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Gowns, ceremonies simpler the second time

By Carolyn Keister Baker 

Planning to marry again? Weighing an abundance of advice from etiquette experts, couples may discover they can be more flexible and creative in planning their dream wedding when tying the knot a second time. Some brides want a traditional church wedding — the wedding they never had — while others plan a “destination wedding” coupled with a honeymoon vacation in an exotic land. The choices are endless, and each wedding, whether on a white, sandy beach or in a formal rose garden, is as individual as the love the couple share. But if couples follow the prescribed rules of etiquette for second marriages, the wedding day they plan will involve a smaller, but more friendly and intimate wedding party, and will incorporate a simple elegance in dress and decor.

Wedding attire
While some etiquette experts may disagree, wearing white is not forbidden for second-time brides, bridal shop owners say. “White is not taboo,” said Barbara Agregaard, owner of Formalities in Winchester. “Wear what you are comfortable with.” Cynthia Grosso, founder and owner of the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette in South Carolina, suggests second-time brides wear a wedding suit or shorter dress with hat for informal weddings and a long gown without a veil for more formal ceremonies. The color of the dress could be cream, winter white or another light color to complement the bride. “I do not suggest they wear white,” said Grosso, noting white is a symbol of purity. While most second-marriage brides in the area prefer to wear off-white gowns, many still choose to wear white, said Rachel Coffelt, manager of Chic Boutique in Winchester. About 30 percent of Coffelt’s second-marriage clients buy a white wedding gown, she said. Some women, who didn’t have a lavish wedding the first time around, want a big wedding and want to wear white, Agregaard said. White or not, long, informal gowns with a “simple elegant look” are most popular in the valley among second-marriage brides. “I find that the [second-time brides] want less formal [dresses] but they want a long dress,” Agregaard said. “They are going for [dresses with] English netting, Alecon lace, embroidery or tulle netting. The skirts are A-line, a little more sophisticated. They all like trains but with a smaller, chapel length.” Second-marriage brides are drawn to informal dresses at Chic Boutique, Coffelt said. The dresses are soft, often made of chiffon and have little or no beadwork.  Some gowns with smaller sweep trains work well for weddings on the beach or in gardens. Some gowns are cafe, platinum or rum pink or have embroidery or pearls tinted in these colors, she said. Younger brides want big dresses with large bustles, but second-time brides seem to be drawn to dresses with softer bustles pulled up just below the kneecap or mid thigh, Agregaard said.  A lower, softer bustle “looks very Victorian,” she said. Second-time brides in the area generally do not wear a veil, Agregaard said. They want a simple headpiece, no headpiece at all or sparkling hairpins, she said. While the younger brides go for tiaras with rhinestones, second-time brides want more sophisticated headpieces, she said. Some brides choose to wear fresh flowers or baby’s breath in their hair, Coffelt said. The bride should carry a small bouquet or a corsage pinned to her shoulder, Grosso said. The bride may throw the bouquet at the reception, she said. The groom should complement the bride, Grosso said. His attire should be as formal as his bride’s gown. Some area grooms wear suits in place of tuxedos, Coffelt said.

The ceremony
Second-marriage wedding ceremonies are not the lavish affairs usually planned for first-time brides. The reception can be a big party, but the ceremony should be smaller, absent the procession with a long parade of bridesmaids, experts agree. “She is not going to have a bunch of bridesmaids,” Grosso said. “It’s in better taste to have one or two of her family members,” perhaps a sister, to stand with the bride, she said. Smaller wedding parties for brides walking down the aisle a second time seem to be the norm in the area. “Generally, there are not more than two attendants,” Agregaard said. A best friend or daughter is often chosen as an attendant for the bride, she said. While it was once considered proper etiquette to exclude children of the bride and groom in the ceremony, children are now encouraged to participate, Grosso said, but they should not be forced. “They can play as large a part in the wedding as they wish,” Grosso said. Some couples incorporate family medallion ceremonies into the wedding service, which involves the gift of a medallion to each of the couple’s children. The gold or silver medallion featuring three interlocking circles symbolizes the union of a new family. Family medallion ceremonies are becoming popular in the area, said Kathy Beardmore of the Wedding Shop at DJ Connection. “There are a lot of second marriages and couples want to find a way to include the children and make them part of their special day,” Beardmore said. As an alternative to the traditional ceremony, some second-marriage couples choose destination weddings, Agregaard said. They take a vacation and get married in a far away place, sometimes inviting close friends and family for the ceremony. Couples planning a destination wedding may throw a party when they return, she said.

  Pre-wedding parties and reception
A party may be thrown the night before the wedding, given by the couple or a member of the wedding party, but there is typically no large rehearsal or rehearsal dinner, Grosso said. However, wedding receptions can run the gamut in size and formality. “The reception can be as simple as an oyster roast or as formal as a sit-down dinner,” Grosso said. “The size is more of my concern. I think it is nice to have a smaller reception.” While the reception is typically held following the ceremony, the reception can be held later if the couple chooses, Grosso said. The reception “can be right after or the following week,” she said. Sometimes, the couple, if building a house, choose to wait until the house is finished and then throw a party. “I have seen so many different” reception parties, she said. Getting married is always a joyous occasion. But marrying a second time has its advantages. More mature and experienced, second-time couples are often able to enjoy their ceremony without the distraction of wedding-day jitters. “I think you know what to expect and you are not as nervous,” Agregaard said. “It is truly festive.”

Source: Article published in the Northern Virginia Daily

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