I do, again

Second-wedding etiquette

Previously married, model Lenae Payne says she would like to worry about second-wedding etiquette someday.

Previously married, model Lenae Payne says she would like to worry about second-wedding etiquette someday.


These days, people don’t raise an eyebrow over a second, third or even fourth marriage. Even though it didn’t work out the first time, we retain this ability to pick ourselves up, bump into someone else, and fall in love all over again. There are benefits to the second time around: You already know what to expect, for the most part. You may be older and more financially stable, and you distinctly recall that your mother will loudly snuffle throughout the ceremony. Although remarriage has become commonplace, even seasoned brides and grooms find themselves asking if a second wedding requires a different protocol than the first.

From the adjustment of newly blended families to distant family members who call your newly betrothed by your ex’s name, knowing some second-wedding etiquette can save you from squabbles and embarrassment. While you have a second chance to create the perfect wedding, there are a few do’s and don’ts that will eliminate the ruffling of sensitive feathers.

From the registry to the white dress

The most common question in remarriage relates to registering. Should a couple entering their second marriage register for gifts? Etiquette expert Sharon Naylor clarifies this potentially prickly issue in The Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette: “Guests would rather have you registered than try to guess your style, color schemes in your home, or preferences.”

While it is acceptable to register, gifts are not mandatory for a second wedding. Similarly, parents are not expected to foot the bill for a second wedding. Generally, the bride and groom split the cost, which might explain why eloping has become a popular alternative to hosting a large, social soiree.

Whether to wear a white dress for a second wedding is also an etiquette concern. In the past, it was only socially acceptable for the bride to wear white for her first wedding, but today, anything goes. An employee at Marchele’s Bridal Boutique laughingly recounted a wedding with dogs walking down the aisle.

However, some say that a previously married woman should not wear a veil over her face, as it represents virginity. (Then again, how many brides today are virgins when they walk down the aisle for even the first time?) The white dress, on the other hand, represents joy, not purity. Vilma Rosas at La Milagrosa Bridal agrees that times have changed. “It’s not like it was before,” she muses. “People wear red, colors, they wear a veil, or they don’t. What’s important is the willingness to get married, el amor.”

Pick any color of the rainbow for your dress, but make sure it’s a different dress from the one that you wore at your first wedding. Any previous engagement or wedding rings should no longer be worn. Don’t use the same location to tie the knot as the first one. Also, you probably don’t want to use the same readings and speeches that you used before. Regarding apparel, accessories and orations, it’s fairly straightforward: Change it up.

If it feels right, do it

You might want to change your guest list, too. This doesn’t have to be hard. Friends change and move throughout time, so you probably won’t have the exact same group of people at your second wedding. Etiquette experts agree that if there are children from the former unions, they should be the first to know when their parents decide to remarry. Many times, children can be included in the wedding ceremony if it feels right to them. If the children are very young, it is acceptible for the spouse from the previous marriage to attend the wedding. If the children are older, ex spouses and in laws are generally not invited to the wedding ceremony—although, again, it’s the couple’s decision.

The majority of couples who previously have been married do it again in a civil ceremony, while others wish to have a religious wedding. Some faiths do not allow a second religious ceremony except in specific cases or under the stipulation that the previous marriage be annulled. If you would like a religious marriage, consult your priest or clergy member regarding your situation.

The most important thing to remember is: Use your intuition. Everyone’s situation is different. If it feels right, do it.

“Every wedding is a celebration,” writes Julie Weingarden Dubin in her book, How to Plan an Elegant Wedding. “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve worn a fancy white dress. You and your groom are marrying each other!”