Second Wedding Etiquette

Planning a second wedding can be stressful, but second wedding etiquette can help you avoid some faux pas. You want your new relationship to start off on a positive note, and etiquette gives you tools that facilitate that.

First a few big “no no’s” – do not create a wedding that in any way resembles your first one. Avoid using the same church or hall, get a completely new dress, and do not re-use your previous wedding rings. All of those things tie you to the past rather than move you toward the future.


When you’re ready to announce your encore wedding, begin with your parents, followed by your ex partner, and any children. You may leave out your ex partner if there are no children involved. Once these private discussions take place, it’s perfectly acceptable to announce the engagement in the newspaper. Engagement parties are uncommon for second marriages.

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In terms of guests you’ve got a more complex situation than you did with your first marriage. There may be people from the previous relationship who have remained friends. Most often, it’s best to avoid inviting former partners or in-laws as this can make the atmosphere of the wedding and reception uncomfortable.

The Ceremony:

Second wedding etiquette isn’t overly stringent on the form of the ceremonies and vows. It’s common for the encore marriage to be a civil ceremony rather than a religious one. However, if you want a church wedding meet with the clergy well ahead of time to see if you need to do anything special for them to perform the marriage. Some, for example, require pre-marital counseling. In either case, plan to have any children from the former relationship involved in some way in this wedding. Perhaps they can walk you down the aisle or act as a reader.

The Gown:

For clothing, you’re probably wondering if it’s ok to wear white. Traditional etiquette may not wholly approve, but many brides want the white dress even for an encore event. Most brides do, however, avoid veils and trains. Really this is up to you.

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Before the wedding it’s still wholly acceptable to set up a gift registry. Your guests are still going to want to give you tokens to celebrate this occasion. If you have tons of china and other household necessities from your previous marriage you have some other options available. For example, second wedding etiquette says that setting up a honeymoon fund where people can contribute is fine, as is offering guests the option to contribute to charitable causes in lieu of gift giving.

Loose Ends:

There are a few more technicalities. When you go to get your license you will need to have your divorce decree with you. Alternatively, widowers should take the death certificate. Unfortunately a marriage license cannot be produced without these things.

If you’re considering a prenuptial agreement, now is the time to discuss it with your partner and meet with a lawyer. This is a very touchy topic, so approach it with good manners in hand. The way you handle this often sets the tone for your relationship.

Finally, second wedding etiquette says go ahead and plan a honeymoon. If you have children, you can always promise them a trip afterwards that’s more kid-friendly. Or, perhaps find a vacation itinerary where you have separate rooms and a venue suited to various age groups like cruises.

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