Incorporating stepchildren into a wedding can take some thought. But, done with care, this day can be fun for them and meaningful for you, says Angie Anderson of Belle Behind the Ball Wedding and Event Planning in Mishawaka.
Two years ago, Anderson married a man with a 9-year-old son. While it was a first marriage for both, they were sensitive to making sure the wedding was about family and not just the couple. She recommends including kids right from the get-go by trading the names of the bride and the groom for family names on the invitations. And, she says, include them in any pre-wedding fun as well. "You have a great opportunity to bond with your future stepchildren," Anderson says.
Prior to the wedding, do your best to make peace with the other parents involved in the child's life. "The best way to honor your children and stepchildren is by treating the other parents with respect. Then they can really enjoy the wedding day," she says. "If the grown-ups can make a step to show the children that this is okay, they have a better chance of accepting it. If you're mature enough to invite that other parent to the ceremony, I think that's fabulous."
As for how to include children on the actual big day, you need to consider how many children there are, their ages and the type of wedding you're planning, says Jessica N. Pennington, owner and lead planner of Stella Event Design in St. Joseph, Michigan.
One easy way to get the bride's children involved is to have them walk her down the aisle and give her away. Or, if you're having a bridal party, you can have the kids stand in.
For a blended family welcoming many kids from each side, it's easy to tweak the traditional sand ceremony to include the whole lot, Pennington says. Just give each family member a different color sand (let them pick their own) and have each one take a turn adding theirs to the vase. At the end you'll have a physical representation of your blended broods to keep and admire.
"I think most of all it is important to find ways to include the children," Pennington says. "That seems to make a real difference in the tone of the entire day."