`I want an over-the-top dress and to have my mum cry'

Divorcees wanting to remarry face a dilemma - church or town hall?
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MY SECOND marriage was a big affair. Long white dress, sit-down dinner for 220, two bands, loads of champagne, long speeches and a disco. It bore no resemblance to the first, which was hastily arranged in Paris (I didn't understand a word of the ceremony and knew that I had to say the accepting "oui" only when the official paused and everyone looked at me with anticipation), with a few relatives going out to eat afterwards. It was very important to me that my second marriage was as different from my first as my husbands were from each other.

Divorcees getting married again usually do it the other way round. If your first wedding was grand and expensive, then your second will be restrained. One experience of stressful organising is, it seems, enough for one life- time.

David and Polly Williams' wedding last May was the second time round for both of them. "For our registry office wedding Polly wore a grey linen dress and I am afraid I just wore jeans and a shirt, with two of our closest friends as witnesses," says David. "We had both had very traditional weddings before, mine in a country church and Polly's in a grand London church, which had nearly bankrupted both our sets of parents. Not only did we feel that we couldn't stand to have them shell out a penny towards this wedding but we would also have felt rather embarrassed having people who had come to the first leaning over the pews and saying `Here we go again'. I even heard Polly saying to someone the other day that she felt that the bigger and more extravagant the wedding, the less likely it is to succeed, as if such a grand display was a mask for some serious doubts. Our second wedding was about personal commitment rather than show-time for the family and it actually felt far more genuine."

Saskia Lee disagrees. Although it will be her future husband's second marriage, it will be her first. "Robert would probably have been happy to have just got married in a registry office, but I must admit that I still hanker after a proper white wedding. I don't see why I should be denied that just because he had a two-year marriage in his early twenties. I think that he has now come round to my way of thinking that if something should be done, it should be done properly. I just wouldn't feel married if it took ten minutes down the local town hall. Sorry, but I want to wear the over-the-top dress and have my mum cry, otherwise there's no point in doing it." Robert Richards, who is ten years older than his fiancee, nods silently but a look of alarm crosses his face.

The couple, who are currently looking for a vicar willing to marry them, will be pleased to learn that the Anglican church may well be relaxing its attitude towards divorcees who want to get married in church. A new booklet by the Church of England hailed by bishops as "the most important teaching document of this generation", states that for divorcees a "marriage in church may currently be a possibility if you live in a parish where experimental diocesan guidelines are being followed".

Although the initial reaction from C of E traditionalists was one of horror, this is in fact a nod of recognition for a practice that liberal Anglican vicars have been discreetly conducting in their cash-starved churches for some years. My local vicar - who does sometimes marry divorcees but does not want to be named so he won't have to deal with a flood of second-time rounders - says: "Personally I am proud that the Church of England is a modern and realistic church. People make mistakes and I don't think that we should risk making people feel excluded because of that."

Could this raise the hopes of Charles and Camilla that their relationship will one day be formalised in church? As the Prince of Wales is the head of the Church of England, this must be a distinct possibility in the near future. One thing is pretty certain though, however they manage to tie the knot, and that is that after the pomp and ceremony of his first marriage, the couple would be well advised to keep it simple.

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