Getting Married ... Second Time Around
Anyone who has ever been involved with planning a wedding knows of the turbulence and tears encountered before the couple can be united. And that is when it is the first time for both of the partners and relatively uncomplicated. Issues such as what kind of ceremony, how many people should be invited, and what to put on the wedding list, pale into insignificance when a wedding second time around is being arranged. Questions arise "Should my ex-in-laws be invited so as to see their granddaughter as a bridesmaid dresses?" and "My step-father gave me away the first time - is it okay to ask him to do it again?"
There are even more serious and fraught issues to circumvent, and they usually involve children from a previous relationship. During my research for my books on family matters I heard from men and women who told me they had postponed getting married because of the minefield they could see waiting for them if they went ahead. And yet this was, at times, an unhappy decision, particularly if it was a "first" for one of the couple.
Perhaps it is as well to keep in mind that it is never possible to please all of the people all of the time. Because although we must give thought to the couple wishing to marry and to make a public declaration of their love and commitment to each other, there are others who must be considered as well. For children, a wedding can stir up painful memories about the first family and the break-up which followed. Some children harbour a secret hope that their parents will, against all the evidence, get back together again. The remarriage of a parent puts an end to this hope. If there has been the death of a parent, and the mourning process is incomplete, the news of a wedding may bring to the surface unresolved feelings and emotions.
The news of a forthcoming wedding should be discussed between all the adults. The co-operation of an ex-partner, if at all possible, is most important when deciding who will tell the children and when they will be told. To marry without a parent's approval is one thing, but to marry without acceptance by your children, of any age, can be very painful. If due consideration is given to the timing of the event, notice given, and feelings aired, then the ground it being properly set for the big event, and even more importantly for the future of the family. Children need to know whether they will be affected and what, if anything, will change for them. My research showed that children not included in at least part of the ceremony often find it more difficult to accept the stepparent.
One dilemma may be for a child who thinks her "other" parent may well feel left out and not want the child to take part in a second wedding ceremony. Will it be seen as a betrayal? Or acceptance of the new stepparent? Another reason why discussions between the original couple, from the beginning, are so important. These worries need to be considered.
Several parents told me they arranged for a favourite aunt or friend to "shadow" a son or daughter through the actual wedding day. Someone to keep a special eye on the child in case there were upsets of in case a child felt left out. And I did receive many happy stories of successful second weddings where children had merged without problems and the day had been a joyous occasion.
I heard of daughters as maids-of-honour who were also given a ring at the ceremony. Sons who were "best men" and others who "gave away" the bride.
When June and Gordon married they had six children, two each from a previous marriage and two from their union. They all grouped to light a unity candle together. These are June's words:
"My kids were happy because it was a new start for them. We'd had a sad period because my first husband died of cancer. My new husband's kids were very confused for a long time because they hadn't wanted their parents to divorce. Then twins of our own. The wedding ceremony was the beginning of a new start for us all. We felt a family at last."
A second wedding can add meaning to the phrase "family wedding". Pauline said that they all contributed to the planning and by including the children on their wedding day they still talk about it as 'our' wedding day.
Finally, spare a thought for the new groom or bride for whom this may be a first wedding. Jack solved his dilemma by having a ceremony on one day - "white dress, the lot" - for his bride and a family blessing the following day to include his children.
It all adds up to the same thing, the necessity of careful planning and preparation beforehand. Leave nothing to chance - take nothing for granted. A wedding is a landmark in any family and those adults and children who have been burned by the fallout of an earlier divorce or death of a parent will be particularly sensitive to the meaning of the occasion. With some planning, a lot of discussion, and a little bit of luck, it will be a day memories are made of.