We're goin' back to Shawshank!
September 12, 2010 7:49 PM   Subscribe

My partner proposed! Wheeeeeeee! So we're both getting a second chance at this whole marriage thing, and I think we'll make a smashing go of it. And now... the wedding itself. Buh?

I'm 31 and he's 35; we've been dating for two years and living together for one. We're both well away from our first marriages and have no kids. I even told my ex, who is very happy for us. But after telling most of our family and friends, we find ourselves in this weird area where we don't know what to say or do, and we wonder what should be different.

Thus far, we know that we will probably want a small formal thing in my hometown and a larger potluck-esque party in his. (Some folks will come up for the first one.) We want something between my first wedding (95 guests, pretty traditional) and his (in a justice's office with their housemate as the only witness). I would especially like something a little more traditional for him.

He says that eloping is not the answer because he doesn't want to slink away and hide it like, um, some people we know. He wants to show me off and be proud of our successful effort to do things right, which makes me swoon.

--We're both very practical and (especially since we're paying) want it to be cost-effective. Minimal attendants, probably no real tux rental or bridesmaids' gowns.
--We have thought of wacky things like renting a suite at a hockey game as a fun reception or night-before dinner, because it's one of our favorite things.
--What the hell should I wear? I won't go full-on white with a veil, but I don't want to do something completely nontraditional, so... maybe a silver or something? I'm a rather buxom brunette with very fair skin.

There's another side to this, though. We're both very open about what we've gone through, and everyone knows that we're both ridiculously happy and have worked hard to get there. But this isn't a pure-and-virginal first marriage with all the trimmings, and I'm sure people won't be as excited as we were the first time around. My mom has already been a little weird about it. She ran off to compose herself when we told her yesterday (before coming back and giving us a sincere blessing), and today when we showed up at my dad's birthday party she hadn't told any of the neighbors, whom we know well. "You've met [Fiance], haven't you?" she said, before waving them goodbye. And that was it. What gives?

If you have ever had a second wedding, been to a second wedding, heard about a second wedding, whatever, I/we would love to hear from you. Good, bad, whatever. What worked? What turned you off?

I've seen this and this.

Hugs for everyone!
posted by Madamina to Human Relations (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
today when we showed up at my dad's birthday party she hadn't told any of the neighbors, whom we know well.

Her not telling people is not an indicator that she is not happy for you or unhappy with your news. There are about a billion reasons that she may have chosen not to tell the neighbors at this moment -- the most obvious being that it is YOUR news to share. One of your jobs as a human is to be charitable to people you love, especially when evaluating their motivations. Until you know otherwise (and you can only know this by asking), assume the best of the people close to you.

The alternative is being suspicious and passive-aggressive/assumptive, which speaks to your insecurities, not what is happening in the minds of others. It sounds like you are expecting people to react badly and judging their responses according to that expectation. Do your best to stop doing that, and you will find things will go much more smoothly, and that people are rooting for you, even if they are justifiably wary the second time around.

Good luck with everything else, and congratulations.
posted by fake at 8:02 PM on September 12, 2010

As for second weddings, just want to say that my 75 year old dad was married last weekend to his 75 year old fiance. It was a beautiful wedding, a great mix of just who they were. She wore a long sage green dress in a classic design. All the guys wore tuxes but suits or even dress slacks and shirts would have been fine, the ceremony was in her back yard. Maid of honor and flower girl wore dresses they already had. One of my sons was best man, the other was the officiant. We spent just a little time online putting together a ceremony that was very personal to them. The other details just fell in to place. Bottom line: make it fun and personal and CELEBRATE! And be determined not to let anyone else steal your joy by focusing on what's important to the two of you.
posted by raisingsand at 8:11 PM on September 12, 2010

Hey, congratulations!

