Wedding vows for blended families: Kids say, “We do, too!”

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Photo from Eric and Billi’s wedding by ON3Photography

Realistically, every wedding is a blending of two families, but in no situation is this mixing of families more clear than when the one (or both!) halves of the couple have children from past relationships.

Over the years, we’ve seen lots of really lovely ways that some couples have chosen to include children in blended family weddings, but we’ve never featured the vows that were spoken.

Obviously, doing blended family kid vows won’t be a fit for every wedding or every family situation. It’s important that you check with your kids to make sure they really want to be involved in the ceremony. Enthusiastic consent in all things, especially when it comes to asking children to stand in front of wedding guests to speak about a relationship that may still be confusing (or even upsetting) for them. We don’t have to tell you that blended family dynamics can be deeply complex, and children should never EVER feel pressured to participate in the ceremony in ways that they’re not comfortaable with.

For those of you looking for specific wording ideas for blended family ceremonies, I’ve enlisted the help of four Offbeat Bride-approved officiants, asking them to share wording for blended family vows that they’ve written.

(Plus, we’ve got one batch of bonus vows from an Offbeat Bride reader!)

This blended family wedding unity ceremony set is by Blissful Salutations

Blended family vows from Shyamala Littlefield from Ceremonies For Sacred Days

All names have been changed

Officiant: These sacred vows are not just between Maddy and Joe because you will not only be a new couple, you will be a new family. So Tina and Missy, will you please join us now for the special family rites of this wedding.[Maddy and Joe turn to face girls as they stand in front of them. Maddy speaks as Joe puts heart necklaces on the girls]

Kids: “Thank you for sharing Daddy with me, loving me and allowing me to love you with all of my heart. I was not there when you took your first steps, but I promise that now I will love and support you in every step that you take in your life. These necklaces are a symbol of our love and devotion to the two of you.

I love you, Tina and I am devoted to making your life full of happiness and accomplishments, nurturing your creativity, encouraging your independence, and making sure you always know what a gift you are to this world.
I love you, Missy and I am devoted to making your life full of happiness and accomplishments, ensuring that you thrive to your fullest potential, and that while you reach for the sky, you remain grounded by the love of our family and our home.”

Officiant: Girls, please come stand by me as we marry Daddy and Maddy. We want you to have a front row seat.

Joe and Maddy, please join hands and face each other so that you can look into each other’s eyes and see the beauty of what is about to happen.

Missy, please hand this ring to your Dad to give to Maddy.

Joe, please place this ring on Maddy’s finger and hold it there as you repeat after me:
I give you my promise to be by your side forevermore.
I promise to love, to honor, and to listen as you tell me of your thoughts, your hopes, your fears, and your dreams.
I promise to love you deeply and truly because it is your heart that moves me, your head that challenges me,
your humor that delights me,
and your hands I wish to hold until the end of my days.

Tina, please give this ring to Maddy to give to your Dad.
Maddy, please place this ring on Joe’s finger and hold it there as you repeat after me:
I give you my promise to be by your side forevermore.
I promise to love, to honor, and to listen as you tell me of your thoughts, your hopes, your fears, and your dreams.
I promise to love you deeply and truly because it is your heart that moves me, your head that challenges me,
your humor that delights me,
and your hands I wish to hold until the end of my days.

May all your days be filled with joy and happiness. It is my honor and great pleasure and by the power vested in me by the state of California, that I now pronounce you husband and wife.

You may kiss your beautiful bride and she may kiss you back.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you for the very first time – the Stranger family – Joe, Maddy, Tina and Missy

[Wedding couple and girls exit down aisle.]

Family vows by Jessie Blum from Eclectic Unions

Including kids in your vows is a really sweet and easy way to show the blending of two families together, without being as “in your face” as a unity ritual. It also helps to show that you are accepting your partner fully – not just them, but their children, too – and can help to make the promises that are the real heart of the wedding even more meaningful and special.

