Wedding Undergraduate: The Second Wedding


We’ve talked about the blasting the shame around second weddings before on APW, back when Brandi wrote, “This isn’t your second wedding, it’s your last. Should I have the honor of receiving an invitation, I’ll be there with bells on and help you celebrate, in the fullest manner possible.” So today, we’re lucky to get Karen’s wise, honest, and beautifully written perspective on planning a wedding that is her first, and her partner’s last.

Wedding Undergraduate: The Second Wedding | A Practical Wedding

The nightmare daydream is this:

We’re on the beach at our wedding. It’s pissing down rain, and it’s windy and cold. We have food and drink and cake for 150 people, but not nearly that many people have shown up—or maybe they’ve just left early; the dream is not specific. I’m standing there in my fancy wedding dress, trying to recapture the magic I envisioned when planning this big party, but all I feel is foolish. I’m a month away from turning 45, ten years (if not twenty) older than is really appropriate for this type of wedding, and I should have known better. Brian is there, and I know he’s hurting for me, but he doesn’t know how to fix it. He tried to give me the wedding I wanted, but it’s my fault for wanting it, and we both know that. Everyone knows that.

Another snapshot, now this one real: We’re at Brian’s grandmother’s house; it’s been a year since she died, and the family is just now getting around to sorting through stuff and getting the house ready for sale. We’re packing the car with the things we’ve taken, when the girl child comes bouncing up to us, holding a picture in a frame.

“Look, Daddy,” she says, “it’s your wedding picture!”

Brian freezes. I freeze.

Somehow he manages to tell her he doesn’t want it; somehow he manages to tell her it’s okay if she does want it. As long as she doesn’t try to put it up in our apartment, I think, but don’t say. Your wedding pictures haven’t been taken yet, I think, but don’t say.

Of course, the reality is this: Our wedding pictures haven’t been taken yet. Our wedding hasn’t happened yet. But Brian has been married before, and no amount of putting my fingers in my ears and scrunching my eyes shut refusing to acknowledge that can make it any less true. Brian has been married before, and he’s planned a wedding before, and I’m starting to realize that I’m being unfair to him when I insist he join me in pretending it never happened.

But then why are we having this wedding? For me? Everyone knows you don’t have this kind of wedding for a second marriage. You don’t have this kind of wedding when you’ve already thrown one kid’s bat mitzvah and are a year away from throwing the next kid’s bar mitzvah. It’s unseemly. It’s irresponsible. It’s misplaced priorities. And since it’s my first marriage, it’s my fault. He’s just going along with it all because he loves me.

Right? Maybe…and maybe not.

“I know you don’t like to hear about my other wedding…” Long pause while he gauges my reaction. We’re lying in the dark, so he can’t really see me, but he can hear the change in my breathing and feel me tense beside him. He continues anyway. “I planned the whole thing by myself, and when things went wrong, I was told that it was all my fault.” And finally, I get it—I get why up to now he’s insisted that this be my wedding. He wants to be the cause of my joy, not the cause of my disappointment. It’s not that he doesn’t want to take ownership of this event; it’s that, like me, he’s afraid of being responsible for the choices that go wrong.

So where do we stand? That conversation did a lot for us. We’ve agreed that we are a team. We’ve agreed that even when one of us is making a decision solo, it is our decision. If I design our centerpieces because the thought of designing centerpieces makes Brian’s brain turn to mush, his sign-off on the idea makes it his idea, and therefore his responsibility, as well. Together and separately, we are creating the wedding we want, just as we are creating the marriage we want.

It’s true—you don’t have this kind of wedding for a second marriage. But this isn’t a second marriage. This is our first marriage, and our first wedding. And we’re throwing a party.

Wedding Undergraduate: The Second Wedding | A Practical Wedding

read the comment policy before you post

  • http://oversized-cliches.blogspot.com Zan

    Trying to come up with something deep and meaningful to say but, uhm, you already said it all.

    All I can add is an affirmation and some cheering from my little corner of the peanut gallery:

    Own it Karen & Brian! Own it, it’s yours :)

  • Laura

    This was us, flip-flopped. My second wedding, his first. I had all kinds of reservations about having a big party but we did it anyway and you know, I seriously do not have one single solitary regret about any of it.

    Not about the white dress. Not about the fact that I wore a tiny veil (second time bride = no veil). Not about the bridesmaids or the shower my best friends threw or the toasts or the band or the fussy gocco’ed details that I slaved over. I don’t even regret registering. No one judged us for anything. They came, they drank, they danced, they gave us hugs and tears and good wishes.

    I wish you so, so much of the same.

  • http://www.randominappropriatethoughts.blogspot.com LeeLee

    I was honestly planning to email APW today to ask for a post about second weddings. Sometimes this site amazes me with it’s ESP. Thank you Karen for giving me another look at my situation. I am planning my second wedding, my bf’s first. I can see through your eyes a little better what it is that he is going through and how to build a bridge between where we are both coming from.
    Thank you for the amazing post.

  • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

    “But this isn’t a second marriage. This is our first marriage, and our first wedding. And we’re throwing a party.”

    Brilliant.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      Of all the smart things this post had to say, that’s the line I pulled out, too.

      Congratulations, Karen & Brian, for celebrating what you have. I’m sure the party will be everything you’re hoping for it!

  • http://www.katiejanephoto.com Katie Jane

    “But this isn’t a second marriage. This is our first marriage, and our first wedding. And we’re throwing a party.”

    I LOVE THIS. So beautifully said.

  • Aggie Laura

    Thank you for this.

    Our wedding in June will also be my fiance’s second wedding. I sometimes forget that part – not that he was married (he was married for 10 years and has 2 kids), but that he had another WEDDING. We had one initial discussion about it, where he told me what flowers they used, the colors of the bridesmaids dresses, etc, in case I didn’t want it to be the same.

    The whole thing has only bothered me once: when, while feeling insecure about how my guests might feel about our low-key brunch wedding, I realized that his first wedding probably cost 3x what our wedding is going to cost – her family went all out. I ended up in tears until it dawned on me: we’re having a tex-mex weekday brunch wedding because that’s what we WANT, not because it’s a second wedding. Like I said, I usually forget that part. It’s not his first wedding, but our wedding is about who WE are, not about what our wedding isn’t.

  • http://www.brindey.com brindey

    My heart hurt for you reading this post, but I hope with all of that same heart that you have a joyful, beautiful, brilliant and lovely day full of warmth and love and excitement. Because from what I’ve just read, you’re amazing and you deserve it.

