Second Marriage Wedding Dresses: The Rules and Etiquette Revealed

How exactly are you meant to dress if it isn't your first time down the aisle? Here's the REAL rules about second marriage wedding dresses

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The etiquette around getting remarried isn’t obvious. If you’ve already had the big white wedding, it can be tricky to know what to do for your second marriage.

One of the biggest questions is whether you can still wear a white wedding dress at your second wedding.

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

When divorcee Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in May, she chose not one but two white wedding dresses and looked confident and radiant in both. Yet some brides seem convinced that your second marriage should be done quietly and white should be firmly off the palette.

READ MORE: 19 Amazing Wedding Dresses with Pockets

Who’s right? Here’s the truth about whether white is appropriate to wear to marry again and some second marriage wedding dress ideas.

Why Do Brides Wear White?

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Firstly, let’s break down this popular idea that a bride must wear white at all. It wasn’t until trend-setter Queen Victoria wore an ivory lace number in 1840 that white dresses became the fashion. Before then it was actually traditional for brides to wear red and white was worn for mourning. Only later did the symbolism of purity, innocence and virginity become associated with white – it certainly hasn’t been the case that brides always wore white.

READ MORE: 15 Perfect Plus Size Wedding Dresses

Since many people will have lived with their partner previous to marrying them – whether for the first time or second, third, fourth marriage – the traditional reason for wearing white is outdated. Many brides now opt for ivory, champagne or blush tones, while others embrace colour with red, pink or blue. Heck, you can even have a black wedding dress if that’s what you want!

However, wearing white on your wedding day has become a really beautiful (much-more-modern-than-you-think) tradition in Western weddings. It’s no surprise that lots of brides would love to put on a white dress for their second marriage.

Can I Wear White to My Second Wedding?

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Absolutely! There will always be the killjoys that say wearing white again is “inappropriate” or “tacky”, but this is resolutely untrue. In the case of choosing your wedding dress, the only opinion that matters is your own. It’s your dress and you have to feel comfortable in it.

That means, and listen carefully, you can wear whatever you want for your wedding! You are in love and getting married and should celebrate the occasion with the joy it deserves. Just look at Meghan and Harry – try telling them they should have married quietly.

READ MORE: The Best Wedding Dress Shops in London

Be aware that you might not be able to marry for the second time in a religious building like a church. Often second weddings will take place at a registry office or venues licensed for civil ceremonies. The rules around what is or isn’t appropriate are therefore much more relaxed: you might have dressed modestly in a church but be happy in a strapless dress in a registry office, or choose to go for something like a bridal jumpsuit instead of a dress completely.

Second Marriage Wedding Dresses: The Dos and Don'ts

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Image: Marco & Maria

Peta Hunt, editor-at-large at You & Your Wedding and bridal fashion expert, gives her ultimate tips on dressing for your second wedding.

“If at first you don’t succeed – then go dramatically different this time!” says Peta.

You want to avoid anything that resembles your first dress for obvious reasons. “Hopefully you’ll be older and a little wiser and have found your personal style,” she says.

READ MORE: Wedding Dress Advice for Older Brides

Many second-time couples might be slightly older and, for example, entering a second marriage in their 50s. For both of you, the times and styles will have changed from your first marriage, as will how you feel about your bodies, what you’re happy to show off and what you’d rather cover up.

Choose the Dress for You, Not Your Preconceptions

“Forget about your dress being age-relevant, you need to work on the right shape for you and a dress that works with your venue,” says Peta. “Older brides may want sleeves or a shift dress; a simple lace shift dress with lace sleeves is a great look. Perhaps instead of a ballgown, a big skirt and shirt-style top could work.”

Think about what kind of day you’re going to be having. “How about a chic suit and jacket in the style of Jackie O? It’s perfect for a city wedding. For a country style day, how about a big hat and floaty tea length dress? For an evening wedding, a beaded dress or jumpsuit can work too – look to Eliza Jane Howells for some amazing styles.

READ MORE: 21 Stylish Wedding Jumpsuits

“Whatever style you choose, the key is to make sure to pick a fabric that flatters - crepe is good, and most dresses with lace or chiffon sleeves will work. Go with your shape and don’t try to diet into something!”

