How divorce has positively affected my wedding planning

March 20 | Guest post by S
Divorce
Divorce can not only make for pretty stained-glass windows, but can be pretty useful when planning a wedding. (Photo by Phil Dokas used under Creative Commons.)

This is probably going to sound really odd, coming from someone planning her first, and hopefully only wedding. But I wanted to share some thoughts I had on how divorce has, in fact, positively affected my wedding planning process.

First, my parents are divorced. They got married in 1980 at a big church wedding, just after my mom finished college, with all the things that were considered in-style and traditional at the time. They followed the rules of etiquette, they had a big white cake and a big white dress and they lived a long and unhappy marriage for about 25 years, until my mother finally gave in and ended the marriage. Three years ago, she got remarried in a small ceremony in a curling lodge with me as her Maid of Honour and root beer floats for dessert. On her anniversary, she emailed me to tell me how wonderful her marriage is, and how excited she is for me to have the same thing she finally has.

Second, my future husband is divorced. At just 21 years old, his girlfriend of only a year got pregnant by another man, and he stayed around to help her raise her child. Two years later, she was pregnant again. They got married because it was what she wanted, and he believed "that's just what you do." She planned a big fancy wedding, when they both were barely making ends-meet. He wasn't happy when the marriage began, and wasn't truly surprised when it ended just two years later, while they were still in debt from the wedding costs. He has gained two wonderful daughters from the experience, and learned to listen to himself and think much harder about his life decisions.

So what does this have to do with planning our wedding?

Well, not only did both my mother and future husband gain more confidence after ending a bad marriage, but everyone involved (my parents, my grandparents, my partner and his parents) all realize that a wedding doesn't make a marriage. It doesn't matter if you have the right dress or the proper wording on your invites. None of it matters.

And so, thanks to divorce, I've enjoyed planning our wedding without any family members harping about how my wedding "should be." The only advice our families have on how it should be done? In whatever way makes us both happy, and keeps us sane while we do it.

We should find a way to embrace and express our love to our families and friends. We should spend more time talking to each other than planning the wedding, and we should always keep in mind why we are getting married — not because of a sense of duty to illegitimate children, not because we're fresh out of college and "that's just what you do," and not because of pressure from our religion or families — but because we love each other.

  1. These kinds of posts are exactly what I need. Thank you for reminding me why I'm planning a wedding and TO STOP STRESSING OUT! :)

    25 agree
  2. This is fantastic! I can relate, although in my case I am the one that has been divorced. My story is very very similar to your future husband's save for the child by another man. We got pregnant, decided to get married because we were expected to. Then when I lost the baby and my mom asked if we were still getting married we said "sure". Not exactly the right reason. After a huge fancy "proper" wedding, just over a year of miserable marriage, one son, and more nights than not of fighting followed by him leaving to go party with his friend, I called it quits. Now I'm planning a wedding with a loving man who's perfect for me and for my son. My divorce gave me the knowledge that the wedding is a great celebration, but its the marriage that really matters. Congrats to you and your new family!

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  3. Thank you for this post! I've been having one of those weeks where I am second-guessing everything that my fiance and I want to do for our wedding worrying about "what the family will think." The reminder that the only thing that "should be" about this wedding is what my fiance and I want and makes us happy. Now I can go back to just joking about eloping instead of having an "I'm serious" undertone.

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    • Just to remind everyone, an elopement doesn't always equal a successful marriage either. My parents had an elopement (followed by a home reception), and their eventual divorce was finalized after 15 years of marriage.

      I really hate to say it, but divorce can happen to anyone regardless of how they got married. That doesn't mean, however, that people can never learn from that kind of experience.

      4 agree
  4. Your story could not have come to me at a more perfect moment. As I was holding three different "kinds" of red ribbon to try to decide which "shade" is best I had this voice in my head saying "THIS IS NOT IMPORTANT." What's important is that he loves me and I love him and that day will be beautiful not because of f7cking red ribbon, but because I get to hold him in my arms and call him "my husband." Thank you for the reminder.

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    • once upon a time I spent THREE WEEKS looking for the right shade and width of eggplant ribbon just to wrap around the cake. Crazypants.

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  5. I can totally relate on not being pressured by family/religion/society because of divorce. My parents are divorced and so am I, and there's a certain calm wisdom that comes from it (when one accepts responsibility) knowing that it isn't about The Wedding, it's about The Marriage. The Wedding is a party – one day/evening out of your existence. The Marriage is where the rest of your life is at.

    Congratulations on knowing what's really important as you plan to celebrate your union together.

    5 agree
  6. Love this article! I am a product of my father's second marriage (which has lasted 25 years and is still going strong), and I think this is part of the reason my parents have been very laid back when it comes to my wedding planning. When I asked him advice on picking out an engagement ring for my fiancee, his response was, "Don't go into debt". I love that my parents don't have all these ideas about what a wedding should be, what it should have, etc. My fiancee's parents (this is her mom's second marriage) are also pretty laid back and don't have an opinion on our wedding planning (other than they're happy for us). It's really a nice break from the traditional "mom wants to see me in a big white dress and is stressing over the napkins matching the bridesmaids' dresses!"