  • Erin

    We’re getting married in a month! His second, my first. It is very practical and is making me very happy and proud to be involved. I LOVED that he was married before, love seeing his pictures with his ex. A man (or woman) who has made a committment before can do it again–you know you’re with someone wonderful, not an ambivalent partner. (You also know he/she has the guts to leave a marriage if it isn’t right.) I love my guy, his first wedding made him part of who he is today and ready for his last wedding. As an added bonus, different family members on his side are actually going to make it this time!

  • http://thatcardboardbox.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    This was pretty much my husband’s and my situation when we were planning our wedding, and now, six months into our marriage, neither of us would have done anything differently. This is *your* wedding (in the collective, both-of-you-doing-something-lovely-together sense) and no one else’s. Enjoy it!

  • http://cmorrisphoto@nycap.rr.com Lauren

    SO. FRIGGIN’. PERFECT. Seriously. My fiance and I are planning our first wedding, preparing for our first marriage and our first baby family. Yes, he did have a wedding some years back but that never resulted in a marriage and so here we are today. We both know the past and frankly, are ok with the fact that we don’t want to change it. It brought us to this point in our lives. We made the joint decision to go all in on this one, with no holds barred. Yes, it requires a lot of work and self-reflection about what does & doesn’t work for us but we’re preparing for our future together and that’s all necessary…we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

      This:
      “Yes, he did have a wedding some years back but that never resulted in a marriage…”

      That’s such an important perspective. Sure, someone might have been married BEFORE. They might have signed the paper, said ‘I do’, wore the white dress and slipped on rings. But something wasn’t right with the marriage, and so that part of their life is over. Something is RIGHT with the new relationship, with the marriage-to-be, and that deserves celebration and a wedding.

      Congratulations on your baby family. :)

      • Beb

        I don’t think I agree with this idea that there was a wedding but not a marriage. His first marriage may not have worked out, and may have been deeply flawed, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valid or, in fact, a marriage. Something bothers me about the perspective that seems to say that what came before “didn’t count” simply because it came before. But maybe I’m missing something?

        • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

          No, I totally get what you’re saying! As I was typing my answer, I realized that it was very tricky territory, and maybe I should have acknowledged that. :)

          What’s hard here is trying to fully accept that one part of a person’s life is over. That for whatever reason, a marriage ended. And for right now, there is a new marriage that is just beginning, and that deserves to be celebrated and embraced.

          It’s a kind of wordplay, the idea of having a wedding but not a marriage. Wordplay is hard and can be harsher than intended, and this might be one of those times. I certainly don’t think every marriage that ends in divorce is like that, and the experiences absolutely contribute to the fullness of the person experiencing it; this isn’t at ALL to discredit the experience and marriage in the first place. I can’t speak for Lauren, but I certainly didn’t mean it in that way. The reason I liked the phrasing was because it to placed emphasis on the marriage to come.

        • ElfPuddle

          If you look at it from a Catholic standpoint, (I was going to say “religious”, but I’ll stick with what I know) there is a large difference between people who’ve had a marriage and people who’ve had a wedding, but no marriage. The former is a sacrament, and implies that it worked out. The latter means that the couple had major flaws and implies that it didn’t, or won’t, work out. This is why annulments aren’t just Catholic divorce.
          Perhaps it’s only semantics to non-Catholics, but the perspective meant a lot to me.
          What came before counts, in that you can’t cut parts of your life out because you didn’t like the way they turned out. But it doesn’t have to count as a marriage in the sacramental sense.
          Nor do I mean that just because you are divorced that you didn’t have a marriage. It’s just that some people didn’t.

          • http://cmorrisphoto@nycap.rr.com Lauren

            Oh – that first wedding definetly did count! It certainly changed my fiance and has been a source of a lot of discussion between he and I as to what we can do to make sure we have a solid relationship. His first wedding is a huge part of the way our relationship has grown and who we are today. (I think I mention that in my original comment).

            As for the faith issue, he feels it didn’t turn into a marriage in the sense of the word marriage meaning “give and take, equal partners, united together.” I’d have to agree. And, from our perspective, it wouldn’t have mattered if the wedding was in a faith or not, because it never turned into the marriage (the “give and take, equal partners, united together” thing) he or his former wife were envisioning.

            I guess its sort of hard to talk about it in relation to the Catholic faith because you can’t get divorced (which recognizes that the wedding took place) you can only have an annulment (which, as you note, says nothing took place). But, even in the catholic faith, isn’t the sacrement all about the “give and take, equal partners, united together”? So if you didn’t have that, then did the sacrement happen? I don’t know that answer…

            I think a lot about the difference in the words because I care less about planning the wedding and much more about planning/working for the marriage. The difference between the two, for Chris and I, is important and it’s what works in our (non-religious) minds.

            (and Sarah – I totally “exactly”ed your prior comment and thanks for the congrats!!)

          • ElfPuddle

            “But, even in the catholic faith, isn’t the sacrament all about the “give and take, equal partners, united together”? So if you didn’t have that, then did the sacrament happen?”

            That’s what the Church Tribunal tries to figure out. If the sacrament happened, you don’t get an annulment, because you are married. If the sacrament didn’t happen, then you do get an annulment. The annulment says that your marriage can be/is/was (depending on when your divorce takes/took place) dissolved because there was no sacrament. The Church, you might know, doesn’t marry people: the bride and the groom administer the sacrament to themselves. So if one of them, or both of them, didn’t go into the marriage with the spirit of “give and take etc”, then there wasn’t a sacrament and the marriage can be dissolved.

            Is your head spinning? Mine does regularly. The fiance is now going through the annulment process, and it’s difficult to wrap my head around sometimes. (And I was raised a Catholic.)

            And I totally agree that my fiance’s first wedding counted. It too, is a huge part of our lives, and not just because of his too children. It just wasn’t a marriage…much in the same way you describe.

  • CIC

    I so relate to this. We’re also planning my first wedding, our first wedding – but her second wedding. I started this process out feeling committed to the first wedding being a NONISSUE for me – but of course, I still have feelings about it that come up from time to time. Especially when we’re picking out something for the wedding and it coems out “at my last wedding we did X” or when we’re with her family and they compare to the last time around (“Don’t let Uncle X speak because he was so inappropriate last time”). The comparisons only come up in pragmatic moments when they are actually and truly helpful, but it has taken me some working through not to get bogged down.

    At the end of the day, I have realized a) I cannot ignore the facts and my at times discomfort around them; and b) she has told me and I know that this wedding feels so different and is a whole new experience for her – and, as you say, it is OUR first wedding and that’s all that counts. And I’m pretty convinced that come our wedding, her last go at this sort of thing will be the furthest thing from my mind and from her mind.

    • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

      That sounds really hard to hear about your fiance’s first wedding… But it also sounds kind of awesome! Now that I’ve finished planning my wedding, I’m excited to help friends and family get married because I have so much random wedding knowledge that I’d love to pass along. I know about bunting! And catering! And seating charts!! Let me use my weird wedding knowledge!

      In your case, it sounds like there was a dry run for some things– you know which family was crazy, what went too quickly, what was a total waste of time or money. Of course, that doesn’t help the emotional response you naturally have, but it sounds like you are coming to a healthy understanding about it.

      Part of being engaged is dealing with the messy parts, and growing with it. You’re not only learning to be a couple yourselves, you’re learning what it means to have a former marriage in the past. It becomes part of your identity without overwhelming it entirely. This marriage and this wedding is your future together, and it will be beautiful.

  • jane

    You’re a great writer, Karen!

    • Karen

      Thank you! It was a real surprise to turn on the computer (late, late, late this morning at my soon-to-be-inlaws’ house) and find Lauren’s e-mail telling me it was running today…and I’m blown away by all the comments. Just trying to focus now!

  • Tiffany In Houston

    Awesome post. It was my husband’s second wedding/marriage and my first. He was SO excited about getting married and said that this was his real wedding. He did all the bachelor things and came with me all the venue visits and tastings and after we got married, he turned to me and said: “So THIS is how it’s supposed to be!”. But I’m glad he’d had a wedding before me and a marriage too actually, because he is laser focused on what he doesn’t want go wrong in our marriage, because of what he went thru before.

  • http://www.moodeous.com moodeous

    Ditto what Jane said, I love the way you wrote this Karen! I think this is a wonderful post and from the comments it looked like it was well received. Love APW for bringing it. :) Best marriage/wedding/life site ever!

  • http://www.piecesofanna.com/ Anna

    Thank you so much for writing this! I have been dying to find out how people handle second weddings/marriages (even though, of course as you said, it is a first wedding for you and your beloved) because I am going to be in that situation soon. The way I see it, it’s your wedding, it’s your party, so do it however you want to!

    In a silver-lining-kind-of-way, I am almost grateful for having had a wedding before because now I know what I want (and more importantly, what I don’t want), and so this next (and LAST) wedding is going to be the real thing. The other one was for practice. (At least for me.)

    So, go Karen and Brian! You are awesome.

  • http://emuhleem.typepad.com Emily

    “This is our first marriage, and our first wedding.”

    I love it. And kudos to you! You deserve a day to stand up in front of everyone and declare your love to each other, regardless of what other people’s “traditional feelings” might tell them.

    Tradition is nice. It’s nice to take it in, then exhale and get rid of the parts that really don’t fit you any more. I hope your wedding is exactly what you both want it to be, because you ARE a team. I think the way you described planning a wedding is exactly what sets up a good partnership within your marriage:

    “We’ve agreed that even when one of us is making a decision solo, it is our decision.”

    Perfect. Go you!

  • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

    This is beautiful. Just beautiful.

  • Charm City Vixen

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    My S.O. and I went to a jewelry store last night and had me sized — and although I was so excited and the moment was so beautiful, it later hit me (right around the time his ex texted him something about their children), that this is not the first time he has done this.

    I try to stay present with him — knowing that he loves me now, and that he will be totally and completely mine (in a legally-binding way) soon enough. However, it is still unnerving to think about the fact that he had a wedding prior to ours. The good news is that he doesn’t remember it — it was a hasty wedding, planned mostly by his ex’s mom, as they were going to have a child unexpectedly. He doesn’t remember the dress she wore, if they had bridesmaids or how many, etc. etc. He doesn’t remember much from their marriage, actually — she wasn’t a very nice person (verbally abusive and emotionally abusive), and he is SO excited to plan our wedding with me.

    This turns my insecurities into some positive points. He’s expressionless in all of his previous wedding photos. In every photo we take, he is happy and smiling. He looks content and joyful at the same time. And that is how you’re supposed to feel when you meet the love of your life.

    He always tells me that he thanks God for his second chance to do things right — I feel blessed to be a part of that equation :)

    Thanks for your timely and amazing post!

    • ElfPuddle

      I would love to hear more about how you (the two of you) deal with his ex and that part of the family. My fiance’s ex-wife is in counseling and seems to be getting better, but the family is just toxic. (And, no, we can’t get away. The kids are there.)

      • Charm City Vixen

        We deal with it as a team. That is the most important part of it.

        As a team we think of how to integrate me into his kids’ life in the most healthy and loving way. And as a team we think of how to respond to his ex’s (mostly hurtful, definitely crazy) emails and phonecalls. His ex is really emotionally and psychologically ill, and unwilling to seek treatment for it. We do the best we can to embrace the kids when they are with us (3 out of 4 weekends) and to provide a loving home for them.

        What helped us the most is to have the both of us talk about everything, and to set some boundaries. Before he met me, he sort of caved into his ex’s abusive and demanding ways. After he met me, I told him that if he is going to be a part of THIS (meaning me, the kids, and any future kids we might have) family, that he needs to keep that as his priority, not his ex’s desires or wishes. Always we both strive to keep our baby family’s needs at the top of the priority list.

        I can’t say enough about setting boundaries — whether it’s with your S.O’s ex or her family (try having his ex mother-in-law condescendingly attack us at a dinner party.. boundaries are KEY!). Luckily, it’s been smooth sailing for the past few months for us, ever since we clearly defined our boundaries with her and her family. And although he is the one that talks to her and emails her (I haven’t actually communicated with her, although she knows about me and refers to me sometimes in her emails), it is both of us making a team effort to respond to her craziness. A lot of times I see the situation more clearly and objectively than he does, and he values my input.

        I always ask myself after a particularly long day or week or discussion about his ex’s latest crazy demand — is he worth it? And of course he is. And so there we are… as a team. Making it work. And it’s not perfect, but we both love each other, so it kind of is perfect at the same time :)

        I hope this is helpful, and good luck with the ex in your life! Unfortunately, she will be there for a while. Luckily, when the kids are grown, you won’t have to deal with her as often ;)

        • ElfPuddle

          Thank you.
          “try having his ex mother-in-law condescendingly attack us at a dinner party”. Um. yeah. The kids live with their mom’s parents, so anytime we pick up/drop off/otherwise deal with kids, we’re dealing with them. I’ve had to deal with verbal attacks, being childishly ignored, and every other non-physical threatening or manipulating behavior you can name.
          We keep trying to set boundaries, but, as you know, it’s a continually process. (I keep hoping there’s a magic button to make it go away. There isn’t.)
          Thank you for the good wishes, and I return them completely!