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Image: Eliza Jane Howells

Don’t Be Afraid of Colour

Yes, you can wear white, but you can also wear polka-dots if that’s what takes your fancy. “For second timers, maybe you’d like to wear more colour. Not that red is a bit of a cliché, but consider pale blue, grey and blush. Marco & Maria dresses are great for this,” says Peta.

Veils are a No-Go

“A birdcage or simple headpiece could make your dress look more bridal, but a veil could look too much,” says Peta.

Think About Your Children

Keeping up with the latest trends doesn’t mean jumping on the sexy sheer dress bandwagon, says Peta. “The only rule that really applies for me is if you have children don’t embarrass them by having the see-through lace jumpsuit from last year’s runway. If you go sleeveless, how about a fluffy shrug or chiffon cape to soften your silhouette?”

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Image: Katya Katya

Pare it Back

“As we get older, a good rule is to try to pare it all down a bit,” explains Peta. This is relevant whether your second marriage is in your 30s or your 60s. “Go for a simple dress and splash out on a pair of shoes or great jewellery. Don’t forget good underwear too! No VPL, just get some light control for a bit of extra support.”

Find a Muse

“Think about a style icon and look at what outfits they pick. If you’re a more mature bride, there’s lots of dress inspiration to be found on the red carpet. Think Sophia Loren, Lauren Hutton, Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Pat Cleveland, Jane Fonda and Ines de la Fressange.”

12 Second Marriage Wedding Dress Ideas

Pronovias - Eline

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Timeless and elegant, this Pronovias dress is perfect for older brides who want a bit more coverage on their arms and cleavage.

Essense of Australia - D2653

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

A mermaid shape is flattering on most body shapes but has lots of impact. Combined with a clean, simple design on the rest of the dress, Essense of Australia has made the a chic and refined gown for a bride who doesn't want anything too princess-y.

READ MORE: The Most Beautiful Lace Wedding Dresses

Phase Eight- Nyelle

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

The high street can be an invaluable source of great value wedding dresses and many come in off-white if you're still not convinced about going bright white. This ivory gown with beading from Phase Eight is a very flattering shape and comes with little sleeves. It's ideal for a relaxed or destination wedding, and also as an evening reception dress.

Rosa Clare - Amalia

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

You're ditching the rule book, which means you don't need to go full-length with your dress. We love this vintage-style lace gown from Rosa Clara. The bow at the waist is the perfect finishing touch.

READ MORE: Gok Wan's One Trick For Finding the Perfect Dress

Justin Alexander - 88019

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

This modest design makes a statement with the full skirt and elegant neckline, while cap sleeves add a little coverage. It's a big dress so is ideal to hold it's own in a large venue.

Catherine Deane - Juniper

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

This '60s inspired wedding dress is perfect for a boho bride. If you're after that free-spirited, vintage look, you'll love this ivory design.  

READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Dress Alterations and Fittings

Jasmine Couture - T192008

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

These butterfly sleeves are super flattering on both the chest and the arms - as well as being drop dead gorgeous! Coming in ivory or white, this embellished lace dress from Jasmine Couture is totally unique.

Blue by Enzoani - Ibarra

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Who says your second wedding dress shouldn't be sexy? The overlay on the bodice of this lacy gown will create the illusion of an hourglass figure if you're a more athletic build, but also hugs all the right places on curvier figures. 

READ MORE: How to Measure Yourself For a Wedding Dress

Monsoon - Marilyn

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

This satin gown has a stunning cowl neck, low-sweeping back and embellished shoulders that add some va-va-voom to the classic column dress shape. It's a steal from Monsoon!

Julietta by Mori Lee - 3247

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Glamorous brides will love this off-the-shoulder, fishtail dress from Mori Lee. It draws attention to all your best assets and is quite the show-stopped. Why shouldn't all eyes be on you at your wedding?

READ MORE: 21 Timeless Dress Designs

Justin Alexander -  8924

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

Crew necks show a little cleavage while keeping it all very dignified. This jacquard ballgown is classy, stylish and sophisticated - plus it has pockets!

Opulence - Lyon

Wedding Dresses for Second Marriages

With an empire line skirt, this Opulence dress is simple but full of movement. It'll look beautiful when you dance and is great for a beach wedding as the fabric will travel well and move beautifully as you walk down the aisle.

If you're looking for excellent value dresses, check out our round-ups of wedding dresses under £100, our favourite dresses under £500 and the best wedding dresses under £1,000.



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