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The Bride's Guide Blog

Etiquette: Are the Rules Different for Older Brides?

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One of the e-mails I got recently in our AskMartha mailbox (AskMartha@MarthaStewartWeddings.com) came from a 60-year-old bride who said:

I am excited about planning a wedding event but looking for ideas on what would be "right" or "politically correct" for a wedding at this age! What else is appropriate for the ceremony, celebration, announcements, etc. -- all of the questions that a young bride has an older bride also has. BUT I feel the answers are different than when I was planning my first wedding at age 24.

I actually don't think the answers are any different!

Except that etiquette would say that she shouldn't wear a blusher veil; those are usually reserved for first-time brides. And wearing a veil at all might seem incredibly odd for anyone over the age of 35; veils = ingenues. But she can wear white!

And though a second-time bride can "return to the protection of her parents" and have them serve as the official hosts of the wedding, with their names on the invite, it would seem distinctly odd in the case of a bride old enough to be someone else's parent.

But everything else would be the same, actually. The format is timeless.

Got any advice for her? What choices have you made that would have been different if you were older?

Comments (23)

  • I agree completely. I got married last year in a long wonderful long off white dress and I loved every minute of the day (the shoes were very confortable and matching the dress). I had though first that it was past my age (47) but I chose a classic model in which I felt good (no ruffle, no lace). People are still raging about the dress and the party months later.

  • I am planning on getting married next year and I will be 57 years old. Everything I have been reading states that 2nd marriages should be unique to us, to be our own. That said, how exactly do we do that? I am also overweight and trying to find a silver wedding dress with sleeves has been challenging. For any advice that I could receive, thank you.

  • Susan -

    My mother found a gorgeous blue, ruffled, flutter sleeve dress for her September wedding last year. She looked stunning, and she was so happy to wear something she loved! She's a bit heavier and didn't want to squeeze into "something meant for a 25-year-old." To help plan her perfect day, we looked at many Bridesmaid and Mother-of-the-bride dresses at bridal stores, but I think the dress was ultimately purchased from Ann Taylor Loft or some place similar. My advice is find your favorite special occasion wear store. The fact that you're wearing it on your wedding day will make it perfect and special.

  • I am 51 and getting married for the first time. It's the first time for my fiance as well. My sister is telling me that - because I'm 51 - etiquette dictates that it wouldn't be appropriate for me to have a shower even if it is my first wedding. She said that most people expect that both my fiance and I already set up separate households years ago and that we wouldn't need a shower to provide us with any household items and that the purpose of a shower is to give gifts that the couple need. She thinks we'd be breaking the rules of etiquette by having a shower and that it would appear to be tacky. I pointed out to her that my fiance and I are not well off and that we actually really do need the mixer and pots and pans that I registered for. She said that it has nothing to do with our need but that it has to do with appearance... that it would be tacky and that everyone she asks agrees with her. But I've asked around too and everyone I speak to says it's not tacky and that they expect to be invited to the shower. I've also been searching high and low on the web and I keep finding out that even second time brides are being given showers and they're registering for things that they want instead of what they need. My argument is that even second time brides are being given showers and that we're only on our first (and *only*) wedding. I don't know where to find the etiquette for first time but older brides. Is it inappropriate and tacky for us to be given a shower? My sister is my matron of honor and she would be the person to plan this shower. But her heart isn't in it because she truly believes that I shouldn't have a shower. I have no other attendants so it's either that she plans the shower or that my fiance's sister plans it without her - which would put me in an awkward place with my family.

  • I am a 62 year old bride and it has been a big challenge, but I decided it was my 2nd chance and probably my last chance to be happy. We wanted all the things we never had when we got married the first time...dress, bouquet, cake, reception...so we planned it. I found a great "more sophiscated" long bridal dress white. I plan to have my 41 yo son walk me down the aisle. My future husband and I planned our music, and reception...just like it would havve been the first time. We did alot on things ourselves. We made our invitations. We decided at this age...we don't have to please anyone by ourselves and know that all of our children (my 4 his 2) support us.

