Second Marriage Etiquette

Remarriage can be a bit daunting when it comes to second wedding etiquette.  Actually, there really is no right or wrong, but there are a few concerns that need to be addressed regarding encore weddings.  We have searched for the best advice we could find and present it below:

Guidelines for a Joyous Encore Wedding:

Keep it simple. Don't let details take over. Why not plan that wedding you really wanted way back when but were under the constraints of what your parents wanted or could afford? And plan together, today's second bride involves the groom and family in the active planning of the wedding and reception.

Do feel free to wear any color dress.  You can wear white whether it’s your second, third, or fourth marriage. But why limit yourself to white or ivory? The most important thing is to pick a style or color that suits your personality, figure, and taking into consideration the theme and location of the wedding.

Make sure all loose ends are tied up. This means making sure all ties, legal, financial and emotional, to your previous marriage have been closed. Engagement and wedding rings can be remade into other pieces of jewelry. Pictures should be saved if there are children involved from previous marriages, but not prominently displayed in your new family room or anywhere the new family gathers.

Do have bridesmaids and wedding attendants if you want, even if they’re the same friends who were present at a previous wedding. Try to be conscious of their financial situation when choosing dresses, tuxes and jewelry for the ceremony.

Be realistic about your budget.  Most couples are likely footing the bill themselves. If you have generous relatives who want to help you out, be gracious and let them!  

Don’t make a big deal over a bridal shower. If your attendants or family insist on throwing you one, keep it simple and small by inviting only the wedding party and your closest friends and loved ones. And let them know gifts are optional. 

Register for gifts if you want, but make it creative. Even if you do not want gifts, many guests will want to give them. Registries are helpful to those trying to select a gift the couple really would like to have. Remember to list items in a range of prices. You can even register with your favorite charity, allowing your guests to make a donation in lieu of giving you a gift.

Find meaningful ways to include the children. Depending on their ages, you can have them serve as attendants, or make them a part of a special ritual at the ceremony, such as lighting a unity candle to symbolize the joining of your two families.

Don’t invite your ex-spouse to the wedding. Though you may still be on good terms, other guests may feel uncomfortable -- especially your new spouse’s family. The focus should be on looking forward, not backward!

For more great ideas and thoughts we recommend the book by Peggy Post,  Wedding Etiquette: The Definitive Guide to Your Wedding Experience


Your wedding invitations

The rules for invitations are a little different the second time around. Make a statement with properly worded invitations that also give a glimpse of your wedding style.

Like most couples getting married for the second time, you can send invites directly from yourselves -- especially since, chances are, you’ll be paying for the event (in which case, you’re also the hosts). Keep the wording simple or preface the date, time, and location with a favorite verse or poem.

Second wedding questions and answers

When the bride, groom, or both have been married before, working through the usual wedding-planning process can lead to etiquette roadblocks. Couples who are planning a second wedding have to consider things that first-timers tend not to have on their radar. Here are some of the most commonly posed questions surrounding second weddings, and how to properly address them:

Q: Should an ex-spouse be notified?

A: Yes, they should. If a man or woman is engaged again, it's common courtesy to pick up the phone and let the ex know as soon as possible. Better the news come from you than secondhand. Doing so is particularly important when there are children involved. It's generally not a good idea to tell your ex and your kids at the same time. Chances are you have a much better relationship with your children, and it’s better to break the news to them individually. Older children will likely handle the news better, but either way, the bride or groom should tell them privately in their own special way.

Q: Can a bride wear white again? And can her father walk her down the aisle?

A: Of course! The wedding day is supposed to be about what the bride and groom want, and that only. There are no set rules as to what a bride, at any age, should wear as she journeys down the aisle, and the same goes for who she takes those steps with. If she wants to wear a white dress or ask her father to escort her, she's well within her rights, and these days, with more and more traditional wedding etiquette rules becoming ancient history, doing so is far more commonly accepted.

Q: If the bride or groom has children from another relationship should they be involved in the planning process?

A: Remarriage often means the start of a new family structure within one that already exists. This can be a difficult (and often unwelcome) challenge for a child or young adult. Involving them in the planning process and final decisions will serve two purposes: They'll be able to warm up to the situation over time, versus dealing with it abruptly around the wedding day. They'll also have a chance to speak up about aspects of the ceremony or reception that might make them feel uncomfortable. If a child doesn't show interest in helping to plan the wedding, hold off for a little while, then try to revisit the idea. Their immediate rejection of the union can be a common reaction, but in many cases it will fade over time.

Q: Is it wrong for the bride or groom to enlist the financial help of a parent?

A: Couples who are remarrying are usually older, and therefore more financially independent. This means that they're far less likely to need their parents to provide financial support for the wedding. That said, parents tend to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when their child is getting married and they often want to help out in some way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting their offerings.

Q: Is it considered improper etiquette to set up a registry for a second wedding? And what if the first wedding wasn't so long ago?

A: No, not at all. Wedding gifts are given as a congratulatory gesture. Every new marriage represents the fresh start of a new life together -- it’s a time to celebrate. Guests will want to share the new bride and groom's joy by offering something for them to take with them into this new life. Setting up a registry allows friends and family a chance to give the couple something they’ll truly appreciate. Even if a prior marriage for one or both was more recent, a newly engaged couple should never feel guilt over setting up another registry.

-- Charli Penn