Getting married is a big, exciting adventure in and of itself, but it becomes even more so when your partner has children—your future stepchildren—and you want to make them feel special as you go through the wedding planning process. Here are some ways to make them feel included, special, and excited about your big day!
Talk to Them About the Future Wedding
When you and your partner get engaged, it’s important to have numerous conversations with the children about the wedding. It’s a good idea to have their parent speak with them alone first, to let them know about the upcoming marriage. This gives them the space to be honest in voicing their concerns, if needed, and it also shields you from hearing those reservations at such an emotional time in your life. After that solo conversation, have your partner bring you into the talk and take some time to chat with the kids about what their expectations are for the big day. What do they think weddings are like? What would they like to see at your wedding? Would they like to be in the wedding itself or would they be more comfortable as a “guest”? Don’t force decision-making right away, but begin asking these questions and let the children start thinking about their ideas and preferences, knowing you’ll reconvene later to discuss specifics.
Give Them Space to Process Their Emotions and Thoughts
Even in the happiest and more wonderful circumstances, kids might feel nervous or apprehensive about an upcoming marriage. It will be helpful to them and smoother for the whole process if you give them space when they need it. Encouraging them to talk to their parents, friends, or a counselor about their feelings will help make it OK for them to feel a myriad of positive and negative emotions about this major life change without having guilt around these emotions. It’s also important to allow kids the space they may need from the planning process and the wedding itself. Of course, it would be wonderful to have the children involved in the planning and in the wedding inself, but be honest and realistic about whether that’s a good fit for the kids. Forcing them to play a big role in the event could have serious consequences if they’re feeling uncomfortable about it, so give them time and space to figure out their feelings and make a choice that suits them best.
Take Them with You to Wedding-Related Outings
If your future stepchildren are really into the wedding minutia and want to be as involved as possible, consider bringing them with you to the big wedding-related places, such as food tasting, dress fittings, or venue tours. It’s important to know that kids are very comfortable giving their honest opinions on things, so only bring them into situations where you won’t be heartbroken if they say they don’t like something. Including them in things like this not only makes them feel important, but it also helps them get their bearings and feel more comfortable when the day comes because there will be many things that are already familiar to them.
Let Them Help with the Wedding Planning
You may have kids who are super excited about the wedding and want to be as involved as possible. If this is the case, that’s awesome! Find ways to let them help you with wedding-related tasks, such as tying bows on favors or folding programs. Choose tasks that are possible for them to do and that you feel OK with being a little less pristine than maybe some other details. Kids are kids, after all!
Use Their Ideas for the Wedding
Another great way to get kids excited and make them feel special during the wedding planning process is to get ideas from them about what should be in or at your wedding, and then actually use their ideas! Even if you just choose one idea to incorporate, knowing that you listened to them and moved forward with their idea is a super great way to make children feel heard and to help them get excited for the big day. My stepdaughter, for some reason, felt very strongly that weddings had chocolate fountains (no idea why she had that thought, but she totally did) so we made sure to have one at our reception. This wasn’t something we would’ve done otherwise, but knowing that she had this idea and wanted us to run with it made it important to us, and she was so excited to see it set up on our wedding day!
Make Wedding-Related Tasks Special
If you need to go to a fitting for their dress or suit, make a day of it! Have lunch together, go to the movies afterwards, or just generally make the entire day a positive one. This is particularly helpful if there are a lot of nerves surrounding the wedding for the kiddos because it takes the pressure off the wedding-related activity and puts more emphasis on spending time together and having a great day! This will also help create positive associations with all things wedding, since a day of trying on wedding clothes will now also be a family movie day for them.
Taking the time and putting in the effort to help make your future stepkids feel special as you plan your wedding can make a world of difference for your relationship—with your partner, with your future stepchildren, and with your family dynamic in general. This effort, I can assure you, will not go unnoticed.