How to Plan a Second Wedding: Tips and Etiquette

second wedding

PHOTO BY MARY MECK WEDDINGS 

Sometimes life happens. It might be that a spouse passes away, that your circumstances change, or that you simply fall out of love and realize that the best decision for both of you is to be happy with other people. And in that way, second marriages can be really special—because it’s a second chance, a new start for happiness.

A lot of the time, the couple will feel more empowered and assured, knowing that they're more comfortable with what they really want. But the tricky part can be how to make the second wedding as special as the first. Often, couples have a lot of questions about a second wedding: Do you still wear white? Can you have another huge party? We're here to answer them all.

Second Wedding Planning Tips

The truth is, your second wedding can be whatever you want it to be—here are some tips to keep in mind.

Make It as Big or as Small as You Want

A lot of second wedding advice tells you to keep a second wedding small and intimate—and if you want to, go for that. Some people don't feel the need to go through all of the fuss a second time. But if you want to have a blow-out bash, then go ahead and have a blowout bash! It's still your wedding, so if you want it to be big and over the top, then go for it. It's totally OK to own your decision to get married again, and the people closest to you should support that.

Rethink Traditional Family Roles

One of the great things about having a second wedding is you'll likely feel freer to mix things up some more, including incorporating your family in new and meaningful ways. So if your father has already walked you down the aisle once, you might want to skip that and opt for a family sand ceremony instead or incorporate some of his favorite music into the festivities. 

If either (or both!) of you have kids, a second wedding offers plenty of opportunities for them to participate in the ceremony. As flower girls, bridesmaids, or young groomsmen, sharing readings during the ceremony, even walking you down the aisle—there are so many ways the two of you can include your children in a heartfelt and meaningful way.

And if one of you has had a spouse pass away, there are a lot of ways to incorporate them into your second marriage—if that feels like the right thing to do. From simple words of remembrance or a blessing by a mutual close friend or family member to including one of their favorite poems or passages in the readings, or having cherished family photos on display—don’t be afraid to include their memory.

Relax Some Formalities 

If you felt more bound to tradition during your first wedding, you may feel that you can inject a bit more personality into the wedding day. You may want to choose a more low-key reception venue, a day-time wedding, or more fun and silly entertainment. Of course, if you'd prefer everything to be more traditional, that’s OK too—what’s so amazing is that the choice is totally yours.

Writing your own vows is a great way to make your second wedding unique and really put your stamp on it.

Consider Your Guests

Depending on which direction you choose to go with your second wedding, you may also want to consider relaxing some of the formalities for the guests, as well. Keep in mind any expectations you placed on them for your last wedding: Destination weddings are a lot of fun, but if guests paid thousands of dollars for a tropical wedding just a few years ago, it might not be fair to have them do it again already. It will feel that much more unique if this wedding doesn’t completely mirror your first wedding, so make sure they're special in their own way.

Wear Anything You Want

You can wear 10 wedding dresses if you want to, and change every hour, on the hour, into one more white and more dramatic than the one before. The point is, the decision is yours. If you feel more comfortable in a pantsuit or more casual wear, that’s great—but if not, then skip them. You’re starting a life with someone and you want to do it authentically—so wear what feels right to you.  

Second Wedding Etiquette

When it comes to second weddings, here are some frequently asked etiquette questions and answers from an expert.

Can We Have a Registry?

You may have heard otherwise, but the answer is actually yes. “Even if you specify that you do not want gifts, there will still be family members or friends who want to buy you something to mark the occasion, so you might as well help them find something you’ll love and use,” says wedding planner Amy Nichols. “Focus on things you really need and want. If you’ve already established a home, skip the basics like bakeware or pots and pans. Use this as a time to select new china, new everyday dishes, or something else that is important to you.”

Meet the Expert

Amy Nichols is a California-based wedding planner with more than a decade of experience and the owner of Amy Nichols Special Events.

Or you can go for an alternative registry, instead. “Sites like Zola allow you to register for experiences or larger-ticket items for ‘group gifting,’ and stores like REI and Home Depot also have registries.” So if you’re in the market for home improvement items or would love new gear for your camping honeymoon, think outside the big box stores.

Can We Ask for Money Instead?

“Whether it is your first wedding or your fourth, you should never ask for money,” says Nichols. “However, there are couples who truly only want to receive money. The best way to get this message across would be by word of mouth, or by using a cash fund registry site.”

Should We Invite Our Exes and Their Families?

“Generally my advice would be no unless situations are such that you are still very friendly and close with your former spouse and/or his or her family members,” says Nichols. “In the event that your second marriage is after the death of your previous spouse, I think inviting your deceased spouse’s family is a very nice gesture. Just know that it might be a hard situation for them and that they may not attend.” Long story short, it depends on the nature of your relationship with your former spouse, as well as how long ago your previous marriage was. “For most couples, I think the answer here would be no,” Nichols concludes.

Can We Have a Wedding Shower or Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties?

This is a trickier one. “In my opinion, if it is the bride's first wedding, yes, you can have a shower or a bachelorette party. If it is the bride's second wedding, in theory, she would already have many of the things ‘needed’ for starting adult life in her own home, such as pots and pans, etc.—which are some of the most common shower gifts,” Nichols explains.

Of course, many couples choose to get new housewares to reflect their new relationship and marriage. “Feel your friends and family out on this one,” says Nichols. “If someone is offering to host a celebration for you and everyone is enthusiastic about the idea, it’s okay to have a shower. I just would recommend keeping the guest list on the smaller side.”

Can We Have a Religious Ceremony?

“This is something you ultimately should decide together as a couple and with your clergy person,” says Nichols. “Every religion is different in terms of what is considered respectful and acceptable when it comes to second marriages.” Know that some faiths may be opposed to having a religious ceremony for your second marriage—and may not allow you to hold the wedding in a house of worship.

Are There Any Wedding Traditions We Should Skip?

This is totally up to you. “Some traditions might be really important to you, like toasts and a first dance,” Nichols says. “Others might feel trite, like a bouquet or garter toss. Include the traditions that feel meaningful to you, and skip the rest.”

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