weddings

"The one thing I couldn't stop thinking when I saw photos of Lisa Wilkinson's 'second wedding'."

Hearing the news that TODAY Show host Lisa Wilkinson and her husband of 25 years, Peter FitzSimons, had their second wedding on Saturday gave me all of the fuzzies.

Lisa and Pete could easily have let their silver anniversary slip by with a quiet dinner for two, where, if they were lucky, the restaurant would surprise them with a slice of cake and a congratulatory message written in chocolate sauce (I clearly imagine they celebrate big events at The Coffee Club).

Instead, they returned to their original wedding venue, Sydney’s Balmoral Bathers’ Pavilion. Lisa donned a perfect white dress (with pockets!) and Pete, dapper in a black tuxedo. With flowers, cake and their adult children as their bridal party, the pair didn’t shy away from it – they were having a proper, unabashed second wedding. Pete even re-proposed two years ago. And I bloody love it.

So why aren’t more couples doing it?

Before I go on, I’m acutely aware that, right now, there are thousands of Australians who can only dream of getting married once, let alone twice. It’s a luxury to entertain the option of a second wedding and one I hope all of us will soon share.

Lately I’ve noticed that when it comes to marriage, there is a great sense of finality. Not just the “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” parts – but the public act of a wedding.

For most, it is the first and last time it is socially acceptable to openly bask in the smugness of our love for our significant other. One. Special. Day. The best of our lives. Then we’re expected to shut up about it and move out to the suburbs.

In the past, I’ve asked my parents if they would ever consider renewing their vows after 35 years of marriage. I wasn’t there the first time round and would love to see it. But they laugh it off, insisting they’ve had “their special day”. One. Special. Day.

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While it’s important to celebrate the beginning of a union and the statistical feat of finding someone you can commit your life to – for most, the hard work hasn’t really started yet.

It’s a promise to do things, sure. But why, years down the track, when these vows have been fulfilled, doesn’t society insist that we celebrate it more?

Not with another quiet anniversary dinner for two, or a token congratulations from a colleague at work. A real second wedding – with no apologies.

You have raised your children. You have stood by each other through illnesses, the loss of loved ones, jobs and ambitions. You have lived your vows. If that isn’t worthy of a celebration, what is?

When couples talk about renewing their vows, it’s often framed as some fanciful idea that couldn’t possibly be realised in real life. Like playing blackjack on the moon. A throwaway line disappears into the air and it’s forgotten about.

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But is there more to it?

Are we secretly afraid to be seen as “milking it’? As if daring to wear a white dress again and having yet another day about us could be seen as self-indulgent?

Who invented the one-marriage-one-wedding quota anyway?

Listen: Lisa Wilkinson on Marriage, Karl and Her Latest Project.

This doesn’t have to be about dropping thousands of dollars, or putting friends through an annual event like Heidi and Seal. But at certain points in a marriage, if you feel so inclined, haven’t you earned the right to step back, toast your achievements and make it all about the two of you again?

Why is the Big White Wedding only afforded to those at the start of the race? Society tells us we’re only supposed to have one special day. But there’s plenty to go around, isn’t there?

Have an anniversary party, they say. But are they really a thing? I hear them mentioned in movies, but has anyone actually been to one? I haven’t.

Is it just Australians? Are we worried it’s too braggy to high five our successful union over a backyard barbecue?

Other compelling reasons why having a second wedding is better than dusting off a wedding video or throwing a party:

1. It gives children the opportunity to hear their parents declare their love for one another, to learn what drew them together and what is keeping them there;

2. It allows a couple to reevaluate their priorities within their relationship (because things do change over time) and recognise what they value most;

3. It’s an opportunity to re-do things you may have regretted the first time. Wish you hadn’t have worn puffy sleeves and shoulder pads? Here’s your time machine; and

4. Sometimes, when it feels like even the Chris Pratts and Anna Faris’ of the world can’t get it right, it’s nice to hear the success stories. Because there are many. They just don’t get as much airtime.

While a campaign for second weddings isn’t the most pressing marriage reform we have going on right now – I hope one day very soon, it will be.

Then we can all enjoy our special day, and the option of reliving it a second or third time, or as many times as we bloody well like, with whomever we love.

Jaime is a 30-year-old, curly-haired, chocolate milkshake enthusiast from Brisbane. With a career to date producing commercial talkback radio and giving politicians media advice, she can usually be found nose deep in a book or ears-deep in podcasts, particularly of the No Filter and Mamamia Outloud variety.

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