As a second-time bride, here's how I learned what's 'appropriate'

/ Source: TODAY

I’m getting married, again.

And I feel a little silly.

About a month ago, after almost eight years together, my boyfriend presented me with a ring he and my youngest daughter designed together. How could I refuse?

We agreed on a small wedding. Nothing big. Nothing fancy. Something simple. You know, something “appropriate” for a second-time bride. After all, as a (cough, cough … ) 40-something, divorced mother of three, this isn’t my first rodeo.

But now that the planning is in full swing and I’m trying to find a dress, pick out invitations and figure out ceremony logistics — I’m wondering: what does appropriate actually mean for a second-time bride?

Let’s face it, I’m about as far from being a “blushing bride” as a girl can be.

I call this, "50 Shades of Wrong."Courtesy of Sarah Maizes

Here’s the problem: Wedding magazines and websites are abundant with endless information for first-time brides — everything from how to announce your engagement to the world, to what to expect on your wedding night (having been there before, I’ll let you in on a secret: you’re just going to pass out).

Page after page of these magazines are packed with photos of nubile young women in massive tulle princess gowns, ornately beaded creations and edgy silk sheaths worn by flawless models (who look as blasé about marriage as you’d expect from a 19-year-old whose last meal was quinoa and air). These are not my people.

Sure, there a few sporadic articles about “second-wedding etiquette,” “how to include your children in the ceremony” or “dress ideas for the second-time bride,” but I can’t help but feel like they are written by some 23-year-old girl who kind of pities me a little. “You’re the bride! Wear whatever you like!” they say, a bit over-enthusiastically. But I think we all know that’s not true.

I could use a little help here.

You’re never too old to appreciate love … and bling!Courtesy of Sarah Maizes

When we think of brides-to-be, we often imagine a giddy 20-something with freshly manicured nails who looks for any excuse to showcase her new bling. She may even dramatically use her left hand for every movement possible.

My gesticulations are largely targeted at unruly children and drivers who cut me off. When I do use my left hand intentionally, I wonder (and maybe hope a little) that someone might notice I’m wearing a new engagement ring and ask, “Oh, are you getting married?” Then, like other brides-to-be, I can launch into the story about how we met, how the wedding details are coming along, and how grateful I am to find love, etc. Unfortunately, the peanut butter that’s crusting between the diamond baguettes seems to send the message to onlookers that the ring has been there for years. And questions — along with eye contact — are often avoided.

When you’re a new bride, dress shopping entails a gaggle of champagne-drinking girlfriends, and matronly dressed mothers who sit, ankles crossed, on plush sofas in the bridal salon armed with credit cards and opinions.

My oldest daughter using Snapchat to send pictures of me to her teenage friends. First time brides don’t have this problem.Courtesy of Sarah Maizes

The saleslady and staff fuss over the young bride-to-be and use buzz words like “vision” and “dream wedding” as they search for an enormous white dress that will make her light up like a 150-watt bulb. Then — and only then — do they “jack her up,” adding all of the accouterments that will complete her wedding ensemble and present her to the opinionated crowd in the waiting room for approval, applause and tears.

As a second-time bride, the bridesmaids (my daughters) are the ones with the strong opinions and the only “vision” I have for my wedding day is to look presentable thanks to industrial-strength Spanx and photographer who understands that women over 40 should always be shot from above.

As for “jacking me up?” Well, you’re going to need a bottle of tequila for that.

And the tears? They come from my frustration as I try on everything from ball gowns to cocktail dresses, long lace veils to beaded hair clips, trying to find something that doesn’t make me look either like I’m grasping at my youth or worse, like the Mother of the Bride. Each time I asked myself, “Am I too old for this?”

Let me just say that more often than not, the answer to that question is “yes,” and I slowly step away from the taffeta.

The wedding industry would have brides believe that achieving perfection on their wedding day will help ensure a “happily ever after.” That each tradition kept, every superstition honored is added insurance for wedded bliss. But I’ve worn the white dress before. I had the perfect wedding, and my groom and I stared into each other’s eyes and made promises to each other in front of 150 of our closest friends and family. I know better now. We have to make our own happily ever after.

So maybe the answer is as simple as asking myself, “What do I want from my wedding day?”

I want to eat, drink and dance with my new husband and my children and celebrate our newly-formed blended family with the closest people in our lives.

In short, I just want to be happy.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. And I think that’s entirely “appropriate.”