A Look At Life: Second Marriages

27th May 2011

Two weddings and a bank balance…
the problem of second marriage etiquette.

Heather Harris

The average time from divorce to second marriage is now three and a half years. The first marriage lasts an average 11.4 years…

…barely time to unpack the 200 piece dinner service that we, their original guests, all lovingly clubbed together to buy.

And that’s where I have a problem. I’m all for romance and finding love second time around but does it also mean we also have to find a new set of matching side plates.

Are all of us who stood in our flares and shoulder pads hearing our friends confess undying devotion ‘till death us do part’ in the 80s expected to mark 'round two' in equal style? Are we expected to buy more expensive presents, for a new engagement and another wedding? Not to mention the numerous outfits now required for the rerun. No longer are second marriages small affairs (although most of them are a result of one) held in a registry office and celebrated with discretion and restraint.

Thanks to a change in the law in 2002, it’s up to an individual Minister whether he agrees to marry a divorced couple in his church and, for all the right reasons, most of them say 'yes'. They just don’t think of the impact on us poor duplicate guests.

Once the lavishly embossed invitation arrives promising large meringues – in lace for the bride and with cream at the lavish reception – the clothes' budget rockets. As most of our children are now teenagers, second weddings mean an expensive trip to Hollister, New Look and Abercrombie and Fitch (and that’s just for my boys).

Then there’s the tricky business of the Hen/Stag Do to be navigated. Although traditionally marked as a last night for a young bride or groom ‘to get it out of their system’, it seems that being over 40 with a few decades of experience behind them doesn’t stop the ‘mark two’ brides and grooms wanting to drag us to Amsterdam for the weekend or a few nights at a Spa.

Fine when we were all in our 20s and 30s with disposable income and the ability to feed ourselves on a fiver. Now the cost of a two day dog sitter on top of a seaweed massage is enough to make me weep.

Not that I’m mean, generally. Birthdays, Christmas, Christenings… any excuse to celebrate and I’m first in the queue, purse in hand. It just seems a bit strange that first weddings can be airbrushed from everyone’s memories quicker than it takes to sign a Pre-Nup.

Take Paul McCartney… it only seems like Yesterday (fittingly) that he was declaring to the world’s media that after the tragic death of his ‘soul mate’ Linda, he had incredibly met another ‘soul mate for life’ in Heather Mills… a few billion pounds later and Hey Jude, he’s at it again.

You’d think he might be slightly sheepish. But no. One thing he and all my friends who are remarrying share is a total lack of irony that we’ve all been here before. Even the ones who have blatantly cheated on their first partner (often also a friend of ours) joyously ring us up to share their wondrous news. And it’s only a brave few who bring up the small matter of wife or husband number one.

Most second weddings are a political minefield. If you’re the wronged party who still keeps in touch with your cheating partner's parents (who are, after all, the grandparents of your children), do you invite them to your second wedding – to watch them witness what their own son or daughter screwed up. And if you’re the innocent party do you readily agree for your children to go to your ex-partner's second wedding as if he/she has every right to find happiness despite destroying yours? Do you help choose a present and select new outfits with a sweet smile while inwardly praying for the newlyweds to be fatally struck by lightning at the altar?

Such dilemmas should soon be over. As my friends career towards the menopause and empty nesting, surely they’ll be far too exhausted to look for partner number two. Or three. They’ll stick to cats – far simpler life partners and their saucer of milk doesn’t have to come from a matching set.

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