  • Melodious

    Bravo, Karen!

    We just married April 16th. It was my second wedding and his first. I tried to talk him into elopement several times, but he was adamant about standing up in front of our friends and family and saying our vows. And who am I to deny him that? Nobody, that’s who! His only request was to wear a tux, so I bought a simple, but beautiful ivory wedding dress and we did it. It started out as “his wedding” but it quickly turned into “our wedding.” And you know what? It was a beautiful celebration with all our family and friends and I’m so glad we did it. I wouldn’t change a single thing.

    • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

      congratssss newlywed!! :)

  • http://marie-evelaforte.blogspot.com Marie-Ève

    I feel I should put on two different hats for this comment.

    The first is from the woman who was briefly married before marrying my husband, the love of my life (it’s his first, no kids from my previous, two kids now). I completely agree that it’s *your* first marriage, and it’s his last, and you shouldn’t let that bother you in the slightest. Your union is just as worth celebrating! Have a wonderful party, good luck and may your marriage be blessed.

    The second is from the child of divorce, who had to go through a lot with my stepmother. I must say I feel slightly uneasy when you talk about your fiancé’s first marriage… In regards to the child(ren?), I really hope that you are fully OK with his past, and that you can one day move forward from the stage where any mention of it makes you “freeze”. Because it does exist, and it will continue existing, even after you are married. And things like that (the wedding picture) will keep popping up at random throughout your future, and it doesn’t take anything from your own relationship. Your fiancé is obviously very loving and caring and loyal to you, but if it begins to be something that upsets you so much it makes him deeply uncomfortable about it in return, the child will definitely sense that. And that could put her in a very difficult emotional place, even making her doubt her self-worth.

    I really hope I’m not being too harsh here. I just wanted to give my humble two-cents, from someone who has lived through both sides.

    • Kelly

      I had two stepmothers. One that totally freaked out at the sight of a wedding picture between my parents. She would squint her eyes and not say anything but I knew that she felt mad and jealous and full of bad things. My other, second, stepmother would point at the wedding picture I had of my parents on the wall and would be like, “that MADE you! How awesome is that?!” She rocked. I loved that she embraced it as something that had happened, and something good came out of it, even though the marriage between my parents went bad. It felt great as a kid, and if you can get to that place I highly recommend it. It probably will take a long time, but if I were going to be a stepmother, that is what I would aspire to.

      • meg

        That’s great. I love that. What a lovely thing to aspire to.

      • Jessie

        My step-mother “jokingly” pasted her own face over that of my mother in an old family photo which hung at my grandmother’s house. As a future step-mother myself, I understand the desire to make your own place in the family, however her behavior has given me a great perspective on what not to do.

        • Karen

          Oh, that’s awful. I’m so sorry you went through that.

          Honestly, my fiance’s ex has given me great perspective on what not to do regarding the kids. And I have a great online support network of stepmothers — that helps too.

          • ElfPuddle

            Would it be pushy to ask where? I can’t be the only future step-mother who would like a head’s up on a good support network.

          • Karen

            Not pushy at all! It’s a wonderful community — very like APW in spirit — and it’s saved my sanity more than once. You’ll find it at childlessstepmoms dot org.

          • ElfPuddle

            Thank you, Karen!

      • Stephanie Suwak

        Kelly,

        thanks for this. We are a couple on the verge of getting engaged. Second time for both of us. He had children, I did not.
        While he doesn’t have a great relationship with this ex, I’ve made a point of being kind and courteous. I have no beef with her and her lovely children. While she hurt someone I love, I was not part of the equation at the time. And I know the kids truly appreciate my openness.

        • ElfPuddle

          Exactly!
          If my fiance’s ex hadn’t hurt him, I wouldn’t get him now, and that would be awful. And she’s half the reason I have my wonderful kids. At the moment, they’re the only kids I have, and they may always be my only kids. How can I not be grateful to her for that?

          On the other hand, I wish others would stop comparing me to her. It’s an uncomfortable fence to sit on, but for the sake of the baby family, it’s something I need to do.

      • Class of 1980

        Kelly, that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, even a marriage that didn’t work was still an amazing thing to have made a beautiful child.

        Personally, I never want to act like my first marriage didn’t happen. I am still friends with my ex. The way I look at it, there was no other way for me to burst my illusions about marriage except by running head first into them.

        I also have to honor the fact that we both paid for our illusions, so we are comrades in defeat.

        • ItsyBitsy

          I also have to honor the fact that we both paid for our illusions, so we are comrades in defeat.

          Very well put, Class of 1980. That’s a really wise way to look at it.

    • besidethepoint

      Yes, absolutely. As a new stepmother, though, I think what you’re reading as ambivalence is probably just Karen not getting into that aspect of the wedding in this post. I can totally relate to her reaction to the photo. For me, becoming a stepmom has been (and will continue to be) an emotionally consuming process because I’m so concerned about doing it well, and doing right by this child. It’s huge. It’s not that the past relationship is something I’m uncomfortable with; it’s that it’s something I live with every day. Planning our wedding while being sensitive to everyone’s transition was challenging. And sometimes a tangible artifact from the past marriage is jarring. Not because I’m wishing it away, or because it’s not going to continue to be part of our lives, but because the permanence it represents is something I’m in the process of trying to establish for us going forward.

      • Karen

        Thanks for understanding — that was it exactly. I’m not at all ambivalent about becoming a stepmother to these kids; I just find that when it comes to navigating the wedding waters, I’m in what seems sometimes like uncharted territory.

        • Laura

          I feel like this is so completely natural. Becoming a step mom is a little scary, just like any new huge life responsibility is scary.

          On another note, I’m surprised and excited how many stepmoms and future stepmoms there are on here. I’ve been searching for something like APW for stepmoms, but I didn’t expect the conversations to be able to actually happen on APW.

          • besidethepoint

            I agree it’s natural. Nonetheless, I think it can be hard to admit it’s scary! And I so appreciate women like Karen who admit there are moments that are awkward, or maybe not ideal. After all, we are human.

            I also agree about the stepmom turnout on APW–I had no idea! Good stuff.

          • Karen

            I had no idea, either — it’s so exciting!

        • besidethepoint

          I get that, completely. At times, during the wedding planning, I felt like my priorities were all wrong, based on what I perceived they should be. I felt like I was being silly and frivolous. But, I can tell you…on that day? I knew having the wedding was not only not-frivolous, but important. My stepson (age 10) witnessing the vows meant he saw and heard what his dad and I were committing to and why. It wasn’t just about my wearing the lace dress. My husband and I gave each other–and this boy–commitment, security and an example of the hope we have for everyone we love to have this kind of love. As a stepmom, that is exactly what I can/want to impart.

