Second Weddings: Dos and Don’ts

Here, dos and don’ts in second weddings when you’ve got adult kids.


Getting married for the second time in your 50s, 60s, even 70s can be an exciting time and a big cause for celebration. But if you’re planning a wedding ceremony, big or small, and some kind of party or reception afterwards, there are things you might want to consider if there are adult children from a previous marriage involved.

“Above all, it’s important to stay sensitive to everyone’s feelings,” says Danielle Andrews Sunkel, owner of the Toronto-based company The Wedding Planners and president of the Wedding Planner Institute of Canada. “It’s often a little difficult for older children who may be used to having their mother or father all to themselves. Now they have to learn to share that person. They’ve been an important part of their parents’ lives and they should also be an important part of the wedding itself.”

Here are a few ‘dos’ Danielle says can help make a successful and happy occasion:

– Have a son or daughter walk the bride or groom down the aisle or through the garden, whatever the case may be. (Sometimes the wedding invitations come from the adult children themselves. ‘Please join us for the marriage of our parents…’)

– Adult children can also be witnesses to the marriage and sign the marriage licence. Or the ‘kids’ might do a reading during the ceremony. Danielle has also organized second weddings where the entire wedding party was made up of adult children from both sides. “The important thing is everyone feels a part of it.”

– At the reception, encourage the children to give brief speeches welcoming the other person and their children into the family. If any of the adult children don’t want to do this – perhaps they’re just shy – then don’t force the issue. “It all comes back to being sensitive,” says Danielle. “I wouldn’t push them at all.” You can also set up a family table at the reception which still shows you’re building a new family but you’re not forcing anyone to speak.

– It might be obvious, but always include the spouses of married adult children.

NEXT: Second Wedding Don’ts

Here are a few of Danielle’s ‘don’ts’:

– Never spring the news on your children. In other words, don’t run off and get married then inform your kids – “Hey, guess what? We got married! Let’s celebrate!’ That’s very insensitive to the children,” says Danielle. “If you choose to do a quiet destination wedding for just the two of you, fine. Just tell them beforehand. I think that’s the biggest no-no. It’s an emotional time for children when their parent is marrying someone who isn’t their mother or father and you need to be sensitive to their emotions. Even when you’re dealing with your parents as an adult child, you’re always their little kid at heart.”

– Don’t expect your adult kids to warm up to your fiancé the day of the wedding if they haven’t had the chance beforehand to get to know them. Same goes for the step-siblings. Try and have them all meet well before the wedding so everyone can get acquainted – even a little. Distance can make this difficult, but it’s a goal worth shooting for when you can.

A lot of the weddings Danielle plans are second marriages of older couples. Are those weddings more challenging? “They haven’t been for me,” she says. “Most of the children are genuinely happy for their parents.”