Two people coming together to become one is difficult enough. Merging two families into one is even more challenging. But such is the challenge many families face.
According to the national Pew Research Center, about 40% of all marriages are remarriages. And about one third of marriages result in blended families. For individuals in these situations, they have more to worry about than whether or not they get along with their future mother-in-law. They must also consider how their new spouse’s children will react to a new stepparent, and how their own children will react to their new spouse.
No matter how many children are involved or how old they are, marriages involving the merging of two families can be tricky and requires caution. In order to avoid hurting feelings and severing ties that may never be the same again, the two adults coming together in marriage must tread carefully. While the wedding itself is only one day, it sets the tone for life together as a blended family.
Mix family and friends
In order to avoid an awkward division between his side and her side, make an intentional effort to mix family and friends. Overcompensate so that every aspect of the wedding day calls for the mingling of the two sides. Eliminate bride and groom sides at the ceremony, allowing guests to sit wherever they desire and encouraging them to choose a seat, not a side. You could take a similar route for the reception, allowing guests to select their own seating. But for slightly more organization, seat members from each of your sides that you think would enjoy each other’s company. Maybe your Uncle Gary and your spouse’s cousin, Mark, would get along famously. Or perhaps your best friend, Sally, has the same dry humor as your spouse’s family friend, Martha. Don’t force people to sit together that have a history of conflict – present a united front but be realistic about the challenge of blending families.
Many weddings now incorporate some type of unity ceremony. The bride and groom present a united front and symbolize their becoming one with candles, rope, sand, paint, and more. No matter what type of unity ceremony sticks out to you, involve your children in the event. Give each child a candle to help light the one larger candle representing your new family. Tie a rope with as many strands as there are people in the family. Give each child a different color of paint for a unique piece of artwork. Your options are endless, just don’t neglect to include a unity ceremony in your big day. For some inspiration, take a look at our article, Alternative Unity Ceremonies That Blow Candles Away.
Write vows to each other’s children
Aside from the vows you recite or write for your spouse, write special vows to your new stepchildren. These can be incorporated into the traditional vows, or can be separate and given immediately afterwords. Assure them of your love for their mother/father. Thank them for sharing their parent with you. Make promises to them about how you will treat their mother/father and how you will treat them personally.
Give the children their own vows
Talk with the officiant and create original vows for your children to respond to during the ceremony. Ask them to respond, “I do” to questions such as:
“Do you promise to love your (parent) and her new (spouse)?”
“Do you promise to encourage, support, and accept them?”
“Do you promise to support this marriage and this new family?”
While you will be exchanging rings with your spouse on your big day, don’t neglect this opportunity to include your kids, as well! Such gifts do not need to be nearly as expensive as your wedding rings, but give them some serious thought. Try to select meaningful gifts that reflect the unique personalities of each of your children. Think along the lines of necklaces for girls and wallets for boys.
For your blended family wedding, try to find a healthy balance. Involve your kids enough so that they feel valued, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed. Remember that this wedding is still about you and your soon-to-be spouse, but it involves the union of your children, as well. Be considerate of their feelings. Listen to their thoughts. When in doubt, ask for their opinions. This wedding is only the start of a lifetime together as a blended family. So why not begin by centering this first official day as a new family around love and unity?
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