          There was a moment in our ceremony when my stepson was so choked up, the photographer (later) said he was worried he would pass out. During the reception, I was able to laugh and say that I saw that, but that seconds later the kid stuck out his tongue at me, a gesture I returned, and I knew he’d be fine. That moment is why we had a wedding.

          Your wedding is going to be awesome–and I hope you post pics here! Your stepchildren are fortunate to have you; your husband is fortunate to have you, for him and for them. Your guests are fortunate to be invited to share this important day with all of you. I wish you every happiness!

          • Karen

            Thank you so much for your story. I think I’m going to reread your comment many times between today and the wedding!

  • Bridette

    So Im the little girl with the picture. My parents remarried other people when I was in my pre-teens.

    Maybe she feels differently, but in my case, we view each marriage as a separate entity, completely unrelated to the other one. But we are one big family so we do acknowledge they happened. My stepparents and parents coexist happily (obviously this took time) and now that I’m getting married, they all share their memories. My dad talks about funny things that happened at my parents wedding right in front of my stepmother.

    Sound uncomfortable? It doesn’t seem to bother my stepmother. She appreciates the stories and has been my stepmother now for over 20 years. The funny story is likely about the drunk uncle that she finds horribly annoying.

    So, I know you may feel tension, I know for certain my stepmom did when I was young. Just remember, the wedding and the children from the prior marriage made him into the loveable guy you want to marry. He has learned from his experiences and through that process, figured out he loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you.

    The wedding isn’t unseemly. Its a huge celebration of that love. And love always should be celebrated, no?

    (Oh and the picture is just a pretty picture of two of the people she loves most in the world – kids don’t think about the marriage – they think about the wedding!)

    • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

      Very wise.

  • Brenda H

    Thank you for this post – it was something I needed to hear. When we do get engaged and start planning this thing it will be my first and his second which makes it strange at times. So again, thanks for your example of courage in dealing with the hard stuff.

  • Sarah

    How interesting … I was having this conversation with someone last night.

    Two of our friends recently got engaged …. they’ve both been married before. It does nothing to take away from their excitement, and joy. Same goes for us. Having watched them both live with failed marriages, I’m even MORE thrilled for them that they have found each other.

    I mean, sure … she won’t wear the big princess dress and tiara she did to her first wedding. Not because it’s a “second marriage”, because her tastes have changed. And sure … they aren’t having the big church ceremony he did for his first wedding. Not because it’s a “second marriage”, because neither of them are particularly religious.

    When we step back and look at it through eyes that are not clouded with the “he/she’s already DONE this” nonsense, we can see it for what it really is … our loved ones’ wedding. No “first” “second” or “last” needed.

    • http://beautifulorpractical.blogspot.com/ Louba

      I totally agree with this! I got married three weeks ago – my second, his first. I agonised about what was appropriate for a second wedding before realising that this was our wedding and it was important and it deserved to be honoured and not pushed into some kind of second place.
      We had an amazing day – and a big part of that was because my friends and family were just so happy that I was with someone who loved and cared for me and who accepted completely who I was and my past. I was with my ex for 14 years and married for 7 of them so it is hard to escape his existence.
      We both agreed early on that what was important was the fact that we would be married at the end of the day no matter what went wrong – the frills weren’t important – that’s partly because that’s who we are and also because I know that my first wedding day was amazing but the marriage wasn’t – that helped to put things in perspective. I’m so glad we had this mind set because so many things went wrong in the run up that we would have gone crazy otherwise.
      We hoped for a day filled with love and celebration where everyone would feel welcome and I’m so pleased that that is what we got – but we had also agreed that if it didn’t come off then it wasn’t a disaster we’d still have made our committment.
      This is a great discussion and I so wish I’d read it before I started my own planning.

  • clairelizabeth

    Wow. I so, SO needed to read this post today and all the positive and sane comments.

    We’re getting married in July – second for him, only for me – and last night after receiving a bunch of regrets-RSVPs from his friends and family I just lost it. Had an ugly, irrational, crying freakout that I’m not exactly proud of, but was probably necessary.

    See, we’re in our early 30s and getting married in my home town on the other side of the country. Many of his friends and family (who all were at his previous and very extravagant wedding 5 years ago) now have children/grad school/mortgages/holiday plans etc that preclude their attendence at our small, relatively informal wedding.

    I’m having a hard time with that. And I need to get over it because I can’t control other people’s decisions, and those decisions aren’t about us anyway. But it’s tough some days.

    • Karen

      I understand completely how hard that must be for you — whether or not you understand it. We haven’t sent out invitations yet, but I’m already worried about the people who won’t come…and how I’ll react to it.

      Deep breaths.

      • clairelizabeth

        Thanks so much Karen. I’m trying to remind myself that it’s not a competition…

        And so many congratulations and best wishes for your wedding and marriage. Though it’s tough now, you are obviously an extremely wise person with a healthy dose of perspective. You’re going to rock this.

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    As one who had a 20-year marriage end, and may eventually get married again, let me say with all due kindness and respect that if anyone in relationship with me wanted to pretend my first wedding never happened we would have little hope of truth. Ever.

    The ends of long marriages, ones that produce beloved children, are so sad and painful that no one cares what the first wedding was like. Compared to 20 years of life, the first wedding doesn’t matter. Perhaps that attitude could be widely adopted for any second wedding, at least by the two getting married. Others will always talk. Shame is still a potent force in our society.

  • Karen

    Thanks, everyone…it’s amazing to see all the responses here, and I’m so honored to know that my post touched so many people in so many ways.

    Since there are a couple of threads of comments about the step-situation, I thought I’d address it here, separately. My first draft of the post actually included a fair amount about the kids, but I decided it was really a separate issue, so I ended up leaving it out.

    It’s hard for me to think about Brian’s first wedding and first marriage (though I love that line about it not being a marriage; it sure wasn’t much of one) because his ex is — how do I put this delicately? — not a nice person. She was emotionally abusive throughout the marriage, and while the divorce was her idea, when I came into Brian’s and the children’s lives, she went off the deep end (no exaggeration). She treated the kids (whom I adore) so badly in those first years that I will never be able to forgive her — one small example is that she told them (they were 7 and 9 at the time) that every time they spoke to me, they were spitting on her.

