I do, I DO! Second weddings are now bigger than the first
Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘secret’ ceremony at the weekend suggests the era of the low-key second marriage is over
When Henry VIII married his second wife, he did so covertly and with few souls present. “Just before dawn, on the morning of January 25 1533, a small group of people gathered in the king’s private chapel in Whitehall Palace for the secret wedding of the king to Anne Boleyn,” writes Alison Weir, the historian, in her book The Six Wives of Henry VIII. “There were four, possibly five, witnesses, all sworn to secrecy.”
The exceptionally low-key nuptials of the Tudor king were hardly surprising: remarriage was then so verboten that it necessitated a royal break with the Catholic Church that proscribed it. Fortunately for Meghan Markle, things have moved on a little since Tudor times. While Roman Catholicism still has a fraught relationship with divorce, in many other communities second weddings barely raise an eyebrow these days. Not only this but, increasingly, they’re becoming far grander occasions than the first.When Markle married Trevor Engelson in 2011, she opted for a laid-back ceremony on a beach in Jamaica. “Wild partying” was said to be involved. Toning down the wildness in her second wedding, to Prince Harry, will be advisable when the couple tie the knot at Windsor Castle next month. But it will otherwise be a far grander event than her first, with a roster of royalty and celebrities among the 600 guests. And Markle is not the only famous figure to be breaking with the once-common social norm that a second wedding would be a far smaller event than the first.
Gwyneth Paltrow has arguably little in common with Henry VIII but, according to rumour, she too may have had a secret second wedding, to Brad Falchuk, her television writer fiancé. Only, unlike the English king, the Hollywood actress reportedly did not keep it a modest affair. Dubbed an “engagement party”, speculation is swirling that the lavish black-tie event hosted by the couple at the Los Angeles Theater on Saturday night may, in fact, have been the real deal.
If it was a wedding, it was not a white one — Paltrow wore an oxblood, one-shoulder, Giambattista Valli gown, while Falchuk wore a white tux. But it was, undoubtedly, an impressive one, with A-list guests thought to include Steven Spielberg, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Liv Tyler, Reese Witherspoon, Demi Moore and Jennifer Aniston. Paltrow’s first husband, Chris Martin, the Coldplay singer from whom she “consciously uncoupled” in 2014, was apparently absent.Whether Saturday’s festivities constituted an engagement party as advertised, or a wedding dressed up as one to outfox the paparazzi, it was a world away from the 2003 elopement of Paltrow and Martin, who quietly tied the knot in Santa Barbara, California, reportedly with no family or friends present.
And where the rich and famous lead, the rest of us inevitably follow. Hamish Shephard, founder of wedding planning app Bridebook, is among those in the business who have witnessed the recent trend in second weddings that are bigger and better than the bride’s or groom’s first.
“It often depends on the age of the couple,” he says. “If it’s an older couple with grownup children, that’s when it’s more of a [simple] blessing and can be a lunchtime occasion. But a lot of people are getting remarried in the earlier stages of life — 22% of divorced men remarrying in the UK are in their 20s or 30s and 32% of women — and that’s when it’s as big, if not bigger [than their first wedding]. They want to do something different.”As he points out, a second marriage would traditionally be a more low-key affair in a register office. But, he adds, “that’s a bygone era”. There’s been a surge in couples eschewing places of worship for their nuptials, with two thirds now choosing alternative venues. With the downgrading of the place of religion in weddings has come the rejection of other traditions and conventions surrounding marriage, including those governing the nature of a second wedding.
The Knot, a wedding website, captures the mood in its article Second Wedding: Dos and Don’ts: “Whether it’s a super-formal extravaganza in a ballroom or a casual seaside celebration under the shade of a tent, you don’t have to limit yourself just because you’ve done it all before. Why not plan that reception you really wanted way back when but were led astray by a pushy mother-in-law?”
Casual mother-in-law-related stereotyping aside, the point stands that the rules are: there are no rules. Divorce does not carry the stigma it once did, and the bashfulness surrounding remarriage is all but gone.
“Previously, divorce was hugely frowned upon and was something people were more embarrassed about,” says Shephard. “There’s no shame to it now, so people aren’t hiding away the love of their life just because [they’ve found it] the second time around.”The fact that divorcée Markle will be married to Prince Harry by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of the Queen is likely to help shift social perceptions of remarriage still further, he predicts: “That’s a great marker in history — saying it’s fine to get remarried. Marriage should still be taken very seriously, but if you’re getting remarried, great, celebrate like mad. It’s almost a shame for someone getting remarried to feel that they can’t celebrate it as much as they want because of society’s expectations.”
It’s worth remembering that the queen did not attend the second wedding of her own son, the Prince of Wales, when he married the Duchess of Cornwall at the Windsor Guildhall in 2005 (she was present at the subsequent service of thanksgiving at Windsor Castle). In the intervening years, we have come a long way. From Tom Cruise’s star-studded fairytale wedding to third wife Katie Holmes in 2006 to the extravagant nuptials of Kim Kardashian and her third husband, Kanye West, in 2014, celebrities have, in the interim, done their bit to normalise the blow-out, shame-free second or third wedding.But beyond the celebrity effect, there is another factor in the rise of the go-all-out second wedding — namely, social media. “With the advent of the likes of Pinterest and Instagram in the past decade, wedding inspiration has never been greater,” says Shephard. “Many couples are now much more inspired for their remarriage than their first marriage, due to the evolution of technology during the intervening period, and hence want to make the most of it.”
Melanie Helen, director of Cranberry Blue, a luxury wedding planning consultancy, also notes that second-time brides and grooms tend to have more money than they did first time around, so can often afford a bigger celebration. “Generally, people have more disposable income, they’re not embarrassed to be remarrying and they just think: ‘Why don’t we go for it?’ ” she says.
In her novel Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel depicts Henry VIII’s second wedding thus: “Anne and Henry take their vows, confirm the contract they made in Calais: almost in secret, with no celebration, just a huddle of witnesses, the married pair both speechless except for the small admissions of intent forced out of them by the ceremony.”
Close to five centuries after the event described, conducting second-time matrimony in so furtive a fashion may soon be consigned to history.
© The Daily Telegraph