Dedication to Our Children by Pat MacAodha
contributing writer Children have long participated in wedding ceremonies as ring bearers, flower girls, etc. – positions of service to brides and grooms on their Special Day. What if we make something more of our children on that special day? Instead of just presenting them in cute (and often itchy) garb as window dressing for a wedding, holy union, or handfasting, children of queer couples tying the knot can be included in something more lasting and important. A segment of the nuptial ceremony can include commitment of the adults to the children: a ritual acknowledgement of the full family-to-be.
Some couples have done this but, even in the hetero- culture at large, children are rarely a focus of the wedding. Based, as the marriage is, on the ritual recognition of a couple joining for the legitimization of children born to the union, as well as an alliance between families, there is really no room in the traditional rite to acknowledge an existing child’s presence.
How many times have lesbian mothers and gay dads endured jealousy between their children and a new lover, a painful “choose-between-us” element threatening to damage or destroy the whole relationship? Children need to depend on their parents’ commitment to raise and support them, emotionally as well as financially. They need to know the new spouse will be an addition to their lives, not competition for a birth parent’s love.
How healing and inspirational it might be to make a statement about the child’s continuing importance in the new family, publicly during the wedding, by adding a rite in which the child’s value and place is newly recognized and ritually blessed.
In today’s world few first marriages last beyond five years, and children born during this period often end up with two or more additional step-parents. In the process of preparing for the adults’ union, the children of one or both newlyweds have already suffered the loss of at least one parent, and what should be a celebratory occasion of family blessing often takes place with the children of a previous relationship being somewhat ignored. Happily, there are many ways blessing the child’s part in the relationship can be included in the wedding, from a simple statement of inclusion or commitment, to a candlelighting ceremony added to that symbolizing unity of the couple. The children can be present, or not: the important element is that both individuals state their commitment to children one or both have brought into the world.
I promise, in the name of all I hold sacred, to do my best to be a good parent to you. I promise to listen when you need to be heard, to comfort you in times of sorrow, and to celebrate with you in times of joy...
Preparing for a child’s inclusion in the wedding can provide opportunities for the adults and children to bond over what the child’s piece will be. If the child is still an infant or toddler, a simple presentation and blessing may be enough, accompanied by an item symbolizing the event (A little silver cup, engraveable, is one possibility which will be a keepsake for the child in later years.) Older children can participate in more direct ways. The nuptial candle, integral to so many