Second Weddings

Marriage is not a fading institution, in fact there are twenty percent more marriages this month than a year ago (in England where I live). Marriages - and weddings - are alive and well, but nowadays four out of every ten weddings are second marriages for one or both partners. New patterns of wedding etiquette have emerged, and so have the number of sites on the Web.

There is more choice now about where to marry, and for many couples this means there is no longer the battle between a religious ceremony and a local civic one. Again, the Web is the place to turn to for a selection of places which are licensed to perform marriages. There are sites, too, which help you design your own ceremony, you can even have your speech written for you, and there are pages of wedding-friendly jokes to choose from.

A wedding is a family affair and always an emotional event. Even a couple who plan to keep the day simple and informal will find themselves caught up in the hopes and expectations of other people. If a couple are paying for their own wedding - very often the case with second weddings - they are perhaps free of parental decisions. But with second wedding there is a more difficult minefield to negotiate between several extra major players. If either one of the couple has parents who are divorced, and perhaps remarried, the complications are multiplied tenfold.

Also, ex-partners should be told about the forthcoming wedding well in advance, and if there are children of one or perhaps both the people who are getting married, then extra thought and planning must go into the day. It may be that the children are playing a reluctant part of the wedding plans, and as ‘children of divorce’ may have very mixed feelings indeed about a mother or father actually marrying someone new.

One divorced mother said to me, ‘My daughter was seven when her dad remarried, and about the wedding she had said, "Half of me wanted to go and half of me didn’t."’ I think this showed how confusing her feelings were over the final commitment of her dad to the girl he was living with and whom she didn’t like. Children may feel disloyal to one parent if they attend the wedding. Also, a wedding is a final blow to a child’s secret wish that his or her parent’s might somehow get back together again.

The time to have those heart-to-heart discussions about a new stepparent is well in advance of the wedding day. Children, of any age, will need to air their opinions and have their views heard and also, perhaps, need to be reassured about what, if any, changes will take place after the wedding.

Many parents are undecided about whether children should take part in the ceremony at all, but when I researched my book Making and Breaking Families I spoke with a number of men and women who had experienced the second wedding of a parent, and it was the ones who were excluded from the celebration who felt most resentful.

One of them told me, ‘Can you believe this? I thought I had a good relationship with both my parents after their divorce. Then one day I was sent a wedding photo of my dad with someone. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew nothing about her at all. I have hardly seen them since.’

Other dilemmas appear in quick succession. Do you invite your ex-parents-in-law so that they can see their granddaughters as bridesmaids? Well, do you want to? And would they really want to come? When death of a partner was the reason for a second wedding, it was often the time to put grief aside and for all the family to join in celebrating the new union. However, now that the most common cause is divorce, there may be bad feelings between family members and so this may not be a wise decision. Much will depend upon the feelings of the bride or groom.

Even if you have been living together for sometime - and statistics show that three-quarters of the couples now marrying have been sharing a home - a wedding is a fresh landmark. Plan well in advance, leave nothing to chance, and make this a day to remember.

For your bride or groom this may be a first wedding so it is important to keep this in mind. Make sure your new partner is in no doubt that you are fully involved in the planning of the wedding, and that you do not feel a second wedding means it is going to be second best. Gather people together on the day whom you love and who love you, and who wish you well in your future life together. Remember, everyone loves a wedding and if you have given a lot of thought to the feelings of parents, children and most of all your bride or groom, you will certainly have a wonderful day to remember.


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