Second Time’s a Charm
When planning their second wedding, this couple chose to focus on family.
December 29, 2017
Illustration Emily Chu
Bernadette DeSantis suspected her then-fianc Jim Macdonald thought she was about to break up with him when they went for lunch for his birthday in spring 2007. They’d had an argument, and the relationship was feeling like it was at a crossroads. But, at one point during lunch, DeSantis looked at Macdonald and said, “You should marry me.”
It was a tongue-in-cheek exhortation, says DeSantis. But, the next thing they knew, they were looking for a home together and planning their wedding.
DeSantis, then 41, and Macdonald, then 51, were in no rush to the altar. Both had been married before, both were divorced, and each had their own house and children – DeSantis had three; Macdonald, two. They’d been engaged for several years, and were hesitant to marry, all too aware of the effect it could have on their children if things didn’t work out.
But that birthday lunch set something in motion. “It all just seemed to be falling into place,” recalls DeSantis. Planning her second wedding – to take place in just a few weeks in the Okanagan – was just one of a whirlwind of tasks DeSantis had to accomplish that summer. She and Macdonald were now selling two homes while both working full-time. On her lunch hour one day, DeSantis walked to Donovan’s on 109th Street (which has since closed) and found the perfect wedding dress: “A champagne-coloured, very low-cut halter-top dress with a Marilyn Monroe-type skirt,” says DeSantis. “There was a pair of earrings in the case and I said, ‘I’ll take those, too.'”
“It was terrifically rushed,” says DeSantis. In fact, the deal on her previous home closed the day before they left on their vacation – after a bidding war.
It was a far cry from the first time DeSantis tied the knot, in a traditional Italian wedding in Toronto in 1994. Her whole family was involved in a year of planning the wedding for 170 guests, buying her big Cinderella dress and finalizing the lavish menu, which included 25 kinds of dessert. DeSantis says there were many expectations about what the wedding was going to be like, especially considering her parents were paying for it.
“I enjoyed both of my wedding days,” she says, “but with [the second one] I felt I was really present.”
At her first wedding, it was very important that all her friends were there; the second time it was all about family – specifically, her and Macdonald’s combined clan.
“This time it was, ‘Are the kids going to be there? Are the kids going to be involved?'” says DeSantis. “We were joining our two families together. It wasn’t just Jim and I getting married.”
On a Thursday afternoon, in August 2007, DeSantis and Macdonald said their vows at a picturesque winery with beautiful views of Skaha Lake. All of their children had a role, and there were only 18 guests – more kids than adults.
“At the end of the day I was so happy. I had this wonderful, intimate gathering in a really special place in the world.” Because it was so last-minute (for a wedding), they had an open house for family and friends to celebrate their marriage the next month upon returning to Edmonton.
That’s something many couples do when they’re getting married a second time, says Sandra Cassios, an Edmonton wedding planner and owner of Sandra Bettina Weddings and Events. Many choose to elope and then have a party when they get back. Couples planning their second weddings “often don’t make it as big of a deal,” says Cassios. “They’re often a little bit older and say, ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I don’t need to do it again.'”
But part and parcel of being slightly older is that second-time brides and grooms know themselves better.
“By then, they know what they want, they know who they are as a person,” Cassios says. Though second weddings are typically not huge affairs, couples still usually want to have a photographer, a dinner and flowers. Guest lists are often comprised only of people who are really important to the couple. Etiquette for guests attending someone’s second wedding is simple, says Cassios. “Stay away from talking about the past.”
Brides tend to choose simpler, shorter dresses such as sheaths instead of big ballgowns, and their bridal parties are usually much smaller. “But most often they still want a white dress,” says Cassios. “They still want to be a bride.”
Though the weddings tend to be smaller, they don’t tend to be that much cheaper, perhaps because people’s tastes get more expensive as they get older, and they want to put more money into nicer decorations and linens, says Cassios. Less formal as it was, DeSantis’s wedding to Macdonald was still brimming with fancy, and personal, touches. In keeping with the wine theme, the three-layer wedding cake was decorated with frozen crystallized grapes. The invitations were tied with ribbons. And DeSantis’s bouquet included calla lilies, which Macdonald had brought her on one of their first dates.
The day after the wedding, DeSantis and Macdonald gathered on the beach with their five children. Each brought a little paper boat they had made and decorated. With their guests looking on, they lit the boats on fire. It was a ceremonial burning, DeSantis explains. Macdonald had come up with the idea based on a quote widely attributed to the 16th-century Spanish explorer Hernn Corts upon reaching the New World; something along the lines of, “Burn the ships – we’re not going back.” That second ceremony demonstrated their deep commitment to each other as they left British Columbia and returned to Edmonton to start their new life together – and recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with a trip back to the Sunshine Coast.
This article appears in the January 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.