I appreciated, on being invited to a second wedding for a relatively young person (like you) whose first wedding I had also attended, being told that no gift was expected. I feel like you get your $100 china place setting once, and once only, and after that it's a nice letter/framed photo of the two of us/[insert gift of purely sentimental value here].

Also, they kept things lower-key, which I think was a good choice. A best man and a maid/tron of honor are fine, but more attendants than that would strike me as too much. I think that full-on "pageant" wedding requires a certain suspended cynicism, a willing leap into naivete, that can be sweet enough the first time, but seems a little silly for a second wedding.

Finally, expect that people may not make quite the efforts to be there that they might have for a first wedding, and try not to take it personally. Traveling to a wedding has generally cost us, as a couple, around $1000, give or take, depending on destination and whether we could stay with friends. So it's not something we'd do twice unless it was a really, really good friend.
posted by palliser at 8:14 PM on September 12, 2010

Mazel tov!

The only rule I follow for second weddings regards registries. (My favourite rule is the one where registries are rude and people should not have them, but everyone ignores that rule now.) Basically, my feeling is you get one go at that because it comes from a tradition of helping you set up house. By that reckoning, you are more or less two people with half a house of stuff each, and you cannot possibly require three blenders.

So for the second time around, the best gift - and really, the only gift I am interested in giving - is the pleasure of my company, the expense of schlepping my ass to Iowa, and whatever else I may be motivated to gift you with off my own bat because of our close, personal friendship.

Other than that, go nuts. We had an extremely traditionally formatted wedding - big dress, aisle, bridemaids, groomsmen, officiant, readings, vows, reception, because all that stuff was important to me. We were non-traditional in virtually every respect within that: nobody gave anyone away, my husband and I walked down the aisle together, the big poofy dress was red, the best man was a woman in a tux, the reading included the Mass Supreme court decision on gay marriage, and several standard vows were absent.

Watters makes kinda eh wedding dresses but really lovely, just less than formal bridesmaids dresses and a smashing sliver called Marcasite, if that's any use.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:25 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

You sound like you're looking for economical, nontraditional, and fun: I say beach wedding, semiformal dress, then have fun
posted by gte910h at 9:05 PM on September 12, 2010

I expect that I'm not the only person who will express mild bemusement that in our 30s, anyone other than perhaps older conservative relatives would bat an eyelash at this being a second wedding for either of you, given that you say that you're both, as you put it, "well away from your first marriages."

They only awkwardness that I usually hear is when someone went to the first wedding and is still friends with the ex and feels a little weird about feeling happy about the second wedding. This is the sort of weirdness that one would usually note to one's friends, get it off their chest, and forget about it.

As for your mom, well, moms are often weird about rite-of-passage stuff despite their best intentions. Being totally responsible for protecting a baby so that the kid can grow into an independent adult means that all adult child-parent relationships have some inherent baggage, in a manner of speaking.
posted by desuetude at 9:13 PM on September 12, 2010

Best answer: One thing you might want to look into for semi-formal wedding ideas is vow renewals. A lot of people treat it like a second wedding with less gifts and more family involvement. My parents renewed their vows and it was lovely. My mom (I think she was about 50 at the time?) wore a very pretty silver dress with a little jacket thing, and my dad went full-on tuxedo. They renewed their vows in our synagogue, there wasn't a rehearsal dinner but there was a big formal reception afterwards and a barbecue thing with lots of visiting family at the house. Good times!

My aunt and uncle got married to each other in their late 50s, both with full grown children and unpleasant first marriages behind them. They got married in Connecticut, where they lived, real quick in a civil ceremony, and then a few months later came down to Houston where they had a big family bash with all of us. They did a whole second service in the synagogue, complete with rehearsal dinner, bachelor and bachelorette activities (despite already being married to each other legally!) party afterwards, and honeymoon. My aunt wore a beautiful dress but I don't even remember what color it was! Maybe lavender? My uncle wore a crisp suit.