This is a favorite example of mine that can be used by either or both partners. There are some great lines in this vow that can be taken out and placed with personal vows, edited to become I DOs, or simply personalized more towards the couple, too:

As the two of us are joined on this day, we become part of each other:
your feelings become my feelings;
your sorrows become my sorrows;
your joys become my joys;
your cares become my cares,
and your children become my children.
With your help and guidance I promise to be a true and faithful spouse / wife / husband and parent,
always there to comfort you, rejoice with you,
and endure all the complexities of life that we will face together as a family.
My love for you and your/our child/ren is pure and unshakable,
and I hereby commit myself to all of you from this day forward.

When there are kids from previous relationships involved, I think having one or both of the partners pledge to take on their new role as a parent – not just as a husband, wife, or spouse. Even if there is only one partner’s child or children involved, I think it is nice to have both the parent and the new step-parent celebrate their role as “parents,” together – this can also be a nice moment for a step-kid in the ceremony. You know the old adage – you’re not losing a parent, you’re gaining a step-parent – but actually having part of the vows be a moment for the current parent to re-declare their commitment to their child, in a very subtle way, can be such a nice and comforting touch.

When it comes to blended family vows, a lot can be said or spoken by the couple – they can declare not only their love for each other, but their love for their family – but it is in the best interest of the kids to NOT have them speak or take vows themselves, unless they were the ones who came up with the suggestion to do so. We want kids to simply be open vessels, accepting all of this love and support from their family and their new family, and we don’t want to coerce them into doing anything that they may not feel 100% comfortable with, but are just doing to make their mom or dad happy.


Family Blending Ritual, as Performed by Secular Officiant Frank Harlan

As a Secular Officiant I am always on the lookout for fresh ideas and creating content that serves the purpose of supporting religion-free life-cycle rituals. Seeing what is available has really made it easy for me to reject the standard formula-like Unity Rituals and create my own. Generally, I’m not inclined to post my ceremony scripts online, but when it comes to this element as part of a contemporary wedding celebration, I am willing to share.

Plus, as a married man who was a single father with a daughter for 13 years, I saw how incorporating this ritual into our wedding ceremony truly unified our family unit.

Below is the Outline I use for scripting a Family Blending Ritual. I usually place it after the Exchange of Rings. To make a ritual like this magical, emotional and memorable you need to invest a little bit of time writing it. Answer the questions and it becomes the script. I have included content notes and scripting I created recently for a wedding ceremony where the groom was a single dad with a son.

1. Invite Child (or Children) to stand with their parent
Officiant: Let it be known that [Groom and Bride] do not enter this commitment alone. [Groom] brings with him an amazing and vibrant 13 year old son… [Child’s First Name], will you please come forward and stand between your Father and [Partner]. Over the years, the three of you have gotten to know each other; sharing meals, hanging out, and just spending time together. You have successfully melded into a modern-day family.Today [Child’s Name], your support to this marriage is clear. [Bride] joins this family circle as your father’s wife, as a friend that you can count on and a woman who loves both of you very much.
2. Introduction of the child/children through the words of parent and partner.
Officiant: I would like to tell all of you some things that [Groom] and [Partner] think all of you should know about this amazing young person…[Child’s Full Birth Name]Your Father tells me…
(Three qualities Father recognizes and/or admires about his child)And [Partner] shared with me that…
(Three qualities [Partner] recognizes and/or admires about the child)
3. Commemorative Gift (bestowed on the child/children by the couple. Examples: necklace with birth stone, bracelet, family heirloom.)
Officiant: As a way to commemorate this momentous occasion, your Father and [Partner] have a gift for you, and they would like to present it to you now, is that okay?[Parents give gift to child; if jewelry, put it on them. Whatever it is, tell the guests]

