Families in modern times comes in all shapes and sizes. It is very common now to have children from previous relationships present at your wedding... or have your own children at your own wedding and of course at Naming ceremonies you could have the same with step children, half siblings or full siblings all part of the day… and of course let’s not forget your own relatives and your own step mum’s step dads and all that brings to the day!
So, it’s lovely to create a ceremony which celebrates this change in family status and use the day to help to build bonds, bridges and a feeling of unity.
I myself have been in this situation – with my second marriage we had our 4 children from our 2 previous marriages attend and we also held the Naming ceremony for what I call our joint venture – our youngest son😊
It was important to me that everyone felt included ... here’s some tips on how to handle the blended and extended family times.
Before the Ceremony
Firstly, remember that this day is super exciting for you and hopefully for everyone else ... but a wedding day also makes a clear statement above anything else to children from a previous partnership ... mum and dad are for sure not getting back together! ... so be mindful of this and make sure you talk to all the children and help them voice any questions or worries... it doesn’t mean they aren’t happy for you but it’s a big transition.
Help them if you haven’t all ready to think about official roles people play in their lives – of my 2 older children although both of them of course call my husband by his first name I would say only one of them would refer to him as an official step dad – perhaps because she was younger at the time they met and he has played a more active role in her upbringing. It seems a small thing but respecting their views on how they see someone makes a huge difference. With my husbands’ children it has been a slow progress road in building a relationship, but I felt rather chuffed that nearly 8 years in my stepdaughter referred to me as ‘step mum’ when chatting to her friends on the phone.
Who Attends? And Who Sits Where?
What a minefield this can be! … Generally, children from all partnerships are part of the main wedding party but what about the parents and their new partners… in an ideal world everyone will get on with everyone else for the sake of your day ... but again it’s about being mindful of how others feel. Don’t make waves if there is no need. Speak to all parties beforehand and think about seating plans accordingly. Informal outdoor weddings don’t need a top table but using round tables of smaller groups and placing them strategically can ensure everyone feels involved and important but is not placed in awkward situations.
Creating Unity in the Ceremony
The wonderful part of having a Celebrant led ceremony is that you can create something that involves exactly who would like. You can have readings from many different parties – I recently conducted a Naming and both Grandparents and Step Grandparents all made promises.
Children love to be involved and so you can have symbolic actions included which really help them feel part of it. A sand ceremony involving the pouring together of different coloured sand into one main vessel is a lovely way to involve everyone and symbolises the joining of the family together. (plus, safer all round than candle lighting for little people)
Your Celebrant can create wording to bring to the attention of your guests that this day is also about the formal creation of a new family unite and help you voice what this means for you.
Wishing Trees enable again small people to be active in their ceremony and give scope for everyone in the ceremony itself to have a voice on your special day.
And in my view, there is nothing lovelier than little people doing a reading or saying a few words to everyone – from around the age of 4 you will be wonderfully surprised as how capable they are.
Gifts given during the ceremony also make it special ... perhaps you can have family gift made in which everyone gets a piece of jewellery or the other children present each other with gifts or with a Naming they get to present their own gift to the new arrival.
Overall just remember that your ceremony does not just have to be about the wedding or the Naming – it is a rare occasion in which you have gathered family and friends , a chance to show your love for not just one another but for everyone important and for them to do the same. So, don’t be ruled by rules but get creative ... focus on the message you want to portray and create something magical which builds memories for ever – for everyone you wish.