The nicest thing about the entire occasion was the rehearsal dinner, in my opinion. All of the cousins in my generation were, at that point, full grown (I'm the the youngest, I believe I was 21 at the time?). My aunt's first husband was a very unpleasant man, and her children, my cousins, were quite pleased that their mom was with someone who loved and respected her. Spontaneously, one of my other cousins got up and welcomed our new uncle to the family and said how happy he was about the whole situation and how things had worked out. (It's quite a long love story involving letters and college romance and leaving people at altars. That's for another day, though.) And what happened after that was, sated with good Texas steak and excellent beverages, every single cousin got up and welcomed our new uncle to the family in a little spontaneous individual toast. We all got kind of swept up in it. It was fantastic. The lesson to learn from this story is, don't be too quick to judge family members' opinions of your choices. Let them express excitement and affection at their own time. Don't overplan the course of your special occasion, because you never know what the best, truest moments are going to be.

Anyway. If you want to treat it like a big fancy super traditional wedding with all the trimmings, do it! If you want to go super casual and invite everyone for ribs in the backyard, do it! Weddings these days are highly individualized, and if you think there's a difference between first and second marriages in people's expectations of the festivities, you should think again. It's nobody's place to make the decisions about your wedding but your own.
posted by Mizu at 9:43 PM on September 12, 2010

I appreciated, on being invited to a second wedding for a relatively young person (like you) whose first wedding I had also attended, being told that no gift was expected.

This. Other than please not asking for lots of stuff, I think the sky's the limit. You'll have to finesse the social things (invite the ex? what about the ex's mom who loves you?), but that's the beauty of modern life. But the nice thing is that you are free to wear whatever you want, in whatever color you want.

I was recently invited to one of the nicest weddings I've ever been to. Second marriage for both of them (or maybe third for one of them?), outdoors, sort of traditional in that there was a pastor and vows and all that, but non-traditional enough to accommodate the complications of real life (like split families, friends from here and there, being adults, etc). The invitations were charming and made it very clear that they were grown ups who didn't need presents and just wanted their friends to be there on a happy day; the food was a mix of catered and home-made; there was a band and dancing and plenty of booze for the drinkers. It was genuinely sweet and charming and lovely in a way that none of the ultra-traditional weddings I've been to have been, in large part because they felt free to express themselves in a very genuine way and make the guests feel welcomed purely for their presence (as compared to presents).
posted by Forktine at 9:44 PM on September 12, 2010

Offbeat Bride has a lot of funky ideas for non-traditional weddings - some really wacky and some incredibly tasteful. Lots and lots are DIY or economical. They're very inclusive of lots of different kinds of wedding with hardly any of the judgement you normally get on bride blogs.
posted by shinybaum at 10:20 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

just to give your basic plan some encouragement - the best food I've ever had at a wedding was pot luck - they suggested everyone to bring the dish they did the best and it was amazing.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:33 AM on September 13, 2010

I don't know how soon you're planning this, but consider a christmas wedding, perhaps. It saves money (churches are usually already decorated), and people are usually heading home to visit anyways. And it makes an easy transition to a holiday party, too.
posted by lemniskate at 4:15 AM on September 13, 2010

The coolest wedding I've been to lately was at a (picturesque) used bookstore, a couple in their 30s (first marriages though) and the bride wore a really beautiful vintage dark navy skirt (or dress?) suit (shiny fabric). The look had a very classic feel to me, like pictures of people's grandparents or great-grandparents before the whole wear only once white gown became so standard. It also felt at the same time incredibly sweet and incredibly grown up. They had a friend as their officiant, and definitely didn't have a suite of attendants though I'm not sure whether they had one each or not. There was no walking down an aisle or giving away. I guess about 50 people were there. They were on a pretty tight budget. The food was very simple - you could make a dinner from it if you needed to but it was more appetizer style - but some parents/friends brought homemade cookies (Italian-Pennsylvania style apparently) and other desserts. They love wine and had spent ages before finding (enjoying the search!) one good cheap red and one good cheap white wine, and I think they had beer too, to offer at the 'bar' (not a cash bar!). It was festive and celebratory and sweet without being even a little pageant-y.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:47 AM on September 13, 2010

Best answer: Congratulations! I myself am 41 and am about to have a second wedding. But really, I don't think about this event as "number 2," except in the sense of lessons learned from a big, formal wedding I had once in another lifetime, and about how I don't want all that stuff again because it's just not me.

