Step­par­ents at the wed­ding?

Ex­perts ad­vise be­ing in­clu­sive

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE - By Lisa A Flam

With a lov­ing act of kind­ness, Brit­tany Peck's dad made her wed­ding-day dream come true. Just be­fore her fa­ther, Todd Bachman, walked her down the aisle on Sept 26, 2015, he stopped the pro­ces­sional and con­tin­ued down the aisle alone to grab the hand of her step­fa­ther and make a sur­prise in­vi­ta­tion that left every­one teary-eyed. "He asked my step­dad to stand up and said, 'You de­serve this just as much as I do. Will you help me walk our daugh­ter down the aisle?'" Peck re­called, adding that just she and her groom, Jeremy Peck, and their pho­tog­ra­pher knew of her dad's plan.

For Peck, 22, whose par­ents split up when she was young and spent years fight­ing for cus­tody of her and her sis­ter, be­ing given away by her fa­ther and her step­fa­ther, Todd Cen­drosky, was ex­actly how she en­vi­sioned get­ting mar­ried. But af­ter all her fam­ily had been through, she never thought her fa­ther would share the spot­light with the sec­ond man Peck calls Dad.

"It was the best gift that my fa­ther could have ever given me," said Peck, of Elyria, Ohio. "It was a dream of mine, and when it came true, it was so awe­some." "Him show­ing every­one and me how he could just be so hum­ble and put all their dif­fer­ences aside meant the ab­so­lute world to me," she added. The mo­ment brought joy and in­spi­ra­tion to mil­lions as the story and pho­tos went vi­ral. It was a nice re­minder of how im­por­tant it is to be in­clu­sive on your wed­ding day, said Darcy Miller, edi­tor at large of Martha Ste­wart Wed­dings.

Bride and groom

"It re­minds peo­ple again that it's a day to all be to­gether, and it's about two peo­ple get­ting mar­ried, and it's not about what­ever any­one's per­sonal pol­i­tics are," she said. Miller be­lieves most cou­ples in­clude step­par­ents in the wed­ding. While there is no set rule on how to do so, cou­ples should con­sider fam­ily re­la­tion­ships and dy­nam­ics to de­cide what feels right. "Some­times it might be pretty straight­for­ward, and other times it's very com­pli­cated," Miller said. "You, as a bride and groom, have to know your fam­ily pol­i­tics. It is your day, but it is also about your fam­ily and be­ing sen­si­tive to what works for every­one and mak­ing sure every­one feels in­cluded."

Eva Zim­mer­man, whose par­ents di­vorced when she was 4, grew up feel­ing as if she had two sets of par­ents af­ter her mom and dad re­mar­ried, and she gave her step­mother and step­fa­ther prom­i­nent roles in her wed­ding. Dur­ing her cer­e­mony on March 23, 2014, in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, her mother and step­mother walked down the aisle to­gether on the arm of her brother. Her step­fa­ther, who had long been a spir­i­tual guide in Zim­mer­man's life, helped cre­ate the cer­e­mony and served as the of­fi­ciant.

"I wanted to keep the tra­di­tion of hav­ing my dad walk me down the aisle, but I wanted my step­dad in­volved," she said. "My step­dad has been a huge sup­port of our re­la­tion­ship and also a huge sup­port of me in my life, and he just seemed like the per­fect fit to be an of­fi­ciant." A spe­cial mo­ment was walk­ing down the aisle with her dad to­ward her groom, Noah Schreck, with her step­fa­ther stand­ing at the al­tar. "It was re­ally, re­ally beau­ti­ful to walk down the aisle hold­ing my dad's arm and see­ing my hus­band with my step­dad," re­called Zim­mer­man, 31. "It was dream­like to have those men present for that mo­ment in my life." What­ever you de­cide, it's cru­cial - as with most ev­ery­thing in a wed­ding - to plan it ahead of time, and it's a good idea to com­mu­ni­cate your plans with every­one in­volved, par­ents and step­par­ents, so no­body's caught off guard on the al­ready emo­tional day.

"The goal is to not only avoid hard feel­ings but to avoid any ex­tra ten­sion on the wed­ding day it­self," Miller said. There are var­i­ous ways of ac­knowl­edg­ing a step­par­ent at your nup­tials. A step­fa­ther could walk a bride down the aisle with her dad if they all felt com­fort­able, like what ended up hap­pen­ing with Peck, or step­par­ents could be part of the pro­ces­sional. If they are not walk­ing down the aisle, you can give them a spe­cial role, like recit­ing a read­ing or prayer, Miller said. A step­par­ent's name can be in­cluded in the pro­gram with some words of thanks, or a step­mom can be ac­knowl­edged with a small nosegay or spe­cial flower, she said. You can give her a gift like an em­broi­dered hand­ker­chief, and in­clud­ing a note of ap­pre­ci­a­tion goes a long way.

There are even more sub­tle ways to make some­one feel con­nected to the big day. A step­mom could at­tend a dress fit­ting, per­haps when the bride's mother is not there; she could help bake a treat for the fa­vor or be in charge of bustling the gown, Miller says. A step­fa­ther could give a toast dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tion. Los Angeles wed­ding plan­ner Beth Helm­stet­ter says most cou­ples she works with in­clude a step­par­ent in the pro­ces­sional. For those who don't, they may set out a place card so the step­par­ents have a re­served seat for when their spouse sits down. She said cou­ples shouldn't feel ob­li­gated to treat step­par­ents ex­actly the same as a par­ent, but should ac­knowl­edge them if they have been a par­ent to you. Also, think of the fu­ture. "Keep in mind the de­ci­sion you make on your wed­ding day - hurt or non-hurt feel­ings will af­fect your re­la­tion­ship for a re­ally long time," said Helm­stet­ter. "I wouldn't do any­thing out of spite or to be hurt­ful. That's still your fam­ily." — AP

Big day

Zim­mer­man is walked to the al­tar by her fa­ther Michael Zim­mer­man dur­ing her wed­ding cer­e­mony in Berke­ley, Calif.

Zim­mer­man, left, and Noah Schreck, join hands as Eva's step­fa­ther Jack Shoe­maker of­fi­ci­ates their wed­ding cer­e­mony in Berke­ley, Calif.

Zim­mer­man, left, kisses her fa­ther Michael Zim­mer­man, as her step­fa­ther Jack Shoe­maker, the of­fi­ciant of the cer­e­mony, looks on in the back­ground.— AP pho­tos

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