The remarrying of a parent is a stressful time for most children. Getting them involved in the wedding ceremony and process is a great way to welcome them into the moment and have them feel ownership and commitment to making it work. The good news is that there are plenty of fun and exciting ways kids can be involved, particularly in the ceremony itself.
The roles which come easily to mind are bridesmaids (for second marriages with older children), ring bearers (page boys), best man or maid of honor, again for older children, flower girls, and ushers- and if everyone is willing there is a lot to be said for this. Even if you are planning a very small civil wedding, it is still a good excuse to have those extra special outfits bought for the children, as long as they are ones they will enjoy wearing! And do tread carefully here.
Adam and Olivia involved their children in all the details of planning the wedding, and arranged that on the day itself their minister would add special vows for children in a second marriage. This was so that the children could be asked if they promised to love and honor their mother's new partner. A loud and firm 'We do' was heard by all present. In turn Adam was asked if he would love and support the children from now on. He was delighted to assert with conviction 'I do.'
Children Involvement In Wedding CeremoniesWays to include the kids
Be sensitive to the children's feelings and remember kids are often shy, so be sure to have some 'behind the scenes' jobs available. Second marriages with older children are terrific because they can obviously offer more help and take on more difficult tasks. They can help address the wedding invitations; a younger child can stuff the envelopes and glue the postage stamps. Feeling really creative? Have the children make the wedding invitations! If you are having a reception at home, the children can be even more inventive by decorating their own space, and any 'hands on' ideas you can have will make them feel a part of it all.
If a child is reluctant to be involved in any activity, and there may be many reasons for this, respect their point of view and never force a child's involvement. Gently remind them that their presence is of great importance and that will be enough if that's where their comfort level remains. But do make sure there is a photograph taken of all of you on the day. Remember you are beginning to create memories and a history for your new family. So, although this is your wedding day, if either already has a child of any age, you are marrying and blending a family. So listen to the kid's suggestions; they may have ideas which will surprise you. And don't forget to give each child a well-chosen wedding gift as a 'thank you' memento of the wedding.
It is not surprising that many previously married people are entering the dating field. With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, dating by divorced parents is obviously something done by millions of individuals. More often than not, the people re-entering the dating pool after their marriages end are now adding children to their dating resumes. So it’s not surprising that when two people meet, fall in love and get married, they each have kids. So how do you successfully merge your families?
Be prepared to fail
Yep, this is the first point because setting expectations is important. And its ok. Lots of personalities equals lots of different points of view and opinions and bumps in the road. Parents and children will make mistakes. Be prepared for a rough road and lots of ups and downs, it is perfectly normal and you should treat it accordingly. Be normal when it happens. You will reduce stress, anxiety and disappointment. In the end, what matters most is that you're all together.
Agree on the rules early
Not only are families merging but communication styles are too and so are personalities. Parents must agree on how to handle everyday things like homework, household chores, bedtime and more. The agreed discipline approach to both biological children and stepchildren is important so everybody is on the same playing field. The kids will notice. If there is a consistent message for the kids coming from both parents on what's right and what's wrong, it will make the transition for the children and parents easier.
Bring everybody together at the wedding
No matter how great the relationships are between parents and their future step-children are, the rubber hits the road when it is wedding time. The wedding is the perfect time to bring both sides together in a special way. Kids are smart and should be included in the decision making process during the planning process. It is also a great idea to formally have a Family Medallion Ceremony as a way to bring together both families. Read more about this ceremony and it's significance here.
Silence doesn't mean acceptance.
Check in all the time. Everyone needs to feel heard, especially a child in a newly-blended family. Regular family meetings are a must. Use them as a time to talk about what's working and what's not.
The Family Medallion ceremony is a meaningful way to bring children into a wedding ceremony. It is typically performed when there are children or stepchildren on either side who's parents are getting married or remarried.
It is an easy and straightforward ceremony and can have a powerful affect on children. It shows children that the parents have a real commitment to them in their new marriage and shows that the parents are thinking about the children. The ceremony gives a small token, a family medallion, to all of the children to represent that they are part of the new family and marriage.
The Family Medallion itself has a symbol of three interlocking circles and represents the new commitment between the husband, wife and child. Similar to a wedding ring between husband and wife, the family medallion is a reminder to children that they are a loved and integral part of both parents lives.