This blended family wedding gift is by HeartfeltTokens
4. Vows: to Child from Both Adults (Parent / Partner will need to write these.)
Officiant: [Groom], [Bride] and [Child] would you please join hands to form your family circle?[Groom/Father] repeat after me…
[Child], I want you to know how lucky I feel every day just knowing you. You are the energy that flows through my veins. You inspire me and I can’t imagine the man that I would have become without you in my life. Thank you for accepting Bride into our world. Nobody knows more than you how she has been there for both of us. You are an amazing young man and an honorable human being that I am proud to call my son. I love you.[Bride] repeat after me…
[Child], I have known you since the day you were born. . . You and your father are the people who know me best in this world, the people I eat with every day, the first I see in the morning and the last at night. The two of you are my strength and my world. We are the fearsome threesome, and I consider you to be one of the most important people in my life. I love you.4.1 Vows: Three Promises Adults and Child
Officiant: [Groom], [Bride] and [Child] would you please join hands to form your family circle? I am going to ask all of you 3 questions. I would like all of you to answer each of them with, “I Promise!”Do you promise to love, respect and protect each other from this day forward?
All 3: “I Promise!”Do you promise to always try to be the best person you can be?
All 3: “I Promise!”

Do you promise to accept the responsibility of being a family, and encourage, and support each other in your new life together?
All 3: “I Promise!”

4.2 Vows: Three Promises from the Children
(When both partners have children these are promises the kids make to the Family Unit. The couple usually creates the questions so that they relate to their children. Kids are standing with their parents).

Officiant: [Kid A], [Kid B] and [Kid C], I am going to ask you 3 questions. I would like all of you to answer each of them with, “I Promise!”

Do you promise to be tolerant, respectful and accepting of each other’s differences?
KIDS: “I Promise!”

Do you promise to always work out disagreements so that your friendships can grow stronger?
KIDS: “I Promise!”

Do you promise to keep your rooms clean and the dirty dishes out of the basement?”
KIDS: “I Promise!”

5. Family Blessing (I always close the ritual with blessings for the family and a group hug before asking the child/children to return to their seats).

Officiant: I ask that your home be a place of happiness for all who enter it, and a place where the old and the young are renewed in each others’ company, a place for growing, a place for music and celebration, a place for laughter and goofing off.

And when life seems to be too much or you just had a rough day, may your home always be a place of refuge where every one of you can find the comfort of always knowing that you will be accepted and loved unconditionally.

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Cara says: “Not only were my husband’s children in my wedding party, I also wrote and declared my vows to them during our ceremony, as well as had a fun choreographed dance with them at the reception.”

Blended family wedding ceremony wording ideas by Merrilyn Williams from CelebrateLife

These vows include many options, including when only one partner who has kids, and even children feeling alienated and distressed.

ACKNOWLEDGING FAMILY
This is a formal ‘Welcome to the Family’ because the marriage formalizes their relationships with each other and with their children – husband, wife, step-parents, step -brothers and step-sisters. I include an introduction where I mention that the couple, in marrying one another, has accepted responsibility of providing a safe and healthy home not just for each other, or just their own children, but now also for their partner’s children.

[Names of children], [bride] and [groom] welcome you into the new family. They would like to make some special promises to each of you, because you are very important people in their lives. They would also like to remind you that their loving commitment to one another opens up a whole new world of people who will become your family …people who will love you and care about you and help you to find your way in the world. And so on your behalf, I will ask them:

Bride and groom, will you continue to love and support the children? Will you make the time to listen to them, cherish and guide them? Will you show them respect, kindness, tolerance and honesty? Acknowledging the past, will you respect the unseen ties that bind them? Will you provide a safe and loving and caring home where each
child is encouraged to develop their own unique qualities, in the knowledge that they will always be loved and valued for themselves? Will you make these promises lovingly and freely?

[They respond: We will / yes.]

FAMILY BLENDING
Bride and groom, you have declared your love for each other. In your decision to spend the rest of your lives together you have accepted the responsibilities of parenthood towards each other’s children from other important relationships. You have established a home where each child finds love, security and acceptance. As part of your love for each other, I now ask you to make your promises to them.

