Because of its significance as a positive tool for supporting healthy families, the Family Medallion® presentation has been featured in a variety of major publications and television documentaries including Time Magazine, US News and World Report and 20/20. A 1999 documentary on divorce and remarriage in the United States by NHK Public Television of Japan focused on the importance of the Family Medallion® as a valuable resources for stepfamilies.
The Family Oriented Wedding
It’s Time Has Come Now that One in Three Marriages Involve Parents with Young Children
It was a giant step for Johnna Reeder, a divorced public relations executive focused on her rapidly rising career, to marry into a ready-made family – one that included two school-age children who needed lots of time and attention. But after three years of dating Kurt Kleymeyer, a 39-year-old financial services wholesaler, Johnna admits that her priorities shifted.
“Our dates did not consist of the fine restaurants and exciting theatre to which I had become accustomed,” explains 37-year-old Johnna. “The kids were part of our dating relationship from the start, so we did things like roller skating, seeing family films and other child-appropriate activities.”
This unusual courting ritual worked for the metropolitan Cincinnati couple. Johnna fell in love with both Kurt and his kids, 10-year-old Emma and seven-year-old Alex. So when the couple decided to marry, there was no question that Kurt’s children would be a central part of their wedding. However, Johnna wasn’t sure exactly how to make that happen. With the help of a local jeweler, she found the perfect answer to her dilemma: a simple and emotionally satisfying family service that gives children a meaningful role in the wedding celebration. This five-minute ceremony – known as the Family Medallion service – can easily be integrated into any religious or civil wedding ceremony. It differs from the traditional wedding in only one respect: After the newlyweds exchange rings, their children join them for a special service focusing on the family nature of a marriage. Each child is given a gold or silver Family Medallion (in the form of a pendant, ring, key ring or lapel pin) with three interlocking circles, a symbol that represents family love in much the same way the wedding ring signifies conjugal love.
The jeweler had used the Family Medallion and family wedding service in her own blended family wedding and enthusiastically recommended it to Johnna. Since she didn’t sell Family Medallion products in her shop, she gave Johnna the website address where she could get more information. “I checked it out,” Johnna recalls. “I loved the symbolism of the Family Medallion. And the wording of the family ceremony that accompanied it epitomized what was in my heart. I write for a living and I couldn’t have expressed any better the sentiments about the importance of children in blended families.”
Both Johnna and Kurt say they will never forget the special family service that was the highlight of their September 2009 wedding in the backyard of the home of Kurt’s father and stepmother. Just when everyone thought the wedding service was about to end, the minister announced that there would be a special ceremony during which Johnna and Kurt would formally promise to love and care for Emma and Alex. While the minister read the words of the ceremony aloud for the guests to hear, Johnna and Kurt gave the Family Medallions to their children. It was a tender moment, with a lot of hugging. “I was so surprised and excited,” recalls young Emma. “It made me happy that Dad and Johnna did something so special for me and Alex.”
For most of the guests at the Reeder/Kleymeyer wedding, the family service was the pinnacle of the day’s events. Many were touched to tears. “I can’t tell you how many people told me they had never before witnessed such a wonderful and unique ceremony for children,” Johnna says.
The family wedding concept is an idea whose time has come now that one in three new marriages involves single parents with children living in the home, according to the Stepfamily Association of America. The Family Medallion wedding ceremony was created by Dr. Roger Coleman, minister and president of Clergy Services, Inc., an organization in Kansas City, Missouri, devoted to developing family-oriented services for weddings and other important life events. Dr. Coleman was frustrated that virtually no religious or civil wedding ceremony acknowledged the existence of youngsters. “A marriage with children is a lot more than simply a union of a man and a woman. It is the merging of two separate families.”
Today, more than 15,000 couples annually – primarily in the U.S., Canada and Europe – use the Family Medallion ceremony to help strengthen the bond between parents, stepparents and children. Clergy and justices of the peace increasingly embrace Coleman’s family ceremony, integrating it into the weddings they perform. Some even caution couples not to underestimate the importance of recognizing during the wedding the young children either spouse brings to the marriage relationship. “When children aren’t included in a significant way, you can see the haunted look in their faces. You get the sense that they’re thinking my mom or dad just promised to love someone else forever. What about me?” says Pastor Brian Eastman, the minister who performed the family wedding for Johnna and Kurt. Eastman is pastor of the Revelation Spiritual Church of Christ in Cincinnati. “So many problems in adults can be traced to childhood and the belief that there’s not enough love go around. When this occurs, the child grows up with the sense that he or she is not entirely lovable, a belief affects virtually all aspects of one’s adult life.”
