Getting a second chance at love is a beautiful thing. And getting a second chance to plan a wedding? We’ve probably all dreamed of that at least once (oh, the things we would do differently!). But things get real once you realize that the challenges surrounding second weddings are just so different than those of the first. You’re probably not at the stage in life where you’re enthused about creating your wedding registry, or dreaming about one last girls’ getaway. Instead, you may be focused on blending a family, writing your second chapter, and planning a second wedding that feels totally different than your first. That’s why we’re here, with advice that’s perfect for brides and grooms planning a second trip down the aisle. Because second weddings deserve to be every bit as beautiful as the second chance that led you to each other!
Photography: Nathalie Cheng Photography | Floral Design: The Loved Co
1. Second weddings don’t have to be simple
When it comes to describing second wedding plans, couples often use words like ‘quiet’ and ‘intimate’ and ‘low- key.’ Don’t get us wrong: we love it when brides and grooms take a subtle approach to wedding styling. What’s important, as you plan a simple wedding, is that simplicity is truly your style—and not a way of minimizing your happiness. If your dream is to jet off somewhere tropical and have a ceremony bursting with hot colors and bold blooms—you are just not going to be cool with a Thursday matinée wedding at your parents’ country club. And that’s ok! Audra of Audra Wrisley Photography encourages brides and grooms to authentically celebrate their second wedding—even if that means celebrating big. She explains:
“Having a second wedding doesn’t mean it needs to be any less celebrated! I do feel that couples tend to lean towards simplifying their celebration, but I would absolutely encourage couples to focus on what they want- and if that means an even bigger and better bash the second time around, cheers to that! Sometimes first weddings are planned on budgets (or on their parent’s budget) and brides and grooms compromised their overall vision. A second wedding is a perfect excuse to go all- out!”
Photography: Josh & Dana Fernandez | Floral Design: Mibellarosa Designs
2. Second weddings give you a chance to express your style
Anyone who has been married has probably, at one point or another, dreamed of getting a wedding do-over. (Let’s be real: an average day on Instagram will leave you feeling that way.) Your style evolves over time—and so does the wedding industry! You’re probably so well-versed in wedding imagery now that you know exactly which designer you would turn to for your dress and which florist you would work with. It isn’t just an aesthetic thing: as time passes, you become more and more comfortable using your voice and making decisions. You know yourself. Rather than being divided by anxiety, you can approach the planning process with focus and clarity. Audra Wrisley of Audra Wrisley Photography beautifully articulates the differences between planning first and second weddings:
“Second weddings are unique in that brides and grooms are experienced, and often these couples can be more discerning in including exactly what they want (and excluding what they don’t) to create the perfect celebration. Regardless of traditions or other people’s wishes, couples planning second weddings tend to focus on what’s right for them- which can be such a beautiful way to plan a wedding! The wedding day is very often less stressful but definitely not less special.”
Photography: Lauren Fair | Floral Design: Faye and Renee Floral & Event Design Team
3. Know that you’re allowed to skip some things
Time and experiences give us some wonderful gifts, and one of the best of all is the ability to say ‘no.’ As you plan your second wedding, know it’s more than ok to just gently let some things go.
“I think all of the ‘first wedding’ traditions can be skipped if the bride and groom don’t want to include them!” Audra of Audra Wrisley Photography says encouragingly. “Bouquet toss, formal cake cutting, even parent dances shouldn’t be required, unless the couple wants to include them. Oftentimes, our couples will focus on toasting and dancing during the reception and less planned events throughout the evening.”
Photography: Caroline Tran Photography
4. Do things that feel appropriate and meaningful at this stage of your life
As you plan your second wedding, you will revisit all the rituals and rites that characterized the first. You may look around your kitchen and collection of oh-so-artfully-mismatched china and think, a wedding registry is the last thing I need. If anything about the planning process feels less than right to you, listen to your heart. “I would encourage couples planning their second wedding to let their hearts guide them on the wedding events outside of the wedding day; i.e. showers, registries, etc.” advises Audra of Audra Wrisely Photography, continuing, “Most couples I’ve worked with tend to skip those since they’ve done them the first time around, but only the couple can say what’s right for them!”
