A perfect blend: Involving families in weddings
In the past, second marriages were often discreet, low-key events, but today people tend to celebrate remarriage with great enthusiasm. If the big day involves two adults with children, there's even more reason to make the wedding a family affair.
There really are no rules for including children from previous relationships in the wedding. Instead go with what works for your family depending on the ages of the children and how much they want to be involved.
"It can be a good idea to include children" in the wedding ceremony and a good step toward a happy future, "as long as you can do it without imposing your expectations" on them, said Susan Stiffelman, a marriage and family therapist and author of "Parenting with Presence" and "Parenting without Power Struggles."
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Be OK with feelings
While the bride and groom may be over the moon about their impending nuptials, there's no guarantee that their children feel the same way. Not only is it completely normal not to feel an instant loving family connection, it can take as long as four years for stepchildren and stepparents to feel comfortable with one another, according to the National Stepfamily Resource Center.
"As parents, you're the anchor in their lives," Stiffelman said. "Don't push too hard. You can say, 'I want you to be a part of it as much or as little as you want to be involved.' Understand children might be dealing with different feelings in the days before and after the wedding. Be conscious that kids may have hard feelings that are difficult to reconcile," Stiffelman said.
Don't make them feel guilty if they don't feel a certain way about the wedding, and don't push your expectations on them, Stiffelman said.
Instead, "check in with them frequently. Ask them how they're feeling," she said.
Kids may be filled with emotions but lack the words to articulate them. Instead, speak the words for them: "Grandma and grandpa are coming in town and isn't that exciting? How are you feeling about everything that's going on?" Stiffelman suggested.
There are so many ways children can be involved in the wedding, starting with the planning stages.
"Ask their opinion and listen to their input" on things such as what flowers to order, what songs to play at the reception or what colors to go with, Stiffelman said. It will give them ownership of the day and help them feel excited about it.
"Make them feel that they are part of the day and the wedding. It's not just two people getting married, it's the blending of a family," Stiffelman said.
Some children will welcome the opportunity to be a part of the wedding party as a flower girl or ring bearer, maid of honor or best man, but not all kids will, Stiffelman said.
"Be aware that children may be grappling with the issue of loyalties" and others would rather not take on such a significant role, she said.
Within the ceremony, parents can make vows of love and support to each other's children and children can respond, "We do, too."
Since it's going to be a long day, it would be a "kind gesture" to allow children to invite a friend to attend the wedding with them, Stiffelman said. A friend can provide support and help keep a child entertained.
And when it's all over, some brides and grooms will turn the honeymoon into a family vacation.
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