Second Weddings

You thought your daughter's first time down the aisle would also be her last, but you were wrong. As if educating yourself on how to run the first wedding wasn't enough, now you're faced with a second wedding, and you have no idea how to handle the particulars. Should the bride have another huge wedding if she wants one? Is it really inappropriate for her to walk down the aisle, to have her dad give her away, for her to wear white?

The Size and Shape of Things

Traditional etiquette states that a second wedding ceremony should be an intimate affair, whether the bride or groom has been widowed or divorced. Where death has ended a union, a small second ceremony shows respect for the dearly departed; when the bride or groom has been divorced, etiquette mavens encourage a quiet second wedding to discourage less-than-kind onlookers from pointing out that one of the interested parties has already broken the very vows that he or she is reciting again.

If your daughter wants another big wedding this time around, chances are her decision will be based on more practical matters (such as money and how many guests she wants to invite) than on the ins and outs of social graces. This is another example of opting for nontraditional practices.

Question

Can a bride wear white to her second wedding?

Traditional etiquette would say no; white is a symbol of purity and is supposed to signify a virgin bride. However, second-time brides are not held to this rigid rule nowadays. Trains are frowned upon at the second wedding (unless a family heirloom or special gift of a veil is given), though; suits, tea-length and floor-length gowns are popular choices.

If the bride has chosen to have a quiet ceremony, she may have only one or two attendants. The bride herself may choose to wear a simple gown or a bridal suit instead of a wedding gown. What will you wear, then? Follow the bride's lead. If she's chosen something knee length and fairly understated, your dress should be even more understated. (In other words, don't try to sneak into the ceremony wearing a floor-length beaded gown while the bride is dressed in a tea-length, off-the-rack dress. Someone is going to notice that you're more done-up than your daughter is.)

Who's Got the Check?

The bride and groom usually pay for a second wedding and list themselves as hosts on the invitations. If you and your husband would like to contribute to the wedding or reception, no one will stop you; however, if your daughter had a big wedding the first time around and you have no intention of handing over one cent for this event, hardly anyone will fault you for that decision (except, perhaps, your daughter).

Don't make the money issue a personal matter between you and the bride. If you thought she made a huge mistake in either marrying or divorcing her first husband, the worst thing you could do right now is to tell her, “I will not pay for your second wedding, because you should have stayed married to Bill in the first place!” She's in a specific position in life; she can't go back in time and change the events that brought her to this point. You don't have to pay for a second wedding, but don't bring her judgment into question now.

The Kids

If your daughter has children, should they be at the second wedding? You want to shield your grandkids from any discomfort, and if the little ones (or not-so-little ones) aren't exactly thrilled about the prospect of acquiring a stepfather, shouldn't they just stay home instead?

Fact

Many brides and grooms include their children in a second wedding ceremony. In addition to making the kids feel important for an afternoon, encouraging the feeling that they're all in this together can go a long way toward easing the transition into being an actual family.

Even if your daughter's children aren't happy about their mom's wedding, they should be there. Her marriage vows will take them into a new reality, whether they like it or not, and the worst way to start off that new life is to boycott this event. Do everything in your power to convince older kids that they should be at the ceremony and reception — because if they're allowed to skip it, everyone is instantly put into an awkward position. Your daughter's husband will feel insulted and/or angry, the kids will instantly be at odds with their new stepfather, and your daughter will be in the middle. There will be lots of time to work out the big issues after the wedding. For now, everyone needs to show support for one another — even if it hurts a little.

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