In addition to Offbeat Bride that was recommended upthread, I also recommend the following blogs for their laid-back, non-Knot, non-Brides, non-Martha view on creating a wonderful experience that you'll remember: Intimate Weddings, A Practical Wedding

Among the more helpful tips I've gleaned from these blogs:

- Although I'm not having bouquets, I do need one big centerpiece. I thought my choice was binary: overpay a florist or chance it at Trader Joe's on the day of. BUT! You can buy wholesale flowers of your choice from places like Blooms by the Box. They come in bunches, and you arrange them yourself. I'll be spending $100 on flowers that would probably cost me $300-400 from a florist.

- A feather hair fascinator from Etsy goes a long way toward making a knee-length cocktail dress more of an occasion dress fit for your wedding than just for any old cocktail party. Some have little snippets of veil for a nod toward the bridal. Some have flowers, and some are just feathers/jewels/what have you.

- I don't know about you, but by having a knee-length dress, this is my occasion to splash out and have people really notice my SHOESOHMYGODTHESHOES.

- Unless you're in one of the 4 US states that don't allow it, you can be married by any of your friends or family who choose to get ordained for free in the Universal Life Church. Our wedding is very small, and it's important to us that it's not religious and not performed by a stranger, so a good friend will be officiating ours. Totally free.

- Is there a restaurant the two of you eat at often? Tell them what your budget is, and see if they'll offer or arrange catering. See if they'll also do the cake. Go to Google Images to find ideas for inspiration, and don't just look for wedding cakes; look for any type of cake to get ideas.

- Tip on cake: if you go with a baker separate from the caterer, DO NOT SAY "WEDDING" CAKE unless you know you want the very traditional looking tiered white cake. Just throw out "cake for a party," start describing what you want, and get a quote. There's no reason on earth to charge more for a cake for one event over another event, but nearly every bakery does it. e.g. in my city, a certain French bakery has wedding cake prices "starting at" $500 for a cake that feeds 65 people. But you can get EXACTLY the same cake (flavor, batter, icing, serving size) in a non-tiered version for $130 if you don't call it a wedding cake.

- Invite people via Evite (keeps track of rsvps, easy to send a message later to the entire group or to only those who haven't responded, etc) or email. Totally free.

- Consider having no attendants. Zero attendants means zero stress about dresses/tuxes/shoes/ties/hair/jewelry, gifts, potential strains on friendships, coordination, toasts, etc.

- Consider having heavy hors d'oevres at a cocktail reception rather than a full dinner buffet or a formal seated dinner. Cost savings: no table/chair rentals, fewer/no centerpieces, no printed menus, no placecards, more varied and better food. Hassle savings: millions!

- Consider having your wedding at a friend's house or at a free or very cheap location such as a library or in a park. If you keep it small, you can get married almost anywhere (capacity-wise). Intimate Weddings has a venue finder, though I'm lucky enough not to need it because our wedding is at the home of dear friends.

Congratulations, good luck, and have fun!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:04 AM on September 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

I think the main thing you need to do is pick a budget you can live with, and then do your damnedest to stick to it. Naturally, the budget is going to drive the entire decision making process. It'll control how many people you can invite for example.

Obviously the easiest way to get things done is to rent the kind of wedding hall that just takes care of everything including the food. Depending on your budget and the number of guests, you may have to try the VFW or Knights of Columbus or what have you and figure out the food separately. My wife and I were lucky in that we found a nice place with a top notch culinary staff that didn't cost a fortune. (The same team runs a nearby fine dining restaurant.)

