Updated: Dec 15, 2022
If you’re planning your wedding right now, you might be thinking about how to include family in your wedding – especially if you have children from previous relationships. Maybe you'd like to do something a bit more meaningful and a bit more original? If that sounds like you, then here are some suggestions that might help you do just that!
While every wedding blends two families, ceremonies involving a couple’s children are extra special. No matter how old your children are, whether they are babies or have children of their own, including them in your ceremony is a great way of showing them they are important, included and loved.
#1 - Consider a celebrant-led wedding
A celebrant-led wedding is a perfect way to sensitively and imaginatively incorporate your children into your ceremony. Often the obvious roles as bridesmaids, flower girls, or ring bearers may not really fit, or feel insufficient to express their importance in your lives. As a celebrant, I love working with families to make sure that in the ceremony, everyone feels the love. Every ceremony I create is unique to the couple, so we can really be imaginative and tie in individual interests and personalities to make sure your children (no matter their age) are part of the magic.
There are lots of ways that you can symbolise the welcoming of each member of the family. Here are some that I've incorporated in my wedding ceremonies and have worked really well. With the right wording and the right wedding officiant, these can become real highlights of your wedding day.
"A thread of love joins us all. It's slender and subtle, but when things get rough, it tautens, becomes tough and hauls us back together." Alison Jean Thomas
#2 - Tie the knot with a handfasting or handtying ceremony
If you're not sure what a handfasting ceremony is, you can read my earlier blog here, and it’s a really lovely way of including your children (or anyone else you’d like) in your wedding ceremony. As a couple, you join hands, and then a cord or ribbon can be laid over your joined hands by each of your children. They don’t need to say anything if they are shy or too young, or they can just give you a hug or a smile.
Sometimes I lay the cord on their behalf, or another family member can do this. It’s entirely up to you and them (did I mention that there are lots of options?!). The cords can be personalised to each child using colours or tiny charms – maybe the could simply pick their favourite colours, or they could represent something more symbolic. How ever you personalise is up to you. As the two of you then tie the knot (literally!) the knot forms a beautiful reminder of the strong bond of your family, as well as a great photo opportunity! One great example is a ceremony I conducted for a couple who had met taking their children to karate lessons, so their hand-tying cords were the colour of the highest belt they each achieved! Their hand-tying became entwined with the story and so, as in all hand-tying ceremonies, the words accompanying the laying of cords all help to tell your personal story.
#3 - Make vows to your children as well as to each other
You will make promises to each other as part of your ceremony, but have you thought about saying vows to your children? This can be a truly beautiful and fun way of acknowledging the merging of your family and the relationship between you. This is always an emotional highlight of the ceremonies I have conducted, and gives a lasting reminder of the bond between you. I can also help you with the writing of these special vows, as well as the vows you make to each other. You can then give those vows in a card to each of your children afterwards for them to keep.
#4 - Plant a Tree
Planting a tree together as a family is a fabulous thing to do as part of the ceremony (or just afterwards) and it’s especially fitting for a garden wedding. Top tip: Having a hole pre-dug helps! Then the family as a group can place, hold, and steady the tree, and fill in the earth around. You can even each plant in some bulbs (maybe to flower at a time coinciding with your wedding anniversary). I can create a personalised wedding ceremony which incorporates tree planting, with wording that reflects you as a family and your individual personalities.
#5 - Make a memory box
Joining together as a family doesn't mean that everyone loses what's special about them as individuals. It can be celebrated by having the couple and any children write a list of things they love, or letter, describing their favourite foods, hobbies, best friends, favourite meal or happiest memory and adding them individually to the box during the ceremony. They can even include something they are looking forward to about being a family, if the family is blending. Special objects can be added too: meaningful tickets or receipts, or a photographs. These items can remain secret from the rest of the wedding guests, or each person can explain or read their letter out loud as they are being placed into the box. Then (if they are able), each can take it in turns nailing down or sealing up the box. It can then be opened after a set amount of time (maybe a wedding anniversary), and even refilled again with new memories: and all of a sudden, a new family tradition is formed!
