Where do you start? Your wedding is different. You want to include your kids and stepkids and create special memories as you start life as a blended family. Marriage with children is a merging of families. It’s important to create a sense of belonging for the children as part of the wedding ceremony.

You’ve been dreaming of your special day for years. You can hardly believe it’s happening! Finally, the wedding date is set and the venue reserved. Now, it’s time to plan your blended family wedding.

Keep in mind the rituals presented below will begin your journey as a family, but they don’t signify you’ve arrived. Blending a family takes years before relationships come together.

Ideas for a blended family wedding ceremony

Maybe it feels overwhelming to consider how to include kids and have the details fall into place without emotional meltdowns. Here are six drama-free ideas to make your blended family wedding ceremony special and unforgettable.

1. Present a family medallion to each of the children.

The family medallion is a tangible symbol of love and can help children joining a blended family feel secure. The medallion (a pendant, ring, or lapel pin) is usually presented after the bride and groom exchange their rings. The children then join them for a special moment where the couple pledges their commitment to the children and family.

2. Have a blending of the sands ritual.

Similar to the unity candle, where the couple takes two small candles and lights a large candle to signify oneness, this ritual uses different color sand to represent the adults and children the marriage will merge. First, the couple symbolically pours some sand from their vases into a larger “family” vase. Then each child does the same. The beautiful blend makes a mosaic that can be displayed as a lasting visual representation of the coming together of the family.

3. Create a canvas of hands together.

After reading Preparing to Blend* and learning how important it is to include children in planning a blended family wedding, one couple decided not to elope. Instead, Kristin and Jason planned a small, intimate wedding and let her children play the role they wanted to play.

After the couple’s vows and rings were exchanged, Kristin, Jason, and the boys painted their hands and pressed their handprint onto a blank canvas. The officiant’s comments wrapped meaning to the moment, noting that each of them—in a way they individually decide—now had the opportunity to put their own hand to this family and stamp their unique fingerprints to the canvas of what this family is becoming.

“And together,” he said, “in your own timing and in your own way, you can create something beautiful.”

4. Create a unity puzzle board at your blended family wedding.

Each member of a family has their own unique personality, talents, and wishes for the future. Everyone is different but contributes to the whole—a separate but crucial piece of the family puzzle. And when a piece is missing, the whole is not balanced.

This understanding of family dynamics is what makes a family puzzle ritual in a blended family wedding ceremony such a fitting (pardon the pun) inclusion.

Generally, toward the end of the ceremony, each family member brings forward their piece of the puzzle and fits it together. Sometimes puzzle pieces need to be worked a little to fit into place (another wonderful metaphor for the ups and downs of family life). But when the pieces are locked together—side by side—the whole is more beautiful and stronger than any single piece on its own.

(Thanks to Unbridely.com for the idea!)

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5. Give children a role in the wedding ceremony.

Include a future stepchild at the altar during the ceremony to give them a sense of belonging as the new family is created. This works well for older children placed next to their biological parent as a groomsman or bridesmaid.

You can also give a younger child a role such as a flower girl or keeper of the rings to help them feel part of the special day.

6. Create a “family” sign.

With this ritual, each family member carries a single letter from the word “Family” into the blended family wedding ceremony. When each person arrives at the end of the aisle, they place their letter in the appropriate spot on a designated table.

This is a simple and moving gesture and only requires a minimal level of creativity and choreography. (Thanks again to Unbridely.com for the idea!)

For stepcouples, planning and preparing for the blended family wedding—and the ceremony itself—can help build family identity and bonding. Pick an idea or create one of your own to accelerate the process of becoming family to one another.

*Adapted from Preparing to Blend: The Couple’s Guide to Becoming a Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Gayla Grace serves on staff with FamilyLife Blended® and is passionate about equipping blended families as a writer and a speaker. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and counseling and is the author of Stepparenting With Grace: A Devotional for Blended Families and co-author of Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Gayla and her husband, Randy, have been married since 1995 in a “his, hers, and ours” family. She is the mom to three young adult children and stepmom to two.