Here comes the bride... again
As Meghan Markle prepares to tie the knot for a second time, Jessie Collins chats to brides and wedding experts about walking down the aisle twice
There was plenty of conflicting commentary after the announcement of the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle, but there is one thing most royal wedding watchers can agree on: their wedding is not going to be a Kate and Wills repeat.
The newly-engaged royal couple are more notable in their differences than their similarities and, by all accounts, the ceremony will reflect that.
For Meghan, there is an added dimension: she has been through a marriage before - not to mention the divorce that followed - and though she has lived to love again, it is possible that a much more low-key event would suit her.
Claire McGowran, Editor of wedding site OneFabDay.com, agrees: "Second-time weddings for most couples do tend to be a less extravagant affair, yet for Harry and Meghan, normal rules may not apply," she says.
"I imagine with all the protocol of a royal wedding, the spotlight that will be on it and the fact that it will probably take place in a cathedral and a palace, it will likely be more extravagant than the average couple's first-time wedding. But Meghan Markle seems to be a progressive and independent person, so I hope there might be some more contemporary elements too."
Being once-removed from the throne, adds McGowran, garners a little more freedom. "As she's not a 'future queen', I imagine she'll be able to have a simpler, modern wedding dress. And they'll likely have a bit more control over where the wedding happens and who is invited.
"I would still say a lot of attention will be paid to choosing a British designer for the dress or having the right symbolism in the choice of flowers and food. As the bride is from the US, there may be some nods to American traditions too."
A continuing trend for second-timers seems to be the desire to make this an experience to remember, rather than a supersized event to suit all.
Karen Johnson, from Cork, who married her second husband Gerard Johnson this autumn, had 150 guests at her first wedding, and 70 at the second. "The first time there was a lot more focus on extended family, but this time we kept it really intimate: only immediate family and really close family and close friends."
With two children from her first marriage, aged seven and 10, Karen wanted them to be part of the experience. "They loved every second of it and they got really involved," she says.
Teresa Kelly, who is having her second wedding in April, has also found her children (all now in their 20s) to be a great asset. "They are helpful without taking over. It's been really special to have them around to be part of it."
Of course, there can also be extra pressures that come with a second walk up the aisle, especially when there are more stakeholders involved.
"If the children are teenagers and the profession of love at the ceremony is 'I found the love of my life', it can be difficult," explains Trish Murphy, psychotherapist and author of Hashtag Love: 21st Century Relationships. "You are not going to please everybody, and someone may be disappointed at the end.
"The couple often have to take more people into account. There can be children on both sides and there can be a parent that is missing, and who should be mentioned in some way. There will also be a crossover of people who attended the first wedding who will be at the second one.
"Second weddings are definitely different from the first," she adds. "People get a lot more choices around it and they often choose a more personalised ceremony."
Kate O'Dowd, co-founder of event planning and styling consultancy, Love & (lovnd.com) agrees. "Despite preconceptions that second weddings might somehow be less special than first ones - that they're lacking in sincerity and marred by awkward ghosts of a wedding past - I've actually always found them to be the opposite. Maybe it's because at least one of the participants has been through the heartbreak of the end of the first marriage, so appreciates how precious the second one is; perhaps this second wedding has a point to prove; or maybe it's just that second time round, couples are invariably older, possibly more financially comfortable and definitely more in tune with what they actually want to do. But it's certainly not about slinking into the registry office or anything like it. Second weddings are big."
The spend, in her experience, tends to go on the finer things rather than the more showy stuff that perhaps siphons the budget first time round. "They tend to be less weddingy - no white dress, seven bridesmaids or 300 guests - but on a whole, they're no less plush. Only instead of blowing their budget on expensive and perhaps self-indulgent traditions, second-timers channel funds into the things that will allow them to be the best hosts - so great food and wine, for fewer (but their very favourite) guests, and the atmospheric things that really contribute to people feeling happy. It's almost as though second-time round, the wedding couple feels less pressure to be the wedding couple - they're comfortable in their own skin and they want to enjoy themselves. And they really want their guests to enjoy themselves."
If anything, O'Dowd's recent experiences have shown that second weddings can provide an extra thrill. "A second-time couple we worked with recently hired quite a high-profile performer, essentially treating their guests to a surprise very intimate concert after dinner.
"It was an unorthodox format for a wedding but very indicative of what they wanted the day to be. The whole wedding was so joyous - it just felt like a big hug. The feeling in the room as guests figured out what was beginning to happen was incredible. And there aren't many first-time couples who would want the spotlight to be so firmly off them for the sake of showing their guests a good time."
Which all bodes well for those invited to the next big British royal bash. Slightly smaller than Prince William's it may be, but quite possibly all the more intriguing and entertaining for it.