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Sequel Weddings: What to Expect From a Couple’s Second Ceremony

Published Wednesday, Jan. 20th, 2021

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

Sequel weddings are trending as we move into 2021!


These second ceremonies and celebrations happen after a first, smaller ceremony. They’re usually larger in scale, and allow couples to (finally) let loose with family and friends when it’s safer to gather -- without sacrificing their original ceremony date. And they’re by far one of the best things to come from 2020’s tumultuous wedding season. 


Last year, many couples decided to keep their original wedding dates despite the pandemic, choosing to embrace smaller, safer ceremonies. Rather than cancel or postpone, couples opted for elopements, microweddings, or civil ceremonies. Guest lists shrank, friends and family stepped up to officiate, and ceremonies and receptions moved outdoors or online.


(Read Use Astrology to Plan Your Perfect Pandemic Wedding -- Ceremony Planning According to the Zodiac)


Now, couples with early 2021 wedding dates are making these same tough choices and downsizing in similar ways. As spring and summer rapidly approach, families are wondering if things will have returned to ‘normal’ in time, and are working closely with vendors to anticipate the unknown.





Enter the sequel wedding: second wedding celebrations with larger guests lists, more traditional venues, and many of the elements and features (like dance floors and multi-course dinners) that couples miss out on with small scale weddings.


These sequel ceremonies and celebrations make the decision to downsize for the sake of safety much easier. And they give couples and their loved ones something fun to look forward to! 


Wedding officiants and couples should keep these things in mind when discussing second ceremonies: 



- The first ceremony makes the marriage legal. 
This is when the marriage license is signed and filed, and the couple is officially wed. Officiants should be sure to cross the t’s and dot the i’s carefully, just like they would for any other ceremony, even if they know there will be a second one happening down the road. 


- Ask the couple how their second ceremony will differ from their first. 
For example, do they want the gathering to feel like a ‘real’ wedding, with traditional I do’s and unity rituals, for those guests who weren’t or won’t be present the first time? Or do they want to approach things in a new way, or similar to a vow renewal? Will things be more formal, or less formal? Will there be more guest or family participation? These second acts offer a lot of freedom to mix things up. 


- If you’re planning both ceremonies at once, think of how they’ll flow together. 
What experiences does the couple want to create for their guests, and themselves? Having multiple ceremonies is a unique opportunity to cultivate deeper intimacy and moments of connection with different parts of a couple’s larger community. 


- Keep the guest list small for the first ceremony. 
Then, to soften the disappointment of family and friends that won’t be included at first, couples can let them know a second ceremony -- one where everyone can gather happily without worry -- is already in the works. 


-Remember not everyone will be able to (or want to) travel to two ceremonies. 
Couples should plan for financial limitations (and personality conflicts…) accordingly! Couples should also let their guests know in advance whether or not to bring gifts, what to wear, what the tone of the event will be, and any other important considerations. 


-Keep in touch with your vendors. 
If you’re a soon-to-be-wed couple who’s postponing a bigger wedding for a later date and have already booked with vendors, you might be able to keep your deposits in place for the new date. Talk with your venue, photographers, caterers, and others to see what options are available for having them host your second wedding instead. 



Sequel weddings aren’t a product of the Covid pandemic. They’ve actually been around for a long time -- such as couples choosing civil ceremonies followed by lavish destination weddings, international couples celebrating their commitment with families in multiple countries, emergency circumstances requiring expedited vows, couples eloping spontaneously and later celebrating with friends, and many other circumstances. 


Still, their increasing popularity is a bright spot in a long string of months darkened by uncertainty and spoiled wedding plans. With the offering of familiar joys and the promise of better days, it’s no wonder so many newlyweds are choosing to say yes to a second wedding!



Watch now: 





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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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