Another Walk Down the Aisle? Almost Anything Goes

SECOND TIME AROUND

September 26, 1993|By Elizabeth Large

As recently as the mid-'70s, etiquette books still had very definite ideas on what was and wasn't proper for second marriages. A formal wedding? Never. A small, private ceremony was preferable, with a minimum of attendants. As for dress: "Everyone knows the second bride never wears white, which symbolizes virginity," stated one flatly.

Try telling that to Charlotte Sullivan of Frederick. The grandmother of four started off looking for a pastel dress, but with encouragement from the bridal shops, friends and family, ended up with a full-length, formal white gown -- veil and all. She and her fiance, Jack, both had small first weddings; when they started talking about their plans, he announced he wanted to be married in a white tux with tails. They ended up having 14 attendants in their church wedding -- children, their spouses and grandchildren.

"It snowballed," Mrs. Sullivan says with delight. "We just sort of went hog wild."

Times have changed, and changed very rapidly. What might have raised eyebrows at a second wedding even a few years ago is perfectly acceptable now. People getting married again are usually planning (and paying for) the wedding themselves. They aren't as steeped in tradition, and foremost in their minds isn't doing "the right thing" but having a nice celebration of their marriage.

"There are no rules. None at all," says custom floral designer Deborah Albert.

There may not be any rules anymore, but second weddings do have their own set of problems -- and opportunities.

The good news is that if you're a second-time bride, the wedding is your show. While your parents may be actively involved, they probably aren't paying for it. You and your fiance will make the decisions.

Olivia Blount of Baltimore was 19 years old and in college when she was first married. The second time, almost a quarter of a century later, she decided she would have the wedding of her dreams. Inspired by an article in Ebony entitled "Put Pizzazz in Your Wedding," she planned an event in black and gold.

"People thought I was crazy," she says with a laugh. She found the gold fabric and a seamstress to create her formal gown. The men were in black tuxedos, the attendants in black and gold, and the flower girls wore black and gold checked dresses.

"It was a pretty traditional wedding except for a touch of African music," she says. "And we jumped the broom at the end of the ceremony."

Wedding consultant Marcy Cox of the Finest Detail finds that her customers have more money to spend the second time around. They are older; often they both work. They feel free to have a larger wedding.

"After all, it's the first time I'm marrying this man," one bride told Ms. Cox.

The mother of the bride is probably no longer directly involved in the decision making. "It makes it easier to plan," says Sherry Minkin of Party Perfect.

That can be a mixed blessing, of course. Mary Sue McCarthy of Baltimore, who's in the middle of planning a New Year's Eve wedding, hadn't realized just how much work her mother did the first time around. Her suggestion for second-time brides? "Enfranchise your partner." Especially if you both work. Take a to-do list from a bride's magazine, tailor it to your wedding, make a copy for your fiance and divide the chores between you. "It avoids putting yourself in the role of the nag," she says.

Almost all the experts agree that you can do whatever you want these days, but there are a few guidelines you might want to consider. (And then go ahead and do exactly what you want!)

Often it's a second wedding for only one partner, and that can make a difference. The status of the bride usually dictates the wedding. But if it's the first time for the groom, he may feel left out. Madeline Kimpson, of K & K Wedding Consultants, says one groom told her wistfully, "I'd like to have the fanfare."

Like it or not, some things still are symbols of virginity: orange blossoms and certain types of roses and lilies. An all-white color scheme. Blusher veils. Will the inclusion of such things in your wedding seem a little silly? Often it's simply a matter of age. Older brides may prefer simple elegance to the fresh and sweet look.

Other traditions connected with first weddings are being eschewed by second-time brides these days, according to consultants such as Constance Conner at Harbor Court Hotel: the bride and groom on top of the cake, and often the joint cutting of the cake, for example. The first dance at the reception. Being given away by one's father. The throwing of the bouquet and the garter.

Etiquette that affects others should be followed. For instance, if you live in the same area as you did when you were first married, you shouldn't have a shower. Friends would have to bring gifts twice.

If you both have jobs, consider hiring a wedding consultant. You may not realize just how much work Mom did planning your first wedding until you find yourself juggling the details of the second.

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