Weddings not only celebrate two individuals becoming one but two families.
Whether you or your spouse have complicated pasts or not, this mingling of families can be a tricky task to manoeuvre. Prepare your wedding for success. Rise to the challenge of unifying two unique groups. From step-children to strained parental relationships— use these 5 easy ideas to side-step sticky situations on your big day.
1. Take pictures
No matter the past, your wedding day marks the first day of the future. And pictures are a perfect opportunity to create a new bond. Take advantage of this matrimonial tradition. Gather grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, step-children, friends, god-parents, everyone you want to include, and plan to make some fun, new memories.
Set aside enough time to enjoy this process. Allow for 3-5 minutes for each group of people. Family photos usually take place directly after the ceremony and before the reception. Though you may want to hurry to keep your other guests from waiting at the reception, don’t rush the process.
Take advantage of that 3-5 minutes each to build a quality memory with the people who are most important to you. Connect. Laugh. Perhaps arrange with the photographer to capture some funny candid shots after the traditional poses. Bond through laughter. Think outside the box. But set enough time aside to include everyone.
2. Mix seating
A simple, straightforward way to cut through the familial divide is to purposely mix the seating at both the ceremony and the reception. Ushers or a sign posted at the door can direct guests to the seating on both sides of the sanctuary.
For the reception, assign the seating. Place name cards at the tables, to coordinate those you would like to meet or get to know each other better. On their own, guests usually gravitate to familiar faces. Planned seating makes meeting new acquaintances less difficult. And it gives you the chance to defuse any potentially explosive situations.
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3. Unity ceremonies
Interwoven in every traditional wedding ceremony is a certain event specifically set aside to merge families called a Unity ceremony. Couples do this in an array of different fashions, but the essence of this sub-ceremony is that two (or more, if including children) objects merge into one.
For example, unity candles involve two tapers lighting one larger unit in the middle. Two flames light one. With unity sand or wedding sand as some call it, the couple takes two separate colours of sand. Pouring from smaller vessels, the sand mingles together into one never to separate again.
In less traditional unity ceremonies, couples burn their names into the wood, tie ropes into knots, plant trees, and release doves.
The unity ceremony— however, celebrated— offers the perfect opportunity to include others. Children, stepchildren, adopted children, parents, even close friends can pour sand, or light a candle, commemorating the creation of your new family.
4. Pre-wedding event
Often, weddings are the first, and perhaps only time, your guests will meet. Every precious and elaborate relationship in your life— both of your mothers, both of your fathers, all your friends— all meet in one colossal, yet overwhelmingly short, event.
For one special day you have all your loved ones in one room, but ironically, you don’t have time for a good chat. At best you will get to say ‘hi’ and take a picture with everyone who came to witness your exchanging of vows before you whisk off to your honeymoon.
If possible, arrange to have some pre-wedding events. Grill out, go bowling, grab drinks, have a game night. Plan a picnic or rent a boat for a lazy lake day. Apart from the rehearsal dinner, let your families bond over shared excursions and events prior to the wedding day. Less formal activities nurture the natural growth of friendship. Planning some low key events beforehand allows the wedding to be a spectacular conclusion of an unforgettable wedding week, instead of an avalanche of new faces and introductions.
5. Play games
If you don’t have the time to plan a fun wedding week, adding an interpersonal game to the interlude between the ceremony and the reception can expedite comradery amongst your guests.
As juvenile as it may at first seem, games uncover common ground. Make them laugh. If you have the ability, make the activities personal. Something like a trivia or a checklist. Have an M.C. guide your guests to mingle, perhaps create teams and have them choreograph a dance or solve a word puzzle related to the wedding.
A little goes a long way
With some creativity and forethought, you can take advantage of gathering all your closest family and friends to facilitate unity. Make the most of every moment, every picture, every relationship, and use your wedding to bring your family closer than they’ve ever been.