bride or groom who has never before been married has been dreaming of an absolutely huge do. How mean to deny it. Note: The same applies for wedding receptions.

Myth: No toasting at the rehearsal dinner or at the wedding for second-time brides and grooms.

I’m not sure where this myth even got started, but anyone who wants to make a toast should feel free to make a toast as long as they’re not in, say, a library or an operating theatre. Wedding attendants, guests, and the parents of the happy couple may be happy and excited and want to say a few words. Besides, how exactly do you specify “no toasts”?

Myth: Second weddings cannot be held in a church or other house of worship.

While many second-time brides and second-time grooms opt for civil ceremonies or ceremonies more spiritual than overtly religious, the only rules they must abide by in this area are those put forth by the religious institution of their choosing. Some religions don’t allow second weddings, others frown upon them, some will make brides and grooms jump through hoops before allowing second weddings, and others are more than happy to marry second-time brides and second-time grooms. Check with your house of worship, and proceed accordingly.

Myth: Second-time brides can’t have bridesmaids, and second-time grooms can’t have groomsmen.

One hopes that close friends will remain close after a divorce, so why wouldn’t those friends want to support the bride or groom when they’ve hopefully found their true life partner? There’s no rule stating that you can’t have attendants at a second wedding.

Myth: The bride can’t wear white when the wedding taking place is her second (or third or fourth or fifth).

This one has always stymied me. I’d like to ask those who point to the dubious association between white and sexual purity if they really think that most of the first-time brides they know actually walk down the aisle as virgins. While white carries society and cultural connotations, it is still just a color. Some people look great in white. Really beautiful colored wedding dresses aren’t always easy to find. Brides who want to wear white should wear white.

Myth: Second-time brides must wear a bridal suit or a simple dress, never, ever a gown.

Some second-time brides wore elaborate wedding gowns at their first weddings and might opt for something simpler and more mature because something simpler happens to suit their tastes. Other second-time brides never got to wear fairytale wedding dresses the first go around and want to finally have their dream weddings. Still others love princessy, poufy wedding dresses. Brides should wear what they love, not what old cluckers tell them to wear.

Myth: Second-time brides and second-time grooms should specify “no gifts” on all wedding correspondence.

Besides the fact that this is in poor taste to begin with, it’s simply not true. Gift giving, as always, is at the discretion of the wedding guests. Some guests will give gifts, others won’t. And speaking of wedding gifts, there’s nothing that says second-time brides can’t create a gift registry, though some people recommend making it more creative than domestic since it’s likely that the couple already has a well-stocked home.

Those, I think, are the biggies, but there are others like no showers… but the bride and groom have little influence over whether someone surprises them with a shower or other pre-wedding party, so that’s right out. Many people will tell you that you absolutely cannot invite ex-spouses or ex-in-laws, but sometimes people have divorced amicably and they should be free to invite who they care for.

Can you think of any others?

8 Responses to “Second Weddings: Myths and Facts”

  1. Shelly says:

    Thanks for this post! I’m actually planning my second wedding and I’m pretty much doing whatever I darn well please. 🙂 My fiance has never been married and I want to plan a wedding that he will love- which means that it will be a little larger and fancier than I consider ideal, but I am very comfortable compromising in this area. As for a ceremony, I plan to have a brief one in the same venue as the reception, but that’s more a point of convenience than anything else- I don’t want my guests to have to find parking at two different places in my city! I will probably have a white or ivory dress because it is hard to find dresses that look suitable for a wedding that are not white, but I am describing my dream dress as “the exact opposite of the poofy princess dress, and also maybe short.” 🙂
    The only thing has thus far bothered me is my parents rather bluntly telling me that since they’ve already paid for a wedding, they “don’t have to” pay for a second one. I hadn’t asked them to pay for my wedding (and had no intention of asking them) when they said this. I was like “That’s fine, but it’s not like I intended for my first marriage to end!” The way they said it just sounded very blame-y, if that makes sense. (And my first marriage ended under really upsetting circumstances that were in no way my fault, so it’s doubly hurtful.)
    On the other hand, them not paying has been a godsend it terms of guest list management.
    Mom: “Can I invite so and so’s second cousin’s twice removed best friend?”
    Me: “You can’t invite anyone. You’re not paying for the wedding.” >=)
    I do then go on to say that I will look at my budget and consider whether or not I can invite that person. I’m not completely heartless. 🙂

  2. kate says:

    thank you thank you thank you for this post. particularly for pointing out that it may be the other party’s first wedding. I had my second wedding last year, but it was my now-husband’s first (only! 🙂 ). If there were grumbles about too big of a to-do for a second wedding, they fortunately never reached my ears. I wore a somewhat poofy white gown, altho I did draw the line at a veil. that seemed to scream “virgin” more than i was comfortable with.
    i think you hit all the big points, tho.

  3. Twistie says:

    It’s a little-known fact that I am, in fact, Mr. Twistie’s second wife. Of course, the old rules about no white, no attendants, etc. pertained more to a second time bride than groom. Back then, the groom was expected to attend the wedding ‘appropriate’ to his wife’s circumstances.

    Oh, and like NtB, I have never heard the ‘nobody may toast’ thing. I also agree (as does Miss Manners, et al) that writing ‘no gifts’ on any wedding stationery is the height of crassness. It assumes that people will give gifts to begin with, which is never a polite assumption. Any information about what gifts might be appreciated or that they won’t be appreciated at all is properly spread via word of mouth.

    Most of the rules about what’s appropriate for a second time bride went flying out the window about forty years ago. These days it’s about celebrating rather than slinking to the altar. My feeling is that a wedding is (and ought to be) a joyful celebration. If your idea of celebrating happens to include a pouffy dress and a bevy of bridesmaids, I say go for it.

  4. La BellaDonna says:

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve hated the way that some people seemed really eager to find ways in which to curtail other people’s joy and celebration. Because a second wedding is SHAMEFUL! Shame, shame, SHAME! Ugh. How many of us got married expecting it to fail? I gave mine a twenty-five-year effort; if I should unexpectedly find someone who actually loves me, why wouldn’t that be deserving of celebration? I’d like to think that the days of telling twenty-two-year-old widows that they “can’t” wear a veil or a white dress for a second wedding are over.

    Shelly, if you go to NtB’s post a few days back (the post showing short white wedding dresses), in the comments, I listed a number of websites that carry reproduction vintage and/or short wedding dresses. If you’re looking for a sleeker silhouette than the princess type, you might find a 30s or 40s reproduction dress to your taste.

  5. Shelly says:

    Thank you, La BellaDonna, I will check out your links!

    In a way, I feel more celebratory about this wedding than my first one. I feel intensely grateful to have found love after heartbreak, and in my mind, I think it’s an even more serious thing to give yourself over to love and marriage a second time, knowing how much it can hurt you if it doesn’t work out. I think it takes so much more vulnerability and trust- but being lucky enough to have found someone worthy of that much trust makes me so very happy. 🙂

  6. Julie says:

    Also, anytime people talk about second weddings, they seem to assume divorce. I’m currently helping my father plan his second wedding after the death of my mother several years ago. Why is there still this feeling that this wedding is less-than when absolutely no one I know of would find the marriage “wrong”?

  7. tba says:

    Precisely. Who am I to criticize eternal wedding bliss that will end up in another divorce 5 years down the road? Go big or go home.

  8. Melesha says:

    I know I had more money for my second wedding than my first. So it was much nicer.