Vows for my fiancée to say to my 16-year-old son at our wedding

gardengateMarch 8, 2005

My fiancée would also like to say vows to my 16-year-old son at our wedding along with the ones that she says to me. Do you have any suggestions?

He will be living with us and they get along great. And we have heard of others doing this.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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Well, vows are just promises. What would he like to promise your son? It is easy to pretty up the words, once we know his feelings. That seems so much more personal than picking something from "vows everyone can use."

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 6:00AM
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I think that this is a much bigger question than what the wording should be. Please forgive me if I am getting too personal. I may be way off base here, but perhaps this is something you might want to think about.

I would suggest rethinking the idea of your fiance making any public vows at the ceremony to your son. No matter how much they love each other and no matter how thrilled your son is about the marriage, they aren't really getting married to each other, are they? You and your fiance chose each other, and you are the ones making the commitment of marriage. Your son may love the idea, but he isn't the one who got engaged; this would be a vow in which he has no choice -- even if you gave him the choice, how could he say no? (I realize you are just talking about a one-way vow from your fiance to him, but still, that affects the "vow-ee.") Your post refers to your fiance's making vows to your son "along with the ones that she says to me." But any kind of vows he makes to your son are, and should be, very different from the ones he makes to you. I think the close juxtaposition could make your son uncomfortable, even if he doesn't say anything about it to you (and even if he isn't himself totally conscious of it).

Any child whose parent is remarrying, even a child who is very happy about it, will have mixed feelings, at least sometimes. That's normal and healthy. It's a big change in his life, and even good changes are stressful.

It's wonderful -- really wonderful -- that they get along great. But what is the purpose of a vow, or any other kind of public commitment ceremony? What would it mean? When your son leaves home, would he be breaking it? If his father is alive, even if they have a poor relationship, what would this mean with regard to that? And what will happen when, inevitably, your son and your new husband quarrel? The added emotional load of some sort of vow can't help.

You mention you have heard of others doing this. Unfortunately, some of those marriages probably didn't last. What is the psychological effect upon the child then, when the vows to him/her are broken along with the vows to Mom/Dad? I'm not saying this will happen to you; it's just a thought for the concept in general.
Although I am sure that the adults truly believe they are doing this for the children's sake, to make them "special" and "involved" too, I suspect that this practice is at bottom more for the adults' feelings than for the kids' true well-being.

Consider if you wouldn't get pretty much the same positive effect by doing things like having him be either your or your fiance's honor attendant and having your fiance make a fabulous toast to him at the reception which could come very close to a vow and include all the wonderful things he would have said if he'd done it during the ceremony. Maybe if the two of them really want some sort of ceremony for their own relationship, they could do it privately or just with family the day before the wedding or some other time. You will think of other ideas, too, I'm sure. Whatever you do will be lovely and meaningful. But for a variety of reasons I would keep it separate from the vows you and your husband will make to each other. Like the string about children "giving away" their parents. It's just too big an emotional load to impose on them, even though it all seems wonderful at the time.

Please forgive me for being a wet blanket. As I said, I may be totally off here. But it is something to think about, perhaps with your clergy or whoever you go to for advice. You might also consider talking to adult friends whose parents remarried when they were your son's age. They will have a good perspective.

The most important thing, of course, is that you all love each other, and you are all committed to being a family. You don't need a ceremony for that! Congratulations to all of you.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 10:45AM
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Duckie and Gellchom --

Gardengate is a HE. The word fiancée refers to a female; and fiancé is a male. Plus Gardengate used the word she when referring to his fiancée.

Having said all that... ;-)

I agree that your fiancée shouldn't say separate "vows" to your son. But, it would be nice to slip in a reference to him during the vows she says to you; and it may also be a nice thing for you to reference your son so that he knows he's not being totally replaced in your life.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 8:38PM
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Oh, I like the idea of vows to the son. And, she WANTS to. As far as I'm concerned, that settles it.

He didn't come here to ask if she SHOULD. It's not our business. His bride has made her decision; he's asking for help with implementing it.

I, too, have heard many instances of grooms making promises to their bride's children--and I think it's kinda snarky to assume that most of those marriages ended in divorce. Got any stats to back you up? And, does that matter? I think step-kids will be devasted by a divorce quite apart from any vows being made.

I think it's kinda neat that even though your son is nearly a grown-up, your wife-to-be considers that she owes him a promise or two. And respects his status in your family--as a dependent.

