How to plan a wedding as an older couple

17 Feb 2022

Couples in their 50s and upwards getting married for the first, second or third time should take heed in this expert advice

The average age to get married has been steadily increasing in recent years, and it is most notable that marriage rates in those aged 50 and over went up by 45% in the last decade. While many will have found love again, some may have found love for the very first time. 

According to a recent YouGov.com study, one in five people aged 50 to 64 met their partner by chance while out and about. However, such encounters are increasingly rare for younger generations, with only one in 20 people aged 20 to 29 meeting their partner at a bar or elsewhere.

Whatever the circumstances, it is true that more people are getting married in later life. Still, planning a wedding as an older couple can prove to be a very different experience to doing the same in your 20s and 30s. More life experience, adult children and sometimes a completely different set of values to that you once had can put an alternative perspective on proceedings.

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Above: Getty Images

Despite the web being an invaluable source of wedding inspiration, it can also prove challenging for older couples to find age-appropriate wedding ideas online. As such, we've teamed up with Audley Villages to offer our top tips when planning a wedding as an older couple. 

Susan McClean, operations director for Audley Villages, says: “Those finding love and planning to get married at 50 and beyond should not impact having the wedding of their dreams, taking advantage of the freedom they have now to make their own decisions, and perhaps being more financially secure than in their younger years. This is the chance to celebrate starting the rest of your lives with your new spouse into retirement living and beyond.”

If you're planning a wedding in later life, take a look at these thought-provoking ideas to set you on the path to success and a happily married life together. 

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Above: Getty Images

The wedding dress

While the traditional bridal white will always ring true, the underlying notions of purity and innocence can sometimes lead the bride to reconsider her wedding colour – no matter her age. Similarly, conventional ballgown styles may not resonate with the bride-to-be, after all, her wedding wear should only be a reflection of her true self.

Turning our attention to famous older brides, it is evident that colour can be a refreshing way to add a personal stamp. The Duchess of Cornwall chose a light blue and gold embroidered coat with a matching chiffon dress when she married Prince Charles in 2005, and Joan Collins opted for a lilac gown for her wedding to Percy Gibson in 2002. 

The rise in smaller, more intimate weddings due to the pandemic has also seen a surge in pared back, non-conventional bridal ensembles. Trouser suits, tailored jumpsuits and midi dresses are riding high in the bridal fashion stakes, and older brides are heralding the trend as a more accepting move towards mature and practical outfit choices.

Sue Reid, managing director UK of Adrianna Papell, says: “If there's one thing we all know at this age, it's that we want to look beautiful, but we need to be comfortable on that special day. Your wedding outfit should be a statement about you. I think it’s most important to choose a fabric, length, colour, style, and fit that suits you.”

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Above: The wedding of Susan Roche and Steve Harradine at Hadlow Manor, Kent (Image by Helen England Photography)

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Above: Papell Studio Sequin Embellishment Maxi Dress in Blue Heather from John Lewis, £160 

The venue

The pandemic has given rise to smaller civil ceremonies at registration offices followed by a low-key celebration at a local pub or restaurant, and older couples continue to favour this fuss-free approach. However, your choice of wedding venue is entirely up to you, so consider what's important to you as a couple. 

Helen Burgess, 46, and Giles Massingham, 53, tied the knot in September 2021 after an 18-month engagement. They held their ceremony at The Flint Room in Norwich and their reception at The Dial House in Reepham, Norfolk.

Helen says: "Although a wedding is about the union of two people, as a (slightly) older couple it felt more about the union of our families, which was equally as important to us. Having both been married before, we knew what was important to us and where to place the value when it came to the planning.

"We wanted it to be relaxed and chilled, no formality, traditional wedding vows or formula. Both venues have a fabulous and eclectic vintage vibe, which I have always loved.

"Guests sat on sofas at The Flint Room, we had champagne in tea cups and brownies after the service. The main focus for the reception was dancing, drinking and having fun. No sit-down meal, beautiful canapés and a tapas-style buffet from the fabulous chefs at The Dial House."

Read all about Helen and Giles' wedding day in the 2022 edition of Norfolk & Suffolk Bride magazine.

