I Do, Take Two: The Rise Of The Second Wedding

Not content with one Big Day, more and more couples want to have their three-tier semi-naked cake and eat it too, writes Lauren Bravo...

Second weddings

by Lauren Bravo |
Updated on

Dust off your dancing shoes! Book another rural minicab, three weeks in advance! Scrub the red wine stains off your emergency pashmina and empty the petals and tiny polaroids out of your clutch bag – second wedding season is here!

But that doesn’t mean what you think it does. Not second marriages. The elephant in this room isn’t divorce, it’s déjà vu. We’re talking couples who do the whole shebang again, sometimes before the ink is even dry on the photographer’s prop certificate. Do-over weddings. Fweddings. Nope-tials.

Exhibit A: Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas, who have arrived in France for their second ceremony. Their first, a Vegas ceremony officiated by an Elvis Impersonator, took place after the Billboard Music Awards in May – and the public lapped it up in all its kitschy glory, the bride in her slinky white jumpsuit and shades, with Diplo live-streaming the whole thing from the back of the chapel. The Parisian sequel this weekend, however, is rumoured to be “a more traditional” affair. Quelle surprise.

Turner and Jonas are the latest in a long line of celebs to say ‘I still do’. Karlie Kloss and her husband Joshua Kushner recently hosted a prairie-inspired second wedding in Wyoming, eight months after they originally got hitched. Penn Badgely and Domino Kirke had two ceremonies, four months apart in 2017.George and Amal Clooney celebrated their Venice wedding in 2014 with a follow-up bash for 200 at a Buckinghamshire stately home. And who can forget Keira Knightley in her ‘recycled’ Chanel minidress and jacket? So low-key chill! So thrifty! So… conveniently followed by a custom Valentino ballgown, at a secret second wedding. Well, wouldn’t you?

When you’re a millionaire A-lister with the funds to cover two huge dos, plus travel and accommodation for several hundreds of your closest friends, the double wedding phenomenon is hardly shocking. But like every celebrity trend, this one is inevitably trickling down to the mere mortals. Mortals who aren’t about to fly you to Provence and put you up in a luxury gîte, but would still love the pleasure of your company and a White Company bedding set, please.

We’ve already seen a rise in ‘event weddings’ – this year Bridebook.co.uk reported a 26% increase in the number of couples spreading their celebration over several days, while next-day brunches for everyone to compare photos, hangovers and dancefloor injuries (I like to call it ‘Woxing Day’) are well and truly A Thing. “We’re getting married on a Saturday in August, and said on the RSVP that there will be a ‘Sunday chill’ at our local pub,” says Megan, 29, who is now struggling to keep a lid on her swelling celebrations. “We expected about 20 people, but 70 have now said they want to come. We're panic-ordering a beige buffet.”

Now that the Big Day has morphed into the Big Weekender, or even the Big Week, so a nuptial redux that happens weeks or months after the first wedding is becoming more common too. I’ve heard stories on the groupchat grapevine of couples who insisted an intimate Caribbean sunset beach ceremony was all the validation their love needed, only to later summon everyone to a Cotswolds marquee with a dress code more stringent than Berghain. “I have friends who had three big weddings in different places, all awkward places to get to, and at least two massive parties as well,” says Susannah*, 33, who politely declined to attend all the functions. “They got divorced shortly after. Then one of them had another massive wedding.”

For guests, who already spend an average of £391 a year on weddings and their associated activities, this trend could be the straw that breaks the camel’s Coast-clad back. Not to mention landing a serious dent in our annual leave allocation. The second wedding introduces a new raft of etiquette conundrums too. Is a second gift required? Can we wear the same outfit to both? Must we cry the same amount? Do we have to think of new things to say to all the aunties? Is posting a photo of the couple captioned “still married!” acceptable batz? You have to wonder how many of Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ friends are having frantic WhatsApp summits as we speak.

Still, let’s be fair for a minute. There are many, totally valid, reasons why couples might choose to tie a double knot.

Separate religious and civil ceremonies, for example, where fitting both into one day alongside myriad rituals and hundreds of guests would be too much of a headache. Thulasy, 31, and her husband Jimmy had their Hindu ceremony on a Saturday, followed by a civil ceremony and reception on the Sunday. “Two weddings are the norm for many first-generation kids, who often have one (big, fat) traditional wedding to keep their parents and family happy, and then another more intimate, personalised wedding with a guest list the couple can actually control,” she explains. “This two-part sequence is the perfect, though costly, solution for a generation that has grown up with two cultures side by side. The traditional wedding offers sentiment for the older generation, while the second wedding is a closer reflection of the couple themselves.”

Likewise international couples with far-flung families are often obliged to have two sufficiently massive parties, to satisfy both sets of loved ones and avoid the classic “you want me to spend HOW much on a flight to Bali?” brouhaha. While it’s easy for cash-strapped guests to gripe, let’s not forget that the pressure on couples to please everybody can be equally draining.

Then there’s the growing trend for humanist or independent wedding celebrants, who can conduct your ceremony any place you like – in a forest clearing, up a mountain, on a rollercoaster – but don’t have the legal powers to make your union legit. According to a survey by Bridebook.co.uk, outdoor weddings have seen a 3% rise in the past year, while nearly 40% of couples would now consider choosing a friend over a qualified registrar. I’ve even had a go myself, conducting my friend’s beautiful wedding last year, two days after she and her husband had made it official at a registry office with only a handful of close family present. In the mad three-ring circus that is the modern wedding industry, one of the nicer developments is the freedom for couples to make their big day truly personal. And sometimes, that means doing it twice. At least until the law changes.

But of course, there will always be the piss-takers. The couples who see their love as a Disney franchise, to be milked for infinite sequels (Wedding 2: This Time It’s In A Castle). Why choose between urban realness and fairytale princess fever dream when you can just do both?!

Because, here’s the thing: you can have another wedding, but it still won’t be perfect. You can have five weddings, and they still won’t be perfect. You could spend every weekend from now until your ruby anniversary hauling yourselves round every marquee, yurt, country club, fairy light-festooned warehouse and rustic barn conversion in the country and still not achieve flawless matrimonial nirvana, because you are real humans, not models from an Estée Lauder perfume ad. Taking two bites of the nuptial cherry might mean more opportunities to make your dreams come true, but it also means double the chance of drunk uncles, brawling bridesmaids, e.coli in the canapés, scandal in the speeches, or waking up on the day with a whitehead like a mini marshmallow in the middle of your bridal visage. And those are the things you’ll still be laughing about together, 50 years later.

No. Sensible reasons aside, I’m sure we can agree that the only people who are really entitled to a complete wedding do-over, no questions asked, are women who got married on Don’t Tell the Bride. Although they should probably rethink the spouse before the place settings.

*Name has been changed

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