Johnna and Kurt believe that their decision to have a “family wedding” will strengthen their family bond for years to come. “My parents divorced when I was six years old,’ explains Kurt, the father of Emma and Alex. “Divorce is hard on kids. I wanted Emma and Alex to understand that they were not losing Johnna to me through marriage. I think the family wedding service did just that. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”
As far as fifth grader Emma is concerned, the family wedding meant she was gaining a step mom who loves her very much. She wears her Family Medallion ring everyday and proudly shows it to friends. “I tell them it means that all of us – Dad, Johnna, Alex and me – came together as a family.”
The Des Moines Register
Iowa Life section
A Wedding Ceremony for Combined Families
When Bob and Janie Galloway of Newton married in late November, their two sons from previous marriages were a big part of the celebration.
Bob's 12-year-old son, Robert "Bo," was the best man. Janie's 10-year-old son, James gave her away.
After the couple exchanged rings and vows, their attention turned to the boys. Janie placed a ring on Bo's left middle finger and hugged him. Bob did the same for Janie's son. The boys beamed with gratitude.
"You could tell from the look on their faces," said the Rev. Jim Black of Foursquare Church in Newton, who performed the ceremony. "They were radiant."
The rings bear a medallion with three interlocking circles which represent family union just as a wedding band symbolizes conjugal love. Children can see, touch, and feel the meaning behind the gift.
"It's simple enough that they grasp it," said the Rev. Roger Coleman of Pilgrim Chapel in Kansas City, MO who developed the concept in 1987. "It's a constant reminder of their significance."
The 5-minute ceremony known as the Family Medallion® service can be incorporated into any religious or civil wedding that involves children. It's gaining momentum as the number of stepfamilies in the nation continues to increase.
"Our goal is to assist parents in developing a ceremony that supports their new family relationships, said Coleman. "We try to provide the materials they need to support family commitments."
Twice As Nice
Their (encore bride and grooms) nuptials don't merely unite two souls but three or four or more. And that's a challenge. A solution is the Family Medallion®," a piece of jewelry created by Roger Coleman, a chaplain in Kansas City, MO. The medallions have three interlocking circles meant to symbolize the family's new love. They're often presented along with the wedding bands as part of the formal ceremony. "The medallions are one small way of reinforcing families and making children feel included," says Coleman. Some couples who have used the medallions at their betrothals report that their kids don't want to take them off.
U.S. News and World Report
When Strangers Become Family
Ultimately, the changes that will strengthen stepfamilies will likely come from shifts in cultural prejudices. Such change is slow, but there are some signs that some preliminary movement along this line is starting to take place. For instance, Roger Coleman, a clergyman in Kansas City, MO, performs marriage ceremonies specifically designed to include children when a parent remarries. In years of officiating second marriages, he says, he became acutely aware of the confusion and insecurities of the children, and the ceremony--which includes a special medallion worn by the child--aims to celebrate the "new family" and move the church beyond mere condemnation of divorce. This year, Coleman says, over 10,000 families across the country will use the medallion in their remarriage ceremony.
Woman Wise section
Triple Ring Ceremony
Preparing for her second wedding, Dawn DeMatteo of East Haven searched local jewelry stores to no avail for something she could present to her disabled son at the ceremony.
"Just being that the situation is so unique and that the three of us are so close, I wanted to do something special," she said. DeMatteo found her answer in a small advertisement for a family oriented wedding service.
"It brought the family into it and that's what marriage is all about," she said.
The service, created by Dr. Roger Coleman of Kansas City, MO-based Clergy Services, Inc. and a staff member of Pilgrim Chapel, a multi-faith religious center in Kansas City, acknowledges the importance of children in a marriage. The bride, groom and child recite vows and the child is presented a medallion with three rings representing the unity the marriage will form.