#6 - Get your guests involved with a wishing tree
If you'd like to get your children involved but without them being active parts of the ceremony themselves, then why not have a wishing tree? Here, you place a tree (you can buy these from large craft shops, or even paint a suitable tree branch set into a stand) and leave tags strung with twine on guests' seats. Guests can then write a wish, or a promise or their hope for the family, and time is made in the ceremony for everyone to come up and tie it to the tree, perhaps when a song or music is playing or the register or certificate is being signed. This is a lovely keepsake for the family to have and read afterwards too.
#7 - Pick the perfect wedding reading
I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to wedding readings, and so I have lots of beautiful poems and pieces of prose to choose from. Some of these work especially well for blended families to be read as part of your wedding ceremony. I also write bespoke poems as original wedding readings (under my married name: Claire Ferguson).
Here is one written by me especially for a blended family where the couple have been together a little while already and can be read, as it is, by one of the children, or by each child taking a verse or two. With some small tweaks (like changing the word ‘our’ to ‘your’, and the word ‘We’ve’ to ‘You’ve’) it can also be read by any one close to the family.
Something Changes Claire Ferguson
Today is the day that we’ve planned for a while We’ve watched, and we’ve hoped And we’ve waited and smiled
We’ve found our own way to merge altogether But we’re still our own people And we will be, whatever.
We’ll play and we’ll laugh, and we’ll sulk and we’ll joke But with roots in your love We’ve the strength of an oak
From today, from tomorrow and each day anew, Something changes the moment You both say ‘I do’
For we’re now something else, something precious and strong and we’re joined as the family We were all along.
Another option is a poem which has a strong element of repetition through it called Families Come Together by Glaedr. It's a nice one for several children to read, each taking a short verse.
A more modern option is Our Blended Family by Scott Edward Anderson shown here, and this one is especially for couples who have children from previous relationships coming together to form a new family.
Finally, if you’d like a short piece of prose, rather than a poem, you could try this lovely excerpt from the novel Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen: "What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn't just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger."
#8 - Have a unity ceremony.
Probably the most commonly conducted unity ceremonies literally blend either sand or candle flames. Obviously using candles may not be an option if your children are young, or if your venue prohibits their use, or you're having an outdoor ceremony (no one wants to see a beautiful flame symbolically lit, suddenly and unceremoniously blown out!). Providing everything is good to go, each member of the family can light their own candle and then collectively light a central large candle representing the family - a new and brighter flame. Alternatively with a sand ceremony, each family member pours differently coloured sand into a central large glass vessel, representing each child as individuals, but now forever blended within the family. The wording for each of these ceremonies can be crafted to be just right for your particular family and the vibe of your wedding day: fun, emotional, personal - whichever works best for you all.
#9 - Warm your wedding rings.
Ring warming is a brilliant way to get all your wedding guests involved, but it can also be done on a much smaller scale with your children within the ceremony. At the point in the ceremony where the rings are exchanged between the couple, instead of the rings being passed to the couple or the celebrant directly, they are first passed to one of the children, who then holds the rings for a few seconds, warming the rings with their love and good wishes for the future. They can do this aloud or silently, whatever they feel most comfortable doing. They then pass the rings to the next child, and so on until they are passed to the couple to be exchanged as usual. The wording of the ring exchange can then be adapted to incorporate this family ring warming too. Gorgeous!
#10 - Be led by your children.
Most importantly, when you are blending together as a family in a wedding ceremony, it’s important to appreciate that all the children will have a mixture of happiness and some apprehension about the fact that their parent is getting married. Sometimes they can feel as though they are being disloyal to their other parent by even participating in the wedding. So, the tip is always to find out what’s on their minds and how they would most like to participate (if at all) in the wedding. Your celebrant can then spend time putting together some specific suggestions that will work for you and your children.
Lastly, congratulations! Blending a family can bring more love to go around, more shoulders to lean on and more hands to hold, so get in touch if you’d like to know more about how I can create the perfect ceremony for your blending family, or leave a comment to say which of these appeals to you!
Top image by Clare Marie Photography Nottingham Photographer