  • Dear ginny
    Glad to hear you wore a wedding dress,I am getting married in march a young at heart 60 my grandchildren are flower girl and page boy and i have bought a long cream dress just because the age is there doesnt mean we dont want to look and feel like a bride,

  • I am about to embark on my 3rd marriage, let's hope the 3rd time is a charm. My hubby to be lives in Mexico and is Catholic, we are actually planning a wedding in both countries which could get expensive but he is fortunate enough to hold a position in the Mexican government. It is important to his family (and political status) that we have an extremely large wedding (and wedding party), I personally feel this is my 3rd marriage and it should be very modest and small. My groom has family and friends in both countries so my suggestion to keep the wedding in the USA small but have a large wedding in Mexico has become an issue between me and his family. Any suggestions?

  • Advice for 2nd+ marriages or older brides: Think u first, family opinions second. Certain tweaks can keep 'reasonable' family members happy, and keep it tasteful to ur own choices.
    GOWNS: u can still do extravagance but maybe go just a touch darker in color (gold or yellow, creme or rose, or a white gown in a print of some sort), OR something fun altogether (but think 'different').
    I think older, 1st time brides CAN do white, but nothing short OR poofy/super-wide. Think classic. VEILS: I would nix veils and tiaras--too 'blushing bride'. Do extravagant hair w/beautiful combs/pins. If hair is too short, think a fun hat or demure cap (they're out there, do ur research!) Finally, if u are being 'forced' into a big wedding, I believe there are two ways to go: 'FUN PARTY' or 'Traditional--TAPERED'. Let me explain: FUN is easier bc if it feels like a big ole party, no one will think too hard about how old the couple is or how many marriages, bc if it feels like a fun celebration, it just feels like a damn good party! Now, TRADITIONAL-TAPER: this is tougher bc it's usually done to please families, not the couple. So, NO BRIDAL PARTY--too youthful; just a maid/matron and best man. Family members can read/toast/sing that day or even wear corsages/boutonnieres, but no BP! My way keeps it intimate, takes attention off u like u wish u did it, but gives spotlight to the family which is what they want anyway! If possible, go heavy on candlelight, drinks and dancing--maybe even hire performers. Remember, U have done this before and could have passed on doing it this big again, so if u give everyone else distractions and a good time, ur night will be more relaxed and easy!

  • Is there a rule that a bride getting married the first time at 39 years old shouldn't have 7 bridesmades and wear a dress with a long train.

  • I disagree with the idea that an older bride should not wear a veil if she chooses. For many brides who belong to the Christian faith, as well as others, the veil has a deep symbolic meaning. Not to mention, some women prefer a veil. Some are shy, and public declarations of love are pretty intimidating for them; a veil does help. And then, some women just love the veil because they do.
    Just my two cents.

  • I thik the oldr bride has to be careful not to go overboard with the frills and bling.am getting married in May on my 50th so I am wearing a cream dress that is elegant and not over fussy.As it has thin straps i have invested in a beautiful lace bolero jacket to cover the top of my arms.I have concetrated on getting good underwear and a really good fit with my dress.I am using accessories to add gamour.Be honest with yourself when trying on dresses, there is nothing worse than a bride who looks like muton dressed as lamb! You should be more Grace kelly than Jordan on your special day.

  • To Ginny, and the other 'older' brides, here. Proud of you! I'm a 63-year old, up and coming bride. Part of the beauty of being this age, is that we can do whatever our hearts tell us to do. This is my last, and true wedding, to the man-of-my-dreams, and we plan to make it count! All 3 of my sons, will be walking me down the aisle, in a stunning, floor-length (with short train), ivory wedding gown. My sons are proud, and say, "Mom, you've earned it!" (darn straight!) So, enjoy yourselves, girls ... and Happy Wedding Day!

