Should There Be a Difference Between a First and Second Wedding?

A bride and groom sitting on a boat.

For many people, getting married for the first time is a truly special occasion, and there is a strong temptation to go all out on the big day. But what about the second or third time around? Should a secondary wedding be less glitz and glam? There are two schools of thought on the topic, and it can help to examine what others think and why. Etiquette says that one should tone it down if it’s not their first marriage ceremony. And quite a lot of previously married couples seem to agree.

However, not all do. No wedding is necessarily more special just because it came first and ultimately, you should do what feels more comfortable for you. Just because it may be more socially acceptable to have a smaller second wedding doesn’t mean you should feel pressured to follow the rules. This may not be your first time to tie the knot, but don’t undervalue the significance of the celebration.

Why a Second Wedding Should Be More Demure than the First

A small wedding ceremony set up in a grassy field with trees in the background.

People who are for less fancy second weddings come to the conclusion based on their past experience. They believe that since they’re already had a typical big wedding experience, they don’t find it necessary to repeat all that. For some, it’s simply about personal comfort. They find it tacky to make a second wedding a big deal if they’ve been married before. And others just don’t want the stress and hassle of organizing such a grand event again. Another reason to plan something more relaxed for your second wedding is guest expenses. If the people you’re planning on inviting already spent a lot to attend your first wedding, it may be too much for them to do so again.

Not all Weddings Are Created Equal

Although plenty of people tend to follow etiquette, there are still plenty more who think that the second time shouldn’t be any less lavish, especially if the new relationship is more significant or if the first wedding wasn’t extraordinary anyway. Some people also didn’t have an opportunity to splurge on the wedding of their dreams the first time and see the second as a chance to do things better. In addition, you should keep in mind your future spouse. Just because it’s a second wedding for you doesn’t mean it’s a second wedding for them. Make sure to ask for your significant other’s input on what they would prefer.

Things to Consider When Planning a Second Wedding

When planning a second wedding, there are several important topics that are up for debate. You should take your first wedding as a guide, and use your experience to plan the second one in an appropriate manner.

Make it Different

A bride and groom standing on a beachfront under a driftwood arch.

It’s important to make a second wedding different from the first. This will help distinguish in your mind your past relationship from your current one, and truly make a fresh start.

The Guest List

Because not everyone can afford to attend weddings, let alone multiple ones for the same person, expect some “no’s” on the RSVP cards. Either way, most people choose to have a much smaller guest list the second time around even if they do end up splurging on the event itself.

Although you are free to invite whoever you want, you should leave your ex(es) off the list—no matter how good your relationship is. It will be awkward for you, them, and everyone involved. Children, however, are a different story and may even be invited to walk down the aisle with the bridal couple.

What to Wear

For some people, wearing white the second or third time around just doesn’t feel right. For others, it’s weird not to. There is no hard rule about this. If you’re stuck, opt for an off-white choice, such as champagne or beige. You can also choose a less elaborate dress and skip extras such as the veil.

The Wedding Registry

You shouldn’t expect gifts from guests who have attended your first wedding, but you’re free to have a registry if you want. Some choose to simply forgo it altogether.

If you do decide to have a wedding gift registry, you can tailor it more to your tastes instead of asking for the traditional items. Let’s face it—you probably have everything you want or need for your household, anyway. Alternatively, have a non-gift registry and offer guests the option to donate to your honeymoon, a home improvement project, or a charity you support.

Unexpected Details

A bride kissing her son as he's sitting on top of a fall leaf-covered wall.

There are additional things you should take into consideration when planning a second wedding that you may not have had to think about before. For example, it’s advised to get a prenup, especially if either party has children. Also, depending on your religion, you may not be able to have a ceremony at the same house of worship. This is often the case for Roman Catholics.

Pre-Wedding Prep

If you don’t want to skimp on the celebration but also don’t want to go all out, feel free to skip the pre-wedding events such as the bachelor or bachelorette parties or bridal showers. Some people also opt for no bridesmaids or groomsmen at the ceremony.

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