[Children’s names], we promise to love and support you
to be there for you
to listen to you and respect you
to cherish and guide you
to help you learn right from wrong
to show you how to respect others and the world around you
to be there when you need us
and to give you love and make you part of our new family

One partner has a child
The former partners of this couple had died and so the bride and groom wanted to acknowledge the new family arrangements. I wrote these words and spoke to the three-year-old on their behalf after they’d made their promises to him.

[Child’s name], you are a very important and special person in your family. You are the much loved biological son of [Mother] and [Father], and soon you will be legally adopted by [Step-parent] and take his name along with your [Father’s family name]. One-day you will appreciate that these are the greatest gifts a man can give: his family name will give you security and identity and a sense of belonging. The promises he has made to love and support your mother, and to love and nurture you as his own child, will provide a strong foundation as you grow to adulthood.

Incorporating the Flower Ritual (optional)
Please note: the text in this section below has been adapted from Weddings: The Magic of Creating Your Own Ceremony.

Marcelene Cox wrote these words about children.

Children in a family
are like flowers in a bouquet:
there’s always one determined
to face in the opposite direction
from the way the arranger desires.

1.
On the table is a vase containing two flowers representing bride and groom as the parents in this new family. Lying next to the vase are single flowers – one for each of the children. I’d like to invite [names of children] to take a flower and place it in the vase. Together all the flowers will make a bouquet which symbolises the wonder and
beauty of the birth of this new family.
2.
Bride and groom, you are combining your strengths and hopes in this marriage. Your decision to marry will also shape and deeply affect the lives of [children’s names]. Today we acknowledge and celebrate not only the creation of a marriage, but also the creation of a family. Each of you will contribute your individual blossoms to this new
entity, combining your special selves into a rich and beautiful bouquet to symbolise the new family. Bride and groom and then the children each place their flower in the vase.
PROMISES TO YOUR OWN CHILD/REN
Bride and groom, as you make your vows to each other, with the promise of love and companionship for one another, will you also do the same for name/s? Will you promise to honour and respect her/him/them as an individual and guide her/his/their growth and development? Will you pledge to cherish her/him/them, encourage her/him/them, and make your home a place where there is trust, love, friendship and laughter? Will you hold her/his/their hand through her/his/their mistakes rather than preventing her/him/them from making them? Will you promise to show her/him/them how to find happiness rather than tell her/him them? Will you make these promises to
name lovingly and freely?

[Response: Yes.]And will you do the same for any other children you may bring into the world as her/his siblings?[Response: Yes.]

And for those children who no longer live with you, will your door always be open for them?

[Response: Yes.]

Name/s, bride and groom have a gift for you to remind you of this special day. The gifts are given and opened on the spot.

In absentia promises to children who may feel alienated

Bride and groom, as you make your vows to each other, with the promise of love and companionship for one another, will you also do the same in your new life for [Child’s Name]?Even though he/she lives apart from you, will your door and your hearts always be open to him/her? Will you honour and respect him/her as an individual and be there for him/her when he/she feels ready be part of your family? Will you encourage him/her to make his/her own decisions and make your home a welcoming place where there is trust, love, friendship and laughter? Will you make these promises to name lovingly and freely?

[Response: We will.]

Possible readings for children to do:

A FAMILY
A family is a place where you can cry and laugh,
and be silly, or sad, or cross, where you can ask for help,
and tease and yell at each other, and know that you will always be loved.A family is made up of people who care about you when you are sad,
who love you all the time, no matter what, and who share your good times.
They don’t expect you to be perfect,
but just want you to try to be the best you can be.A family is a safe place like a circle,
where we learn to like ourselves,
where we learn about making good choices,
where we learn to think about things before we do them,
where we learn to be honest, and to have table manners,and respect for other people,
where we are special, where we share ideas,
where we listen to them and they listen to us,
where we learn the rules of life to prepare ourselves for the world.The world is a place where anything can happen.
If we grow up in a loving family… like our family
we are ready for the world.
-Unknown authorIf the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections,
held together but separable – each segment distinct.
-Letty Cottin Pogrebin
How great is the message of this blended family wedding sign from TheOldWhiteShedIowa?!