This kind of visual gift and ceremonial affirmation can be powerful. Frequently, children are excited or happy when they first hear their parent is getting remarried, but that can gradually change into more negative emotions — disinterest, anxiety, even antagonism. What they see in the wedding planning process is their parent moving onto a new life that may not visibly include them. They know life is going to change after the marriage – and they need to be comforted in how that change is going to affect them.
The Family Medallion ceremony shows clearly that everyone is being integrated into a new family together. The Family Medallion ceremony parallels the ring ceremony; like it sounds, the Family Medallion ceremony is a simple ceremony that involves giving a token – a lapel pin, pendant, or ring – to a children during the marriage ceremony, with spoken recognition of the new and existing relationships that the family medallion symbolizes.
What, exactly, is a blended family?
In 2006, 43 percent of marriages involved at least one spouse who was remarrying. 65% of those people being remarried bring children from previous relationships into their new families. If you consider the number of families “blending” to create stepfamilies it is a big number and continues to grow. Common terms for these new families is a "blended" family or "step family".
We are often asked by people who are about to become part of a blended family how to get off to a great start. Often there are concerns about how to mesh with another parent’s children and how to treat and handle tough situations. Often in these situations there is a lot of anxiousness and people are just scared. We have all seen the movies with the jealous stepmothers and angry stepsisters. It is enough to make us all cringe. Let's not forget about the father’s role? What steps did he take to ensure his child’s happiness in the new, blended family? He seems to be a very distant figure, unaware of the cruel family dynamics in these storybook blended families.
See our full description of the blended family.
Introducing a new partner anxiety
Introducing a new partner is a minefield, just ask any single parent who has already done so. It is enough to make public speaking seem easy and we all hate that. It is an important moment and even the most mundane questions can be nerve racking to think about.
For those who have already seen their child react with pain or anger when meeting your ex’s new partner, you may be especially wary about revealing that you’ve fallen in love with someone new. It can be a bittersweet pill for the child to swallow and you need to aware of this before you make any introduction. It can also be stressful on you to enjoy your new relationship to the fullest while being concerned about how your children will react. They worry about sharing you and how things will change. Being part of a stepfamily is valid concern for most, especially when they have already seen their original family fall apart.
Many parents are shocked to find that their children—who seemed quite happy during outings with another adult and his or her children—suddenly become upset and withdrawn when a wedding is announced and the prospect living with the stepfamily becomes a reality. For instance, how the original family breakup was handled and the way the new couple’s union is celebrated can definitely set the tone.
Arranging blended family weddings
In addition to the right attitude, another key factor in ensuring a blended family gels early is to involve everybody in the wedding planning process often and early. Go out of your way to ask everyone involved before wedding arrangements are made and don't just pay it lip service. Make sure any children feel involved and that they have a say, it goes a long way in sending them the right message that this is their family and that they count.
Most divorced parents are acutely aware that their children have already been through the trauma of a divorce and have had the difficult job of adjusting to life with only one parent. Throw in a brand new person who is taking attention away from them and things get really complicated, especially for younger children. Don't forget that in most cases the child now has two families and is dealing with visitation issues with the other parent too. Now they’re being asked to make another change: living in a stepfamily. Not an easy task.
It’s not unusual for a couple with children from previous relationships to want to have a child of their own, hoping a new baby will bind the family together. But parents in blended families offer words of caution on this issue: “Wait until you’re truly bonded as a new family” and “Be careful. A new baby can upset the fragile applecart.” The consensus is that you need to allow a sufficient period that encourages the different personalities to find a way to “gel.” Even if the courtship days were blissful, living with others is the only way to know them. Be prepared for the new family to have plenty of “teething trouble,” and arguments over tidying up, money, noise, discipline and the everyday ups and downs of family life. Keep calm, work out compromises and avoid the pitfall of referring to the kids as “your” children versus “my” children. Rules and compromises need to be worked out.
Always remember, however, that you and your partner have decided to make a fresh start and a new, blended family. With love, plenty of patience and understanding, you’ll know you’ve been blessed with a second chance. Take it.
Article ListThe Family Medallion® Wedding
Melding Together a Blended Family
Bonding with your new blended family