    Needless to say, the kids (now 11 and 13) are still dealing with a lot when they travel back and forth between our houses. But the good news is that the news of our engagement seemed to help things (with them, not with her) a lot. The girl child (forgive me for not using their names here), age 13, relaxed so clearly it was visible — I think the idea that she’ll soon be able to define me as her stepmother (instead of “my father’s girlfriend,” which she was never comfortable saying out loud) removed a lot of stress for her. Her mother said to Brian (back when they were seeing a parent coordinator and trying to work out a new custody arrangement) that her problem was not with me but with the fact that we weren’t married — she was lying, but I’m guessing that she said something similar to the kids, which made the engagement a big relief!

    Anyway, I’ll be happy to answer more questions about the kids and my relationship with them — and about their mother and our lack of a relationship with her (at least she speaks to Brian now; she didn’t talk to him for about a year after I came into the picture, and instead sent messages through the kids and through her best friend) — but I want to assure all of you who’ve been stepchildren that I’m able to keep most of my anger away from them, and that what I do show them is, I hope, lots of love and guidance on how to live with other people in the world.

    Brunch is ready in the other room and I am late, but I will check back here a little bit later!

    • ellobie

      You are a brave, brave woman for sticking with a partner who has a crazy ex. I’m so lucky that my husband’s ex is 99.9999% out of our (and his friends’) lives. And she’s not even all that crazy.

      Meanwhile, HELL YEAH! I love this post. Go Karen!

    • Aggie Laura

      I really appreciate this follow up. I think ‘step-moms’ often get a bad rap (just read some fairy tales!), but this is a reminder that to create a healthy situation requires EVERYONE to behave like mature adults and in the best interest of the children.

      And also it is just kind of hard and complicated. And new step-moms have every right to occasionally cry it out and deserve a space for that to be ok.

  • http://www.kissmytulle.com cris

    I’m another one planning my first but his second (well, third – he married the same woman twice [once civil and once traditional for her family]). He has been really sweet about owning up to the fact that he could care less about planning another wedding but it’s exciting for me so he’ll be excited, too. I look at it this way, it’s not my fault that he made a poor choice over 15 years ago. I didn’t. I’ve waited 34 years to find the perfect partner for me and I refuse to feel guilty about celebrating it. If anyone has a problem with that – they can suck it.

  • Class of 1980

    Call me naive, but I honestly thought we were mostly over any shame about a second wedding. I’ve seen very large second weddings since at least the 1980s.

    In fact, my own father remarried around 1985 and the wedding was huge. It was her first. My mother remarried just before that.

    I am currently not speaking to my father, but I can say that his second wife has never tried to ignore that he was married before. Of course, it would be impossible considering he has grown children.

    My mother is an artist and my father still has one of her paintings in his living room. A few people have asked his second wife if the painting bothers her. She always replies that the only thing she is jealous of is his first wife’s TALENT. And then she giggles.

    Our family was so relieved that my parents divorced and were happily remarried, that they used to spend part of Christmas together with their second spouses for the sake of my niece being able to have her family all together.

    I know it’s more difficult for children to go through a divorce, but we were older and it was a total relief for us. We are not happy all the time, but we are one big family and divorce doesn’t change that.

    If I were to get married, it would be my second. The style would reflect my age and increased sophistication, as it should. But, I wouldn’t bother getting married again unless the second marriage was everything the first one was not. And I can’t think of any reason not to celebrate such a triumph!

    • Karen

      I think I thought we were over the shame of second weddings, too, until I realized I was having one! It’s likely that all the disapproval I’m imagining is just that — my imagination.

      I love your dad’s wife’s comment about his first wife’s talent. That’s awesome.

      • Class of 1980

        Yes, it’s existing on the inside. But please don’t let it.

        Allow yourself to ENJOY this time and CELEBRATE that you are marrying a man who has learned (the hard way) what’s what. ;)

        • ElfPuddle

          “CELEBRATE that you are marrying a man who has learned (the hard way) what’s what.”

          I need to remind myself of this more often. Thank you!

          • Class of 1980

            Sometimes that’s the only way we learn, and that includes ME when it comes to marriage.

            Yes, it was very hard, but I’d like to think something good came out of it in the form of new understanding.

            It’s just the way it is with us human beings. Sometimes we learn by thinking things out, and sometimes we learn by disaster.

            I’m not sure why the learning by disaster gets penalized.

    • http://www.randominappropriatethoughts.blogspot.com LeeLee

      “If I were to get married, it would be my second. The style would reflect my age and increased sophistication, as it should. But, I wouldn’t bother getting married again unless the second marriage was everything the first one was not. And I can’t think of any reason not to celebrate such a triumph!”

      I exactly-ed your comment for this phrase. It is hard to describe this feeling and you did a wonderful job doing so. I remember when my bf and I started dating, a few people asked me if I would marry him, along with other questions about name changes that are seperate issues. At the time I described it as, “On this side of a marriage, it is much harder to come up with reasons ‘why’ than ‘why not’ “. When I made the decision that I was ready to get married again and finally my bf and I got engaged (yay!) I found it difficult to explain to people why now was the time.

      Your words have explained my feelings more eloquently than I was able to and I will hold on to them as strength as I deal with my own feelings of shame and guilt. Thank you.

      • Class of 1980

        You’re welcome and thank YOU!

  • Jessie

    Karen, thanks so much for this discussion of planning your wedding and becoming a stepmother. I am in much the same situation – planning a wedding that is my first and his second with a future stepdaughter to consider. So far so good. I know he was very unhappy in his first marriage, so the fact that he’s willing to give it another try with me makes me feel so loved. He’s walking into this already knowing what can go wrong and he loves me and trusts me enough to do it. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid being a little jealous of his ex – she got so many of his important 1st moments: 1st engagement and wedding, 1st house together, 1st baby. However it does make me feel a little better to know that I’ll get his last (and hopefully best!) moments in some of those areas, and the fact that he has experiences already can only help as we continue to build our little blended family. I feel like we’ve already been through a lot of the growing pains that can strain a relationship and we’ve come out stronger and loving each other more than ever.

    Sometimes it’s hard for other people to really understand the conflicting desires we deal with – on one hand you want to plan your wedding and live your life the way you’ve always imagined it and it doesn’t feel good when you have to compromise that. On the other hand you are marrying someone with kids and a past that have to be fairly considered. It’s a tricky balancing act and a path that isn’t easy, but hearing from people like you makes me know it’s totally possible to do it successfully.

    • Karen

      I’m glad my post is able to help — and for my own sake, it’s nice to see so many people posting who are in similar situations!

      What I was really focusing on here was that the image of the wedding we’re planning seems incongruous when you add the kids into the mix — we’re planning the type of wedding people have when they’re younger and the children are just an idea for the future. And it’s hard not to feel guilty about spending the money when we’ve got the boy child’s bar mitzvah coming up next year, and we need to get a bigger place because the kids are growing…

      It’s like having all your milestones all at once. I think I just needed to give myself permission to celebrate this one along with all the rest.