It's the same with everything else. We skipped the Wedding-Industrial Complex™ approved bakeries and got our cake at Publix. As it turns out, we couldn't have been more pleased with it if it had cost five times as much. It was beautiful and delicious and didn't cost a fortune. We printed our own invitations and saved a bunch there too. Sure they weren't traditional and Miss Manners would sniff, but we didn't have the ducats to waste on envelope liners and engraving.

At any rate, I think you'll do best if you don't try to approach and agonize about everything separately. That's how you wind up spending enough to put an addition on your house for a wedding where the only thing that will last is the memories. Figure out your budget and the rest of the decisions will get much easier.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:16 AM on September 13, 2010

I was one of the bridesmaids at my dad's wedding to my stepmom, when I was 9 and he was 36. My uncle was the best man, reprising his role from my parents' wedding (to each other) and the whole thing happened in the exact same church the first one did. My mom's wedding to my stepdad was her third, at 31, and it happened at a friend's house - I was the flower girl (4 years old) and there were fake lily pads with real candles in the pool.

The great thing about second weddings is that, unlike so many things in second marriages, you can directly apply lessons learned from the first one. My dad's second wedding was actually fancier than the first (in part, admittedly, because he had money and it was my stepmom's first.)

Try to involve family and friends and have fun and prioritize comfort over appearances, and a good time will be had by all. Oh, and give the kids something to do, please.
posted by SMPA at 7:25 AM on September 13, 2010

I absolutely agree about staying on budget. My mom recently was remarried to a fabulous man, and the entire event was low-stress and fantastic! People didn't expect lavish decorations or ceremony -- when planning it, my mom viewed it more as a huge familiy/friend get-together and it ended up being classy, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive (as far as weddings go).

She printed off invitations and programs from home, went to the local florist for bouquets, had her ceremony in the beautiful church of a local school, minimized the invite list to closest friends/family/neighbors, had a co-worker's husband sing at the ceremony, and a good family friend make the wedding cake. My mom paid for the music and cake, but because they were friends, the cost was minimal (they actually offered to do it for free). The most expensive thing turned out to be the catered food at the reception, but there are ways around that, too.

My sister and I were her two bridesmaids, and were able to go shopping together to find matching dresses for a really good price. If your wedding party is small, this might be a good option for you, as it allows you to delegate jobs. If your bridesmaids are friends, this could turn out to be a fun afternoon outing. Of course, if everyone is not in the same city, it might be easier if you just choose something online or from a chain store (a la David's Bridal or Macy's) where each can go to try it on before you buy.

One more thing - there are a lot of recommendations from the hive to NOT do a wedding registry. In my experience, there are just some people who WANT to give. Are there any charities close to you heart? I suggest that in your invitations, you explicitly state that in lieu of gifts people can donate to X organization on behalf of you and your husband-to-be. If you make it sound like an optional donation, the people who get peeved by registries and the people who just want to give something will both be satisfied, and you'll feel better too.

Good luck in your wedding plans, and congratulations!
posted by genekelly'srollerskates at 7:36 AM on September 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much, and keep 'em coming!

--My first wedding (ugh, I'll have to figure out how to say something like, "you know, that other one") was a pretty low-key affair with a mix of homemade and purchased, so I think we'll be good on those sorts of things. My mom did the flowers, but things weren't exactly how I'd envisioned them, so maybe we'll go with another option.

--I definitely like the idea of a fascinator! I've got a chin-length angled bob, so something more modern and cute would be great.

