Confessions of a Second Time Bride

The wedding industry will have you believe that by achieving wedding day perfection you will ensure your happily ever after. But let’s be realistic for a second, we all know that for some couples, that simply isn’t the case. Being a second (third or fourth!) time bride is nothing to be ashamed of. The good news is that in most cases partners are often wiser and know themselves even better having gone through the wedding – and marriage – process before. Alicia Porter is here to share her experiences of wedding planning second time around.

When I got married the first time in 1996 it was, for lack of a better phrase, ‘planning chaos’. We had location battles, I had a ‘friend’ wanted me to pay her to be a bridesmaid, my mother told me I was too fat for my wedding dress and people constantly wanted to ‘help’ by faxing me pictures of suitable dresses. So, I went on strike. We flew from Alaska to New Zealand and eloped. It was pretty, there were fun cousins nearby, and the florist was a star. The wedding dinner was a random restaurant, and there was chocolate log for a wedding cake. It was wonderful.

My family then threw an elegant garden party reception on our return. However, my parents attitude was it was their party, therefore their choices prevailed. My mother chose the invitations, the cake, the venue and what everyone wore – including me. This is how I found myself in a borrowed dress with a gardenia on my shoulder in a receiving line with outright strangers.

In hindsight, I now realise that although an elopement was easier, the result was we were two very independent people who didn’t know how to work together on big projects. Obviously, this wasn’t the only issue in the relationship, but a lack of being able to work together as a team compounded the fact that the marriage simply didn’t work. Planning for a future together requires work and communication. Child rearing is nothing if not a joint effort. Wedding planning in some respects is a safe practice run to make sure that you know how to work with each other for the bigger picture.

By bypassing the planning process, we missed steps that I didn’t realise were important and we set a tone I didn’t know was indicative of the future. I didn’t comprehend that when his parents didn’t attend either event, there would be no meeting ever between our fathers. One of the hardest nights in my life was when I was in the ICU handing over my three-week-old to my mother and mother-in-law to look after, not knowing if I would be alive in the morning and wondering if these two women could work together as they had literally just met the day before.

Fast forward to starting over. A man I had gone to school thirty years ago became my second husband and the love of my life. We were overwhelmed by all the new choices and expectations for a wedding. However, working as a team, we navigated it and got stronger as a couple. So here are some truths that we learned second time around.

Having an unconventional wedding is OK

My second wedding still wasn’t conventional on a lot of levels, but this time it was ours. We organised it together and we loved it. We made the wedding our day, much to the annoyance of others, about us and our families.

Family and friend drama (still) happens

We chose to invite and include everyone this time but we also made a choice that we were right for us. We decided to opt out of any drama such as family demands or critiques. We did our wedding our way, and that translated to a surprise wedding with a peacock cake and Indian food.

We recognised that there is a guest flake factor; where we live in Alaska you are lucky to get 20% attendance, no matter how much you beg for confirmation. There is only so much prompting one can do before you inadvertently become aggressive. If you are having to remind people to show up then silence by the invitee is its own action. We took the approach that if people showed then GREAT but if they didn’t then that was OK too. What they did with their invitation was their choice. How we choose to respond to a lack of RSVP or any drama was our choice.

You are the only person who gets to wake up as you. So, consider who is the person you want to be when you are contemplating spending your daily allotment of energy; do you want to pull your hair out over a disinterested bridesmaid and stress about finding the perfect shade of taffeta? Or do you want to enjoy every day for the gift that it is and spend time with your love?

Rage happens

We heard things like “I demand to be a bridesmaid” (yes, seriously) and some people quit talking to us because the invitations were emailed. Give yourself permission to say no graciously. You don’t have to take on rage unless you consent to accept it.

It is OK to say “I am sorry, I cannot accommodate your request”

Two decades and two weddings later, the demands were still astounding to me on the second go around. One family member wanted the wedding moved to Florida to accommodate their convention schedule. Another person wanted us to drop everything and care for her the weeks before and after the wedding as she had not gotten good help to support her for a major surgery – could we please bring her food every day and stay with her for a couple of hours?

Another friend had a break up and demanded to stay at the house or she couldn’t attend the wedding. However, she could afford to go on a cruise. Oh, and could we please pick up her stuff from her ended relationship?

My father is an architect and for him showing love is home repair. Imagine the week of your wedding, an electrician suddenly showing at your house and re-doing multiple light fixtures without your knowledge. Turns out that the wedding present was the fixtures themselves, but we got to pay for the labour.

To deal with all of this (and more!) we made conscious choices, albeit hard ones, to put us as a family unit first (we used that phrase a lot). We tried our hardest to make decisions that were right for us and ignore, or say no to, everyone else.

You will inadvertently overspend

Monogrammed favours and back lighting are pretty, but you may need the funds later for your child or paying the mortgage. It’s OK to spend more than you might have initially expected to on the things that are important to you, but you do not have to spend a fortune on every aspect of the wedding. Prioritise the things that you care about the most.

Remember what your wedding is about

A wedding is about you and your spouse learning to work together. It’s about building a family with those you love. I remember going through my first wedding reception in Alaska thinking “Wow, someone else had a great corporate event.” It is not a criticism against my parents, but I felt like a stranger at my own wedding, even though my parents truly were trying their best.

We decided to keep our second wedding a surprise for our guests. If people were kind enough to show up then amazing, but if they didn’t then there were hard feelings. Those that were truly interested, asked whether it was a wedding when they received their invite, and we told them it was. We knew that it would hack off some for not being invited to a formal wedding but we accepted that. We wanted to involve everyone but we also knew this wedding was happening for one reason and one reason alone: US.

ABOUT ALICIA

Alicia Porter is a small business owner from Anchorage, Alaska. She makes cakes for the kids in the foster care system and is raised by two dogs and four chooks. Every day is a good day because she got lucky and has an amazing husband who brings her coffee in the morning, and a kid who makes every day full of laughter and bad puns. She does not take herself seriously.

This article originally appeared in issue 22 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine, which is now sold out. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?

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