      • LV Anna

        “I think I just needed to give myself permission to celebrate this one along with all the rest.”

        This, exactly. Life cycle events, bat/bar mitzvahs, weddings – death memorials, are not diminished by repetition – their feeling only intensifies because that here is always enough love to go around. I’m not worth less because this is my second wedding, and my intended isn’t diminished because this is his first. Our wedding will have just as much love and joy as ANY wedding does, because it is a WEDDING, and more to the point, it is OUR wedding. And it is just as important as any other life cycle event.

        So, Mazel Tov! and many blessings to you on your upcoming wedding.

  • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

    We are planning our wedding. We were each married once before, but this is OUR first wedding. Even though I know this to be true, I have twinges (and so does he) where I feel like maybe we’re over-doing it, but the wedding isn’t just for us. It’s for our family and friends, for my children, all of whom deserve to celebrate with us and to see us (finally) happy.

    • Karen

      That’s it exactly. Just keep reminding yourself of that.

      Incidentally, we’ve started talking very seriously about the ceremony part of the wedding, and that’s helping a lot. When we focus on standing up in front of all our loved ones, declaring our commitment to each other, it seems totally obvious that we’d do it this way.

      Definitely easier to focus on that than on the amount of money we’re spending on cake! (But it’s really good cake.)

      • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

        The ceremony was the easiest part of us to do, strangely enough. It just sort of came together in a way that made us both really happy.

        It’s the rest of the stuff that’s proven more difficult.

  • G

    It’s good to read this post. I had a very good friend get married for the second time at age 30. She tried to pretend her first wedding never happened and would get upset if I ever brought it up or asked about it as she planned for the second. Acknowledging the first and moving on, as tough as it is, is much, much healthier.

    My friend’s first wedding was HUGE — she flew a bunch of us to the Caribbean for a few days, all expenses paid, etc. Then she came back and had a huge party in the states, complete with wedding dress. She and the groom were together most of college.

    I agreed with her reasons for divorcing him and liked her new man way more than I ever did her first husband. But she and I grew apart over her attitude toward the second marriage. I just couldn’t pretend that this was the first time we looked at wedding dresses together.

  • Caroline

    My mom had that kind of wedding for her second (last marriage) and his as well. She wore a white/ivory dress with a train that cost
    more than my rent and lookedgreat in it. They had a big
    party with two different events, and it was great. Everyone came and celebrated and loved. Oh and she was in her mid-late 50′s at the time. 45 isn’t too old for that kind of wedding.

    • Class of 1980

      More and more “older” people get married in “THAT” kind of wedding. Here’s an older couple who got married in my area.

      Their video: http://www.oldedwardsinn.com/node/847

      Estimate what this wedding cost and any guilt should just float away. ;)

  • http://www.kellyandellen.org/house Ellen

    I am also married to a man who was married before. He is on friendly terms with his ex (which is an overall win in regards to everybody’s relationships… particularly the two kiddos…).

    During the wedding planning we were remarkably on the same page in regards to the simplicity and practical-ness of it. I wanted a simple wedding – I had always wanted a simple wedding. His first wedding was also, for its day, quite simple and a little offbeat. That’s who I am, that’s who he is and that’s why we love each other.

    However, there *was* one point in the planning when I had to pull out a modified – “But, it’s MY first (only!) wedding!” – when he floated the idea of inviting the aforementioned ex and her beau. Nope. I wasn’t too thrilled with that idea, and our pre-marital counselor agreed with me that on that, it was my call.

  • Mia Culpa

    I’m so glad to be reading this right now. I just got engaged to my boyfriend of 5 years: this will be his second marriage.

    Even though he’s had a wedding before, he tells me that he’s really excited to have a wedding with me, because he’s getting married for all the right reasons this time. Do I still worry because he had that other wedding? Sometimes. But we want to have this wedding because it’s a celebration of our relationship and our future, not a condemnation of what came before.

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

    My heart always breaks a little when a Bride tells me well, it’s my (or his or our) second wedding so we shouldn’t do this or that. As this post so brilliantly says, it’s your first marriage to each other . . . CELEBRATE! Best wishes to Karen & Brian on celebrating their marriage~

  • http://www.sageoutdoordesigns.com Kate Nicholls

    I was very concerned about this, too. My husband, B, was married before me, a marriage that lasted nine years. Since they met quite young, almost every photo of my husband in high school or college has his ex in it. I battled against feelings that our relationship was inferior because it hadn’t lasted as long (not yet, that is).

    While picking details for the wedding, it was only an issue once: we were talking about readings for the ceremony and I said I loved the Song of Solomon. B said, “Umm…” and stared at his feet for a while. It finally clicked in for me that he had used it in his previous ceremony. Although I love the reading, I realized it was a detail I could let go. I wanted our ceremony to be something we were both very comfortable with.

    Since my husband is from New Zealand and most of his family still lives there, the wedding week was the first time I met many of them. I was so nervous at what they would think of me, and how the wedding might remind them all of the time before. The thing that really got me over those feelings was a conversation I had with my husband’s dad. I said something along the lines of, “Is this odd for you to be doing this for the second time?” and he said, “The first time we all had a lot of reservations. But this time, we’ve never seen B so happy. We’re all so glad to be here to see this.”

    It made me realize that B’s first wife had a relationship with his family for many years, but it wasn’t as rosey as I had blown it up to be in my mind. They could all see that for B and I, this was the real thing, and they all ttok part in the joy of that. The wedding was an amazing day, and so far the marriage has been the partnership I’d always hoped for. The past isn’t something we can ignore, but it is something that we can grow through and find the other side.

  • bumblebee611

    Karen,

    Thanks for your honest post about the challenges you’ve faced in planning your and Brian’s wedding. I am always hungry for more posts on APW about blending families, second marriages, and so on, and your post didn’t disappoint. That said, my situation is pretty much the opposite of yours in every way: I have two children from a previous marriage, a great co-parenting relationship with their dad (who warmly congratulated me on the news that I was marrying my sweetie), and a fiance who has never been married to anyone else before and has never had or parented any children with a previous partner. I’m also profoundly grateful that said fiance has never let on to my kids about ANY ill feelings he might have towards their dad, or sadness about that relationship’s having happened, because they are children, and if he did, I have no doubt that someday, even if not right away, they would come to interpret it as a sign that he didn’t really want them around, either–after all, their existence pretty much dwarfs all other evidence or reminders of the fact of my previous marriage.