--Yeah, the registry thing is a weird one. I get what you're saying about having people who just want to give something; I think we'll at least pick a couple charities and then do a low-key registry as well. Maybe a local shop this time :)
posted by Madamina at 7:44 AM on September 13, 2010

Wedding breakfast? That is, ceremony at 10, reception involving brunchy foods (I did poached salmon and asparagus at mine), and even the most formal of etiquette book wedding breakfast suggestions involve "street clothes" (i.e., no full length gowns or tuxedos). This is what we did for my first wedding - although there was an open bar, exactly two people used it, with everyone else preferring the passed champagne and mimosas.

Actually, a guest told me later that her table of divorced women of A Certain Age all agreed that I'd pulled off a lovely second wedding as my first one - now that I'm single again, I can't say that I wouldn't do another wedding breakfast. The other advantage is that everyone is on their way home by 1pm, which means they still have most of their Saturday ahead.

posted by catlet at 10:16 AM on September 13, 2010

My husband and I were in almost the exact same spot -- mid thirties, both married before but with no kids. We did things very "us" -- and skipped a lot of traditional trappings (cake feeding, garter and bouquet toss). No white dress and I just had a little wreath of flowers in my hair. We wrote our own vows, had a tiny garden chapel, about 50 people, reception out on the lawn of my parent's place on Cape Cod. I strongly agree with no registries -- but I'm really uncomfortable with them anyway. To anyone who asked about gifts we said "Just bring yourself...we're good." I'd heard rumblings about a wedding shower, and I gently and diplomatically discouraged it. And I'll just add -- the second time is awesome. We had our 12 year anniversary last week and are truly blissful. Ignore the scary 2nd marriage statistics. As has been mentioned already -- we learned a lot about ourselves and relationships. Our exes moved to happy lives, and we've done the same. Congratulations!
posted by bluemoonegg at 10:32 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Chiming back in to say about gifts: We put on our Evite that we request no gifts be given. Then, because I know some will ignore that and want to give us something anyway, we listed 3 charities we ourselves donate to. And on top of that we're spreading the word verbally--mostly to parents, godparents, siblings who will insist on giving something that's not a donation--that any non-charity gift given should be consumable. i.e., We can eat it, drink it, apply it to our bodies, bathe with it, or otherwise experience it and be left only with its memories. We live in a 900 square foot house and do not want or need any permanent gifts that will take up any room.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:03 AM on September 13, 2010

Congrats! Thanks to those who mentioned my site Offbeat Bride -- particularly of interest to you, Madamina, may be the second marriage archive: http://offbeatbride.com/tag/second-marriage
posted by arielmeadow at 3:23 PM on September 13, 2010

Yay Ariel! Offbeat Bride is fantastic, Madamina. Highly inspiring. Our wedding 5.3 months ago was a not a second, but I am 45....too late for white fluffy princessbride, thank the gods. We had a elegant edwardian/victorian theme, but mostly because it allowed me to wear a gorgeous burgundy dress, and get dark with huge dollops of theatrical whimsy.

What Offbeat Bride shows you is that your wedding can be a fun party, full of the awesomeness that is you and the groom. It's the happiest day of your life in part because you are surrounded by people who love you. Offer food and or refreshments and all is well. My advice may be specific to a first-time older bride but we didn't have a "theme" or "colors" until I picked out my dress. The dress inspired the theme and everything fell into place. You sound like you already could have a theme...hockey? :)

Indiebride's kvetch forums are also helpful....even down to second marriage ceremony words, invitation wording, etc.

And please do a search of fascinators on ETSY. I ordered a few irresistible fascinators, narrowed it down to three and then decided seconds before I marched not to wear any. But at least they were there if I wanted!

Last piece of advice: we had a "preception". We greeted guests as they arrived (with trays of cava sparkling spanish wine circulating) and started the ceremony about 45 minutes after the arrival time listed on the invite. There were a few hors d oeuvres available (more after the wedding).
It was great! It allowed for initial mingling/breaking the tension/refreshments. It felt like a party interrupted by a ceremony. (Not incidentally, it meant I HAD to get another pretty dress for the preception!)
posted by Jezebella at 7:58 PM on September 13, 2010

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