    1 agrees
  7. Great post! So important to remember WHY you're getting married in the first place when you get caught up about HOW you're doing it. I'm a bride-to-be myself and it is hard to step back sometimes. Need more posts like this to remind me! : )

    1 agrees
  8. Right on! I have been keeping this mantra for me and my partner's wedding. I keep reminding ourselves that we are going through this ritual as a way to express our love for one another and not because religion, family, or other factors tell us we have to. This is not a marriage of convenience but rather of love. Good luck with the wedding planning and keep on Loving!

    2 agree
  9. I'm also divorced, and it has given me enormous peace during planning my wedding to my current partner. I've not got the pressure of meeting my family's religious and cultural expectations for a wedding, because I've done that. Because I've planned a wedding before, I know what's important and what isn't. I know where to find a good deal on a wedding dress and and cakes and things like that. I know no one really cares what color tablecloths I choose.

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  10. Ah ladies, so glad to hear your attitudes – as I tell my couples, a wedding is just a wonderful celebration that simply marks the beginning of your marriage. Some people try and create a fairytale event, with all their energy, planning and money going into this one day, but unfortunately life is not a fairytale, even if you love your spouse to bits. It's hard then for life to compete with the memory of the fairytale. Perhaps that's why so many celebrities and very wealthy couples split so soon……it must be a let down after all the build up. So great to hear such wisdom from you all.

    1 agrees
  11. Completely agree. My fiance is divorced and was married to his former wife for about 8 years. He often refers to it as his practice run – which is truthful as he came to know what he really wanted in life and that he should be more focused on his needs rather than bending to someone else's wants (like changing careers to get more money even though you don't like the career.)

    In his previous wedding, he had no say in anything really – her family planned it and 90% of the guests were his ex-father-in-law's clients. Now, we both plan what we want and we make sure that both our desires in our wedding are met. We make compromises together.

    2 agree
    • This rings true for both myself and my fiance. We are both divorced and entered into this relationship being upfront and honest from the start. We knew at least what we didn't want to have happen to destroy another relationship. It's been a wonderful building block. In planning this wedding (that we waited 5 years for), everything just feels right this time. None of this societal checklist kind of stuff.

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  12. I wasnt sure what to expect when I saw the post title, but I totally agree with this. My parents are divorced, and my mum has remarried and my step-dad was previously married as well. Their marriage is going great, and really emphasised that you need to find the right person, but also that you need to work on it as well. I was with my ex for 8 years (highschool sweethearts etc), and there was a LOT of pressure from her and her family to marry young, have kids young etc and the more pressure the more hesitant I was, because I didnt want to get married for the wrong reasons. These days I'm with a new partner who is amazing, most of our interests are shared, and we work really well as a team and communicate really well too. Had I given in to pressure I'd be stuck in a un-equal and unhappy marriage, but instead I'm marrying the girl of my dreams.

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  13. I agree with this post, utterly.

    Both my hubby-to-be's and my background has strong cultural beliefs that we both value, but that if taken out of context can pressure many young people into marrying for the sake of being married. The irony is, that whilst the vast majority of people in our culture do stay married, they seem to get married for the wrong reasons and just don't seem to be happy in their marriages. Seems like a crazy concept to me.

    When I was in my 20's, I nearly acquiesced to the crazy concept by getting engaged to a guy who seemed to be 'just right'. But after 2 months of being engaged he reveled a whole other side of his personality that just wasn't a match for me. I did the kindest thing I could do to both of us, and ended the engagement so we could both be free to move on with our lives.

    This brush with what would have turned into a very unhappy marriage made me realize that the cultural pressure I was feeling wasn't going to work for me.

    I met my hubby-to-be four years ago – I'm in my 30s and he's almost 40. I'm so happy to have waited to find someone I know I can grow old with, knowing that he was waiting for me all along.

    The day we get married is going to be super low key, although a fun and intimate day for us. All our planning and focus is on working towards a sustainable, strong marriage instead of the traditionally acceptable big fat wedding.

    2 agree
  14. My mother is now married for the fourth (or fifth? Hard to tell) time. And after getting married wearing swetpants and without any celebration at all (at the age of 65), she finally seems happy. I hope it stay that way.

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  15. Oh, this is lovely. I hated the fact that my partner had been married before at first, I was so stressed that people would compare my wedding to the previous one and so focussed on making it 'better'. But really, the fact that he still wants to be married after his previous bad experience makes the whole thing more joyous, and he is loving planning a day that reflects us both – he had zero input the first time!