So, I'm w/ Duckie--what does she want to promise?

Maybe books on being a step-parent can give some suggestions for what a step-parent should DO and BE in the child's life. Then your fiancée could start with "I promise to treat you with kindness, to consider your needs, to respect your relationship with your father, to act in your best interests. I promise to nurture you and help you grow--to provide you with wise advice when it matters, and loving neglect when it's needed. I promise to be your ally in the world, and always, in my love for you, to be inspired by my love for your father (or, "always, in my love for your father, to be inspired in my love for you")

Surely that's not too incestuous-sounding a promise, is it?

And, so he does leave home--has he broken those vows (since he didn't make those vows, he can't really break them). Or let's say your marriage does end (there's a really encouraging thought on the Weddings forum)--will your wife have broken those vows? No.

I don't think private vows carry the same weight--especially not for your fiancée's intent. She wants to do this in front of witnesses--so the whole world --especially the families sitting there-- will see that she cares for this child and promises to be the best step-mom she can, and that she recognizes she has obligations to him that are apart from her obligation to you.

I love the idea!

I can't direct you to any of prewritten vows, but like I said, the step-parenting books might have summaries that would help her get started.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 3:19PM
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We're actually incorporating our children in our upcoming August wedding. In our case my oldest son (10 yr old) will help walk me down the aisle and will be presented with a sword from my fiance and my son will present him with one. Because we're having a traditional Viking Era themed wedding it was tradition for the groom to present his family sword to his bride for thier future sons, but in our case my fiance wanted to present his family sword to my son to make a statment to all that my son is now his as well. And traditionally the bride gifted her groom with a new sword to protect there family, but I have asked my son to give it to my fiance as to pass on the man of the house title. Because my children have been raised by my fiance since babies it hasnt been a tough transition for them. My younger daughter actaully prompted his proposal, by asking when he was ever going to marry me...lol The other 5 children are also included. My oldest daughter will be the officiants aide, my future step daughter and younger daughter will pass the drinking horns to our guests, my future step son will carry the grooms house key(given to bride to keep his home)and my youngest son will carry the rings. We also will incorporate to each other out intent to parent each others children-to love and respect each others children as our own. I dont think its strange making promises to each others children. Your uniting 2 seperate families, and the children no matter the age need to feel secure and loved. Family dynamics are different for each family so no one can assume "the proper ettiquette " for this. Jessica

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 3:47PM
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I'm sorry -- I seemed to have hit a nerve here, and I really didn't mean to. I also apologize for getting the sexes reversed, gardengate! I should have read more carefully.

Talley Sue, please check my post: I didn't "assume that most of those marriages ended in divorce" -- I said that probably SOME of them did. I do believe that "the statistics" would back me up on that -- some marriages, with or without children from previous unions, do break up. I hope that makes it seem a little less "snarky"! :-)

Anyway, although I still believe that what I wrote above is something that couples should think about before assuming that vows from new step-parent to child, during the wedding ceremony itself, will have only an up-side, I certainly agree that every situation is different, and that the most important thing here is that, no matter what they do about vows, they all get along so beautifully.

Congratulations to you once again, gardengate, on both your marriage and your great family situation.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 9:41PM
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and while I often admire your advice, gellchom, I still think it doesn't matter whether *you* think they shouldn't. That's not what he asked.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 12:45PM
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gellchom is very much correct in that more second marriages end in divorce than 1st- statistically speaking.

When I read the original post, my first thought was... 16-year-old boys don't usually want that type of public attention brought to them. I agree that it shouldn't be done, save it for a wedding toast at the reception... but if the son is OK with it, who am I to say?

If you're just looking for suggestions, she can promise to always be their for him, to be another line of support... all that mushy stuff, while not taking place of an absent parent he may be close to.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2005 at 10:06PM
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i agree with cali4dawn... does your son want this? i have a sixteen year old brother who thinks that all things wedding are stupid and mushy... but as long as your son is okay with this then i (yet again) agree with cali4dawn in that she could promise to be there when he needs her and while she's not trying to take the place of his mother she will love him as a mother loves a son... something to that effect...

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 2:34AM
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when my aunt and uncle got married, my uncle adopted my then four year old cousin as part of the ceremony. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. i know that's not what you're doing but i think that your fiancee saying vows to your son would be a lovely addition to your wedding ceremony. but i do agree with martinsbride that you should make sure that your son wants to do that in front of so many people.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2005 at 12:45PM
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