Last October, my husband and I rented out the tiny upstairs floor of the quaint little coffeehouse where we had our first date. There, we said our vows in front of the 11 family members who dutifully showed up to our wedding while my 4-year-old son from my previous marriage danced excitedly between us.
From the homemade decorations, to the Spotify playlist that served as our DJ, to our informal attire of pants and sweaters, our casual wedding was a far cry from either of our extravagant, traditional first weddings. Even so, my husband and I had the sense that our small ceremony was above and beyond the norm for a second wedding — more than a few people were surprised we didn’t just opt for the courthouse. “Why all the fuss the second time around?” they seemed to be wondering.
Of course, as anyone who has had the big, fancy wedding and then gotten divorced will tell you, the size of the celebration has no correlation with the quality of the marriage. Still, over the past year I have often found myself feeling sad and regretful that we didn’t do more.
Considering that I was a single mom of a toddler when we started dating, and the only time my husband has ever seen me wear a dress is at a funeral, I wish I could have dressed up in a beautiful white gown and seen his reaction as I walked down the aisle.
I wish we could have had a big, raucous reception filled with good booze and music, and invited all our family and friends to celebrate our marriage, or at least meet us, since I’m fairly certain there are still parts of our extended families that don’t even know either of us has remarried.
I wish we had hired a photographer, or even just designated someone to be the official picture-taker that evening, so that we would have some sort of visible evidence of our wedding besides a single, blurry photograph that sits in our living room.
Mostly, I wish we hadn’t wasted the contagious excitement and over-the-top celebration that always accompanies a first wedding and first marriage on our first spouses.
Now as my husband and I are preparing for the arrival of our baby girl in a few weeks, the evidence of her status as a second is equally apparent. At this point in my first pregnancy, my son’s nursery was completely decked out in Pottery Barn Kids decor, the car seat was installed, and the stroller, bouncer, play yard, and swing were assembled and placed in strategic locations around the house. I had done a 3D ultrasound session, benefited from two very generous baby showers, smiled blithely through a maternity photo shoot, packed an enormous bag for the hospital, and taken a series of newborn care classes. The excitement and anticipation for the first were inherently palpable.
This time, on the brink of my third trimester, all my husband and I have for our daughter are a few diapers given to us as free samples, a crib mattress we bought only because we found it on clearance at a Black Friday sale, and my 20-week sonogram pictures, currently stuck in our mail holder between this month’s bills and the grocery coupons. We are still debating names and mostly refer to the baby as “Sparkle,” the name her brother thinks we should call her and the one that might just end up sticking if we don’t figure something out soon.
As an only child, the idea that the second baby in a family might receive such disparate treatment was a bit foreign to me until I started considering how differently the buildup to my second marriage was in comparison to my first. The second time through anything, we know better what to expect, but at the expense of losing the novelty and thrill of the unknown. We have the chance to do things differently — and better— than the first time, but we are a bit more jaded toward the things that used to excite us. With the second, we are expected to trade the uninhibited joy of idealism for the quiet wisdom of experience.
But as I glance at our blurry wedding photograph, sitting across the room from where our daughter’s sonogram is stashed with the mail, I can still make out just how happy my husband and I were on our wedding day. And this is how I know that despite being a second, our daughter deserves to and will be celebrated with all the hope, elation, and optimism as the first, and will be loved for everything that will make her a unique individual, even if we’re still debating her name on the way to the hospital. After all, she gets the benefit of two parents who are much wiser and stronger for all that they’ve been through with their first marriages and first child, and that more than anything else may be cause for celebration.