  • Yea, to all of you older ladies out their getting married regardless if it’s first, second, third, a recommitment, or celebration! And a special YEA to those over 50! They say, love has no boundaries or age limit and just because were older does not mean we stop wanting to be attractive and…..yes I going to say it….look and feel sexy! I don't know about you, but for me, I get the not looking like a Princess…., who does at our age!, but I've certainly earned the right at 58 to grace that aisle looking like a QUEEN!....and I fully intend to!
    I was widowed at an early age and was blessed to find a man who not only loved me for who I was but all three of my children. We have a wonderful marriage and now “our” children see him as “their” dad. A year ago we were driving late one afternoon and he just reach over took my hand and asked me if I would marry him all over again….I kept reading my book said “silly, of course I would!” He didn’t say much and a few miles later he asked me again. I replied, while continuing to read my book, “I told you I would, why do you keep asking, the same question?” He didn’t say much and kept driving and then reached for my hand again as said, STOP READING THAT DAMM BOOK AND LISTEN TO ME…..WILL YOU MARRY ME! AFTER ALMOST 30 YEARS I WANT TO SEE YOU WALK DOWN THAT ASILE ONE MORE TIME…LET’S DO IT! Needless to say, my answer was a resounding, OF COURSE I WILL!
    I really struggled with what to wear, what did etiquette dictate for “older” brides, and how to create a once in a lifetime event that truly reflected what we felt for each other. I finely realized that to not do what makes us happy and to worry about all the social proprieties that exist and personal opinions of others, just takes away from OUR celebration. With that hurdle jumped….we’re full steam ahead!
    We have chosen to go back to New Orleans to have the church wedding we couldn’t afford when we first started out, a weekend of events for family and friends leading up to the wedding, and a masquerade party with elaborate mini cakes depicting the New Orleans and the coastal region where I grew up. For the wedding I will be wearing a sleeveless ball gown made of a pale gold Dupioni silk, a cathedral length train, and a beaded and rhinestone bolero jacket with capped sleeves, and all five of my grandsons will be accompanying me down the aisle. The gown for the party is a V cut form fitting gown that dips in the back and covered in beading and rhinestones (ladies don’t think you can’t find one that looks good on our bodies because they are out there!) and our Mask will be made to match our attire! All of my original bridal party is still around so they have each taken a part of the celebration to organize and plan along with our kids, family, and friends. Honestly, I think one of the hidden blessings for us has been the memories we have made during the process. They will be cherished long after the celebration is over. So please….forget etiquette! It will change again in a few years! Just celebrate your love, new-found or old, and enjoy the moment! I know we are!

  • I am 49 and getting married for the first time and I am doing it all. I intend to wear a long white gown with a train and a veil. I am having a bridal shower and a bachelorette party. Anybody who wants to say it's inappropriate, doesn't need to attend. Simple as that.

  • I am going to be 50 when I get married for the first time. I think older brides should do what they want. Who cares what anyone else things. In the words of the great Dr. Seuss.

    Be who you are, say what you feel
    Those who mind don't matter,
    Those who matter don't mind.

  • i was married at the age of 16..i didn't have a wedding...i wore a peach color short dress and we went to the church and exchanged our vows with my parents present. Now we are going to be married 45 years next year.We are having a big vow renewal celebration. I will be wearing a long ivory ball gown wedding dress with a veil and tiera. I will be 61 when i walk down the aisle to my wonderful husband and I can't wait until he sees me!!

  • I am getting married next year and I will turn 40 before the date. I have been very disappointed to receive very discouraging attitudes from vendors. I actually had a lady at a bridal shop pull my arm and direct me to the "destination" bridal gowns for the more "mature brides"!!! I mean..really??? I know that I am not the typical bride but I would very much like to have a beautiful gown. I did not have one the first time I got married. My day will not be complete without a pretty dress to match the beautiful moment that I marry my best friend.

  • I am a second time married at 64 and when i walk into bridel shops i get a comment are you looking for a dress for your daufgter.
    my partner as never been married and i am going to give him a good time.

  • Mature brides - WEAR and DO anything you darn well please!!!! I am SO sick of the antiquated wedding etiquette that puts any nontraditional wedding or bride in some rigid "box" with silly "rules" to follow. Can't wear white, can't wear a veil or God forbid, a blusher veil! We all know that the earth will fall off it's axis immediately and the whole planet will go out spinning into space if that should happen!! I know grooms that WANT to see their bride in "white" and with a blusher veil so that he can lift it up and kiss her. So, I guess that all can go to the wayside because some silly, busy body people have made the rules for everyone else to follow. Forget that, I say. Secondly, Mommy and Daddy are not paying for the wedding - you are. You are entitled to have the wedding of your dreams at ANY age and at number of marriage. When you are blessed with love and joy, receive it and give thanks.

    To Brenda, older brides are NOT acting like "virgins" and "pleading for gifts" at showers. Quite the opposite. They feel as if they should NOT accept anything at all. And why is that?? Some ARE starting over in life and with a new husband, and some are getting married for the FIRST time. Why are they to be treated any differently than younger brides?? Younger brides, nowadays, are NOT virgins anyways before their marriage (and who really cares) and quite a few actually LIVE with the groom already as well. And why do you infer that older brides are living with the groom already? Many have their own homes and do NOT share a residence yet. Seems like thinking directly from the Victoria era or something.

