Ray Bowman turns his gaze lovingly toward his bride-to-be, Terrie Robinson.
“I feel pretty good about getting married again,” he says. “I found the other half of me.”
There’s a poignant honesty in Bowman’s words, you can tell they come from the heart. Bowman, divorced, and Robinson, widowed, recently took marriage vows for the second time in their lives even though it was their first time taking vows together.
For many Americans, once is not enough when it comes to saying “I do.” Whether it’s taking their vows with someone new or remarrying their former spouse, many couples still believe in making it official before the eyes of the court or their family and friends. Encore weddings range from intimate gatherings to full-blown extravaganzas; they can cost from less than $100 all the way up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Justice of the Peace Stephen Hoffman runs the Wedding Chapel located just across from the Covington courthouse. Hoffman says couples often seek his services because they’ve already experienced the big wedding and, either by choice or necessity, are looking for something simple and inexpensive. People marrying for a second time generally approach the relationship with their eyes a bit more open, he says. There’s an element of calm in couples remarrying as opposed to the nervous newlyweds he sees.
“These folks want to make things right because they love each other,” he says. “They want to make things work. It’s not like the first time around when they made mistakes; they don’t want to make those mistakes again. They hope this time they found the person that was really meant for them.”
Hoffman charges $75 for his services and has offices in both Ohio and Kentucky.
As a special courtesy, he offers a complimentary ‘wedcam’ from his Covington office so family members in other cities or countries can watch the ceremony. He says he’s seen it all, from close family members to potbellied pigs attending the ceremonies. He says small weddings can be every bit as romantic and memorable as their larger counterparts. For some couples, it’s not about the size of the wedding, it’s about showing their love and devotion for one another.
“In that moment in time, it just looks right,” he says. “Especially when they have their family there and everybody’s happy, because in everybody’s minds they’re marrying the right person this time — it’s just a beautiful thing.”
At Eventurous, Inc. (3938 Edwards Road, Hyde Park), “Head Creative Chick” Celia Rose says couples remarrying generally plan smaller weddings, especially if they hosted a large event the first time around. She says they range from couples in their late thirties, forties and fifties to the occasional sixty- or seventy-year-olds. As a full-service event planner, she says she has arranged encore weddings that cost from $5,000 all the way up to $50,000.
Encore brides and grooms tend to be a little more daring because they know who they are and want to incorporate their personalities into the event, she says. Unlike first-time brides who are all about the wedding, encore brides instead tend to focus on the marriage, with more attention on the couple than the event. And encore brides and grooms tend to eschew customs associated with traditional weddings.
“They don’t tend to do the same things as first-time weddings,” Rose says. “Instead of a cake, they have dessert buffets. They tend to have more cocktail parties as opposed to big sit-down dinners, and they don’t bouquet or garter — they tend to be a little bit more about who they are.”
Brigid Horne-Nestor, owner of i-do Weddings & Events, says she sees encore weddings as a growing industry, noting that she booked four in the last six weeks. Horne-Nestor says couples often choose encore weddings that focus on their individual personalities and combined experiences together. She describes one couple who spent year after year on safari in Kenya and arranged an African-themed wedding to be held at the Cincinnati Zoo. On the flip side, some brides still yearn for the traditional. She says one bride in her fifties was almost apologetic when she went shopping for a traditional bridal gown.
“She got a real wedding dress that looked like a wedding dress that a first-time bride might have worn, but she looked great in it,” she says.
Horne-Nestor sees a big difference when it comes to gift-giving. Encore couples often specify “no gifts” or prefer a donation to charity. Another difference includes the guest list. Encore brides and grooms tend to be far more selective than they were the first time around, she says, tending to invite people who really mean something to them and leaving out distant relatives or their parents’ friends. But she says the most obvious difference is the party atmosphere surrounding encore weddings. One recent couple’s primary concern was to book the best dance party DJ in town. If you receive an invite to an encore wedding, Horne-Nestor recommends you definitely go.
“They party like it’s nobody’s business,” she says. “The things that I absolutely love about these people is that they are so intent on making it the best party their friends and family have been to in years.”