The do's and don'ts of second weddings, an etiquette guide

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So you're getting remarried. Congratulations! You have so much to look forward to in planning your big day. Dress shopping, picking a wedding menu, partying with your loved ones... But with all the love and joy that comes with weddings, there's also a lot of stress. You might be feeling some extra pressure because this is your second wedding, not your first. How many things should you expect to change?

Don't worry too much. Wedding etiquette has changed a lot in the past couple decades, and in today's day and age, second weddings are quite common. The stigma around divorce is (hopefully) fading and people are embarking on new phases of their lives at all ages. But navigating all the politics and family dynamics can still get complicated. You don't want to be rude unintentionally or make any missteps - people could get offended or harbor bitter feelings about what's supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. Some wedding stresses are out of your control. But here's a list of some do's and don'ts for your second wedding.

Do: Throw the wedding party of your dreams

Don't let people tell you that you have to have a small party just because it's your second wedding. You can throw whatever party you want. It's your wedding! If you prefer a smaller ceremony, keep it small. If you'd love to host an extravagant event at a gorgeous venue, go for it.


Do: Have bridesmaids and groomsmen

If you want to have bridesmaids and/or groomsmen, go for it. It's not abnormal to have a wedding party at a second wedding. You may not want or expect all the usual attention paid to brides and grooms by your wedding party (your bachelor and bachelorette parties, for instance, may be more on the mature side), but that doesn't mean you can't have your best friends by your side on your big day. Even if they were a bridesmaid or groomsman for your first wedding, they'll probably be honored to help you celebrate the second time around. That being said, you don't need to have a wedding party if you don't want to. Someone will need to witness your signing of your marriage license, but you can have anyone fill in to be present for that.


Do: Have a wedding shower

A wedding shower is a fun way to celebrate with some of the people you love most. If your friends and family offer to throw you one, why not accept? It doesn't have to be extravagant, but it's a great way to commemorate this important life event. Plus, it's an opportunity to introduce the parents of the bride and groom in a setting where there isn't a ton of pressure.


Do: Create a gift registry

Some people neglect to create a gift registry because they feel they shouldn't ask for gifts at a second wedding. But some people might want to give you a gift, and your registry can be a helpful resource for these guests. Some couples who have been previously married may not need the same items as a younger newlywed couple, so you may prefer to get more creative with the gifts you ask for. You may fundraise for a honeymoon, for example, or raise money for charity. Additionally, if you do register, make sure to include a variety of options with a broad price range. Some guests may feel that they have already given you a gift or may not have the same funds available to give something larger.


Do: Walk down the aisle with whoever you want

It's a common myth that you can't have your father walk you down the aisle for your second wedding. If you want your father to give you away, there's no reason not to ask him! Some people prefer to be walked down the aisle by another family member or father figure. Others prefer to walk down the aisle alone to symbolize independence. There's really no wrong choice here.


Do: Tell your children first

If you have children, make sure to have a conversation with them about your upcoming wedding - preferably before the big day. While some lies are OK to tell kids, this one's a big no-no. New marriages are a lot for kids to process, no matter if they're 5 years old or 18. Ask them how they're feeling, let them know what to expect and let them know that you're there for them if they ever want to talk. Some people even say that your children should be the first people you tell about your engagement, before friends and other family members. You may also want to tell your ex-spouse about the wedding before telling others, especially if they are a parent to your children.


Do: Include your children in the ceremony

If you have children, make a point to include them in the ceremony. Regardless of your children's feelings about your second marriage, making them a part of the ceremony will make them feel loved and special. Give them a part in the ceremony itself or have them greet family members as they arrive.


Do: Talk to your fiance or fiancee about a budget

Just like with a first wedding, you want to sit down with your future spouse and talk through the finances of the event. Are you splurging on a decked-out wedding cake or are you DIYing decorations to save a little cash? How much do each of you envision you'll contribute? Set a budget together and make sure that you stick to it.


Do: Have a rehearsal dinner

Even if your wedding ceremony is informal and might not need rehearsing, it's a good idea to have a rehearsal dinner. For many, this night is an important and enjoyable ritual before the big day. It's also an opportunity to get your family and friends together first and for everyone involved to practice giving the perfect toast. While traditionally the groom's parents would host the dinner, wedding rehearsals for second weddings may be hosted by one of the betrothed instead. 