  • I am in agreeance with much of what has been said here before me. I am getting married next year for the third time.
    Wedding one was organised by an elder sister who took it upon herself to make my dress (culottes) and also be my Matron of Honour! None of this was run past me first! I wore lavender culottes with a chiffon patterned long flowing coat covering it all. This was organised as I was marrying my fiance of 12 months and we had slept together. It didn't seem to make any difference that my older sister wore white after living together for a couple of years before she got married. Of course she did it behind my parents back and was under the impression that she was a virgin!! Fiance moved out if Mum and Dad came to town. At least Mum and Dad knew about me and didn't seem bothered.
    Second wedding was not one I wanted, no, not pregnant, but away from home and really unsure if I was doing the right thing. It was a mistake and I wore a dress I made the day before the wedding in cream muslin. Heart and soul was definitely NOT in it.
    This time I want what I feel I deserve, having just turned 60. I am going to wear a long white dress, with possibly a fascinator on my head. I have bought the dress already, but in a colour I love and am going to have it made in to white next year.
    I think it is a case that the bride, especially mature brides, can do exactly what they want! They are often like me, have met someone I want to spend the rest of my life with and he also wants us to do it properly so we are doing EXACTLY what WE want.
    I am not interested in having bridal showers so I am in luck that we are travelling home for this wedding (overseas) and we do not want gifts to have to bring back here. We have everything we want therefore our invitations will state that we do not require presents, but wish for our guests presence instead.
    Brides should have the last say when it comes to their big day. Do it your own way and forget all about those who think it is not appropriate. It IS appropriate if it is what YOU want!!

  • Dm. A woman after my own heart. I just wanted to say that I agreed with every single word that you had to say about the small minded imbeciles patronising and putting down the older bride.
    I am a older bride to be myself getting married on my birthday on June7th 2013. And I have to say I am looking forward to it as my other half is truly my best friend and we do have a good laugh together. Though i am 48 years old, and was sad for a long time, i am definitely learning that I can enjoy life even at my age and growing old with my fiance is not to be dreaded but something to look forward to.
    I have a long white strapless gown, trimmed with red and a short train but wasn't going to wear a veil as so many have criticised older brides wearing them, but now
    thanks to you Tallie-Sue and Ingo, I'm thinking sod it, why not? I am wearing
    (Shock! Horror!) Gorgeous red crystal and diamond high heels and red false nails.
    All of which I have been reliably informed is far too colourful for older brides. I
    should cover my arms, not draw attention to myself and not have any bridesmaids
    (I have 4), but we are, like Dm said, paying for our weddings ourselves so why can't
    we have the wedding we want?
    Previously, I was too afraid to venture into bridal shops as I felt patronised
    by shop assistants, but now feeling I am of an age not to care, i hold my head up
    high and don't allow myself to be intimidated.
    And though i want my guests to enjoy my wedding, after all these years, i have
    finally learnt not to be such a people pleaser because life is too short not to take
    care of myself as well.

    So I will have my bright red double decker bus, Seventies disco and a traditional church wedding, with all the trimmings, as my first Registry wedding, (I am divorced), was completely organised for me without my opinion being asked for on anything. I being young and foolish was too scared to express myself, but I've learnt enough not to let it happen again.

    So my message to the other brides to be out there is; hold your head up high too,
    do it your way and don't let the so and so's get you down.
    Oh! And cheers! Mine's a large one!

  • I am so happy that I found this site, the etiquette question and the replies. I am 47 and planning my first wedding. It started out as going to the courthouse, but I decided I didn't want to do that. So now, it's a small outdoor ceremony with family and friends, but I'll have a champagne colored wedding dress and my 24 yr old daughter will stand up with me. I have a friend who is planning a bridal shower, I have registered and will send out a registry card with my invitations that have the following poem;
    We are one step ahead & we
    already share
    A home which has been made w
    ith love & with care.

    We are fortunate to have most
    things that we need.
    We would love to update with gifts we receive.
    And hope that this registry
    will help us proceed.

    I gave most of my things to my daughter when I moved in with my fiance and what was left by his deceased mother. We've lived together for four years, and now that we are getting married, I want to celebrate in the same way that young brides do, and I want to make our home OURS, with what is unique for us and what we want to make a home.

    Best wishes to every bride, of every age. I think all brides should just do and have the wedding and celebrations that they want to have. Cheers!

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