I've been a wedding blog editor for seven years now and have never actually been married myself. I'm now engaged and planning my own offbeat wedding for next May. This is the first marriage for both of us and, pearls clutched, we're older. By the time I get married, 40 will be staring me in the face. This isn't very old when it comes to first marriages, but it is older than the average in the U.S. which is about 27 for women and 29 for men. I'm also a city dweller so that also means my chances of being married by that age are way lower. I don't feel weird about it at all and I'm far more confident in my ability to choose a partner at this age than I ever did in my 20s.
I anticipated that it would be a little different getting married later in life (what with the Ensure cocktails and shuffle board reception), but it is taking some surprising turns. Here are some myths about being an older bride that I have discovered…
Myth: You'll have total freedom
My biggest misconception about having a wedding as an older bride was that I would have the freedom to do pretty much anything I wanted. I figured that since I wasn't beholden to many people for financial help and that we were taking a slightly different route by having our first marriages later in life that folks would just let us run the show any way we liked. We're youth-impaired now, and a lot of it just seemed a bit… youthful to me.
I figured I wouldn't have to open gifts at a shower (we have too much shared stuff anyway), go partying at a hen night (are we in by 9?), or have to invite everyone we've ever known to the wedding itself. A lot of it just felt irrelevant since we're both in our later 30s and are already well established in life.
The truth is that I'm lucky enough to have many people who have been anxiously awaiting my wedding day for years or even decades (centuries?!) and they want to celebrate it RIGHT, silly hen nights and all. I'm not giving in to every tradition and pre-party (no shower, teeny tiny hen night, non-traditional wedding, small guest list), but I am definitely seeking to find a compromise with those traditions which I assumed would be optional for me as a more ag-ed lady.
Myth: My partner would also be seen as older
Nope. He's just a normal dude getting married. Obviously this is a hetero-specific issue that plays on societal expectations and gender roles in relationships (and I'd LOVE to hear how you're seeing it play out in LGBTQ+ relationships, too!). We are about the same age so I assumed that he'd be having the “finally” talks just as much as I was. Despite the fact that most of our friends are married, most with children, some even divorced, he's still viewed as a typical groom, age-wise. His more traditional friends and family are happy that he's “finally settling down,” but on the whole, his wedding planning experience hasn't been affected much by age factors.
Myth: I'd have to have an “older bride” wedding
There's a stigma to second marriages where couples feel like they can't whoop it up the way they did at their first wedding. They have tone down their look, opt out of a big ballgown, or keep the guest list smaller than they'd like. This is all bullshit of course, and you can do what you like at your second, third, whatever wedding.
But there is an element in the back of my mind that almost thinks of a later in life wedding in the same way. Keep it small, keep it demure, don't be a blushing first-time bride of 23. This one was pretty easy to squelch, though, as literally no one has implied that I need to keep anything smaller or less intense. As seen in the first myth, it's been quite the opposite.
Myth: I'd know what I was doing by now
A wedding blogger who has been to many weddings and waited a thousand years to partner up? She's got to know how to plan a wedding. Nah. I have zero clues. I like to say I've seen enough to know I've seen too much and all of the weddings I've edited (literally thousands by now) are a blur of loveliness and quirkiness that I haven't been able to filter into something usable for my own wedding planning. And that's totally okay. I've been using this blog as if I'm new to it when it comes to wedding planning tips and I'm loving it.
At times I feel very much like a young bride just getting started in life and love, but really, I'm a wizened old crone who scoffs at some traditions and still swoons over others. Having a foundation of a bit of extra life under my belt, and a solid education on being authentic to myself from this blog and others, I feel pretty ready to creak down the aisle with my Life Alert at the ready in case I fall and can't get up.
Want to see a whole archive of older couples? There are TONS, we are not alone!
Comments on 4 myths about being an older bride (aka where’s my Life Alert registry gift?!)
Congratulations, Catherine! 🙂
Thank you so much, Jolene!
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, from one first-time “older” bride to another!
I’m glad you wrote this. I’d like to hear more posts on this topic from you as you plan your wedding, because my guess is that we will be leading parallel planning processes. I will be 45 (and really just a few months away from 46) on our wedding date. My future husband will be 36. I’m completely ok with being an older bride — I could have married wonderful men at two different times in my life, once if I would have been willing to marry after college graduation, and once in my late 20s/early 30s if I had been willing to have children. As much as I loved them, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted for my life trajectory. So I am very happy to finally have a life partner who wants the same things I want.
But being a bride over 40 comes with so much media stigma. Four decades of stigma, to be specific, during which women over 49 we’re protrayed in movies, TV, and even news articles as desperate, pathetic man-hungry sad sacks who would never find love or marriage.
I never bought into any of that, buy the fact that my future husband is nine years younger than I am does bring up some “older bride” angst around the stigma. We are planning a very off at wedding, with lots of fun elements and probably a comedian as the officiant, and we don’t think there will be much pressure to do anything we don’t want.
At the same time, I want things like a shower and a bachelorette weekend and all the things I have gone to for two decades of friends’ weddings, and I don’t know if I can ask for that at 45. Not really sure HOW to ask for that without seeming self indulgent and frivolous.
I’m glad that you are making compromises with the traditions you want and managing to do it your way.
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