All About Second Weddings

Bride and groom kissing wedding guests in background
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Planning a second wedding may sometimes feel as though you are walking through an etiquette minefield, and it seems like everyone has an opinion on what is or isn't appropriate: "You shouldn't wear white" or "You shouldn't have such a fancy second wedding" or even, "Eloping is what made the first marriage fail–you have to have a big church wedding this time."

If you're planning a second wedding while trying to sort out etiquette from opinions, here's a guide for everything from what to wear to how to register. Don't worry–you're older, you're wiser, and you've got some experience under your belt–this time should be a snap, right?

Wedding Dresses and Attire

The good news is that the old rule about not wearing white for a second wedding has gone out the window. You can wear whatever color feels and looks good on you. Most brides getting remarried have already had their "princess in a white dress" moment the first time around, and so opt for a more mature look such as a brocade suit or a simple cocktail dress. If you eloped the first time or simply want to have that princess moment again, there's no reason why you shouldn't.

The only hard and fast rule? Don't wear the dress you wore the first time around. While it may be tempting to save money and avoid the stress of dress shopping, wearing your old wedding dress takes the focus off your new marriage. We'd even suggest looking at dresses in a different style, silhouette, or fabric than your first wedding gown to avoid any feelings of fashion déjà vu. Ideas for what to wear to a second wedding include:

  • A designer, non-wedding dress in any color
  • A slightly non-traditional wedding dress in blush, pale blue, or that features a colorful pattern
  • A demure suit in any color
  • A flirty cocktail dress

Announcing Your Engagement to Family

The first people you should tell are your children. You can ask them if they'd rather tell their other parent, or if they prefer that you share the news. If you don't have children, it is certainly not mandatory that you inform your ex-spouse–only tell them if you'd rather they didn't hear it from someone else. Many people find that its easiest to send a letter or email saying "I wanted to share with you the good news that John and I are getting married. I've already told our children, and asked them to be a part of the wedding ceremony." Afterward, announce your engagement regularly.

Involving Children in a Second Wedding

If you have children, you may wish to make them a special part of your second wedding. Depending on their age, they may be a flower girl, ring bearer, junior bridesmaid or groomsman, or even the best man or maid of honor. Perhaps they would like to read something during the ceremony or make a special toast during the reception. Make sure that they are comfortable with their roles. If your children are especially young, you may want to invite their other parent or favorite babysitter to be there.

A popular second wedding trend is to speak a family vow to the children after the bride and groom's vows. For example, "I, (name), solemnly promise that I will care for you, love you and honor you as my own." Some people also give a small medallion or piece of jewelry, saying something like "Take this as a symbol of our family, and our love for you." Other couples instead will simply ask their officiant to bless them and declare them one united family. The unity candle ceremony and other unity ceremonies are perfect for second weddings as well.

Some couples may want to include their children's names on their invitations, as in, "Diane Jones and Mark Smith invite you to join them as they celebrate their wedding, and together with their son Winston Jones, become one family." 

Registering and Wedding Gifts

Rules of etiquette state that gifts are not mandatory for a second wedding. This is because traditionally wedding gifts are to help a couple set up their household, and presumably, second-time brides and grooms already have their households. Gifts are now much more common for a second wedding. You can register just as you did for your first wedding. While you may have many basic home items, you are setting up the house for your new relationship and may want to register for new bedding, dinnerware and other items that reflect your shared tastes.

Bridal Showers

For the same reason that wedding gifts aren't always given, bridal showers for a second-time bride are not always thrown. Your friends may insist on throwing one; if so, look for an unusual theme such as "stock the liquor cabinet" where guests are asked to bring either glassware, bar accessories, or a favorite bottle of liquor. 

Who Pays

The rules on who pays for a wedding aren't the same the second time around. Typically the bride and groom split the costs of a second wedding. Whether or not they contributed to the costs of your first wedding, you shouldn't expect parents or relatives to chip in. If they offer, you may accept their help graciously.