Approximately 35 percent of couples who marry today will divorce, and 75 percent of those who experience a divorce will marry again. In the present day, second marriages are quite common. Second weddings differ from first weddings in feel, in meaning, and in the couple's expectations for the wedding ceremony and experience.
The Uniqueness of Second Weddings
Though many couples who are marrying a second time prefer to have a formal wedding, it is often expected that second weddings will be smaller, less formal, and more creative. The rules of etiquette do not have as tight a hold on second weddings as they used to. Some brides wear white dresses, and some second weddings have as full a wedding party as a first wedding.
Since friends and families don't expect second weddings to be as elaborate as first weddings, make your second wedding your dream wedding. If you held your first wedding at a traditional location because of expectations, this is your chance to get married on a mountain top or the seashore.
Though first marriages in Judaism are traditionally followed by seven days of feasting and special recitation of the sheva berachot, if this is a second marriage for both partners it is followed by only one day of sheva berachot. This is not to say that it is less joyous, rather less communal and more personal.
It is quite common for brides and grooms to pay for a second wedding themselves and to ask guests not to bring gifts. This is especially true if the bride and groom already have the things they need for a home. If, of course, all of your silverware is monogrammed with the initials of your previous spouse, or if you and your new partner are moving into a larger house, you may need to think about restocking. A wedding registry can help you accomplish this.
Financial prenuptial agreements are more common in second marriages than first marriages. This is so because the bride and groom often bring more assets into the marriage and may have children from a previous marriage. Couples that are marrying for the second time can be more set in their way of life and may need to outline certain ground rules, methods of living, and religious observances with each other to be clear on what they need and expect.
Second Marriages after Divorce
If your first marriage ended in divorce, set aside some time to let yourself think before you enter into a second marriage. Honestly evaluate why your first marriage failed and think of how to avoid something similar this second time around.
Usually a bad marriage is not one person's “fault.” The responsibility belongs to both partners. Before marrying again, ask yourself what you would do differently this time if things were not going well. You might think about turning to counseling with a new spouse earlier, changing your attitude, or laying certain expectations on the table from the beginning. In Judaism, the goal of remarrying is not just to start again but to learn from past challenges and to personally grow from them.
When one partner has been married before and the other has not, the second-timer may want a smaller wedding. He may feel he has already had a big wedding and does not want to repeat the experience, or he may have feelings of hesitation or raw feelings of failure from his previous marriage.
In contrast, the partner who has never been married may desire an all-out shindig and may have lots of exciting wedding energy. Each party has different expectations and hopes for their mutual wedding celebration. Realizing this can help each partner remember that their fiancé may not be experiencing the wedding preparations in exactly the same way. A conversation about the way in which this experience is different for you both can help make your wedding suit you both.
Second Marriages after the Death of a Spouse
Surviving spouses sometimes experience a sense of guilt at the prospect of remarrying. In truth, marrying a second time demonstrates that the first marriage was a good one since you desire to be married once again. Of course, your former spouse is always there in spirit and it can be comforting to think he would have approved of your new prospect.
Judaism teaches that after a sufficient mourning period, usually one year, life should go on. Holding onto valued memories as you embark a new road is difficult, but it can be seen as a tribute to your spouse and everything she taught you about relationships and the world. If she loved you, she would probably want you to live in joy and not to be alone. It is also important to remember that Judaism counts marriage, whether a first marriage or a subsequent one, as a mitzvah. Thus, remarrying is not forsaking your former spouse but a divinely ordained obligation.
Tension can arise if one partner's former spouse passed away and the other partner divorced. The divorced partner can feel that the end to her previous marriage was not as dignified as her fiancé's. Couples must bring any such underlying feelings out into the open so that these issues cannot undermine the second marriage.
Your departed spouse was dear to you and so his memory must be honored, but at the same time the person you are about to marry is worthy of your full love and attention. This may be hard for both partners, but — especially if there are children involved — it is vital that this balance of memory and moving on coexist.