Married with Children: Including the Kids in Your Gay Wedding
The marriage, or remarriage, of a parent can be a difficult time for a child. He or she has to adjust not only to a new parent, but also to his or her new roles in an expanded family. In gay and lesbian unions, this dynamic may be further complicated by the child’s struggle to come to terms with having an openly nontraditional family.
Many parents – whether gay, lesbian, or straight – know that the best way to prepare a child for something is to make them feel important. This is especially true when you and your partner decide to join your families. Include your children in the entire process as much as possible, from the planning to the ceremony itself. The more a part of the wedding your child feels before and during the ceremony, the more a part of the family he or she will feel after it’s over.
- Include the children in all of the preliminaries. Making your child a part of the wedding plans from the very beginning can encourage him or her to be not only accepting of the union, but also downright excited. If you are proposing to your partner, have your kids help come up with ideas or even participate in popping the question – after all, who could say no to something that cute? Inviting the children to help make plans – i.e. choosing their own clothing for the wedding, helping to choose or put up the decorations, etc. – is another good way to get them looking forward to the event.
- Give them a traditional role in the ceremony. The most common way to include children in a traditional wedding is to give them a small role in it, such as ring bearer, flower girl, or a junior groomsman or bridesmaid. If your ideal lesbian or gay wedding includes a more traditional ceremony, by all means honor your children with these roles. Kids can also escort their parents down the aisle and “give them away.” Reading a poem or a passage about love may appeal to some older children, but make sure first that they’re comfortable with a speaking role!
- Exchange vows with the children. A powerful way to include children in the wedding is to include them in the vows. This can be done in several different ways: Each parent can exchange vows with their partner’s children, promising to care for each child as their own. Children can also be given the option to make their own vows in response, or to exchange vows with one other. The children can even be invited to join hands with you and your partner as the vows are exchanged. Including the children in the most important part of the ceremony symbolizes each child’s role in the blended family.
- Present each child with a ring or another piece of jewelry. In gay and lesbian weddings as well as traditional weddings, rings are often exchanged as symbols of each partner’s vows. When the children are included in the vows, similar tokens can be presented to the children – for example, a ring, necklace, or pin that represents the vows that bind the new family together. If you are not including the children in the exchange of vows, a piece of jewelry can still be given to each child as a keepsake.
- Light a unity candle. A unity candle ceremony is a beautiful way to include all members of the new family – not just you and your partner, but the children you are bringing into the relationship. In the unity candle ceremony, each partner’s family lights a candle, which symbolizes the separate lives they have led up until the ceremony. Then each partner uses the flame from their individual candle to light the unity candle, representing the joining of the two families.
- Have the officiant identify you as a united family at the end of the ceremony. At the end of the wedding ceremony, the officiant usually declares the union of the two partners complete. To really make your children feel special, be sure the officiant focuses the ceremony on the union of the two families, rather than just of two life partners. The officiant can mention each child by name, or simply announce the joining of the two families.
Committing to a relationship is different when you and your partner each have families of your own. Remember that this is a move that affects not only you, but also your children. Including the children in your gay or lesbian wedding reassures them that they will continue to be a major part of your life, despite the changing dynamics in their family.
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