Do: Take your honeymoon

Though you may have been on a honeymoon with your first spouse, you shouldn't let that stop you from taking a trip with your new one. Escape the bustle of real life for a bit to commemorate your new lives together. If you have children, leave them at home. While it's a great idea to include your children in your wedding ceremony, your honeymoon should be time for you and your spouse to get away alone.


Don't: Let anyone tell you not to wear white

The symbolism behind brides wearing (or not wearing) white is as outdated as Hester Prynne's scarlet letter "A." You're not dethroned from perfection or innocence once you get married. Let's leave that thinking in the past where it belongs and embrace the more progressive relationship norms of the present. Wear white if you want to, wear a different shade if you want to. Wear an embroidered, extravagant princess dress if you want to. Literally no one but the devil may care, so why not adopt that attitude?


Don't: Wear a veil

That being said, while a dress color is more of a personal style preference, a veil isn't. Were it not for the symbolism behind veils, they would never have been at weddings - so it might be a little odd to wear one. A veil is meant to symbolize purity and that the bride is "untouched" before the groom lifts the veil and is wed. In some cases, the groom might not have seen the bride's face at all before the big day. So again, this might feel like an odd concept to want to partake in. However, it's not a disaster if you do want to wear a veil. Do what makes you feel best. Some brides opt for another accessory as an alternative, such as a hat or a tiara.


Don't: Expect your parents to pay

Even some first weddings have ditched this tradition. If your parents volunteer to fund your wedding, it is OK to take them up on the offer. But if they haven't, don't assume that they're covering the cost. Many couples who are older can afford the cost of their weddings themselves. And parents who helped fund a first wedding may not be able to afford a second.


Don't: Assume you can get married in any church

Depending on how strict the religious sect, some religious institutions won't allow second weddings in their halls. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, doesn't recognize divorce. Check with your church or other institution to make sure they honor second weddings before assuming a location.


Don't: Try to downplay the event

Many who are planning a second wedding will try to make it seem like less of a big deal, or feel embarrassed about planning a big soiree. This isn't "just" your second wedding. It's your second wedding! And a second wedding can be just as big a deal as a first. Don't let others pressure you into downplaying how important this is to you.


Don't: Feel pressured to have a big event

That being said, this goes the opposite way, as well. Don't feel like you need to make a big deal out of this event. That goes for first weddings, as well, though it's more common for those having a second wedding to want to keep it low-key. The importance you attribute to your wedding is personal. If you'd rather skip the party and just have a small gathering with a few family members, do that. If you'd rather invite tons of guests to celebrate with you, do that.


Don't: Expect a gift from everyone

While you should graciously accept a gift from anyone who has bought you one, you shouldn't expect that everyone attending will give you a gift. Everyone's personal opinions on second weddings are different and some may feel that they have already done their part by giving you a gift at your first wedding. While this may feel disappointing, don't let it ruin your day. Understand that some people may not arrive bearing gifts for you and your new spouse.


Don't: Mimic your first wedding

Maybe your first wedding was the wedding party of your dreams. It might sound like a good idea to keep all the qualities of your first event since it was such a success, but don't. The second wedding shouldn't remind you of the first one any more than necessary. Create a new vision for your perfect day with your new partner.


Don't: Feel obligated to invite everyone you invited to your first wedding

You're in a new phase of life now and are likely sharing that with different people. Don't feel like just because they were at your first wedding, you need to invite them to this one, too. If you're no longer in touch, it's OK to leave them off the guest list. And if they're offended, remember that it's your event and their feelings about it don't need to dictate what you do.


Don't: Ask for money as a gift

This etiquette rule goes for any wedding. It's tacky to ask for money as a gift. You can use a creative type of registry to ask for donations to a charity or towards a greater purchase such as a mortgage or honeymoon. But don't just ask for cash.


Don't: Follow all the rules

Your first wedding may have stuck to convention like glue, but your second time around really doesn't need to. Keep the wedding traditions that mean the most to you and feel free to ditch the rest. Does it feel silly to throw your bouquet into the crowd of your older peers? Don't do it. Do you still dream about your first dance? Have one. As you get older, following the rules of convention might seem less important. Once you turn 50, here are 50 other rules you should definitely break.

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Wedding Etiquette Isn't What It Used to Be. Here's How It's Changed

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