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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April 2005, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Meet the step-parents
By Jennifer Quinn
BBC News Magazine

When Charles and Camilla tie the knot on Saturday, they're breaking new ground for royals - but not for regular people, who re-marry all the time. Welcome to married life, with a twist.

The stresses are universal. There are the concerns about making sure the ceremony is appropriate, inclusive, and emotive. Worries about former spouses looming over the wedding are inevitable. And the challenges of handling a potentially disapproving mother-in-law are familiar to second-time brides all over the world.

However, Camilla Parker Bowles may be under a bit more stress than most. Her allegedly lukewarm future mother-in-law is the Queen. Her intended's first wife was Diana, Princess of Wales, a woman who still inspires intense emotions years after her death. The kids she's trying to include in the wedding ceremony? Heirs to the throne. And her big day isn't just videoed - it's televised.

"I think she's brave, and the best of luck to her," says Linda Robertson, a member of the British Second Wives Club, a group of 60 women who have banded together to provide each other with support.

"It's going to be a difficult situation. She's going to be the most famous second wife in Britain."

A second divorce?

In the UK in 2002, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were 254,400 marriages. One partner had already been married in 57,540 of the unions. A further 46,700 couples were made up of people who had both been married before - just like the Prince of Wales and Ms Parker Bowles.

Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher
Fourth time around: Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher
The pair will tie the knot on 9 April in Windsor in a civil ceremony; a blessing at Windsor Castle and reception are to follow. Like many second weddings, this one looks as if it will - relatively speaking - be less formal than the Prince of Wales' first trip down the aisle.

"They aren't different from us. They aren't," says psychologist Phillip Hodson, who has counselled couples for nearly three decades. "They just have more money."

And like other couples who decide to take the plunge again after having already been married at least once, the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles will face a higher divorce rate, Mr Hodson says.

That's possibly because pressures in second marriages - and at second weddings - can often be external, rather than internal, says Jill Curtis, a senior psychotherapist who wrote How to Get Married... Again.

Sometimes, those stresses are as obvious as unhappy children; other times, they're as complex as trying to figure out whether or not to invite former parents-in-law so they can see their grandchildren act as bridesmaids and ushers.

Getting married the first time around without your parents' approval is nothing compared to the second time around without your children's approval
Jill Curtis

And what about what to wear, who to invite, and what might be said during toasts?

"However complicated a first wedding is," Ms Curtis says, "a second wedding is complicated times 50. It's no good just crossing your fingers and hoping everything is going to be all right. There's just too much."

For some, a wedding is doubly hard because it's a public declaration of something painful for people who feel as if they're being left behind while others move forward. Hodson suggests couples go through an "emotional audit" to make sure the people that need coddling are looked after and that any volatile issues are handled.

One of the problems is that many around the future bride and groom would rather not acknowledge that there has been unhappiness in the past. So while family and friends may publicly make supportive noises, in private they may be quite unhappy.

"There are lots of people who say, 'We're in agreement and you have our support,'" Ms Robertson says, "but there are those who would prefer for the past to stay in the past and not go into the future. They don't want people to split up, and they want everyone to stay together. But people don't often understand what went on in a relationship. And you have to move forward."

Children on-side

In some first marriages, pressure can be placed on couples by overly protective or even interfering parents; during subsequent unions, those challenges can come from sons and daughters.

Clair Williams
Registrar Clair Williams, who will marry the couple, is also a divorcee
"Getting married the first time around without your parents' approval is nothing," Ms Curtis says, "compared to trying to getting married the second time around without your children's approval."

In this Royal wedding, Prince William will stand up with the couple, as will Tom Parker Bowles - who is actually Prince Charles' godson - and Ms Curtis hopes the bride and groom have thought everything through, down to where everyone will stand for the photographs.

"If things aren't thought through, there can be some nasty surprises," she says, referring to one second-time bride who broke down in tears because the scent of freesias reminded her of her first trip down the aisle. "Leave nothing to chance. It's fatal if things are left to the last minute."

Along with parents, one big concern for repeat brides and grooms are memories of the woman or man who came before them. Some even fret that they may show up in person to sabotage the big day.

"A lot of people think, 'How can I live up to the first wife?'" says Ms Robertson, who is engaged to be married for the second time. "A lot of women don't have to, but I wouldn't want to be in Camilla's shoes, trying to live up to Charles' first wife."


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