The first time around: a big, white wedding
The first time around, there was a big simcha, most of which I planned over a six-month period when I happened to be on a sabbatical from my job. I threw myself into the process of planning, and even now I remember all the things — so many things — the color scheme (from the flowers right down to the napkins), the personalized cake-topper, the wedding favors we left on the tables for our guests. There were a lot of details. It was, I remember, event planning at its most involved. I remember the price tag for the wedding, too.
My first wedding was, in fact, a most beautiful wedding, one in which our guests walked away having been entertained, very well fed and having danced for hours to live music. The wedding sated the bridal fantasies I’d had since I was old enough to know what a wedding was.
The thing about fantasy is that it is the opposite of reality. The complexity of two individuals in any relationship with each other is a reality; unexpected curveballs are sometimes thrown when we least expect it. So it is that my first marriage was not to last.
Reflections after the first wedding
Now that I am in a different stage in my life, I feel that the challenges I encountered when I stared divorce in the face have made me stronger. My experience has given me a great deal of appreciation for what I have now with my fiancé; I take nothing for granted.
The most important thing — the key element when planning a wedding – is that the man you are marrying is the right man for you. Everything else is just scenery, background, backdrop.
I’m now in the throes of planning my second wedding, one in which there is no retinue, no color scheme, no sit-down meal. The most crucial detail, the one I think about daily, is that I’m marrying a man who makes me incredibly happy.
Our wedding date will be just three months from the date we got engaged. I’m learning that it is totally possible to plan a wedding in three months, and whilst working full time, too.
The process has been fun – my fiancé and I set a small-ish budget which we are firmly sticking to; it’s been so satisfying to find real bargains and to prioritize only what’s most important: for us it was: an atmospheric venue, great live music and an excellent photographer. It took us about three weeks to find these three things.
It was not all that long ago that I planned my first wedding, so I have the benefit of experience, contacts in the wedding industry in my city, and lessons learned from having done this before.
Yet I have never done this before — marry a man so good, so kind, so well suited for me. I am counting the days until I can call this mensch of a man my husband.
Planning for the second time around
There is a general template for any wedding plan; it is one that my fiancé and I know well. We both relished our first weddings and have fond memories of them; to repeat those unique experiences would feel strange to us. So, shortly after we got engaged, it was an easy decision to stray from the template – in order to have a wedding which was more intimate and focused on the ceremony than on anything else. Everything else felt less relevant this time around.
We wanted to create something which would speak to where we are, as 40 somethings beginning a new and different chapter. We quickly decided against a table plan type of reception; instead we chose to simplify things by having a small party after the shul with some cocktails and canapes. Within three days of being engaged, we’d secured our dream synagogue, our first choice of Rabbi and found a date in which our family members were all available. The fact that we had decided not to have a sit-down meal meant that a reception was a secondary concern, which definitely made the planning process more straightforward.
Previously, we’d both had bridesmaids, best men; the whole retinue. This time, we decided there was simply no need to ask this of anyone again — they had done this for us once and it would feel strange, we felt, to ask again and try a kind of repeat of that experience — this just felt unnecessary.
There will be some crossover of guests who were at our first weddings. These wedding guests will experience a different type of wedding this time around, so comparisons between our previous weddings will, I’m sure, be minimized, too.
Every wedding is different
Of course, no two weddings are ever the same. This is surely part of the magic of weddings. It goes without saying that no two second time around weddings are ever the same either. Some of my divorced friends who have found love again have had large white weddings with all the trimmings the second time around — and why not? The unique benefit of planning a wedding again is a sense of perspective and wisdom rarely afforded during life’s milestone moments.
A friend of mine, divorced, remarried recently and planned a wedding far bigger than her first — “because this time he’s the right one,” she told me, “and I want to celebrate that in a huge way!”
After I got engaged, several people asked me if I was planning on wearing a white dress. Some brides who are walking down the aisle for the second time prefer to wear a different color, but for me I am embracing tradition and have a white dress, a veil, a bouquet to carry — all the aspects of a bridal outfit that, to me, make me feel like a bride: these decisions are so personal.
Family Involvement in Decisions
The first time around for both of us, our families were heavily involved in the planning process of the wedding and all had a designated role or job. This time, however, we noticed that right after getting engaged, our families were much more hands-off than for our previous weddings.
Things that felt so important the first time around (going with my mother to choose a wedding dress, for example), had already been done and we felt no need to do them again — we have those valued memories. This time, I ordered my wedding dress online (the first one I ordered fit me perfectly — easy!) I asked my mother and best friend if they would come with me to choose a veil, though — it’s been lovely to still have a couple of traditional bridal experiences this time around.
The format and scale of our wedding reduced the biggest stress we both felt last time around — guest list woes. Drawing up the first draft of the guest list, some people stood out — these friends had been by our sides during our most difficult moments – and our biggest life transitions. When you go through life changing events, some people really come through for you. Those were the people we wanted to celebrate with.
By only inviting family and our closest friends to the small party afterwards, we took away a lot of stress. We decided that anyone who wanted to come to the chuppah was more than welcome, but the after-party would feel more intimate. This also cut costs significantly.
Bachelorette party / Bachelor party
The bachelorette evening that I had for my first wedding was one of the best nights of my life — it took place a few days before the wedding, and friends flew in from around the world in order to make it to the event. It was a special time, in which I acknowledged a multitude of my female friends for the roles they had played in my single life. This time around, the experience feels different. I’ve been single, married, divorced, single and now engaged — another bachelorette feels a bit redundant to me.
I do feel it is important though, before tying the knot, to spend some time alone with some of the women who I value and who are important in my life. I’ve planned a small dinner with my closest female friends and some female family members; there will be no ‘Bride to Be’ sashes or photo shoots this time though.
My fiancé feels similarly — he’ll have some drinks with a few of his close male friends; he has no desire to relive the experience of a stag party, as much as he did enjoy it when it happened.
A second chance
Recently, as I placed a little tiara on my hair and lowered the fabric of my new veil over my face, my eyes welled up with tears. My best friend asked why I was crying. “Because I feel so very fortunate.” I am a bride – again — but things feel quite a bit different this time. My eyes beneath the wedding day veil are tinged with the tears of not just joy, but of deep gratitude — I know that second chances don’t come along every day. And when they do, you just say yes.
About the author: Amy Schreibman Walter is a writer and teacher based in London. Her essays, articles and poetry have been published widely. Follow her on Twitter @amyswalter or find her at www.amyschreibmanwalter.net