The day after I married my wife, we quickly made the trek back from Charlottesville, VA where the wedding was, to home northwestern PA so that my stepdaughter could get back to her other mom. During the drive, I kept staring down at my wedding back and then glancing both at my wife and the tiny, spunky redhead perched on her booster seat in the back. What was she thinking about? Did she understand what we had done yesterday? Did our wedding make an impact on her precious 5-year-old heart and mind?
About halfway through the drive, we stopped at a gas station to grab snacks and take a potty break. My bladder is about as small as my stepdaughter’s, so I always walk her inside to the bathroom while my wife pumps the gas. Mia always bounces up and down the aisles, asking what kinds of treats she can have for the car. On our way up to the counter, she asked if she could have a small slushy. I told her yes because this was an extra special road trip. As she gleefully skipped to the counter, slushy in hand, the cashier grinned at both of us and asked, “Does this happy little girl belong to you?”
I smiled back hesitantly because I never knew how to answer this question. The friendly cashier didn’t know how loaded it was, but I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, and I always tend to overshare. But this time I didn’t have to worry, because Mia took it upon herself to answer for me, saying, “Yes! This is my stepmom! We just got married yesterday!?
I cried. Right in front of the cashier, slushy and all. My stepdaughter looked at me like I had lost my mind. I’m pretty sure she asked me if I needed a slushy too.
In Mia’s eyes, the three of us got married, and she’s right. A wedding ceremony between two people becomes much more than that when a child is involved. I didn’t just marry my wife, I married both of them, and we wanted to make sure Mia felt the significance of that. She still talks about it, almost a year later.
When we were planning our wedding, it was so incredibly important to us to involve her in a special way. I scoured the internet in search of ideas on how to do this and found next to nothing, which surprised me since blended families are pretty common these days. In hopes to make this easier for all of you future stepmoms out there, here are a few suggestions for ways to include your stepchild in your wedding ceremony.
5 Ways to Include Your Stepchild in Your Wedding Ceremony
Write vows to your stepchild.
During a wedding ceremony, you make a pledge to your new spouse, promising to love them and be a steadfast partner through every step in the walk of your new life together. Involve your stepchild by saying vows to them too, because you’re not just making promises as a spouse, you’re making them as a parent too.
Don’t stress about these vows. True story, I wrote a poem to my stepdaughter that I was super proud to read to her and forgot it in our hotel room. Just one of the many imperfections that force you to improvise an even more perfect wedding. Just speak from the heart! If you want to write them down, grab one of these adorable keepsake notebooks so you can remember what you want to say and keep the words after the ceremony.
If you really want to create a meaningful memento of your family vows, check out the completely customizable wall art you can have made at Minted.
Light a unity candle together.
Traditional unity candles have one large candle and two small, individual candles used by the couple. Modernize the concept a bit for your blended family by helping your stepchild light one candle that represents your new, united family. I love this simple monogrammed one that floats in water.
Have a sand ceremony.
This was Mia’s favorite part of our wedding ceremony, and the bottles now serve as a meaningful decoration in our home and a reminder of the promise we all made. Choose a sand color for you, your partner, and each child. Then every member of the family pours a little bit of sand into a new vase that will represent the unique blending of your new, unified family.
Lots of sand ceremony kits only come with two pouring cases, but this gorgeous glass one and a few others come with three for blended families!
Give your stepchild a token or gift.
One of the most significant parts of a wedding ceremony is the exchange of the rings, which represent a token of the promise you make to your partner. So why not use a token to make the same promise to your stepchild? If you’re writing vows, or even if you’re not, say a quick promise or thank you to your stepchild and give them a token representing that promise, like a ring, a charm bracelet, or even a little book. If you’re anything like us, you’ll underestimate how big your child is getting and buy a bracelet that’s too small and have to swap it out! Kids grow so fast, am I right?
Have your stepchild walk you down the aisle.
We bucked tradition in our wedding and walked down the aisle together, all three of us, with our little one in the middle. More than anything, I wanted my new stepdaughter to feel like she was helping to bring us together for the ceremony. You could do this by having you stepchild walk down the aisle with you, or have them stand with your partner to “give them away” to you once you reach the end. It’s a meaningful symbol, especially if you’re up for mixing up the traditional dad/daughter escort down the aisle.
There’s no right or wrong way to include your stepchild in your wedding, as long as they feel like this new family formation is one they’re a meaningful part of. Use one, two, or all five in your ceremony in different ways to make it your own!
If you did something different to incorporate your stepchild into your wedding ceremony, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Beth is one of three moms raising one fun, feisty little redhead. Over at the Babbling Blonde, she provides support and inspiration to women in nontraditional families, from stepmoms to LGBTQ parents. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Download her free guide of 7 strategies for becoming stepmom strong here.