Say "I Do" With the Kids, Too!

Blended family math
Blended family math
Unique ringbearer
Unique ringbearer

With at least 50% of the U.S. population having been married at least once, it's becoming common to include the children from previous unions in encore wedding celebrations. Statistics show that every year, over one million women are repeating vows for the second time, and sometimes more. About 60% of those repeat marriages involve children. So, the trend of blending families though ritual is more widespread and acceptable.

Children of former relationships certainly have concerns about the remarrying spouse, often responding with behaviors ranging from anger to anxiety. Acknowledge those feelings, allowing tem to express themselves without fear of repercussion. Usually, the underlying tread is the desire for reassurance, and that they are welcome. Also, older children and teens may be reluctant to form relationships with new family members. When couples go down the aisle for another time, it's not just about the two of them, but a blending of two households.,

Planning a new life with your partner can be rewarding, yet sometimes challenging when children are involved. One of the best ways to acknowledge the new family unit is adapting the ceremony to include the children from those past unions. Let them know about your plans from the beginning, and the wish to have them take part. Jill Curtis, author of How to Get Married Again, states that when children are not included, they find it more difficult to accept the new situation. By giving them a role, they feel wanted and needed. Depending on a child's age and temperament, there are a number of choices to pick from.

The keyword to keep in mind of is flexibility--there are no hard and fast rules in creating a service that will have special meaning for those involved. You can "rewrite the rules," so that it's truly a customized affair. This is a time to accomplish the things you didn't do the first time around, and one's children definitely play an important role.

Three appropriate, yet versatile concepts often used are: a) unity candles; b) family vows; and c) commemorative tokens. They all emphasize the idea of bonding, and can be tailored to fit particular needs.

A Show of Unity

CANDLES -- This long-established practice from traditional weddings is also favored at encore ceremonies. Gaining popularity during the 80's, so many couples choose this idea in expressing their oneness, and it's become a modern-day custom.

Rev. Dan Jenkins, a Texas-based wedding officiant, encourages remarrying couples to include using unity candles in their ceremonies, emphasizing not only two hearts, but two families merging.

Usually after the adult have lit their individual tapers to the larger pillar candle, each child can hold their own taper to light from the parent's candle. However, when there are more than two children, it's somewhat simpler to have them light their tapers from the pillar candle. One nice touch reported was after each child lit their candle, a brief, personalized welcome message was recited to the larger family.

SAND -- Another popular alternative to the unity candle is the unity sand ceremony. This works well as another preference, if safety issues are a factor, or taking advantage of an outdoor or beach setting. The premise is the same, except making use of different colors of sand to represent each person. Mixing these smaller holders of the sand or finely-crushed glass into a larger vase or receptacle symbolizes a combined family.The order of pouring can be groom, bride, followed by other members, or a simultaneous pouring by everyone.

Suggested closing words could be: "Just as these grains of sans can never be separated again into the individual containers, so will our marriage and family be blended together."

Family Vows

Just as a couple exchange their vows, it's a growing custom in encore marriages to incorporate the child/children, as more than two lives are coming together. A third set of vows, typically after the adult ring exchange, can be recited to show a promise to love, respect, support, and nurture them.

Sharing vows with children lets them recognize their significance in the family relationship, and not be shoved aside. Furthermore, they become aware of how important they are in boosting its future success.

Here's a sample of vowsmade by a groom embracing his new children, as written by Pastors Moe and Paige Becnel as seen also on http://www.blendingafamily.com/
:
"Together, we will learn much more about each other. I promise also to be fair and to be honest, to be available for you as I am for your mom, and in due time, to earn your love, respect and true friendship. I will not attempt to replace anyone, but to make a place in your hearts that is for me alone. I will be father and friend, and I will cherish my life with all of you. On this day when I marry your mom, I marry you, and I promise to love and support you as my own.”

Couple pours sand from separate containers into one
Couple pours sand from separate containers into one | Source

Tokens of Commitment

"We want them to feel like they're marrying us as well as we're marrying each other," said an encore bridegroom in a New York Times article about presenting unity rings to his new family members. A growing trend for many couples, it's yet another direction for those who want to include offspring from earlier union. Kid-sized rings can be found at a number of local jewelers, or even online at fairly reasonable prices. This is something that becomes an heirloom to cherish, and even pass on to other future generations.

Another positive tool is the ever-popular keepsake the family medallion , began by Rev. Roger Coleman, a United Methodist minister, in response to honoring children of remarriages. The signature item is a necklace with three interlocking rings, as a tangible way of bonding. As two circles often symbolize love, that third circle represents the love that reaches out to include others.That same motif is featured on other pieces such as lapel pins, rings, charms, and more

He once stated in an interview: "The so-called traditional wedding does not serve the needs of couples with children, whether their own, or children from previous relationships....The important role of children and the nature of family relationships is simply ignored."

.Even coming down the aisle together can be an affirming opportunity. In the book,
Ex-Etiquette for Weddings: the Blended Families Guide to Tying the Knot, co-author Jann Blackstone-Ford suggests that the entire bonus family walk down the aisle collectively to symbolize the love, tolerance, and forgiveness of the new union..

Sand ceremony, uniting two families

More Participation Options

There are other ways of engaging children in your wedding ceremony that are equally empowering as those above-mentioned. Older ones may walk a parent down the aisle, such as a son escorting his mother. Daughters have long been known to be part of the bridal party as junior bridesmaids, and young men often are ushers or even best men. Traditionally, younger children could serve as flower girls, or ring bearers.

Allow children to contribute their input in an active manner, by creating a special part for them, such as playing a musical selection, or reciting an original reading, poem, or Scripture verse. A moving musical violin solo was performed by a teen at the remarriage of his mother. Handling the guest book, attending the gift/card table, along with handing out programs or hymnals are additional tasks that establish them as having vital roles in the wedding.

Even your program can be another opportunity for highlight their importance. Each child can be individually listed, with not only their duties during the wedding, but also a brief annotation about their particular attributes.

Encore weddings today are not restricted to a few conventional customs, but a wide range of imaginative and memorable variations on a theme of family weddings. This is your time to make known the uniqueness and unity of not only two hearts, but many becoming one strong body.

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