A wedding is important to marriage because it marks the end of something and the beginning of something. It marks the culmination of a process in which two people meet, fall in love, agree to a shared vision for life, and choose to commit themselves to one another “so long as we both shall live.”

A wedding also marks the beginning of those two people living out their vows. New boundaries are drawn, new loyalties declared, and new allegiance determined. Friends and family, even the government, are put on notice. From this moment on, things are different.

The rituals of a wedding are meant to help drive this point home. Giving wedding rings is a good example. The pastor usually explains the symbolism. “A ring is a circle. It has no beginning or end. It is continuous. And so, your covenant promises to one another will not end.”

Rituals are serious business.

Blending of the sands

Many people are familiar with the unity candle ceremony at weddings. In it, a couple takes their individual candles and light a larger, unifying candle as a symbol of their desire toward oneness. “And the two shall become one” (Matthew 19:5).

But no one who witnesses the couple light the candle assumes they’ve obtained spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual oneness. We just recognize that lighting the candle starts a process that calls them to it.

Strive for it, is the message of the unity candle ceremony. But it doesn’t assume for one minute that the oneness goal has been obtained.

Similarly, many blended family weddings incorporate a ceremony called “blending of the sands.” Glass vases with different color sand represent the various adults and children the marriage will merge.

The couple first symbolically pours some sand from their individual vases into a larger “family” vase. Then each child is invited to do the same. The beautiful blend of sand makes a mosaic that can be taken home and displayed as a lasting visual representation of the coming together of the family.

But does the blending of the sands mosaic suggest that the family has at that point found unity?

Like any marriage, blended families start a journey on the wedding day that is not culminated until much later. Having a blending of the sands ceremony in your wedding does not mean you have obtained “familyness.” It does not culminate the blend, but it does start it.

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Ritual vs. reality

During the ceremony, children and adults alike pour most, if not all, of their personal sand into the large family vase. But in reality, one child pours in half of their “sand” and saves half for the other home they live in. A second child pours in most of themselves, but with mixed emotions, tries to take some back. A third child in protest pinches a few grains of sand with their fingers and flicks them toward the family vase.

Motivations to love vary. Definitions of what loving people will look like differ. The need of children for their parents to not put so much of themselves in the vase often competes with the desire of the parents to pour in all of themselves.

But they have started the process of building love together with the blending of the sand.

The ceremony immediately produces a beautiful sand art montage. But in real life, blended families often immediately look irregular, disjointed, and as one parent said, “odd.”

During the blend, the grit of the sand coursing against other sands is abrasive. With time, however, the various sands combine and grow comfortable with each other, add more of themselves, and form a stunning mosaic of colors and shapes.

If you were to ask that family mosaic, “How did you get to be this beautiful?” it may be able to identify some turning points. Other factors remain a mystery. But the narrative that is likely to tie it all together is love—intentional, purposeful, sacrificial love.

Taken from Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages® and Becoming Stepfamily Smart by Gary Chapman and Ron L. Deal, Northfield Publishers (2020). Used with permission. All rights to this material are reserved.