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Second Marriages

Announcing the Engagement

Many couples marrying for the second time have children to consider. Therefore, it is imperative to tell your children about your engagement first. The Bride's All New Book of Etiquette suggests telling your children in private, so they may be able to ask questions if they need to and won't feel pressured by the presence of others. Only after you have spoken with your children should you tell your parents of your plans to remarry.

When children are involved, you will also want to inform your ex-spouse and former in-laws. If the relationships are strained, don't feel obligated to have a face-to-face or even telephone conversation. A simple, gracious note will do.

Gifts and Showers

Today, it is proper for second-marriage couples to register for gifts. Likewise, bridal showers are commonplace for such couples. In fact, a shower might give a bride the chance to include her fiancé's children in the proceedings.

Guests invited to a second wedding are not required to give a gift to the bride and groom. Many couples already have two of everything and don't want to add more to an already crowded household. In Emily Post on Second Weddings, author Elizabeth Post suggests that if you don't want gifts, say so discreetly on the invitation. Or the couple may request that, in lieu of gifts, donations be given to a certain charity.

Please remember that handwritten thank you notes must be sent as soon as possible after a wedding or shower. Pre-printed thank you notes are not acceptable in any situation.


Many couples marrying for the second time decide to keep their wedding small and intimate. If this is the case, the Bride's All New Book of Etiquette says that the couple need not send printed invitations; a phone call or informal note will do. However, it is appropriate to send out formal printed invitations to guests if they will number over fifty.

Elizabeth Post suggests that, for larger second weddings, it is customary to set aside a certain number of invitations specifically for the couple's friends. The rest of the invitations are then divided equally between the two families.

She points out that it is not appropriate to invite your former spouse to the wedding, no matter how good your relationship. Inviting your ex-husband/wife might be confusing for your children, and it will definitely be awkward for everyone else. However, it is appropriate to invite your former in-laws if you choose

What's In a Name?

Should a second-time bride change her name? Many divorced women retain their married name, especially if there are children from the marriage. Should the bride revert to her maiden name, retain the name from her first marriage, or change her name to her new husband's?

Elizabeth Post urges brides in this situation to thoroughly discuss the matter with their fiancé. Even if children are involved, most future husbands prefer that their fiancés not retain the name of their first husband. Some women choose to use this name as their middle name. But most decide to revert to their maiden name or take the name of their new husband.

Some women do choose to retain their former name for professional use. If you already use a professional moniker, you may avoid potential confusion on your invitation by placing your professional name in parentheses after your given name. Or, if you choose, include an at-home card in your invitation that clearly lists your name and your new husband's, along with your address.

Whatever you choose to do, remember to notify your children's schools, credit card companies, banks, and other important institutions


Today, second-time brides can feel free to wear almost anything they want at their wedding. Wearing a "real" wedding dress, as opposed to a suit or simple dress, is fine. If she wants to wear white, Elizabeth Post gives today's second-time bride the go-ahead. White is now considered symbolic of joy rather than virginity. The bride should also feel free to wear a simple off-the-face veil if she so desires. The only real taboos are big trains and long veils. These are reserved for first-time brides.

However, a second-time bride should think through her apparel carefully. "A woman of forty-plus usually does not look best in a traditional wedding gown," Ms. Post warns. Instead, consider a dressy suit, cocktail dress or tea-length dress in an appropriate color. Appropriate headgear might include a hat, flowers or a very simple short veil.

The Ceremony

The first thing a couple marrying for the second time should do is check with their clergy person before planning the wedding. They will tell you how second weddings are handled in their religious tradition.

It might be tempting to simply use your first wedding as a model for your second. And it is okay to create a ceremony similar to your first. But it's wise to make sure all the details are different. For instance, choose a different reception site, different songs and readings, a different honeymoon destination. This will make your guests feel at ease and will make your wedding one-of-a-kind.

Consider involving your children in special ways in your ceremony and wedding. You might want to issue your wedding invitation in conjunction with your children. Involve them in the ceremony as bridesmaids, junior bridesmaids, flower girls, groomsmen, ring bearers, ushers or in escorting Mom down the aisle. If they feel comfortable in front of a group, ask them to sing, do a reading or light a candle during the ceremony. Give them special responsibilities at the wedding, such as overseeing the guest book or greeting guests. However, don't force the issue if your children choose not to participate.

A second-time bride shouldn't feel obligated to have her father walk her down the aisle. She might choose that option, or have her son or another male relative do the honors. Many brides today choose to walk down the aisle unescorted, or with her groom.

The Reception

Second weddings are often small, intimate ceremonies followed by large receptions. If this is the case, issue a reception invitation, enclosing a small wedding invitation card for those invited to the ceremony itself.

Big or small, it's important that the bride and groom decide on the reception's size together. Each must be honest about his or her comfort level as to size, cost, formality and activities included in the reception. Keep in mind that informal receptions no longer require formal receiving lines.

Keep in mind when you are planning your second wedding — it is your wedding and you should do the things that will please you the most. The "rules of etiquette" are simply there as a guide. Remember this wedding is as important as a first wedding and it deserves the same excitement and joy!




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