Planning a second marriage ceremony CAN be just like the first time around; most of the same rules of etiquette apply. But it also is an opportunity to try something totally new.
"You don't have to follow Emily Post etiquette," says event planner Susan Zackin of Z Event Company, who sees an overall shift toward less traditional weddings of all types — not just second weddings. "You can do whatever you want."
According to Zackin, second weddings run the gamut — instances where both bride and groom have been married previously, cases in which only one member of the couple has been married, younger couples, older couples and so on. But there are some generalities to the celebrations: "They are usually smaller and less traditional," Zackin says.
Having hosted a wedding before and attended others, couples entering a second marriage often have a good idea of what they like. In addition, the couples themselves (instead of parents) often put on a second wedding, so the bride and groom are able to create their own vision, not the one their parents expect.
"First weddings are more for the parents," says event planner Kelley Troia of Clandestine, an events planning company. "With second weddings, the bride and groom are usually paying and it's much more specific to what means the most to them." With the freedom to call the shots, many couples want to do something highly personalized.
Local party planners offer the following suggestions for putting an alternative spin on a second wedding.
If you've already done the traditional church wedding and large reception, a destination wedding could be a good alternative, particularly if the guest list is small. Couples can narrow the numerous location possibilities by considering what makes their hearts sing. A few examples from Zackin, whose company has locations in New Orleans and Palm Beach, Florida, include a chartered yacht for those who love the water or a Napa Valley vineyard for foodies or wine lovers.
Depending on the residence, a home wedding can be large and lavish, casual and family friendly, or small and cozy. The caveat is that holding a wedding at your home can be even more expensive than renting a venue.
"Home weddings, many times, cost even more," says Zackin, noting that everything from tents and bartenders to china and flatware has to be brought in for the special day, and that most homeowners spend additional money on things such as touch-up painting and landscaping to make their home look its best.
If your first wedding was in the evening, consider planning a daytime ceremony — a brunch, luncheon, afternoon tea or garden party — to make the second wedding a totally different experience. There are advantages to an earlier event: It may be easier to have small children and the elderly take part during daytime hours, and may enable the bridal couple to travel to an out-of-town honeymoon destination the same day. One of Troia's recent daytime weddings began with an at-home ceremony and turned into a backyard pool party reception, which is especially suited to second weddings that include children.
There's no reason couples have to share both their wedding ceremony and the reception with guests. If you were extravagant the first time and invited lots of guests, a small gathering of a few family members and friends — or just the bride and groom — may suffice.
"At the end of day, it's two people and an officiant," says event planner Kim Sayatovic, owner of Belladeux Event Design. "Everything else is lagniappe." The ceremony can even be held a different day than your wedding party or reception, which may allow greater flexibility when scheduling venues.
Just the two of you
There are many obligations when planning a wedding, even a second wedding: trying not to forget anyone on the guest list, making it possible for family from out of town to attend and so on. A destination wedding involving only the bridal couple eliminates the hassle that can accompany traditional etiquette, but you don't have to skimp on the details. Both Sayatovic and Brittani Adams-Perret of Unique Weddings in New Orleans have organized destination weddings, including everything from booking a venue, hotel accommodations and dinner reservations to arranging for witnesses for the wedding and hiring a photographer and a horse and carriage.
There are many good restaurants in New Orleans, and many allow couples to rent the entire venue for a wedding reception or select a single room or section. A restaurant reception is a great way to include a favorite restaurant if you are foregoing the usual pre-nuptial parties typical of first weddings.
New Orleans also is filled with cozy venues for small weddings and receptions. Sayatovic suggests French Quarter courtyard venues, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, Bourbon Vieux, Napoleon's House's private room and Bevolo's Conti Street headquarters.
Wedding and reception at one location
Many hotels offer multiple venues in one place. The refurbished Pontchartrain Hotel, the trendy Ace Hotel and the new Troubadour all have rooftops, bars and restaurants. This gives couples the option of having the ceremony in one venue and the reception in another at the same hotel without the need for transportation between the two venues.
Family destination wedding
Instead of a large wedding that includes a weekend of parties and scheduled events, consider a destination wedding that includes immediate family only. Adams-Perret suggests planning a mix of scheduled events and free time so guests can explore the city on their own. This option combines a wedding and family vacation, which provides memories and photos for all.
If you tied the knot under a chandelier-lined ceiling the first time, why not hold the ceremony under the blue sky or a canopy of historic oaks the second time? The tranquility and natural beauty of places like Audubon Park and New Orleans City Park make for memorable occasions. Be advised: as Clandestine's Troia points out, park weddings usually are a lot of work on the party planner's end, since most of the equipment and decor — seating, china, glassware, etc. — has to be brought in. Permits also are required for many park weddings.
If both bride and groom have been married before or are older, they may opt to do something other than a traditional registry of functional wares, decorative items, china and crystal. Ideas include asking guests to donate to a favorite charity or a "honey fund" to help pay for the couple's honeymoon instead of buying gifts, or having them attend a destination wedding without an obligation of also buying a gift. "When guests are spending money on plane tickets and hotels, their presence should be gift enough," Sayatovic says.
Bridal couples don't have to follow a dress code, but the style of attire should be in sync with the type of wedding planned and the venue. But couples also can think outside the box. For example, conservative, retro or bohemian could be style options for a daytime garden setting. The bride also can consider a dress change or two between the wedding ceremony and the reception. Conversely, a second wedding may be the time to go for the traditional bells and whistles, especially if that wasn't the case the first time. If one spouse has been married and one has not, be mindful that this is a first wedding for one of you.
Couples with children may include them in the event in traditional ways, such as having their young children serve as flower girl or ring bearer. Less traditional forms include having older kids be maid of honor and best man. Having children give their mom or dad away instead of a parent doing the honors, having kids accompany their parents down the aisle, or bestowing a gift on them during the ceremony are also ways to involve children.
"Presenting them with something such as a poem or piece of jewelry," Adams-Perret says, "makes them feel that they are taking vows, too."
After the wedding
New Orleans is one of the top locations in the U.S. for destination weddings, Zackin says. If you're a local, why not tap into what the tourists already know (New Orleans means built-in fun and entertainment) and book your honeymoon here, too? Historic homes used as bed and breakfasts, local hotels with private cottages and vacation rentals by owners are among lodging options. Antique shopping, sightseeing, dining at top restaurants and day trips are part of the offerings for wedding guests and couples who want to honeymoon in their own town.