Getting remarried? Wondering how to do it "right"? First of all, remember what feels best and most comfortable to you can't be wrong.
WHAT'S THE ETIQUETTE FOR ANNOUNCING OUR ENGAGEMENT?
If either of you have children, they should be the first to know, because your remarriage will affect their lives the most. Then tell your parents and immediate family. Ex-spouses should hear the news if you have children together (see below for more). Then fill in your friends and other relatives. If you are recently widowed or divorced, you may not want to do a newspaper announcement right now -- instead, wait and announce the marriage yourself. Are engagement parties appropriate? Definitely, although this time the couple might throw a laid-back cocktail party or dinner in their home or in a bar or restaurant, as opposed to the bride's and/or groom's parents hosting a soiree.
IS IT APPROPRIATE TO REGISTER FOR GIFTS?
You may already have all the home stuff you'll ever need between the two of you. Or, maybe you're looking to fill a few gaps. Either way, it's okay to register for gifts (but if you're uncomfortable with it, nothing says you have to). Many remarrying couples skip the fine china/silver/crystal, but if you never had that in your first marriage and would like to register for it, go ahead. If you feel that you don't need anything else to deck out your remarried home, consider alternative registries -- wine, books, sporting equipment, or something else that you two love. You can even register for a honeymoon or a mortgage.
You may have heard that friends and family members who attended your first wedding should not have to buy you another wedding gift. Well, no one should have to buy you anything. But most guests will want to give you something, regardless of whether they were at your first wedding or not. This is a new beginning you are celebrating, and it's absolutely appropriate for your guests to help you do so with a gift. Accept every present graciously, and let it go if anyone declines to give you one.
WHAT ABOUT A SHOWER?
Again, you may not need all the home stuff that many first-time brides receive at their showers -- you've got it already, perhaps times two! But that doesn't mean you can't have a get-together with your closest female friends and relatives (or a couple shower for both of you). The host(ess) may decide to give the shower a special theme -- cooking (guests can give their favorite cookbooks, gourmet foods, etc.), literary (books to fill out the collection everyone knows you treasure), or travel (gifts that relate to your honeymoon destination). Or she may just let everyone know that no gift is required -- and to simply get ready for a good time party.
CAN THE BRIDE WEAR WHITE?
This is, by far, the most-asked second-wedding question, and the answer is a resounding yes! True, white used to connote purity and virginity, but long before that it was simply the color of celebration. You may have heard that a remarrying bride can't wear pure white, only an off-shade like ivory, ecru, or cream, but that's a myth. You should choose the shade of white that looks best with your skin tone -- as should all brides, including first-timers! If you want to wear a colored dress (maybe with a hint of pink, lavender, or celadon) or a nice suit, by all means do so.
CAN THE BRIDE WEAR A VEIL?
Unlike the dress, the bridal veil still does symbolize purity and being "untouched" -- probably because brides used to wear veiling so that the groom would not see them at all before the wedding. Generally, it's still only appropriate for first-time brides to wear them. But if you really want to wear one -- perhaps you didn't have one the first time -- it won't be a travesty. Just stay away from blusher veils, the kind that cover your face. Or opt for a pretty tiara or fresh flowers woven into your hair instead.
CAN/SHOULD WE HAVE ATTENDANTS?
You definitely each need a witness to sign your marriage license -- generally that's the maid of honor and best man -- but any two adults can do that for you. Remarrying couples usually don't have as many attendants as some first-timers do (the line of 8 identical maids in a row may be out of place here), but that doesn't mean you can't have your closest friends, children, siblings, or even your parents at your side.
WHO SHOULD ESCORT THE BRIDE?
If the bride's father escorted her in her first wedding, one or both of them may feel uncomfortable reprising it. But it's not inappropriate for Dad to walk her once again. Or, the bride may decide to walk alone down the aisle, symbolizing the fact that she's walking into this marriage as an independent woman. Some remarrying couples decide to walk down the aisle together, which can be a nice touch.
IF I HAD A BIG, FORMAL FIRST WEDDING, SHOULD THIS ONE BE SMALL AND LOW-KEY?
If your first wedding was a huge affair, doing it up all over again may remind you too much of that event (and the fact that the marriage didn't work out). Also, when a couple marries younger, their parents tend to invite many more of their friends to the wedding (not to mention that they often help pay for it) than when a couple is older and/or marrying again, when they may be financing their own party and/or inviting more of their own friends. You may find that a more low-key, intimate affair better fits your personality these days. But if you didn't have a huge first wedding -- or you eloped or did the city-hall thing -- don't be afraid to have a huge bash now! If this is the first marriage for your spouse-to-be and you both want a big, formal wedding, go for it.
HOW ARE THE INVITATIONS WORDED?
Your parents may have paid for much of your first wedding, or even if they didn't, they may have served as the hosts of the party, and their names may have been listed on the invitations in the traditional way. Second-time invites can be worded traditionally as well, but this time, you and your spouse-to-be may want to host your own wedding, especially if you're paying for it. Certainly, you can include a line on your invites to honor your parents, such as:
Rebecca Baker Smith
together with their parents
request the honor of your presence
at their marriage
If the bride still goes by her first married name, it's appropriate to use that name on this invitation, especially because some (or many) guests may know her by that name. If she never changed her name or has changed it back, in the case above, Rebecca would simply be "Rebecca Baker" or "Rebecca Anne Baker."
HOW CAN WE INCLUDE OUR KIDS IN THE WEDDING?
There are many ways your children can participate. A remarrying bride might have her son escort her down the aisle or ask her daughter to be her honor attendant; a second-time groom might choose his son as best man. Or consider having a special family moment right after you exchange your vows. Gather your children around you and have your officiant offer a blessing. Some couples even have family vows -- new stepparents promise to love and take care of their new stepchildren. You might choose to give your kids a special wedding gift, as well, during the ceremony or at some other time on wedding day. The idea is to make them feel a part of this important event.
That said, be sure that they are comfortable with the extent of their role. Some kids may not be totally happy or comfortable with the fact that you're remarrying, and they may not want to be a part of the wedding at all. Talk to your kids and try to gauge their feelings -- and respect exactly how much they want to be included.
DO WE HAVE TO TELL EX-SPOUSES ABOUT THE MARRIAGE?
If you have children with your ex, then yes -- because your new husband or wife is going to influence your kids' lives, it's important that their other parent be aware of the situation. Otherwise, you're not obligated to let the person know, but if you're still on good terms with your ex, it's courteous to fill him or her in.
-- Tracy Guth