Do you take this woman, her brooding teenager, her bouncy pre-adolescent daughter, her yappy poodle and her ex-husband who lives three blocks away to be your lawfully wedded wife?
Children, from first marriages, often accompany second chances of happily-ever-after, some who are happily skipping down the isle next to you and others who are dragging alongside the train of your gown kicking and screaming. No matter which category your child falls into, there are several tips to remember in order to help ease the entire family into a successful, stress free day of matrimony.
1. Understand your child’s perspective. From the moment the shiny new rock hits the glowing bride’s finger, remind yourselves that this is your happily ever after moment, not the children’s. At this point hopefully any children involved, from his or hers side, are feeling comfortable with the new soon to be step-parent, but remind yourself that even in the healthiest of modern families, a wedding day often signifies the end of a hope the children have been holding onto that their parents will some day get back together. Depending on their age and development, they often do not know how to express this sadness or mourning they are feeling and so these emotions often come out in not the pleasantest of ways. As you go about preparations, dress fittings, food tasting, etc. keep this in mind so when fits, tantrums, or doors slammed in your face arrive on the scene you can filter through your response as you try to understand your child’s perspective.
2. Involve your children. Ask them to participate, be prepared for them to decline and be ready to set your hurt feelings aside when your thirteen year old daughter has no desire to go dress shopping with you. But do ask again and again. Give them plenty of opportunities to be involved and feel as if their opinions matter. Would they prefer chocolate soufflé or a red velvet cake at the reception? Would your seven-year-old love to help you glue paper flowers to your programs? Look for moments in the planning process that are more about valuing time with your child and letting them feel important than it is about creating the perfect wedding. Beware that second weddings have very little room for bridezilla’s, instead the focus is more on meeting the needs of every member of your newly forming family.
3. Just as communication is key to any healthy marriage, it is also crucial between parent and child during this process. Allow feelings to be aired along the way, so as to not build up and then blow up. Your tomboy daughter refuses to wear a dress to your wedding? Explain that just like you do many things for her, this is one day that you are asking her to do something for you. Then find a compromise. Maybe hot pink goes out the window and you decide black is classic and elegant. Validating your child’s feelings is important and opens the door for them to see your feelings and perspectives as well.
4. Cater to your children’s needs and interest. It is your day to be sure, but as you indulge in your dreams, go ahead and include some exciting details for your kids. Would a chocolate fountain wow them? Would they feel all grown up sitting at a table with all the other pre-teen guests, sipping on their very own virgin-cocktails with fancy straws? Would hiring a babysitter to run an activity table help occupy the littles? Think outside the box, be creative and feel great about making your kids sparkle with excitement on your big day.
5. Enjoy the moment being bride and groom. Planning ahead and working through many of these dynamics will free you up to enjoy your day to the fullest, knowing everyone is heard, occupied and happy. Now go dance the night away!