The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray — it’s a time-honored idiom. From cancelled flights to well-intentioned gifts, things don’t always go as planned. And sadly, sometimes marriages are included among the litany. But when two people are lucky enough to find happiness again, tying the knot for a second time can be fraught with challenges — often very different from the dress-fitting mishaps and mother-in-law conflicts that crop up when planning a first wedding. From vows to venues, here’s how two couples navigated the landscape of second weddings.
Leslye Smith and Steve Smith
After a split from her ex nearly 12 years ago, Leslye Smith finally told her now-husband Steve, “Okay, I’ll marry you one day if you want to do that.” So they tied the knot this summer on the evening of July 4.
Leslye’s first marriage, from which she has two children, ended, in her words “not very well,” and she initially didn’t anticipate marrying again, nor did she really want to. But after nearly five years dating Steve, who had never been married, she agreed to think about it — and luckily for Steve, her thoughts were positive.
With 80 guests in attendance, Lesley and Steve married in her synagogue in a unique ceremony since Steve is not Jewish. They exchanged traditional Jewish vows and signed an interfaith ketubah, or marriage license.
Leslye, who works full time as a teacher at Northwestern University, planned the entire ceremony and reception (for the second time!), an experience made especially challenging because nearly a third of their guests came in from out of town. On top of that, Leslye took it upon herself to bake almost all of the desserts for the sweet table at the reception, minus a few pies contributed by her cousins and friends.
That was a particularly special theme throughout the course of the wedding festivities — community involvement. Leslye’s sister hosted the rehearsal dinner; a friend from Wisconsin provided cheese plates for appetizers at the wedding reception, held in the backyard of her Buffalo Grove home. Flowers were designed and contributed by Leslye’s brother-in-law and niece, who are florists, and all the guests helped set up the backyard after the wedding ceremony. Leslye’s daughter, Elayne, even picked out her mother’s wedding dress — a cocktail-length lace sheath in off-white.
“Everyone really participated,” Leslye says. “My kids walked me down the aisle. Steve’s mom and a good friend of his walked him down the aisle.”
Another friend signed their ketubah as the witness; Leslye’s sister was a bridesmaid and Steve’s best friend was a groomsman. Even with such a small group of guests, Leslye felt all the right people were included.
“Everyone we wanted to invite, we invited,” she says. “We didn’t leave anyone out. My kids got to bring friends who are part of my life too.”
The backyard festivities were intimate and low-key — Independence Day decorations hung from white tents and catering staff served fruit sangria. Aside from a rotten photographer (“None of the pictures came out!” Lesley moaned), there was no stress at all.
“We just wanted everyone to have a good time, not to have to dress up,” Lesley says, “We wanted to be informal. It was red white and blue, wear whatever you wanted.”
Leslye’s first wedding was a similarly low-key affair. Though the guest list was slightly larger, she describes it as being very simple with “none of that over-the-top crap.”
“People make too big of a production over something that, 50 percent of the time, dissolves,” Leslye says. “Even my first wedding was very plain. The bridesmaids’ dresses were a hundred bucks, and I didn’t care if their shoes matched.”
Leslye seems to tap right into the larger issue at hand with second weddings: the prevailing attitude is that they should be small and intimate because that’s what society seems to dictate — if you change your mind after the first time around, you don’t get a big party again. But for her, small and intimate has been the end goal all along. With her shoes off, Leslye danced to Trap Queen with her daughter and guests lounged on the living room couches.
Leslye says she was expecting more stress and more problems of every kind, from planning to parents but it all went off nearly without a hitch. “I didn’t really think I ever wanted to be married again, but it was wonderful,” Leslye says. “He’s really just such an amazing guy.”
Michael and April Lemick
Their parents and siblings met them at The Pump Room downtown after the ceremony to celebrate. April’s friends were slightly hurt that they wouldn’t be joining in the celebrations but, April says, “it was about blending the family.”
Both previously married, Michael and April were friends, and then, suddenly, more than friends. She brought two children, ages five and three at the time to the marriage, he a trio of boys ranging from 11 to 15 years old.
They read handwritten vows and were married by a pastor from a nondenominational church (Michael was raised Jewish; April, Catholic) and April wore a floor-length baby-blue vintage dress. Michael helped her pick it out.
“There was no institution telling us what we felt a marriage should be and what we wanted out of a marriage,” April says. “It was [us] writing our vows of what we wanted.”
And what they wanted was to bring their two families together: five kids, two Maltese dogs and no unnecessary frills.
“Because there were children involved it was about so much more than just us [as a couple],” April says. “It was enough to be together and I really think it was about blending the kids together.”
Friends for many years before their marriage, Michael and April would often get babysitters and go downtown.
“He was divorced and I was divorced and we would go have fun and hang out,” April says. “And then all of a sudden we weren’t friends anymore.”
Only three months after their relationship became romantic, Michael proposed on an airplane to Miami. They planned the wedding in a week and a half and married just a few months later, much to the shock and awe of their friends.
“Our philosophy was whoever didn’t support it, that was your outlook,” April says. “You can’t live for others, you have to live for yourself.”
Although Michael’s parents were slightly hesitant — due largely to the fact that he had three teenage sons and had been married for 16 years previously — April says the family was incredibly supportive as a whole.
“I think there was some hesitation that parents have because they’re parents, they can’t help themselves,” April says. “I think it was because [Michael’s parents] love him so much. But everyone that was around to see the relationship form backed it up because they saw it all blossoming and going in the right direction.”
The kids, too, were relatively accepting of the situation. Although it was harder on Michael’s sons, who were older than April’s children, things worked out in the end.
“There were good times and not good times, and that’s the reality of life and marriage,” April says. “Even if you’re only married the first time, it doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff going on and kids aren’t upset.”
The boys split time at their parents’ houses — half the week with their mom, half the week with their dad — and that, along with adjusting to different house rules, was difficult.
“There were definite hurdles with the boys because they were teenagers and their mother is a great mother,” April says. “They call me April, but they come over on Mother’s Day and we spend holidays together.”
Although April and Michael have discussed downsizing from the Glenview house where they married, April can’t bring herself to do it because it’s where everyone came together.
“I can’t sell the house because this is where we blended the family,” April says. “When the boys come home, they can just be on the couch because it’s their couch and their home.”
No marriage is ever perfect or easy, April acknowledges. She and Michael work as a team, she says. They both put in and they both reap the rewards.
“I felt like we could work through anything because we do and we have,” April says. “You need to have two people willing to work through things, not just one, and give and take and allow each other to be who they are.”
Eighteen years later, Michael and April are still happily married and blissfully in love — proof that it is certainly possible to get it right on the second try, no matter what the critics, external or internal, say.
“The fears are in you, I think. But I had no reservations about remarriage,” April says. “When my grandmother heard she said to me, ‘If anyone can handle this, you can.’”
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