Vows to Children, by Offbeat Bride reader Serendipity

My future husband and I wanted to include our children as well. We’ve included them in the ceremony, at a point not long before we begin exchanging our vows. It’s what I call the “Vows to Children”:

(Celebrant invites the child/children to stand beside their parent, The Bride picks up the ceremony items… usually a basket containing the vows and gift items)Celebrant: The Circle of Family is not made by blood alone, but by love, respect and commitment as well. Indeed, a Circle of Family made by choice can be as strong or stronger than that of blood. As we honor each other and the choices we make, we, in turn, honor ourselves. When we honor ourselves, we honor the Divine Spirit that lives within us all. Let mutual love and respect be the foundation of this family by acknowledging the value of each others choices. It is by the union of (Bride) and (Groom) that this family is made. Let them be as one, to sing and dance together, laugh and cry together, live, love, and grow together. Let no secrets divide the Circle of Family.

VOWS AND GIFTS TO THE CHILDREN

(Bride takes vows from basket, hands basket to Groom)

Bride: (Name Groom’s child/children), I promise always to treat you with love and respect. I promise to foster my relationship with you and always to be there for you in any way I can. I promise to support you in your relationship with both your mother and your father and I promise always to listen to you, strengthening our relationship as time moves forward. I promise always to treat your father with love and respect and model for you a healthy, loving and supportive relationship in the belief that one day you too will find such happiness in love.

Celebrant: (Bride), Do you bring tokens of your love that are symbolic of your commitment to (Child/children’s names)?

Bride: I do. (Bride takes tokens from basket, places the item on the child or hands the item to the child) Please accept these gifts as a symbol of my love for you and the bond we create today as we join together as a family.

(Repeat same with Groom if Bride has children. Children return to their seats)

Comments on Wedding vows for blended families: Kids say, “We do, too!”

  1. Wow, all of these made me tear up. I have been thinking and thinking how to best include my daughter in my upcoming wedding and this post is so very timely.

    • Oh lord, me too. I don’t even have kids and I was getting choked up just reading the first one! These are all so beautiful.

  2. These are some lovely options for including children in a ceremony. I’ll be keeping them in mind as my fiance and I hammer out our ceremony, as we each have a child from a previous relationship.

    However, I’d also like to stress the importance of making sure (absolutely, 100%, bet your life on it, goddamn certain) that the children in question actually WANT to be involved. My mom made me be in her wedding to my stepfather when I was 14, and it was one of the most hurtful things she ever did to me. I didn’t want her to marry him at all, much less for me to be a part of it. Her wedding was the worst day of my life up until that point. I almost said something in the “speak now” portion of the vows, and only didn’t because I was too close to tears to keep my voice steady. My stepfather and I now are on great terms, and I think of him as my real father (instead of my mom’s first husband, my biological father). But making me be a part of something I didn’t want to happen was a shitty thing to do, and no amount of lovely vows or meaningful ceremonies would have made me feel good about it. It only made me feel worse. So just think carefully about involving your kids, especially if you know the kids aren’t excited about the marriage in the first place.

    • Great point, Allison. Merrilyn touches on this in her vows for “In absentia promises to children who may feel alienated,” where she includes wording that acknowledges children that A) may not want to be in the ceremony B) may not even be at the wedding at all.

      Ultimately, as with most things on Offbeat Bride, different things will feel right to different people.

    • This is a good point. I’m getting married in a couple of months, and we’re choosing not to incorporate my fiance’s 15 year old son into the ceremony very much. He will hand us the rings, and that’s it.

      I think he has yet to address me by name, (and we’ve been living in the same house for almost a year) and he’s been pretty clear that he does not want me to have any kind of semi-parental role in his life at this time, so I don’t know what kind of vows I could make or what I could say that wouldn’t feel like a lie. Making him be the center of attention in any way or having me make him any promises would just make him uncomfortable, I think.

