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The Etiquette of Second Weddings

Words by Elaine Hilbelink
Photos courtesy of Chrisman Studios

Planning a second marriage can present a unique array of etiquette issues. A destination wedding can be the perfect option for couples planning a second wedding or choosing to renew their vows. Here, we cover the basics to get you re-married with ease. 

Q: My fiancé and I are both celebrating our second weddings.  What is the proper number of guests to invite? Is it okay to include in-laws from our previous marriages?

A: The size of your wedding is totally up to you and your fiancé. It can be small and intimate, as many destination weddings are, or you may opt for a larger, more traditional wedding. It can be appropriate to invite in-laws and close family members from your previous marriage – depending upon your relationship with them. If you are widowed, it is likely you are still in close contact with the family of your previous spouse. Inviting a previous spouse would probably present a more awkward situation and should be avoided. However, every situation is different. If all parties involved feel it would be fine, then it most likely would be.

Q: I would like to include my children in my second wedding. They are teenagers, so what is the best role for them to play?

A: Involving all of the children/grandchildren on both sides from your previous marriages is a wonderful way to include them in the start of your new life together as a family. Possible roles family members might play can include junior attendants or ushers, flower girls or ring-bearers, walking you down the aisle, readers or greeters. Giving children choices in what role they would feel comfortable in is important…especially for teens!

Q: Is it appropriate to have a bridal shower for a second wedding? We both have established homes and are doing a destination wedding. Should we accept gifts or other parties outside of the main event?

A: It is perfectly acceptable to have a shower or bridal get-together for your second marriage with your close friends and family. If you both have established homes, themed parties are a nice option. Cooking, gardening and travel are just a few of the themes to consider for a party. You may choose to register for gifts, but it is not necessary. A rule of thumb for gifts and parties might be to not expect, but to accept graciously what is offered. 

Q: Is it appropriate to wear a big white gown for a second wedding? If not, what should I wear?

A: What you choose to wear for your second wedding is dependent upon your age, style and the venue. Veils and trains are not necessarily appropriate for second wedding ceremonies, but your dress may reflect your personal comfort level and preference. You may opt for sophisticated and chic; long or short; or white, pastel or shimmery. The options are endless. 

Q: When having a second wedding, can we still do all of the traditions you would include at a first wedding?

A: You may include customs and traditions typical of first weddings if you choose, but omitting what does not suit your style or destination venue is appropriate. 

Q: My fiancé and I are both widowed, from different countries and planning our wedding. Due to family work, school and sports schedules, it is not feasible to get all of our children together for our ceremony. Any suggestions?

A: You might consider planning a small ceremony with one side and doing a blessing, open house or reception with friends and family on the other side. Make sure both sides know they are welcome to participate in any of the events if their circumstances permit them to travel. Making both sides of the family feel included is important, and depending upon your venue, live video streaming might be an option.

This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Fall/Winter 2015 issue. You can order a copy here.

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