'I do' (again): your guide to a second-wedding guest list

Writing your guest list for wedding number two? This is your ultimate guide to second-time etiquette.

  • Story by Photo Amanda Wignell & Words Deirdre Robert

Linda Darnill certainly felt the pressure of everyone’s expectations when planning her first wedding. ‘With more than 200 guests, it was a staunch large-scale event,’ she remembers. ‘Most of them were our parents’ friends, as well as relations from both sides of our families who we didn’t even know.’ Dressed in what she describes as a ‘white lace meringue’, Linda’s ceremony took place in a church, complete with hymns and a 90-year-old playing the organ. 

‘I do’ number two couldn’t have been more different. Linda’s husband’s Invercargill roots influenced the couple’s Speights-themed wedding, which was held in a function centre decked out in old ploughs, hay bales and beer signs. The venue also featured a path for two quad bikes to travel down – the groom drove one, his best man the other. Church hymns? No Ma’am. The groom and his second in charge cruised down the aisle to the Speights Southern Man song, and the couple wed in front of an old pub facade. With 80 guests, it was still a sizeable event, but Linda says this time the guest list was made up entirely of the couple’s closest friends and family – people they chose to invite, not those they felt pressured to include in their special day.

About 20 per cent of the weddings celebrant Pauline Grogan has presided over are remarriages and in her experience, the majority of couples only invite ‘true and trusted’ friends. As second-time groom Ian Ramsey puts it, ‘There’s no obligation to invite Great Aunty Joy who you haven’t seen in 15 years.’

Ex-spouses: yay or nay?

Whether or not you should invite your respective ex-spouses depends on your relationship with the ex and whether your new partner is comfortable about inviting them. Event planner Emma Newman cautions: ‘If either one of you is concerned about the other’s ex attending, they shouldn’t be there. After all, your current relationship is your number one priority.’ 

As for the children…

Exes aside, when it comes to children from a previous marriage, usually couples want them to be involved in such an important occasion. Emma suggests involving them in roles such as ring bearer, usher or flower girl. ‘And, if they’re older, they could do a reading, make a speech or sing a song.’
If you’re experiencing difficulties with a child over the second marriage, Emma strongly advises that you tread carefully as children are sensitive and can be under pressure from the other parent to not attend. ‘Be aware of where the child is at emotionally and what the situation is like at the other parent’s home,’ she says. ‘Don’t force them into anything they’re not comfortable with.’ 

The rest of the guests

Emma also recommends thinking carefully about whether or not to invite people who don’t approve of your second marriage, even if they are family. ‘If you do invite someone you suspect might play up, have an upfront discussion with them ahead of time,’ Emma says. ‘Be really clear about why you’re involving them in the wedding and that they’ll be asked to leave if they disrupt the proceedings.’

Overall, second weddings are usually much more laid-back and personal than the first, Emma says. ‘People have a better idea of what they want for themselves rather than creating the ‘perfect’ event based on others’ expectations. To them, celebrating their special day with people who really matter is paramount.’

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