Families are dynamic. They change and grow; they develop over time. And because our families are dynamic, we have to be dynamic. We have to be creative, think outside-of-the-box, and do all we can to make our ever-expanding bonds stronger. Engagements and weddings are no exception. When we have children from previous relationships, it can be challenging to bring cohesion when we introduce new parental-figures. Sometimes our children have hurt-feelings or unrealized fantasies. For our children’s sake, as well as our own, it is for this reason that it is up to us to use the engagement time to not only help our children adjust to the idea of a new step-parent, but to fully find themselves excited about their new family of kids and not just on birthdays. Here are a few suggestions to help move that bond along:
1. Involve your children from the beginning: Are you thinking of asking him/her to marry you? If so, talk to your children. Really talk to them. By no means obey everything your child says or ignore your own wishes, but listen to their input, truly listen. This will get them on-board and may help them not feel betrayed by any sudden engagement announcement. And while you’re talking, brainstorm proposal ideas. (I’m certain they will have more out-there ideas than any cliché we could come up with.) Heck, your kids may even want to be a part of your proposal. Maybe they’ll organize their friends to hold up “Will You Marry Me?” signs? Maybe they’ll lead your soon-to-be-betrothed into the surprise awaiting them. Who knows?!
2. Use the wedding planning as teaching opportunities: Remember bonding with your parents over things they taught you, like when you learned to bake the Grandma’s cookies, change the oil, and write your name? This is no different. Brainstorm with your kids from the beginning. Are they thinking a beachfront wedding, a chapel? Autumn? Spring? Now, what are you thinking? Imagine how much fun you all will have visualizing your wishes. Then, together, you can model compromise for your kids, show them how everyone can get what they want or modify their wants, to a degree. (This does not mean subjugating yourself to your children’s suggestions, just incorporating the ideas that you like and feel happy incorporating.)
And the wedding engagements can be stressful! All those lists, all those phone calls! Why not use this opportunity to show them how you prioritize your to-do list, how you call and ask about prices and availability? Let them practice making those calls themselves or looking up venues online. Go over the budget with them; they’ll appreciate the lesson in money. Let them help with tuxes and dresses and point out their favorite color and design. Your kids want to be heard; you know this already and probably too well. Let them tag along and be a part of it. Make it a family affair. They’ll feel involved, and together you will become more connected and excited about the upcoming nuptials.
3. Let them create a special way to be involved in the ceremony: Maybe your kid sings or is good with crafts. Maybe your kid is a poet or really good at selecting the perfect song for the occasion. Tap into your kid’s talent. Let them chose how they want to be involved and let them orchestrate it, with your approval, of course. Maybe your kid wants to create a playlist for the reception or rehearsal dinner, maybe they have a favorite poem they’d like to read or a song they’d like to sing to you and your betrothed during the ceremony. Maybe they are crafty and want to create the perfect picture board with all your embarrassing photos? The day is not only about two people making a commitment, but a family making that commitment. Let them shine!
4. Pictures: No kid likes doing the wedding pictures. They feel stiff, posed, their cheeks start to hurt from too much smiling. In truth, how much do the adults enjoy the pictures? So why not let them come up with some poses and props beforehand; then let them get with the photographer to make a few of these happen? This will ensure they’ll at least have a few minutes of fun during those long photo sessions, and they’ll have some prints to feel proud of, feel ownership for. And doing engagement photos, as well? Let them come up with some ideas for pictures of just the two of you and ideas for pictures of the whole family. Your photographer just might incorporate them, and your photos just may be more creative and memorable that way!
5. Help with assembly: Weddings take a lot of work, even when we think we’ve been diligent about not procrastinating. So, why not get some extra hands in the mix? Let them help with favors, bubbles, handmade centerpieces for the rehearsal dinner? Use that time to chat, bond, laugh, and sit back to enjoy the reason for the last-minute madness. They’ll appreciate feeling needed.
6. Family-moon: Maybe you and your betrothed have a beautiful honeymoon arranged for just-the-two-of-you that you’ll be galloping off to as soon as the reception ends. But what about your kids? Don’t they get a celebration, too? Arrange for them to stay with friends or beloved family members while you’re gone and do little things to make their stay better, like supplying them with some of their favorite foods or movies. That way they’ll not feel left out or forgotten. Then, when you lovebirds come back, go on the family-moon. You don’t have to make this elaborate or expensive, just do something all of you will enjoy. A day at the zoo, theme park, outlet malls or maybe laser tag? A family hike and picnic? You know what will get your kids hyped, and you know what will make them feel like they, too, get a post-wedding celebration.