Photography: Tenth & Grace
5. Your second wedding should feel different than your first
You will want your second wedding to reflect your current stage in life—your growth, your maturity, your love story. This may go without saying, but emulating or trying to recapture the feeling of the first wedding would be uncomfortable for everyone involved. The very last thing you want is to conjure up memories from the past—even if those memories are beautiful. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t keep your ex’s old shirt around to cozy up in and wear around your fiancé. For the sake of your partner, your guests, and (most importantly) yourself, focus on the beautiful stage of life you’re experiencing now.
“Planning a second wedding can present its own set of challenges, as it’s really easy to think about what decisions and choices you made the first time around!” admits Audra of Audra Wrisley Photography. “I do think it’s super important to plan your second wedding together as a couple; making your venue selection and selecting a team of vendors to create a vibe that reflects your relationship. Perhaps your first wedding was traditional and in a church, and you and your fiancé are very outdoorsy- plan a garden or vineyard ceremony with an al fresco evening to follow! Although it may be challenging, think of it this way; you have all the experience in the world to steer you towards your dream wedding day.”
Photography: Katie Grant | Floral Design: Secret Garden
6. … But don’t just be different for the sake of being different
That being said, don’t feel as though you have to plan a wedding that’s wildly different from your first just in order to make a statement. All wedding-related decisions should flow from your heart; when a wedding is created from a place of love, it’s palpable—you can just feel it. Alternatively, you can also feel when a decision has been forced on someone, when it just isn’t natural. “Although I do think the venue/vibe is a great way to make it a very different wedding, I think it’s super important that each of these choices reflect the couple as a whole, and not just different for the sake of being different,” admits Audra. “If you’re not a beach couple, find a destination venue that fits you (a French chateau or a vineyard in Italy) as opposed to just having a destination wedding since your first wedding was local. Make it you, and the magic will follow!”
Photography: Hunter Ryan Photo
7. Add meaningful touches and moments of self-expression
A second wedding gives couples an incredible opportunity to create new traditions. Now that you are freed from all the first-time ‘shoulds,’ you can create a wedding that feels personal—and even essential– to your experience. Allow creativity room for expression in your second wedding plans. Consider writing your own vows, selecting meaningful poetry passages, or including your children in your ceremony. Audra likewise encourages brides and grooms to make the wedding day their own:
“Infusing personality into a second wedding is key, especially for couples who may have skipped or overlooked this part the first time around with focusing on all the ‘have tos’ they thought they needed to do! Thoughtful gifts the morning of the wedding is always a really sweet touch, as well as personalized vows and even a heartfelt toast later in the evening are all really great ways to make the day unique and memorable.”
Photography: Oliver Fly
8. Second wedding, but make it fashion
Now is the time, dear brides, to wear whatever you want. When it comes to second weddings, the sartorial possibilities are endless. Imagine wearing a pale blue or pink or floral printed dress. A sexy black sheath. Or you could always channel Bianca Jagger’s courthouse chic and opt for well-made separates: bias-cut skirt, smoking jacket, jaunty hat. “Fashion is such a fun way to mix it up for your second wedding! Keeping in mind the overall vibe of the day, I absolutely think it’s a great way to think outside of the box; a floral gown or a colorful look is always fun,” suggests Audra. Don’t be afraid to go a little couture. Now you can embrace that Claire Pettibone or Ines di Santo gown you adored– but were just too a little too shy to wear the first time around.
And guess what? If you want a second chance at a white wedding, you absolutely get to do that. As with any other planning decision, it’s all about making the choice that’s true to you. Audra has wonderful advice for brides who love both tradition and couture: “[i]f you’re concerned that you’d like a little tradition in the day, a reception dress is always a great option!” suggest Audra. Whether it’s classic or unexpected, if your dress is an expression and extension of your personal style, it will be perfect for you.
