Sequel Wedding Etiquette Rules for Couples and Guests to Know

How to navigate hosting or attending a second wedding.

couple making entrance at sequel wedding

Photo by Olivia Leigh Photographie

Second time's the charm? If the rise of sequel trends is any indication, it’s a resounding yes. Over the past two years, many couples were forced to slash their guest lists and pivot to micro weddings due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But, as cases continue to decline and the CDC loosens its restrictions on large-scale events, some newlyweds are eager to throw the party they intended. Enter the sequel wedding.

“It’s what we used to see many years ago when couples would elope, come back, and celebrate their union,” explains Elaine Swann, a former wedding coordinator-turned-etiquette expert. “We’re seeing that on hyper-speed now because [couples] still have friends or family members they want to celebrate their [marriage] with.”

Though sequel weddings aren’t exactly a new phenomenon, the way they coincide with today’s modern etiquette can feel a tad confusing. How long can couples wait until they host their sequel wedding? What’s the expectation for guests who were invited to both? And, how should a sequel wedding be factored into a schedule of non-stop nuptials? Fortunately, Swann’s here to share the etiquette do’s and don’ts of a sequel wedding.

Couples: Do Get Creative

Unlike your first nuptials—which are often packed with tradition—a sequel wedding gives you the flexibility to have an event that speaks to you as a couple. “For example, [you can have] a dessert party because your goal is to get folks together to celebrate your union that already took place,” Swann says. “You're already a couple. This is not something that's new. They're just celebrating.” 

Regardless of what type of event you have, a sequel wedding isn’t exactly cheap. If you want to throw a great party without breaking your budget, Swann recommends thinking about why you’re throwing a sequel wedding in the first place. “You make your decision based on your intention,” she explains. “If you want a really opulent sit-down dinner, this is when we think about if it’s just parents, grandparents, and siblings. Or, if you want a reunion with your college buddies and so forth, you’re going to look toward that larger-scale event.”

Speaking of which, you don’t have to invite everyone you know to your sequel wedding. Instead, Swann says to treat this guest list just as you would a traditional wedding. “I always like to refer to what I call the onion method,” she shares. “If you think about an onion, you have the core of the onion, which is at the very center, and there are rings going outwards. Start at your core and think about those people who are closest to you. Then, you can work your way outwards.” 

Don’t Wait Too Long

Want to throw a sequel wedding? Great, but the clock is ticking. “In normal times, a sequel wedding should happen within one year,” Swann says. “I wouldn’t go beyond that because that becomes an anniversary party, which has a whole other meaning.” But, while that 12-month mark is typically the sweet spot, the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly made it difficult to adhere to that timeline. Fortunately, Swann says that it’s totally permissible to throw a sequel wedding a little later in these less-than-normal times.

Do Follow Basic Etiquette Protocol

So, how do the etiquette rules for a sequel wedding differ from a traditional, first-time wedding? The answer: they don’t. “Treat this occasion the same way you would a real wedding,” Swann says. “You are inviting someone to a celebration you’re hosting—and therein lies the exact definition of hosting.”

Whether you’re having a formal dinner or a fun, pulse-pumping dance party, it’s important to make your guests feel welcomed to your event. (Translation? You’ll still need to create a formal guest list, send out invitations, and create a wedding website to stay in the loop.)

Of course, couples aren’t the only ones who are encouraged to follow the same protocol. Swann says that guests should be following proper etiquette, too. From RSVPing in a timely manner to buying the happy twosome a present, it’s important to enter a sequel wedding with the same enthusiasm and poise as a first-time wedding. (After all, any type of wedding is a joyous occasion.) The only exception, Swann says, is if you gave the couple a gift during their original nuptials. “Etiquette would dictate that you’re not required to give a second gift for the second time around,” she says.

Guests: Don’t Be Bitter

Though being invited to any type of wedding is an honor, some people might feel a little bitterness about being a second-round guest. (If you weren’t close enough to get an original invitation, why spend all this time and money attending a second batch of “I do’s?”) While nobody wants to feel like a runner-up friend or family member, Swann says resentment has no place at a sequel wedding.

“If there are any frustrations or inhibitions you have about not being invited the first time around, don’t go,” she shares. “Send the couple well wishes and keep it stepping because this is supposed to be a joyous occasion.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Do Prioritize Your Social Calendar

Blame it on the wedding boom, but there’s a good chance your schedule is getting packed with weddings. (In fact, it’s very likely you’ll be invited to multiple weddings on the same weekend.) So, where does a sequel wedding factor into the equation? Sure, it may not be the first-time nuptials; however, a sequel wedding is a great time to celebrate a special couple in your life. 

For Swann, it all depends on your schedule, budget, and personal connection to the couples in question. “For example, you might have a dear friend who lives out of town or is hosting a destination wedding, and you have a coworker who is having a local wedding,” she says. “In that case, it might make more sense to spend the money to go to that destination wedding."

But, what’s a person to do if they were invited to the first ceremony, but cannot attend the sequel wedding? Take a deep breath and be upfront with the couple. “There is no guideline to state that you should or should not attend the second time around; it really depends on your own personal life,” Swann shares. “If you choose to opt out, you have the right and privilege to do so.”

Whether you’re a repeat guest or are being included for the very first time, RSVPing no can feel a tad awkward. To navigate this sticky situation with grace, Swann recommends keeping your response short and sweet. “[Tell them] you won't be able to attend this time around, are wishing them all the best, and leave it at that,” she shares. “There's no need to go into a great amount of detail.”

Related Stories