My stepdaughter Kate is engaged. It is now merely seven weeks into her engagement and we are already in overdrive. The dresses, the flowers, the food. All of these meetings and fittings and wine tastings have me reminiscing about my own wedding. Of course, my blended family wedding was a little different.
First, it was put together somewhat quickly, which was in keeping with our relationship. After all, my husband asked me to marry him on our first date! (Though we waited nearly 2 ½ years to actually walk down the aisle.) Our wedding was planned amidst fall golf season and girls’ volleyball season, with the upcoming basketball season lurking just around the corner. We married on a cloudless September day. But first, my husband-to-be managed to shuttle the middle child to at least half of her all-day volleyball tournament before having to return to get ready for our evening wedding.
Our church was the perfect setting for a blended wedding. We took advantage of the two side aisles, versus a single center aisle, by having my beloved walked down the aisle by his children while my parents took their turn with me. The ceremony was followed by a splendid reception at a local arts center where we ate, drank and danced to a small orchestra. It was an extraordinary evening.
However, not all blended family weddings come off as smoothly. It’s important to consider the type of wedding you intend to have, the ages of the children involved and the comfort levels of the children. “It’s the disparity between how the bride/groom feels and how the children feel that is the key point. Adults are happy and excited; kids are fearful, anxious, conflicted…Life as they know it is going to change radically and they may not find these changes to their liking," says Dr. Leah Klungness, a New York based psychologist and author of The Complete Single Mother.
1. What’s your wedding style? Is there a downside to including your children?
If formality is important to you, practical considerations must be addressed when involving small children. While you may want to include everyone, toddler and preschool children are full of surprises. Unexpected behavior can cause unwanted drama if you are expecting perfection. After all, children say and do the darndest things.
Co-parenting can be made all the more difficult when a biological parent is remarrying. If eloping or planning a destination wedding but still wanting to include your children, you will need to ensure that you are permitted to have the children at that time and at that location. Parenting plans do not always address these concerns. Moreover, if you are planning a local affair, you will need to address some of these same considerations. Give ample time to think through the logistics of involving all the necessary parties. Consider that court action may be required.
One stepmother shared that since her husband was not able to have access to his children on the day of their wedding, it seemed unfair to include her own children. Therefore, they eloped and are planning a 10-year renewal ceremony where all the children can be involved.
2. Are your children comfortable with being involved?
“School-aged children cope with mixed feelings as the wedding day approaches,” says Dr. Klungness. “Little children may love their special outfits, but unexpectedly balk when it’s time to get dressed for the big event.”
Watching an ex remarry may breed difficulties for divorced spouses and children can sense that emotional discord. Children may feel disloyal to their other parent when they become ensconced in a happy family event with one of their biological parents. Therefore, it’s not unusual to sense reluctance on the part of the child to participate. “The best way to include children from previous relationships is to listen—really listen—and to respect what you hear about how they feel about participating in your wedding,” Dr. Klungness reminds us.
Allow the child the option to participate. Remember, you are blending a family. The wedding is just the first step in creating relationships with stepchildren and respect for their feelings is an essential building block in that process.
Given that my husband’s children were old enough to choose voluntarily to be a part of our wedding, we included them in every aspect. They actively chose their apparel, read Scriptures at the wedding and toasted us at the reception. That day entails fond memories for all of us and now serves as a reminder of the fun to be had in wedding planning.
If you decide to involve the children in your wedding, take advantage of some of these ideas from some of our readers’ blended family weddings:
- Have older kids make “Save the Date” cards or wedding invitations on their computers.
- Invite your musical child to sing or play an instrument during the ceremony. Encourage readings by the children which reflect your blended family values.
- Make them ring bearers, flower girls, bridesmaids and/or groomsmen. Perhaps have one of them escort you down the aisle.
- Include vows to children.
- Allow children to share in the unity candle or sand mixing ritual.
- Gift kids with rings or other special jewelry to acknowledge your commitment to them.
- Single them out for special dances with their biological parent at the reception.
- Do a choreographed family dance at the reception.
- Shop for wedding attire together.
- Ask kids for their ideas.