The Family Medallion® Wedding: Including Your Children In the Ceremony
By Dr. Roger Coleman
The Family Medallion Wedding Ceremony provides resources for including children of the bride and/or groom in the wedding service. Clergy and family counselors alike have praised this ceremony as an important step in strengthening family unity.
“How can I involve my children or my fiancé’s children in the wedding?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear when meeting with couples to help plan their wedding celebration.
Today, one fourth of all marriages include children, an average of two. This means that of the approximately two million marriages to be celebrated this year in the United States this year, over one million children will be present. As a result, “family weddings” are no longer the rarity they were just a few short years ago.
More and more clergy and wedding officiants have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make sense to ignore existing children, either those of the bride or of groom or those the couple may have together, during the wedding service. “When children aren’t recognized in some formal way, you can see the disappointment in their faces,” writes Rev. Dennis Campbell, a North Carolina Methodist minister. “They feel left out. But when children are included, you can see from the excitement in their faces that they are having a positive emotional experience. And because marriage is a public commitment, it is appropriate that wedding guests bear witness to the couple’s pledge to care of their children.”
In reality, all weddings are family occasions. Two people never live in a vacuum. They commit themselves to one another in the presence of those who have supported them in the past and who will continue to do so in the future. With children present, the family nature of marriage only becomes more visible.
One Family’s Response
As Rebecca Webster, recently wrote, “When I announced I was going to marry Richard Avery, my eight year old son seemed happy. ‘That’s great,’ Jason responded. But his actions over the next few weeks did not reflect his initial enthusiasm. He really didn’t say anything negative, but I could tell he was nervous. I think he was worried about how his life might change after Richard and I were married.”
Rebecca and Richard found a simple and emotionally satisfying way to respond to Dustin’s concerns in the form of a family-oriented wedding service that gives children a meaningful role in the wedding ceremony. This three to five-minute addition to the wedding – known as The Family Medallion ceremony – can easily be integrated into any religious or civil wedding tradition. It alters the wedding in only one respect: after the newly weds exchange rings and are pronounced husband and wife, a transition is made to recognize that marriage is also a family commitment. Children are then invited forward and each child is given a special three-ring medallion – The Family Medallion. This symbol represents family love in much the same way that the wedding ring signifies conjugal love. It is the recognized symbol for family unity.
“Although both Richard and I had assured Dustin prior to the wedding that we loved him, we wanted to do something during the ceremony to show him how important he was to us,” Rebecca explains. We wanted him to understand once and for all that it wasn’t just Richard and I getting married, that we were coming together as a family.”
The Averys say they will never forget the moment during their wedding when Dustin was invited to the altar to stand between his mom and stepdad. According to his mom, “He just beamed as the minister explained to him the meaning of the Family Medallion. And when Richard and I pledged to love him, it was clear that he felt part of our new family.”
Young Dustin still talks about “our wedding.” “I knew that if Richard would do something that special for me, then he must really care about me,” he says. “And I like the Family Medallion because it includes me: there’s a ring for mom, a ring for Richard and a ring for me.”
Importance of the Family Wedding
The creation of positive stepfamilies is far more complex and far broader than simply acknowledging children in the wedding. Constant reinforcement and communication is needed. However, the wedding ceremony offers one very significant opportunity to focus on the importance of family relationships. Recently, I heard a wedding guest ask a young boy if he was going to be the best man at this dad’s wedding. He responded, “No, I’m the best friend.”
The “family wedding” also makes for a very unique celebration. Most guests come to the wedding already knowing what is to take place. It’s like going to a movie that you have seen many times before – you not only know the ending but have memorized many of the lines. Nothing new or unusual takes place except for the occasional blunder of the officiant or the nervous reactions of the bride or groom. This is not the case when children such as Dustin are recognized.
To acknowledge a commitment to your children during the service (or another special time) – to call them forward, to present them with The Family Medallion, to give them a hug – is to recognize that something new, something very hopeful is taking place right before our very eyes. Our callous and often cynical attitudes about marriage wilt away and we experience, out of the painfulness of the past, a new future taking form. And, as I hear repeatedly, “There was not a dry eye in the house.”
Note: Roger Coleman, an ordained minister, created the Family Medallion® wedding ceremony over twenty years ago. Since that time, the Family Medallion has been used in over 10,000 weddings annually. For additional information on family weddings, contact Dr. Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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