One of the first weddings I participated in was my mother’s (that’s me in front of her in the picture below, rocking ’90s floral and a bib like it was my job). I don’t remember much about it, except that my dress wasn’t too itchy and my younger sisters had to be physically restrained in the aisles, because toddlers plus flowers equals sprinting (look at the tiny face next to mine and you’ll see the face of forced cooperation).
Between then and now, I’ve gained four stepsiblings, two sibling-siblings, two almost stepsiblings, an honorary stepmom, a stepdad who is more like a dad, and another stepdad who lets me call him by his last name. Which, if you were keeping count, is a hell of a lot of family inherited by marriage. For anyone who is part of a blended family, you know the process of assimilating takes years. Much like a marriage, becoming a family doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen over the course of a wedding ceremony.
But weddings can be an important juncture for kids of blended families. They make permanent that which may have felt transient. They symbolize both the end and the beginning. In short: lots of complicated feelings. In my former life as a wedding photographer, I witnessed all kinds of kid meltdowns in the aisles of blended weddings: from the flower girl who began sobbing in the middle of the ceremony from sheer overwhelm (the wedding made it real that her parents were never getting back together) to a son who began sobbing after the ceremony, again from overwhelm, suddenly realizing that his new dad wasn’t going anywhere. This doesn’t mean that involving your kids in the wedding will always result in tears, but in many cases, if they are old enough to process what’s happening, kids are generally feeling a combination of varying strong emotions, all at the same time.
Which is why, for blended families, involving kids in your wedding is less of an honorific, and more of a gesture that says, “You’re affected by this decision too.” But the how of it can be hard to parse out, and isn’t the same for every age group (if you think toddlers are hard to handle, try tweens). Too much involvement can be overwhelming (and maybe not appropriate for young kids), and not enough involvement can make kids feel like an afterthought. So how do you strike a balance?
Today we’re talking blended families and weddings. Were you a kid in A parent’s wedding? Are you creating a blended family with your own wedding? how do you involve kids in a way that makes them feel honored? how about for older kids? Is there any wrong way to do it? Let’s talk.
This post was previously published in May of 2015.