Rebellious Bride – The Story So Far
Go on, you only get married once, said the young lady at the till after watching me sweat at the wedding magazine stand just over two years ago. Little did she know I had been here before – 13 years before in fact. I’d bought “the” magazine, worn “the” dress, had my day as fairy princess. And now I felt almost criminal picking up a wedding magazine for the second time. My life wasn’t supposed to go like this, my marriage was supposed to last forever!
Minna Dufton is Rebellious Bride. Dress: OverSkinDesign, Pics: Elina Manninen.
I was a recycled bride heading for the altar with issues – and not least because I was going to say “I do” in the same church in which I said it for the first time. Surely I should be shot for this? Cupboard under the stairs was the place where I should read my wedding magazine this time – if I plucked up the courage to buy one.
It wasn’t until I’d heard “you only get married once” a few more times – at a wedding dress boutique, at a hugely popular national wedding fair – that my angst turned into anger. How was it possible that in Finland, where 40% of first marriages have ended in divorce for the past twenty years, most of us could still not really face the fact that people’s lives go on? That we might, just, find happiness again?
Becoming Rebellious Bride
I set out on a mission to shake up the stigma around getting married again by becoming Rebellious Bride, a feisty pink-haired wedding blogger with rock attitude. My blog Second Time Lucky? was to be a summer project, a little break from my day job in hardcore journalism. In fact I wanted to throw all rules of journalism out of the window for a bit! My blogging was supposed to end once my new guitarist hubby-to-be and I had had our joint “number two”. He, too, had found happiness again.
I began saying things out loud. That I had the right to celebrate being a second-time bride, swing from the chandeliers if I wanted to. That I had been to check the exits at the church – just in case I panicked when the moment came to walk down the same aisle again. That I was furious when our extremely traditional vicar told us we didn’t need a wedding rehearsal – because we’d “done it” before. That I wasn’t going to make all the decorations myself this time and get all stressed out. This time I was going to borrow, hire and recycle as much as I possibly could. That it was not necessarily a bad thing to be a bride with experience.
Minna Dufton has got married twice in her home town of Nurmes.
From the word go I noticed that there was a gap for the recycled bride. I was the only wedding blogger in Finland writing about the big day with this level of realism. Brides-to-be wrote to me and told me how relieved they were that at last someone was saying what they were thinking. That it was not only acceptable but absolutely essential to mark the encore with personality, flare – and pride.
One thing lead to another and my blog turned into a book just over a year after Rebellious Bride came out. Through her I could write about getting married from fresh angles and stir up some much needed discussion. Of course I knew that not everyone was going to like to hear what I had to say but I was surprised by how supporting the wedding industry was towards Rebellious Bride. It was as if the industry had hoped someone stirred things up a bit.
Rebellious Bride wedding dress shopping in downtown Helsinki.
Mini happiness, anyone?
One of the most eye opening interviews I did for my book, The Rebellious Wedding Guide, was with Pastor and Journalist Hilkka Olkinuora, a popular wedding vicar amongst recycled couples. Hilkka, also politician and author, has been married three times so doesn’t throw stones at couples like us! Because let’s face it: A lot of the anxiety that comes with planning your wedding day again is rooted to the views church has on divorced couples.
Hilkka told me that only in the 1980’s the mainstream Lutheran church in Finland tried to cut down marrying “sinful” divorced couples by bringing out a new, much shorter version of the church wedding service. A so called mini service. In the church’s eyes all recycled couples had committed adultery regardless of what the reasons behind their divorces were – and therefore deserved only mini happiness. My pink blood was boiling. This deep-rooted stigma was there at the magazine stand, in the wedding boutiques and at the wedding fairs. And still is in 2016.
Raggarimorsiamen hääopas, The Rebellious Wedding Guide, is published by Gummerus.
So, while there are the 40% of first timers ready to tie the knot again at some point in their lives, fewer and fewer Finnish encore couples want to do it under the judging eye of their local vicar. A problem the church still has and one that no single person can solve.
Still, some people, like “motorbike priest” Heikki Leppä, are really pushing the boat out in welcoming encore couples to marry again in church. Heikki, Doctor of Theology, came up with the idea of Wedding Night, an annual event at the Church of St Lawrence in Vantaa.
I was invited along as witness to some of the couples last September and I can tell you most of them weren’t tripping up the altar for the first time!
With Heikki Leppä!
The past is a different country
On Wedding Night Heikki weds around 30 couples within the space of a few hours. There is no dress code and the atmosphere is similar to a rock festival. Once the formal part is over and Heikki and his colleagues have had the initial chat with all the couples, there are no rules on how they should walk down the aisle. And what’s best: Heikki really doesn’t want to know whether the bride or groom have been married before.
– I don’t even look at that part of the paperwork. The past of these couples is none of my business. The number of times someone has been married before isn’t that person’s whole history – it is just a number, Heikki says.
Oh how I wish I’d heard Heikki’s words of advice before meeting our vicar! Then again, I’m thankful that things went exactly as they did, as the whole experience of feeling like a second class citizen has given me fuel for writing. According to Heikki, the best thing an encore bride or groom can do if they want a church wedding is to simply ask for their local vicar’s view on marrying again:
– Tell your vicar you do NOT wish to be preached or judged upon your number two – or whatever the number may be. Your journey to the altar will be much smoother if you choose to be brave and speak up.
Staff at Wedding Night at Church of St. Lawrence, Vantaa.
A mature bride has “balls”
One of my followers, Johanna Turunen, got married on April 16th. Johanna was 21 when she got married for the first time. By the time she walked down the aisle for the second time, she was 39.
Johanna Turunen with her hubby on their big day.
– At first I wasn’t sure whether I was allowed to get this excited about wedding planning – even more excited than I was the first time! Thankfully my bridesmaids and wonderful new hubby-to-be encouraged me to go for it and little by little I began to relax, Johanna tells me.
Johanna felt every inch the mature bride-to-be. She, like many other encore brides, didn’t want a day as a princess, but a day as the queen! She also wanted to avoid doing anything like she did the first time round – something most of us recycled couples can relate to.
As an example of her new-found bravery Johanna had a set of boudoir pictures taken as a wedding gift to her husband:
– I’ve never enjoyed posing for the camera and most definitely not like this. The photographer was a friend of mine so we got through it together. Right now in my life I feel braver than I ever have before and I want to show it.
Johanna’s beautiful boudoir pictures were taken by Johanna Kivelä Photography.
It takes balls to let happiness back in your life after much sadness, but I believe that the things we fear the most are usually the ones worth doing the most. I am now a professional bride, standup comedian and ice breaker at wedding fairs. I have even learned to play stunt guitar (air guitar with real electric guitar) – something my former self would definitely roll her eyes at. Hellyeah.
MINNA DUFTON is a 39-year-old TV Journalist/Scriptwriter, blogger and author. She lives in Helsinki with her 8-year-old daughter and musician husband. Before returning to her native Finland in 2009 she lived in the UK’s least romantic city of Hull for 13 years. Her first book, Rebellious Wedding Guide, was published in August 2015 by Gummerus. Her dream is to publish a book in English. Stay tuned for the new Las Vegas style website, out soon!
“Ice lady” Johanna Nordblad is behind the visuals of Rebellious Bride’s new website.