Nowadays, people are marrying later in life, and many have children from other unions. By incorporating these children into the wedding ceremony, the focus shifts from just the couple, and highlights the new family being created. This helps ease the transition into a new family unit, and strengthens the bond between spouses, step-parents, children and step-siblings. It's definitely a necessary step. Step-families have up to three times more stress in the beginning of their marriages than non-blended families, as children often feel that they're just "along for the ride" in their new blended families. Your success as a new family depends on children feeling welcomed and valuable, not like weekend accessories. Take a look at these five ceremony ideas to best bring your spouse and new step-children into the fold -- together. 1. GIVING THE COUPLE AWAY For today's independent women, the idea of fathers "giving" their daughters to their new spouse is outdated. However, having your children present you at the ceremony by walking you down the aisle gives them a feeling of control in, and agreement in the new blended family. Your spouse and his or her children should do this as well. The officiant can ask a question like "Who agrees to the blending of these two families?" instead of "Whom gives this woman to this man?" 2. FAMILY KEEPSAKE CEREMONY At a special point in the ceremony, each member of the new family can place something representative of themselves into a common vessel. Examples include a sand color, a figurine or coins with respective birth years. This signifies that each member is valuable and holds space in the new family. Keep this memento in a place of honor inside your new home. 3. FAMILY CANDLE CEREMONY: At the beginning of the ceremony, you and your children each light a candle representing each of you that burns throughout the ceremony. Your spouse does that same with his or her children. After the vows have been spoken, you, your spouse, and the children, blow out your candles. Together, light a new set of candles (one for each member) in a different color to signify the new family unit. 4. FAMILY RING/NECKLACE PRESENTATION After the vows are said and rings are exchanged, both parents present a necklace or ring to each new step child. During the presentation, you and your spouse declare your intentions and promises to the new children. This is also a good time to explain any symbolism in the chosen piece of jewelry, like specific designs, initials or engravings, Necklaces are a wise choice for children who are still growing and rings are better for teens. 5. CHANGING THE VOCABULARY This tip is more in line with changing children's and guest's perception of the day. Instead of calling it a "wedding," how about a "Blending of Families Ceremony"? Or something to your liking. Instead of only having the happy couple standing up, have each parent with their children stand up front throughout the ceremony. Talk to your officiant about changing the tone of the sermon-part of the ceremony to lean more toward blending families rather than focusing solely on loving one another. Walking out of the ceremony, perhaps you all hold hands with the children in the middle. **It is not acceptable for children to make vows to the new parents or siblings. They are children and do not have the cognitive capacity to enter into a sacred promise. Adults need to take responsibility for guiding the relationships between step-parent and child. Therefore, vows are appropriate for adults to make to children but not the other way around. ** The great thing about modern weddings is that ceremonies are customizable. Incorporating children symbolizes a "buy-in" to the new family, thereby reducing later power struggles and feelings of not belonging. Children are more accepting of the new family members, and parents are more likely to cooperate with each other during conflicts when each family member is recognized and valued.
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