Modern families call for modern ceremonies. Often times one or both partners have children from previous relationships. Every couple is unique and every ceremony should be written to accommodate their special circumstances.
- Consider the children’s ages;
- Have fun and make it a family affair.
- Make kids do something they are not comfortable with;
- Discount their feelings toward the other birth parent;
- Worry if plans don’t go as planned because young children will not cooperate;
- Be afraid to think outside the box and make your wedding your own.
Here are a few examples of ways that have proven to be successful.
If the children are really young or if they are adults or teens who really don’t want to participate, a simple mention of their names can be enough. Simply mentioning how you are coming together as a family unit is a nice, subtle way to acknowledge the children without focusing the ceremony on them.
This ceremony incorporates the layering of different color sands to represent each family member. Everyone loves to participate in creating this artwork and it can be displayed in the home afterward. Instead of just rotating colors, I also add a little bit about each person, their strengths, and what qualities they add to the family. If the bride is pregnant, we leave a spot at the top so sand can be ceremonially added at a later time. Instead of colored sand, you can also use colored glitter, dried flowers, or sand from your favorite beach or vacation spots.
Pieces of Me
This is a ceremony I have used for years. It has the same concept as the sand ceremony, only the participants use “Pieces of Me” to create the artwork. This is a fun and exciting way for each family member to prepare how they want to present themselves. When it is all done, it creates a fun time capsule of what is relevant at the time of the wedding. For instance, here are some examples of items that can be included:
- An art teacher can add broken colorful crayons
- A girly-girl adds glitter and sparkles
- Game enthusiasts can add dice and puzzle pieces
- Avid readers can add words or poems from their favorite book
- A baby can add favorite pacifiers
Giving of Gifts
Who doesn’t love a gift? After rings are exchanged children can be asked to come up and gifts can be given. Younger children can receive a token such as a stuffed wedding bear while older children can receive a ring, necklace or bracelet to commemorate the coming together as a family. Be creative. I once had a ceremony that involved a teenage boy who didn’t think this was the best idea but he agreed to go along with it. He reluctantly opened a beautifully wrapped gift to find a new video game. He was thrilled. He flipped it over to receive a note saying how much they loved him and a photo of them together when he was a baby. Tears all around.
A standard anniversary box might include 2 glasses, a fine champagne, and love notes to one another. A family anniversary box can also include notes or drawings from the children. Family and pet photos are also popular. Anything that will be exciting to open a year later, together.
Teenagers or adult children may like to participate with a meaningful reading during the ceremony.
New Parent Pledge
My favorite way to incorporate younger children is a pledge given by the “step parent.” This can be done as a promise to “love the children as you would their mom or dad. Or, a promise not to replace anyone, but to have a place in their heart that is theirs alone. Another, promising to be a protector and friend. There are many ways to write the words but the sentiment is the same: I am here for all of you. Take it a step further. The children can participate in the vows and promise to love their new family, or be helpful in the house. This is usually a beautiful touching moment – or it turns out to be really funny. Either way, it is wedding magic!
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Karen Mowad is a Connecticut Justice of the Peace who performs weddings throughout the entire state. She is the Town Clerk of Wolcott, and issues marriage licenses as part of her job. As a bio mom, adoptive mom, and foster mom she loves to find new ways to incorporate children into wedding ceremonies, as she feels that family is everything. As a member of the Justice of the Peace Association, you can find Justice Karen and all of our other amazing officiants on findaJP.com.