These days, there’s a strong chance that you or someone you know is part of a blended family. According to the US Bureau of Census, nearly 50% of families in America alone are blended, with one partner (or both) taking on the role of stepparent.
Becoming a blended family can be emotional for everyone involved, from the couple walking down the aisle to the little child getting a new authority figure in his or her life. It’s important to acknowledge this and make everyone feel welcome in the new family dynamic, particularly on your wedding day.
So, how can you make the kids feel included in your nuptials? Here are a few ways to help make your wedding a celebration that’s not just for you and your spouse, but for everyone in your new family.
Build a Rock Cairn
Many couples perform a symbolic ritual at their wedding to mark the start of their new union. They will light a unity candle, fill jars with assorted colors of sand, the list goes on and on. You can easily include the kids in these ceremonies, but I suggest something a little different: building a family rock cairn.
Cairns are man-made stacks of rocks that have been used since prehistory to designate landmarks, showing wanderers the way to safety. What a beautiful metaphor for your new family!
A rock cairn sculpture is fairly easy to create. During the wedding ceremony, have each member of your family come forward and place a stone (just practice first so the stones stay balanced). Best of all, you can display it in your home or garden for years to come.
Say Some Family Vows
On your wedding day, it’s traditional to exchange vows with one another. These words declare your commitment to each other, to your marriage, and to your life together. But when you’re marrying into a blended family, that life includes a few other people: your kids.
Your vows are a perfect opportunity to show your commitment not just to your spouse, but to their children you’ll be co-parenting. After you’ve exchanged vows with your partner, say a few words to the kids, too, publicly declaring all your aims as a stepparent.
What should you say? Well, whatever you want. Family vows can range from the cheesy (“I vow not to embarrass you the first time you bring a date home”) to the sincere (“I vow to always treat you with love and respect”). Speak from the heart and let your future step-child know that he or she is just as important to you as their parent.
Accessories For Everyone
If you’re having a very traditional wedding (like a religious ceremony with very little wiggle room), you may not be able to incorporate the kids into the ceremony. However, you can still give them a little something to set them apart on your special day.
Before you walk down the aisle, give everyone in the family a unique, custom gift to mark the occasion. Create matching jewelry like a necklace or cufflinks featuring the birthstones or fingerprints of each family member, and then have everyone wear them during the wedding.
A simple gift like this shows everyone in your family, from your future spouse to your future step kids, just how excited you are to joint their family. And not only will this gift connect you all during the wedding, it will serve as a shared family keepsake for years to come.
Make a Grand Entrance Together
Your grand entrance is one of the final structured moments of your wedding day. Once you walk into your reception, it’s all about dining, dancing, and having a grand old time—with a few planned moments in between (your first dance, the bouquet toss, etc.).
The grand entrance is also your first official appearance as a married couple. So, why not take this opportunity to introduce your new family to all your loved ones?
Instead of the DJ announcing “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so” (or whatever the case may be), ask the DJ to introduce “The So-and-So family”; then, walk into your reception hand in hand with your spouse and step kids! This is a fun way to celebrate your family and let the little ones get in on the wedded bliss.
As you plan your wedding, be sure to talk to any children that you or your future spouse have. Find out how they’d like to be included in the wedding, and make sure they know that their opinions are just as important as the bride and groom’s. After all, when you marry into a blended family, your wedding day doesn’t just mark a new chapter in your love story. It’s a new chapter for everyone! And if you use one of these suggestions, you will pay proper tribute to this momentous occasion in all your lives.