You swing me right round baby, right round… The merry-go-round of love continues! What does a growing appetite for second marriages and vow renewals mean for the bridal industry?
My parents have married one another four times. Yep, four times. It baffles my husband (he and I have been married just the once 14 years ago – the experience was clearly traumatic enough for him never to want to do it again), but I remain truly my parents’ daughter: I can see nothing but the romance in this.
If the stats are to be believed, those who either commit to a second marriage or renew their vows to one another, are on the up. Whether it’s saying I do a second time around or saying I do Part 2 (or 3 or 4…), it seems none of us have given up on the idea of marriage.
What a wonderful, affirming leap of faith in the idea of love right there – and arguably excellent news for the bridal industry. And that got us thinking: what are the possible ramifications of this second-time around trend for those of us in bridal? With some illuminating insights from a generation of brides and grooms who kept saying I do, we go and find out…
Second The Best
Brides walking down the aisle for a second time face a unique challenge: what should they wear that will reflect the mood appropriately? Gone is the notion that wearing white for a second time is somehow ill-advised or incongruous. In fact, of the 20 brides we spoke with who had re-married, 18 of them told us they bought another white wedding dress from a bridal boutique (although many admitted to cream or ivory!). Remarkably, over two-thirds of these women told us they returned to the same boutique they bought their first dress from (this is truly food for thought and a ringing endorsement of the value of your customer service).
Whilst they did admit, on the whole, to spending less on the dress the second time around, what really came to the fore was a sense of wanting to celebrate this second wedding on the same terms as the first. That is, the second wedding was given the same status and kudos as the first with one crucial difference: the benefit of hindsight and experience.
The website dedicated to second-time round brides, idotaketwo.com, encourages brides to learn from the first wedding whilst also feeling empowered to incorporate those aspects into their day that worked the first time.
In Jenni’s case, she applied this philosophy to the dress: “I spent a long time looking at my pictures from my first marriage and I realised that in all of the photos, I looked a little pained, like I was struggling to breathe. I definitely wasn’t comfortable and knew a corset-style dress just wasn’t an option for my second wedding. But I never once thought of not looking like a bride – I was a bride! – and I really wanted that look. It just meant that instead of feeling press-ganged into a very structured gown because it was so obviously ‘bridal’, I had the confidence for my second marriage to be very clear about the fabric and cut I wanted.”
And what about the boys? “I really don’t mind what the groom wears on our wedding day – it doesn’t bother me at all…” said no bride ever. Unsurprisingly, when we spoke to the second-time grooms-to-be, they (rather sensibly) were guided by the women in their lives and overwhelmingly wore a morning suit or equivalent, rented or bought in a similar fashion to their first weddings, and designed to complement and co-ordinate with the chosen theme (just as important for second-time weddings).
Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso, David and Victoria Beckham, Beyonce and Jay Z, Sharon and Ozzy, Jan and Chris Bird (my mum and dad)… for celebrities and brilliant parents alike, we are all of us in love with the idea of love. And marking an enduring love is surely a worthwhile cause for celebration.
With some 87,000 designated websites offering advice on everything vow-renewal-related, it seems there are no shortage of takers either. In fact, love remains most emphatically in the air for the baby-boom generation.
A study from Saga found that one in 14 of those aged 50 and older either have renewed or are considering renewing their wedding vows.
What is significant here for the bridal industry is how these couples are choosing to renew their vows. The research found that people tended to renew their vows after 30 years of marriage, so already we’re talking about an older demographic of men and women. But significantly, and given the huge changes the wedding day itself has undergone now versus 30 years ago, a potential whole generation of people in their 50s and 60s may have missed out on planning their dream wedding.
David, aged 60, renewed his vows with wife Sandra after 32 years of marriage. “It was a way to celebrate our joint 60th but also to make good on the promise I made myself to give Sandra the wedding day of her dreams.
Planning our daughter’s recent wedding made it abundantly clear to me that our own wedding had been a tiny, rushed affair. We had no money and Sandra didn’t even have a proper wedding dress. After our daughter’s wedding, what you could do to mark the occasion seemed so much more exciting and I wanted to give all that to Sandra. I even took her to a bridal boutique to look at dresses (she chose a cream suit in the end from their mother-of-the-bride selection, but the ladies made a huge fuss of her). I am so glad we got to say I do again properly, and with our children there this time!”
Getting the offering right
Giving careful consideration to how best to cater for an older demographic of women in bridal boutiques would seem to be the smart play. Not only do some first-time brides choose to get married later nowadays, but those who renew their vows may also be a target group looking to be accommodated.
This could be as simple as ensuring the dresses you stock come with personalised options and alterations that include (for example) arm cover-ups. It could also mean you consider carrying a ‘mother-of-the-bride’ line and then give careful thought to how best to promote this (dispensing with ‘mother-of-the-bride’ as a category definer would be job one: here, there is room for a massive re-brand!).
Absolutely essential, however, is that staff are trained to be accepting of, and empathetic to, whatever type of bride they see before them.
Being a bride today arguably comes in myriad forms – from lovestruck bright young things to second-timers who never gave up on love, to those who remain seasoned, lifelong romantics. For successful bridal boutiques today, we know that keeping attuned with all brides – whatever shape or form (both literal and metaphorical) – is the name of the game.
The nature of love may take some surprising twists and turns but all stories are celebrating one thing: love. Be it a rollercoaster or a merry-go-round, all brides remain committed to the ride – and so do we.