    I have gotten some “second wedding” shame, even if unwitting, from some people, but usually just point out to them that I didn’t have a wedding when I married my kids’ dad–we eloped, as it was HIS second marriage and he had no interest in a big shindig, and a big fancy wedding definitely wasn’t my style back then. I will be wearing a white dress at my wedding, and I expect to get no small amount of grief over that from my FMIL, who pretty much hates me and would do almost anything to prevent this marriage from occurring. In any event, I just wanted to say that actually having the wedding this time is making things infinitely more meaningful. I very much regret not having had the whole public affirmation and support when I married my kids’ dad, and find the whole thing makes this marriage very different and gives me a lot more confidence that it’s really for life. In any event, I hope your nightmare about people behaving as though you don’t “deserve” a big party fades away, and in its place, you find confidence that celebrating your marriage in the way you choose is not only going to be a blast, but is also a big part of making your marriage succeed.

  • http://www.blushcelebrations.com rebecca

    I just wanted to say YEAH!!!! Good for you for owning this day and making it yours! You cannot deny his past, it has brought him to where you are today. But you’re right, this is your wedding, both of yours. And it should be a celebration of love and happiness and commitment and then you go and get your party on!!!

  • Esmith

    Karen, excellent post. Ladies, excellent comments.

    Something entirely different from the second marriage/first marriage thing resonated with me, and in this post I found something that I’ve REALLY been looking for on APW. This community has given me so much- I’m a “read it over coffee and don’t comment” sort of gal, but I’m here every day, reading about your fabulous weddings and super involved and crafty fiances.

    The wedding we’re having in July is a first wedding and a first marriage for both of us, but it’s becoming MY ideal wedding (big/traditional), not necessarily HIS ideal wedding. His proposal was a means to be married, not a means to have a giant wedding. I’ve taken on a lot of the planning, and he’s not as interested. I’m psyched to be splashing in the Martha Stewart pool and while he may not want to jump right in there with me, he’s content to wave excitedly from a lounge chair. It’s true, I want what I want, BUT (there it is)… I don’t want to be responsible if things go wrong. I don’t want MY wedding choices to implicate me in a similar disaster scene of the beach/rain/too much food/everyone leaving. This is my issue of trying to avoid owning this thing, not his issue for being a little less interested in pretty pretty flowers.

    I am striving to get where you are, Karen. The last two paragraphs of your post are exactly what I needed to hear. Any decision that either of us makes becomes OUR decision, and regardless of where I go in my most paranoid, I will not spend one moment of my wedding day being ashamed of what I (and therefore ‘we’) wanted. Furthermore, no one will whisper and say, “This wedding is so ‘her’ but so NOT ‘him’.”

    I might have glanced at the topic and thought “second marriage? that’s not me… I’m out of here.” I’m so glad I read it… I found exactly what I was looking for in the most unlikely of posts. Fabulous.

    • Karen

      I’m so glad!

      The coolest thing about that part of the post was that I wasn’t actually feeling it until I wrote it. Or, well, until I’d written the first draft and shown it to Brian and we had a conversation about it. That’s just one of the ways that writing this post was so therapeutic for me — and I’m overjoyed that you found it helpful even though your situation isn’t on the surface directly related.

  • http://hitchdied.wordpress.com Robin HitchDied

    Great post! I’m a child of a second marriage, so I am especially in favor of this line of shame-blasting.

    • Karen

      All right, NOW I feel I’ve won the prize. Robin liked my post!!!! (I lurk on your blog occasionally, Robin — found it through your posts on here.)

  • Sandy

    Oh yay! Yay for this post and yay for all of the comments!

    I’ve been drafting a similar post for the past week, and I am ecstatic to see the love and support! I’m 43 and this July will be my first (and last) wedding and his last.

    More to come, but wanted to add that one thing I do to ‘help’ with the overall spirit of the new family that we are creating is to say that I am officially becoming their Bonus Mom …because they are definitely becoming my Bonus Kids! Plus it makes absolutely everyone smile. The kids don’t always say it, but they are 5 and 8 and merely trying to distinguish me from their bio mom, not make a huge social commentary when they call me their step mom.

    • Karen

      Sandy, I’m sorry I stole your thunder — but I’m glad to know you were thinking of it…and happy to hear your story, too.

      We’re trying hard to get the kids used to the idea that a bonus parent is a good thing — it’s a battle, because their mom has been telling them the opposite since I came into the picture four years ago, but we figure if we say it enough times (and if I keep showing it), they’ll eventually believe us. Of course, it’s easier for them to believe it when I’m giving them presents than it is when I’m reminding them to do their homework!

      • ElfPuddle

        Amen!

  • Christy

    I’m getting married next June; a first marriage for me and for my sweetie… well, let’s just say it’s not his first. I’m also over 35.

    At first I wanted to have a quiet civil ceremony and be done with it. Partly because I have a hard time parting with money, but partly because I felt, deep down, like I didn’t deserve the wedding. Then mom expressed dismay at the idea. Then so did my sister. Then, I realized that what I wanted was a chance for people to celebrate with us, to witness a life-changing event and to send us all of their best love and support as we head into this crazy world together.

    I was at peace, and then I was leafing through Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette, which my grandmother gave me as a gift around 30 years ago. I was reading it because I thought it would be refreshing to see what life was like when things were so much more predictable. When the chances you had to deal with step-parents was small. When everyone knew what the bride’s name would be after the wedding. Then I stumbled across the best passage of all written who-knows-how-many years ago:

    “The single determining factor as to whether a marriage is to be considered a second marriage or not is the previous marital status of the bride, and only the bride. An oft-married groom will avoid such frivolities as a bachelor party, but if it is his bride’s first marriage, she is entitled to all the trappings of a formal first-time wedding, should she desire them.”

    So not that you, or I, needed an etiquette book to tell us that it’s OK to do what feels right and true… and that’s not to say that if both partners have been married, they aren’t entitled by today’s standards to have all the trappings they want…but I am not ashamed to admit that I feel extra confident now that I know I’m actually doing what Amy Vanderbilt told me to do.

    • http://www.sadiesadiemarriedlady.com Sadie

      That quote makes me a little sad. Because I’ve been married before (twice), and my fiance hasn’t. And he wants “all the trappings of a formal first-time wedding.” But because I’m an “oft-married bride,” he’s not supposed to get them.

      But he will get them. And while it’s not the giant production that was my first wedding (or the elopement that was my second), it will be beautiful and special and give his family and friends the opportunity to celebrate his marriage; and give my family and friends the opportunity to celebrate my finding happiness after heartbreak.

  • Alexandra

    Congratulations, & rock it out~!