I looked down at the adorable little misshapen clay family.
Me. My fiance. His son and daughter. And a zombie.
Replicas of all five of us, lovingly crafted by little hands, ready to be packed up and brought along this weekend.
The wedding is happening. And these little guys are going to be our cake toppers.
My stepdaughter-to-be had asked to make them, and my fiance and I readily agreed. Her brother made himself, and she made the rest of us.
Then my almost-stepson threw a curveball. He asked if his clay figure could be holding a sword — and attacking a zombie.
A zombie? That didn’t quite jive with the quaint woodland theme we had going.
I thought about it.
“Well, the cake itself isn’t that big, buddy. It’d be tough to fit five of us on top of it,” I told him.
But it was his idea, and I wanted to make it work.
Normally, I guess, when you plan a wedding, you focus on the bride and groom. (It’s complicated enough with just two!)
But in our case, we’ve had four people to consider.
It’s been important to my fiance and me, that we involve his kids in the wedding — and not just the day of. We’ve tried to incorporate their ideas and get their help on projects all along the planning process, too.
Picking out the family photos to decorate the venue with.
Stamping the personalized water bottle labels.
Designing the puzzle activity for guests.
Shopping for my almost-stepdaughter’s “high heel” shoes. (They’re about half an inch tall, but that’s a big deal for a 6-year-old.)
And there was that time my almost-stepson found a thrift-store bracelet that he thought I could wear for the wedding, because it’s my favorite color; it didn’t match my dress, but it was so sweet of him, I decided to at least wear it for the rehearsal dinner.
We want them to feel a part of everything. Because, really, they are a part of everything. A huge part.
Yes, I’m marrying their dad. But I’m also becoming their stepmom. And personally, I want them to remember this day as a good day.
I know this weekend isn’t the single defining moment of my relationship with them; that relationship has been defined throughout the past two years, and continues to be defined every single day. I realize the wedding is really just another day.
But to me, this is the official beginning of our life as a family. And I want that to be something they can look back on and be excited about — “Remember the day Em and Dad got married?!” — rather than, “Oh, yeah, that boring day.”
We want them to feel like this is about us as a family, not just me and my fiance as a couple — and if having a zombie cake topper would help Joe feel included, it was worth finding a way to make it work.
So after a minute, I thought of something. “The cake is two tiers. What if we put you and the zombie on the first tier instead of the top, in your own separate scene?”
He approved, and added a sword to his clay self’s hand, and crafted the zombie.
And this weekend, all five of us will be on that cake, as we (hopefully just four of us, I’m OK without the zombie in real life) kick off the official beginning of our family story.