      Which is not to say that these vows aren’t really lovely, and a great idea if that is a good fit for anyone else’s situation.

    • I’m glad you pointed this out Allison. My fiance and I have been trying to figure out ways to incorporate our children into our wedding. (We each have a child from a previous marriage) We decided not to have the kids have any sort of “vows” because they aren’t the ones getting married. We are. While we are happy that they both love the fact that we’re getting married the reality of it is it isn’t their decision or commitment.

      Past that we asked them how they would like to participate. Both of them came up with roles during the wedding (reading a poem, acting as an usher, being in the wedding party) that would be meaningful to them, and that they are comfortable doing.

    • I agree with you, 100%, Allison.

      My experience is a bit different. When my Mom remarried, I remember crying and squeezing my Grandma’s hand to keep from saying something during the “speak now or forever hold your peace” part. I did not want them to be married, but I played along. My sister, new step-siblings and I were not included in the ceremony. Once the wedding was over though, I decided to buy into the “blended family” thing, and made a great deal of conscious effort over the next 10 years to do and be family with my Mom’s new partner and his kids. So, when they got divorced when I was 17, and I never heard from my stepfather again, I was… well, actually, words fail me, but suffice to say that the emotional trauma of all those experiences together is something I still struggle with today.

      So, here I am now, 12 years later, engaged to a wonderful man who is father to a six-year old boy. Because of my experiences, it is of utmost importance to me to include this little guy in our ceremony, and for me to make vows to him as well as to his father. We’re working on creating a ceremony that doesn’t put too much pressure or unwanted attention on him, while letting him – and our families – know that I am making a lifetime commitment to him as well that I intend to keep, no matter what may happen between my partner and I in the future.

      As of this writing, our little guy plans to attend the wedding in a dragon costume (colour-coordinated with our theme, of course). 😉

  3. dammit crying at work again! Those are beautiful! Even though the kidlets are grown, I’ve helped to raise them since their dad and I have been together but unmarried for so long. I might use these to cobble together something appropriate for our circumstances.

  4. There should be a warning – NSFW! I have tears streaming down my face right now, sitting at my desk trying to look like I’m not crying. This post is gorgeous. I have a son from my first marriage and with my boyfriend and I starting to discuss marriage in the future, this really hits home for me. Absolutely beautiful. I will keep these in mind for when my day comes.

  5. Thank you so much for posting these!!! These are much better than ANYTHING I found online, and I do see some options here that we can customize and adapt to our situation. This makes me so glad I spoke up in the Tribe!

  6. This is a great post. I know it is personal – but if anyone would like to share their vows I would really appreciate it. My fiance has a 9 year old daughter and I want to say something very special to her.

  7. I love this! We have been trying to find ways to have my future hubby’s daughter be a part of our ceremony and this just opened up plenty of ideas! Thanks for posting!

  8. Wonderful ideas!

    I just wrote a family vow for a couple where each partner has 2 daughters. When the vows were taken, the groom held hands with the bride’s 2 daughters, creating a triangle. Then we did the same for the bride with the groom’s daughters. It helped them cement the specific pledges that each wanted to make in a tangible way.

  9. These are wonderful for blended families, but I would love some ideas for our family. My husband and I have never been able to have a wedding until now. The children are our own offspring. It is important for us to make a commitment to them as well, especially as they hardly know their father due to the fact that we currently cannot live in the same country. Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.

  10. My stepmom said some very sweet things to me at the ceremony, and they’ve held true to this day. Of course back then I was all, *eyeroll*, “Gawd, whatever!” Also? JEWELRY, people! 🙂 My dad and stepmom had black hills gold wedding bands, and at the wedding they gave me a little heart pendant that was in black hills gold. Not matchy-matchy, but all of the pieces went together. It is something that I’ve been happy to have and admire (and sometimes wear, still) over the years. It’s not necessary, but comes highly recommended from this kid.

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