Coleman said he was inspired to include children in wedding ceremonies when he first started performing wedding services in Jackson County, Mo. in 1983. "Children would come with a great deal of excitement, but after the ceremony I would see a lot of negative behavior," Coleman said. "The children thought something exciting and important was going on, but nothing had included them. It made them feel confused."
To include children in the ceremony, Coleman, with the help of his friends, created a medallion that would include children in the wedding ceremony. Coleman said children felt more included in the ceremony when he started handing the medallions out and it became a moving part of the ceremony.
"I ended up developing a ceremony that ministers could use to recognize children," he said. "It encouraged and helped parents to talk to children prior to the actual ceremony and to discuss the importance of children in the marriage."
DeMatteo said the entire church was moved by the ceremony. "I can't explain the feeling, but it was very touching for us and everyone there," she said. "There wasn't a dry eye in the house."
Catholic periodical, The Tidings
When Kimberly Cavanaugh agreed to marry Tony Garcia, the 32-year-old realized that she was getting more than just a husband. "I was making a commitment to be a good stepmother to Christy and Travis." she says, referring to her fiancé's adolescent children from a previous marriage.
"I wanted to do something during the wedding to show the kids how important they were to me," she explains. "When I first started dating Tony, my friends told me that a man with two kids was carrying a lot of excess baggage. I think that's the way many children of divorce feel--like they're just excess baggage, something in the way, especially if one or both of their parents are dating. I had grown to love Christy and Travis during the three years it took Tony to get an annulment. Tony and I both wanted a wedding that somehow communicated to the kids that they weren't losing their dad, they were gaining a family."
An article in a bridal magazine supplied the answer the couple was seeking: information about a simple liturgical service that gives children a meaningful role in the wedding celebration. This five-minute ceremony--known as the "Family Medallion®" service--can be integrated into any religious wedding. It differs from the traditional Catholic wedding in only one respect: after the newlyweds exchange rings, their children join them on the altar for a special service focusing on the family nature of remarriage.
Mrs. Garcia says that no one will ever forget the moment during the wedding last summer when she and Tony placed a Family Medallion® around the necks of Christy and Travis. Tony, who isn't prone to displays of sentiment, agrees. "It was an emotionally powerful event," the 36-year-old father says. "We gave the kids something tangible to show them they were going to be an integral part of our lives. They were beaming. I could tell how happy they were."
Fourteen-year-old Travis still remembers the words about family love spoken by the priest who officiated at the wedding, "I thought, 'Wow, Dad and Kimberly really do want us to be a family.'"
Christy, 12, was also thrilled. "I felt so special when they gave me the family medal," she says. "Kimberly could have had an ordinary wedding like everyone else. But she went beyond the ordinary to make the wedding a day we would all remember. I realized how much she cared about Travis and me and that she really meant it when she said that she would always be there for us."
"It's a very positive service for all involved," says Msgr. John F. Barry. Msgr. Barry has used the Family Medallion® ceremony in several weddings including the Cavanaugh/Garcia wedding. "When there is a remarriage situation, it's critical that children from previous marriages be affirmed and welcomed into the new relationship created by their parent and stepparent. The Family Medallion® service is a good way to celebrate this new beginning," Msgr. Barry told The Tidings.
Do You Take This Family?
No one tallies how many weddings include children, but the Rev. Roger Coleman, an N.C. native who lives in Kansas City, Mo., sends out thousands of packets each year offering suggestions for such ceremonies.
"Marriage you can get in and out of pretty easily," he says. "Children you can't." Ideally the Family Medallion® ceremony helps children make a big transition. Sharon Walker, who remarried last summer, remembers how often her daughter Cristina, then 8, tried to talk her out of it. Cristina loved Walker's fiancé, Dave Walsh, but she still felt loyal to her father. She'd tell her mom it was too early to remarry.
During the wedding, Walker vowed to share the joys and responsibilities of parenthood, and Walsh vowed to accept those joys and duties. He gave Cristina a little necklace.
"Her eyes were as big as saucers, and you could tell it was making an impression," Walker recalls. Cristina never voiced another objection.
"She'll get the photo album out to show her friends and say, 'You want to see our wedding?'"