Weddings can be complicated. And they can be even more complicated when there are children from previous relationships involved—either yours or your partners’ kids. With videos of brides saying vows to their stepchildren or family sand ceremonies being all the rage on social media, it can be tricky to figure out what’s the best option for your family when it comes to including children in your wedding. Here are some questions to consider as you make this important decision.
What Do You and Your Partner Want for Your Wedding?
The very first thing to consider is, of course, what you and your partner would like to do. How important is it that the children are involved or not involved with the wedding? For some people, the wedding should be strictly about the union of the couple. For others, the joining of the entire family is a key component of the day. Neither way is right or wrong, but it’s important to have a conversation with your partner and see where each of you stand on the issue. If you’re not on the same page, take some time to really think it through and talk about it—there may be a compromise you can come to that will make you both happy. At the end of the day, what you and your partner want is the highest priority here, so really take the time to consider your options and listen to your partner’s feelings on this matter.
What Do the Children Want?
The other really important factor to consider is how the children feel about the issue. You may feel very strongly about having the kiddos involved, but if that is not in their comfort level you may need to figure out an alternative plan. Weddings are highly emotional for children of divorce, and may bring on feelings in the kids that are unexpected to everyone, including them! Being sensitive to the potential needs of the children ahead of time will make the wedding day much easier and can help assure that you begin your newly married life on the right foot for your whole family.
Do You Want to Include Them in a Specific Portion of the Wedding Ceremony?
Some families choose to specifically include the children in the wedding ceremony itself, with things like sand ceremonies, family ring exchanges, or vows specifically dedicated to the children. This is a great option if you feel like your wedding is directed more towards your family becoming a unit, rather than just you and your partner joining together, and can make for an extremely special moment to be treasured forever.
Is There a Traditional Role That Might Work Well?
Depending on the age of the children, as well as their desired level of participation, there may be a traditional role that could be a great fit. Many people have their children as flower girls, ring bearers, junior bridemaids/groomsmen, or even best man or maid of honor, depending on the situation and family dynamic. Having the children in these traditional roles might be a great fit, as they will be involved in the ceremony but it will not specifically put a spotlight on them as a part of the wedding or vows.
Would That Be a Good Fit for the Kids?
Something I think should be highly considered when you’re making these ceremony decisions is whether the choices you’re making will ultimately be a good fit for the kids. It would, of course, potentially be lovely to have them included in many ways, but for some children it will be a much better, smoother day if they can just be in attendance and not feel the need to participate. This is where family dynamics come into play in a serious way. If the children are excited and really want to be involved—and you and your partner would like to include them in that way—then it’s awesome to have them as a big part of it. But if the children are feeling a lot of anxiety or outside pressure about this wedding, it might be best to give them the option to just opt out of that portion of participation. It can hurt to hear that, I know, but meeting children where they are with things like this actually has the potential to make a seriously positive difference in how your family continues to grow together after the wedding.
Are You Making a Choice Based on Outside Pressure?
As an extension of what was said above, make sure that you’re making the decision about how to include the children based on what’s best for you and what’s best for the kids. There can be a lot of pressure in this social-media driven world to do things a certain way, but sometimes it’s not the best fit for your family and that’s okay! My stepdaughter was a junior bridesmaid in our wedding, and that was wonderful. Although I would’ve loved to have had her involved in some other way, I know she would’ve felt shy and pressured if she had been placed in the spotlight, so we didn’t choose to do that and it was the right decision for our family.
You know your family and you know how to maneuver this celebration so that it’s as healthy and wonderful as possible for everyone involved. Take some time to think about the questions above and then plan your wedding ceremony the way you want to!