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Above: Helen Burgess and Giles Massingham (Image by Richard Jarmy Photography)

The guest list

Smaller guest lists are more accepted now than they have ever been before, and older couples may prefer to keep the celebrations to immediate family members and close friends.

If you have been married before or have had previous partners, your adult children and their families should be given precedence on your wedding guest list. Plus, sons, daughters and grandchildren can play a significant role in the special day. 

Wedding planner Mary Briscoe of Weddings by Mary says: "When planning a wedding in your 50s or above, your priorities are going to be different to the younger generation of today. It’s about sharing your love and friendship with the world, so ensuring you’re surrounded by your nearest and dearest will be key to your wedding day.

"Perhaps your grown up son can act as your best man or even proudly escort you down the aisle. And you know that, if you have daughters, you will have so much fun on the wedding morning in ensuring that you wow your guests and partner." 

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Above: Getty Images

The photography/videography

Documentary wedding photography and videography serves to capture raw and candid moments that would otherwise go forgotten. This style of photography and videography is increasingly being favoured by older couples, as Alan Howard of The Wedding Documentary Company explains...

"Couples who are getting married later on in life and thinking about their wedding videography tend to reflect deeper on the footage they want captured on their special day. Often they will be thinking of having a video that includes their children and having something really special they can show to grandchildren they may already have. There's an element of couples wanting to create a piece of nostalgic content.

"A wedding documentary is different from a traditional wedding video as a documentary is less staged, more relaxed, captures un-planned moments and conversations, and older couples want a video that feels like a real family affair. 

"Documentaries at their heart are about capturing real life rather than influencing it. A good director will make sure they’re in the right spot and creating the right atmosphere to capture the banter, the emotion and warmth of the couple's friends and family.

"It’s a well known fact that choosing not to have a video of the wedding day is among the biggest regrets of brides and grooms. This is especially so of older couples who understand the importance of memories and capturing them, and keeping them not just for themselves but for the future generations of the family.”

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Above: Getty Images

The entertainment

Wedding entertainment is a chance to add a personal touch to your wedding day, and your choice of music is intrinsic to creating a celebratory atmosphere that is true to you as couple. While it's good to include a wide range of musical genres to cater for a broad spectrum of ages and tastes in your guest list, your own musical choices should shine through. 

Suzanne Aston of wedding and events showband Aston Band, says: "Music is an integral part of any wedding celebration. Lots of today's hits are heavily influenced by the classics, so treat your guests to a trip back in time with all your nostalgic favourites. Think back to the time you were hitting the dance floor in your courting days, and start making a list of your favourite songs on Spotify to stamp your personality on the day."

Here is Aston Band's list of top ten must-have wedding favourites from the '70s and '80s: 

  • This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) - Natalie Cole
  • You To Me are Everything - The Real Thing
  • You're the First, the Last, My Everything - Barry White
  • We Are Family - Sister Sledge
  • La Freak - Chic
  • All Night Long - Lionel Richie
  • I Wanna Dance With Somebody - Whitney Houston
  • September - Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Don't Stop Believin' - Journey
  • Livin' On a Prayer - Bon Jovi

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Above: Getty Images

The gift list

What to get for the couple who has everything? At a later stage of life, you will likely have all the homeware you require and a cash alternative may seem more meaningless. Instead, consider asking your guests for experiences that you can enjoy as a couple. Hot air balloon rides or a hotel stay at a location you love, or have never been to before, may be the perfect sentiment. 

Alternatively, charity donations are an ideal gift option for a couple who have journeyed through life with a cause close to their heart. You can communicate your wishes from the outset using your wedding invitations, or use charitable wedding favours to invite donations on the day instead. 

The team at online wedding gift list provider Prezola comment: "Your guests will always want to give you something special to mark your big day. And while you might have the essentials covered, why not use your gift list to ask your guests to contribute towards gifts that you'll both enjoy together?

"At Prezola, we give you the option to add anything you want to your gift list from gifts to honeymoon funds, adventures, experiences or donations to a charity that's close to your heart – or a combination of everything. Whether it's a cookery class for two, contributions towards cocktails on the beach, or a vacation or staycation somewhere closer to home you can add it all to your Prezola gift list."

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Are you getting married in your '50s or later? We would love to hear from you. Email sarah.harris@archant.co.uk with details of your wedding plans. 

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