When Gabe proposed, I was over the moon. Like any giddy bride to be, I could not wait to walk down the aisle and become his wife. Unlike most brides, the idea of a wedding made me instantly and wildly anxious.
It wasn’t the wedding itself – I love a party. It wasn’t the planning either. It wasn’t the cost or the details or the guest list. It was the kids.
I worried about planning a wedding that included the children without pressuring them, and allowed them to enjoy the day but not be overwhelmed by it. Our wedding wasn’t going to be just about Gabe and Kate, rather our full family of eight. The kids’ lives would be changed dramatically by our marriage, and they’d not chosen it, as Gabe and I had. A wedding meant a lot of mixed emotions for all six of them, appropriately so. That said, I wanted to marry Gabe in a ceremony that was personal and meaningful to the two of us, and not designed purely for the comfort of the children.
Gabe had ideas about our wedding too. He’s a traditional guy, and his faith is important to him. He has a large extended family and he wanted them to share in the day. He explained to me that his first marriage started with fanfare and support and he wanted ours to start the same way – to do anything different felt like saying this relationship was less than the first, when he felt exactly the opposite.
You can imagine how our first discussion about my simple beach wedding with just our parents and children in attendance and his evening church wedding with 300 guests went.
After several not so productive rounds of discussion, Gabe and I adopted some guiding principles around planning our wedding that helped us create the wedding we imagined in a way that supported our children.
Take it down a notch
We thought carefully about the public nature of a wedding, and our kids’ potential reactions to that. We decided to limit the pomp and circumstance wherever we could, so the children didn’t feel on display. This meant we reduced our guest list for our wedding to ‘just’ sixty people. Of those, all but 15 were family. Gabe and I planned a separate, kid-free after party where we spent time with all of our friends. We didn’t have a formal bridal party for the ceremony; only the children stood with us. We took very few formal pictures. We dressed for a wedding, but comfortably; the girls wore cotton lace dresses and the boys suit vests instead of coats. We included traditions we love, and eliminated ones that didn’t matter to us personally. For us, that meant we toasted each other and cut cake, but didn’t dance or toss a garter. Our ceremony was religious, but not in a church. Focusing on the components we wanted most allowed us to have the wedding of our dreams without creating undue anxiety for the children.
Make it easy to succeed
We know our kids well, and decided to play to their strengths. Our wedding was early in the day, so kids weren’t tired or strung out anticipating it all day long. The ceremony was a short and sweet twenty minutes. We chose a venue that had large outdoor space with plenty of room to run and play. We planned a brunch buffet with lots of choices we knew our kids would love; heart-shaped waffles were a crowd favorite. Tucked in the corner of the reception space was a table filled with kid activities instead of food: scavenger hunts looking for specific guests, word searches including all of our names, puzzles, bubbles, a rainbow-colored Kool-Aid bar, and more. Kids could get up and move around anytime, and find something fun to do.
There were no surprises. We’d talked about the day and components with the kids individually and as a group several times. We’d practiced the ceremony and tried on our outfits. They knew what to expect, had met the vendors, and seen the space. We set ourselves up for success.
Allow participation but don’t expect it
Gabe and I were so excited to be starting our lives together that we wanted everyone all in on everything. From cake tastings to venue walk-through to music selection we would’ve been happy to have our party of eight included across the board. But, that wasn’t always the right decision for each of the lovebugs. So, we adopted a “you’re invited everywhere at any time but aren’t required” attitude about all things wedding. Sometimes that meant we had the full crew along and sometimes it meant we had less than a quorum.
Sometimes, honestly, we were disappointed by what felt like lack of interest on the topic. But we reminded ourselves that the kids didn’t make this decision and had very appropriately mixed feelings about it. Even as we assigned roles in the wedding, we assured them they could opt out, sit down, not participate. Allowing the children the grace to participate where they felt like it and not if they didn’t ensured that where they did engage was honest and authentic.
In the end, we each had the components of the wedding we dreamed of without placing undue pressure or stress on the children. The children (mostly) enjoyed the day, and Gabe and I ended it as husband and wife, which was our favorite part.
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