“Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.”
(Enter lovers Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, And Helena)
~ Thesius, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1
William Shakespeare seemed to find joy in double weddings, as he wrote about them at least thrice, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night. A double wedding also was the focus of the 1937 romantic film comedy, Double Wedding, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy of the Thin Man movie series fame. And remember the achingly romantic double wedding in Pride and Prejudice?
But while there can be great joy in double weddings and they can make for great plots in books, plays and movies — because of the comedies of errors that can occur– weddings of any kind remain serious business. So the question becomes: can a real-life double wedding be double the pleasure, double the fun, double the romance…or double the trouble?
Why a Double Wedding?
There are a number of reasons why two couples decide to merge their weddings. If two siblings are getting married, rather than planning and paying for two completely separate affairs a double wedding can cut down on costs for parents, for the wedding couples themselves, or whoever will be paying for the weddings. Or two very good friends are planning weddings close to the same time and think it would be wonderful to combine the two celebrations, either out of sentimentality or for practical reasons.
For example, either two siblings or two good friends might want to ask the same people to whom they are related or are very close to be their attendants. Or they might want the same wedding venue, or even the same wedding date. Combining the two occasions could solve a boatload of relationship and logistical quandaries.
Where to Begin?
To be sure, there are more complications in planning a double wedding. What starts out as a romantic notion might wind up to be a battle for control with arguments over attendants’ dresses and music, haggles over the venue and the menu, and so on. It’s rather like moving into an apartment or going on an expensive vacation together; it seemed like a great idea — sharing expenses, cooking and cleaning, seeing romantic an exciting places together, etc. But different tastes in decorating and food and different interests (one likes lying on the beach on a Caribbean island and the other wants to see the great artworks of Paris and Florence), not to mention different budgets, can lead to discontent and even threaten a friendship. Thus, from the beginning there must be an understanding that a double wedding involves giving up a bit of ground, valuing compromise, keeping all eyes on the ultimate prize — a beautiful and memorable wedding day for both bridal couples, their families and guests.
To explore the possibilities and find out at early as possible if a double wedding will be viable, discuss and prioritize the guest list, set a budget and decide who will pay for what or if everything will be shared equally and determine the type of wedding (formal, informal, casual, secular or religious), who will escort the brides down the aisle, who will officiate, and so on.
Many of the issues that crop up in a double wedding are familiar ones. There might be extended families to consider, seating dilemmas and travel and accommodations logistics for a destination double wedding. To accommodate all of those closest to both couples in the proceedings the same creativity used in a single wedding must be employed for a double wedding, including creating roles for friends and relatives other than being attendants, such as readers, singers and ushers.
Then there is the toasting; having only one best man can simplify that task! But if there are to be two best men, then timeframes and timing become even more essential.
But, like the reception, the expenses involved with the welcome party and rehearsal dinner can be split between the two couples and / or their families. That said, if budgets allow, each couple can provide their own wedding guest favors, there can be two cakes and the like or shared favors and wedding cake can simply be more elaborate.
Because you are sharing your wedding with another couple it makes sense to send one invitation to the master dual wedding invitation guest list. This keeps things simple and straightforward for all the guests. The Indigo Envelope site has some examples of double wedding invitation wording to give you ideas for creating your own. In listing the names of the brides and grooms, the names of the couple with the older bride should be listed first.
What Does a Double Wedding Look Like?
What your double wedding will look like depends on your budget, ability to compromise on ideas and how formal or informal the event will be. Provided there are no religious or venue restrictions, the two brides may arrange to walk down the aisle separately or together, alone or escorted, down the same aisle or separate and converging aisles. I found two different double wedding examples posted on-line; one took place in a church and the other in the great outdoors — perhaps they will give you some inspiration.
When deciding to walk separately, out of respect the older bride should go first. Brides may choose to wear identical, similar or completely different dresses. Just keep in mind the overall appearance to your double wedding and do your best to coordinate an elegant look. The same goes for your wedding cakes should you decide to have two; they can certainly be different — that can be fun — but, again, consider how they will appear. Having one cake can be fine, as well, if the couples can reach a mutual decision on the style, flavors, decorations, etc. There are so many clever cake toppers these days that couples can have fun designing their shared cake with such cake toppers and other personalized and meaningful decorations.
Brides should come to a decision on their wedding colors; if they are having separate attendants and have different preferences in colors they should ensure that the two colors coordinate in a pleasing manner. This, of course, applies to all your decor decisions.
Another issue among sibling brides is the sharing of their father or other beloved person in walking down the aisle. One way, of course, is to have Dad walk both daughters down the aisle, one on each arm, or have the two brides walk together with their father and mother on either side. If each daughter wishes to walk alone with her father, he can walk the older daughter to the altar, then walk quickly back up the aisle to fetch the younger daughter and repeat the walk to the altar. This issue can also arise with both grooms wishing to share the same best man, who might be their mutual best friend or sibling. These are some of the many fine points to be worked out.
With regard to the wedding ceremony and exchange of vows, some double weddings involve two separate ceremonies — and if this is the case the ceremony of the older bride should occur first. This might be necessary if one or more religions are involved. However, it is my view that a wedding service should not require guests to sit for double the time of a single wedding if at all possible. Thus, just as two people of different faiths often have an officiant of each faith represented, a double wedding might want to have the same arrangement so that both couples may have their ceremonies conducted together.
It is very helpful if the wedding couples also establish a mutual wedding website — often referred to as a “wedsite” — to provide information and clear up any questions guests might have. It is also helpful to include an email address where guests can send their questions.
Must Guests Provide Double the Gifts?
Regarding gift-giving, if an invited guest to a double wedding knows both couples equally well then he or she should give each couple a gift. After all, if the couples had chosen to have separate weddings and the guest was invited to both –which might have been held within the same year or even on dates close to each other — the guest would certainly have sent each couple a gift.
Of course, as has been addressed previously, gifts are given at the discretion of the giver. Thus, to accommodate one’s budget it might be necessary to split it between the two couples, giving each one a gift that is more modest than one gift would have been.
On the other hand, if a guest knows only one of the couples, or one of the brides or grooms, then only one gift need be given to that couple, and it is not necessary to give a gift to the other couple. Similarly, if a guest knows one bride very well, but has become acquainted with the other bride, the budget might be split with the bulk going to the bride that is well known to the guest and a modest portion allocated to the other bride.
To eliminate confusion among guests regarding this as well as other issues, it will be necessary for the parents of each couple to spread the word among the members of their portions of the wedding guest list. In addition, on the couples’ combined wedsite, the two couples should list separate gift registries, accompanied by a gracious note from both couples that says something along the lines of:
“We are all very appreciative of the inquiries we have received from our respective families and friends who have asked us what we would like or need to start our new lives as married couples! As a guide to those who know each of us, we have included our separate registries on this site. Thank you, again, for all your kindness and good wishes.”
The Value of a Wedding Planner
Wedding planners in general can make life easier when planning a double wedding, and even more so when the wedding is large or formal. These professionals can act as buffers between and advisors to the two couples and make sailing through the process a lot smoother. An experienced, top-notch wedding planner can recommend the best direction to take and settle disputes regarding venues, vendors, decor, caterers, rentals, invitations and other details that can overwhelm one wedding couple let alone two. Two couples should be able to afford at least a part-time / day-of wedding planner to ease the strain; the investment could prove to be well worth the cost.
May Your Joy Be Double, and May There Be No Trouble
Collaboration, communication, charity and compromise are keys to pulling off a fabulous double wedding that doubles the joy, fun, celebration and fond memories and reduces or eliminates any trouble — for all concerned.
Until next time,