Blended families are on the rise, now accounting for 46 percent of all U.S. weddings. Out of joy and a sincere desire to share the experience with them, many couples choose to include their kids from previous relationships in the ceremony.
Yet, few rules of etiquette have been developed to address the often sensitive nature of stepfamily marriage celebrations. Peter Gerlach has assembled an informative study guide for Planning a Successful Stepfamily Wedding, offering tips on facing the complex and unique issues that arise in remarriages.
It’s an Invitation, Not a Requirement
The most important decision you need to make is how much the children should be involved in the ceremony. This will largely depend on their ages, your relationship with each one and their individual feelings about the new family you are creating. You also should not pressure any child to participate. Ask for their ideas and make sure they are willing to take on the role.
Most kids will feel self-conscious about being in the spotlight, so the ceremonial elements you plan should be simple and short.
It is critical that you realize their participation is not meant to strengthen your bond but rather reflect the connection you have already built. Yet, if planned and executed thoughtfully, the experience can be a powerfully emotional experience for the entire family.
Ways to Include Stepkids in the Marriage Ceremony
There are many ways you can include the kids to make sure everyone feels like they have a special place in the new family. As you are planning the ceremony, ask for their opinions and ideas so that they have a hand in shaping the decisions. Give them a special project that they are in charge of, such as folding the programs or sticking the stamps to the invitation envelopes.
Young children often stroll down the aisle as flower girls and ring bearers while older kids typically take the place of honor in the wedding party as bridesmaids and groomsmen. Those who prefer to have a smaller role in the wedding can offer a special reading or walk their parent down the aisle.
A blended family unity ceremony can also strengthen everyone’s commitment to ensuring a happy future. You can also give the children a symbol of your commitment, such as a necklace or family heirloom.
Should the Kids Say, “I Do,” Too?
Just as the vows exchanged between a husband and wife set the foundation of the marriage, a wedding ceremony that includes children from previous relationships defines the values of the family and sets the expectations for future behaviors.
Couples have approached a family vow exchange from a variety of directions, depending on their specific family situation. Most often, the adults make promises to the children. Sometimes, children also pledge their own vows to the parents or step-siblings.
Some brides have expressed disagreement with including the children in the vows, believing the marriage agreement is solely between the adults. Asking the kids to make their own commitment, they argue, puts an unfair adult burden on their shoulders. After all, other close family members are not asked to exchange vows during the ceremony.
However, unlike other family members and friends, your children will live in your home, so this union directly affects their daily lives. Since uncooperative, disgruntled children can directly affect the quality of home life, giving them an opportunity to accept responsibility for their role in the family can make a significant difference in how they view their relationships with their step-parent and step-siblings.