    1 agrees
    • I was worried about the same thing at first! But it's worked out the same for me. Although when we started planning, I requested that FH didn't talk too much about the previous wedding during our planning, unless necessary. (I don't need to know what flowers she picked and such). He has been pretty good about respecting that. :)

      2 agree
  16. I'm about to embark on my second (and last) marriage and can completely agree with the fact that it's SO not about the 4 tier cake, the head table and the matchy matchy. I have enjoyed planning this wedding so much more than last time as I'm truly planning it for my future husband and I. The venue is very us, the food will be devine and dare I say I have my absolutely perfect showstopping dress. I have hunted and pecked through the interwebs in search of the best deals so that we don't go into debt for our "big day". Not one family member has butted in to tell us that it what we are doing "isn't the right way". It's been SUPER wonderful. We're also writing our own vows. There will be a lot of laughing, happy tears and hugging and that is truly what it's about. Sharing love and bonding of two families.

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  17. No one seems to understand why we want to make our wedding unique to us and not break the bank – I am sending this to some choice family members in hopes that they "get it"

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  18. I love everything about this article. My parents were married (fairly happily) until my mother died but my fiance's parents were not so happy. I think reflecting on both situations puts our marriage in perspective. It does bother me thought that you refer (while not directly, implicitly) to the children as illegitimate. I don't believe a child is illegitimate simply because her parents aren't married.

    2 agree
  19. Divorce was the main reason why I waited so long to embrace the love of my life. I was never so happy to find the guy i would spend forever with. I knew that I did NOT want that D word in my vocabulary…so I waited and hit the jackpot. When planning MY wedding…I knew it was just that —-the ONE DAY i would celebrate with friends and family about my FOREVER LOVE with my husband. It is the marriage that is past the wedding day that matters to me most. :) On my side of the family I had a lot of divorce, including my parents. On the flip side – being married for 50 years out of "tolerance" does not seem like the fullness of love either. So, I would rather be complete with the love of my life than settle for something that would have taken me on a different path. I'm about to celebrate 8 years…and am ecstatic! <3 :) Yay love. Treasure it.

    1 agrees
  20. Thanks for this! I'm in the same situation, right down to the kids thing, and I'm really excited to have a great party but my wedding is not the end all/be all of my life.

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  21. This will be my fiance's 3rd marriage and my 2nd and we both believe that past experience has given us a lot of wisdom. We know that this relationship will last and we know how to communicate, how to compromise, and how to work out our problems. Sometimes we both feel the stigma that can come with divorce, but we just power through it and be happy that we have each other.

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  22. Absolutely couldn't agree more with what you've said here. My FH and I are both divorced and we both entered out first marriages because that's just what you do. Both our first weddings were based around the expectations of what others thought it should be (less so in my case but I still brought into a lot of things I wasn't into because of my now ex-in laws). Low and behold both our first spouses were also something we bought into because it's just what you do not actually because they were a great match for us. This time round we both have more confidence to say "nope that's not for us so we're not doing it, full stop". A great kept secret about walking down the aisle a second time is that you have a get of jail free card. Play on society's lingering discomfort with divorce and roll out that you've done it before and suddenly no more arguments about what you should do because it's the biggest day of you life (it's so not) and because every girl wants the huge white traditional wedding and you'll regret it if you don't have one.

    1 agrees
  23. It's true! I've been here before, and as someone who has already done a wedding and a marriage (and a divorce), I'll just repeat what you already suspect: The marriage is what counts, not the wedding. Weddings can be fun, but there's no magic ritual in a wedding that will make your marriage perfect. I think a lot of people get extra-superstitious during wedding planning, and think that if you just manage to plan a 'perfect' event, somehow it will keep you two happy and together forever. Don't worry, you can totally botch it and it might not matter. Or you can do it 'perfect' and it also still won't matter.

    Tying the knot should be a celebration, however you love to celebrate. But keep it in perspective – it's a legal agreement. Everything that makes your relationship amazing and beautiful should already be there – before and after.

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  24. This would have to be the best information you could give to any one that is engaged or planing the wedding. remember its all about you not how much or how little you spend on the day. it is gone in a day but love is eternal if you make it happen. well said to the author many thanks for sharing it with us all
    regards Paul

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  25. Yes!! I am divorced and marrying someone who has never been married. We are both children of divorce (well… THAT sounds dramatic). Twice for me on my dad's side, and I was a product of the 2nd marriage – he's on #4 and finally happy!) I did the big wedding we couldn't afford, rushed because I wanted to be married before I turned 30 (excellent reason for marriage, no?). Now, my main focus is building a LIFE with my future husband, dealing with the good, the bad, the ugly, getting our shit together, having the big conversations that I was too afraid to bring up during my previous engagement/wedding-planning frenzy, learning how to fight and still love each other. The wedding is coming, but it will be on our terms, a true expression of us and our lives (vintage travel, board games and sports? Why not?!), and when we can afford what we want without bankrupting ourselves. I'm so calm some have asked if I don't care about it! All that said, it still stresses the hell out of me when my mom doesn't like our ideas and pushes for something more "normal", but that's why I come here!

    0 agree

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