Many non-traditional elements of a wedding are born out of necessity, especially when there are children involved. Even when there are no underage people involved, children can act out in ways that can ruin a wedding, however proper planning can help alleviate some concerns when blending families.
“Families need to have realistic expectations when blending,” said Allison Griffin, a licensed clinical social worker who serves as a behavioral health therapist at Grace Clinic through CareNet Counseling.
“Understand that each member involved may have different reactions and it’s important to be aware of what those are.”
Starting with a foundation of understanding can help with planning a wedding as well as living as a family.
Sanders Ridge Event Coordinator Wendy Collins recalled advising a bride during her 12 years of experience owning Seaside Wedding Connection in Southport and Oak Island. “I had a sweet bride call me so upset. Her controlling future sister-in-law had put a guilt trip on her fiancé about who should be in the wedding party,” said Collins, explaining he agreed to dampen drama; however, his future bride was unhappy.
“She wanted to let her sister-in-law know that he was going to be her husband and that she might as well realize that she no longer had him at her beck and call. I helped the bride realize that she could stand her ground and be stressed and upset on her special day as would her fiancé probably or she could simply accept that someone she didn’t know was going to be a part of the wedding party and still enjoy her day,” said Collins.
“Save your wedding day. [You want] to be able to look back on her wedding day and have good memories. The wedding day is not the time to make your point or state your case. Your wedding is about marrying the man of your dreams and new beginnings.
“Honestly if it feels too big to let go, it might be time for some professional counseling before you set up your gift registry,” Collins said.
“Communicating directly with the person that the conflict is with can help,” said Griffin. “This cuts down on rumors and gossip among the family.”
When it comes to a wedding, however, sometimes it’s best to keep some distance between conflict and the couple.
“It can be really hard to deal with conflict head on, so it’s important for brides to rely on trusted friends and family for support and for her to keep in mind what is really important to her as far as the big picture,” stated Griffin.
Collins believes that is a significant part of her job as a wedding planner.
“Having a planner is your best line of defense on the actual day,” said Collins, who has had to intercept trouble before it could reach the bride and groom, “quite a few times.”
“Communicate your concerns for the day of,” said Collins. “This is usually much more easily handled by a professional. Hopefully the bride is never even aware.”
Communication is often the key to prevention.
“Being as honest, direct and up front as possible with what the bride/groom wants is a place to start in an effort to prevent problems before they start,” said Griffin.
It also helps to be considerate of other family members.
“Make sure the photographer understands the importance of getting the shots that matter to everyone,” said Collins, whose recent marriage blended six children.
“Communicate,” emphasized Collins, especially with older children. “I always encourage the parents to honor their wishes. If they want to participate as a bridal party attendant, reader, et cetera, that’s awesome. If not, that’s OK as well.
“Blending families during the ceremony is different depending on the age of the children,” said Collins, who considers herself, “a fan of including the children in the ceremony.”
“Younger children generally seem to be excited about the pomp and circumstance,” said Collins, “the new outfits, the celebration and seeing their cousins. They look at the ceremony as if it’s all about them. Especially a 5-year-old flower girl.”
Collins has planned a variety of inclusion activities, including the adults acknowledging the children’s importance through a token like jewelry, a reading or a special dance. Other ideas are a ritual in themselves.
“A sand ceremony [is] where the children and their parents pour from their individual container into one permanent vase or holder,” said Collins, “this representing the individuals blending as one family.”
Blending families can be especially difficult on children who may be unable to communicate well.
“The transition that occurs when families come together in this way can be quite confusing to children,” said Griffin.
“They may not yet have the language to communicate to others what they are feeling. They may not even understand what they are feeling themselves, so equipping them with basic skills to identify their feelings and helping them increase their ability to communicate those are very important. In addition, teaching kids healthy coping skills will help them deal with and manage how they are feeling.”
Setting a good example for them also will help everyone with the transition.
“The joining of families is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Self-care is very important,” said Griffin, “getting enough sleep, exercise, making healthy choices in terms of eating and drinking go a long way in helping people transition into a new phase of life.
“What often happens during stressful/busy times is that we put off taking care of ourselves because we may not see it as important, but actually the opposite is true.”
The best way to take care of oneself is to not worry.
“I’ve honestly not had any drama that I can remember caused by the children of the bride and groom,” said Collins. “My experience has been overwhelmingly positive — lots of very happy and grateful people coming together and forming a new unit.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.