Photography: Jose Villa | Dress: Ines di Santo | Floral Design: Tulipina
9. Resist the temptation to constantly compare your second wedding with your first
As you plan, it’s only natural to compare your second wedding with your first. The first wedding is, after all, your frame of reference. You may expect to encounter the same challenges as you did the first time around. And your first thoughts as you design your invitations and select your florals may be, ‘Well, the first time we did this…’ But second weddings are as unique as second marriages. Allow yourself to experience this season of life unencumbered by comparisons to the past. Allow this second wedding to be a masterpiece unto itself. And give yourself the freedom to experience something new. You deserve it!
Photography: Katie Grant
10. Don’t feel like you have to apologize for your second wedding
…Ever. A second wedding is not a lesser wedding.
Photography: Angel Owens
11. Know that you’ll enjoy everything more
We’ve alluded to this before, but second weddings are so wonderful because brides and grooms are so much less concerned with performing perfectly and pleasing everyone. “I do think brides and grooms are more relaxed when planning their second weddings, but I think this comes from feeling freer to follow their wishes instead of family members’ opinions or traditions,” notes Audra of Audra Wrisley Photography. “This can be such a weight off of their shoulders, and truly allows for such a special celebration!” The freedom you feel can’t help but influence the planning process and the entire atmosphere and experience of your wedding.
Photography: Rebecca Yale Photography
12. Prepare yourself for some hard times
It’s very likely that something deeply painful brought you here, to your second wedding. Maybe you or your fiancé lost a spouse. Maybe, instead, you lived through a painful marriage and divorce and maybe, for a little while, you lost your hope. A second marriage is a beautiful testament to redemption and renewal, but in order to be redeemed, something had to first be lost. Even though you are so happy and in love, you may experience waves of grief or confusion as you plan a second wedding. The planning process may bring some beautiful and deeply painful memories to the fore, particularly if you have lost a spouse. And even if you have not lost a loved one, you can feel a little less innocent, excited, and hopeful as you were for your first wedding. You may feel a little disillusioned. All of these feelings are normal, but that doesn’t make them any less painful.
To complicate things further, you may have some delicate family dynamics to work through as you marry for a second time (and potentially blend two families). Children can miss parents they have lost, or form alliances with parents that are still present. Exes may enter back in the picture and make things difficult. Family dynamics may multiply and become entangled. And while all of these problems can beset first marriages, they can be particularly sensitive within the context of second marriages. Prepare yourself for all of these delicate emotions and dynamics, and surround yourself with people who love and support you. If possible, seek counsel from a trusted source—a therapist, preacher, or friend—and be gentle with your own heart. If you are a person of faith, cling to that faith. Turn to your fiancé and try and allow any hardships to bring you closer to one another. And try, try to preserve your joy, even if it flickers dimly some days.
Photography: Oliver Fly
13. Include your family
That said, the presence of family can be the most beautiful and healing part of your second wedding. Your second wedding may mark that day that two families become one, and that union is worth honoring. As often as it makes sense– and in ways that feel right to you– try to include your family in the planning process. You could take your daughter-to-be to a cake tasting or to the floral shop to have a peek at your wedding flowers. Or you could prepare a special wedding-day surprise, like a posy bouquet or a letter written to your future children. And as you say your vows, consider including promises to love and care for one another’s children—or speak those words directly to little ones. All of these little things, added together, can create a space of welcome, acceptance, and love.
Audra can recall some beautiful examples past weddings that included her couples’ children. “One of my sweet couples included their children as their bridal party, and it was so special to have their children feel included and a part of the day. The bride’s teenage son walked her down the aisle, and the groom’s children gave toasts during the reception. It was so heartfelt and beautiful, not a dry eye in the room!” As with anything else in life, you may have walked through a few valleys before arriving at your second wedding. But all of it was leading somewhere so beautiful– so meaningful– and so meant for you, and the family you now call your own.
Photography: Kelli Lynn