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Blending Your Brood

Photos By

Photos By: 
Nonpareil Photography
Follow these tips from this been-there, done-that newlywed couple whose wedding seamlessly melded mom, stepdad, and sons into one happy family

Ashley Nester & Frank Walkowiak

Summer 2015, Folly Beach

 

When Pennsylvania native Ashley Nester vacationed in Charleston as a little girl, she dreamed ever after of a wedding here. So after Frank Walkowiak’s proposal, the two easily agreed that their families needed to convene here for the festivities. Also on board? Ashley’s three sons—Mason, 6, and twins Jax and Jude, 4—from her first marriage. “The boys enjoy life in two houses,” says Ashley, “with us and also with their father who lives very close to us. In that household there are two other children, so they experience life with us (where they tend to be the center of focus) and life with other children (where they’re learning to give and receive love from other new family members). Blended families can truly be a remarkable thing when you think about how much love and experience the children will enter the world with when they reach adulthood.” Given she—and Frank—shared such rich insight, we asked them for advice on blending a family together successfully on the Big Day.

 

Charleston Weddings: How did you cultivate a relationship between Frank and the boys before the wedding?
Ashley:
Because we were good friends before we ever dated, Frank had lots of opportunities to interact with my sons. And when we did start dating, we took things slow and ensured they didn’t see us being affectionate toward each other. It was important to me that they get to know him as a friend to them and not an extension of my personal life. Gradually, he took on a more significant role in their life through things like coming to help at doctor appointments, which solidified for the boys that he wasn’t just a friend, but someone who could be counted on.

CW: Why choose a beach ceremony?
Ashley:
Although we would’ve loved to get married in downtown Charleston, we knew our three small boys would be more engaged and have a better time at the beach. It was a great way to get them involved and build excitement about the Big Day.

CW: What sort of one-on-one time did you have with the boys leading up to the vows?
Ashley:
Because we were in the beach house for days prior to the wedding, we each made sure to have special time with all of the boys.

CW: What were their various roles during the wedding?
Frank:
Mason carried the rings in a treasure box and took his job very seriously. The J’s (that’s what we call them) painted a “Here Comes Our Mommy” sign and on the back were two pouches for our vows, each of which were wrapped in treasure maps. The boys loved the fun spin on everything and it really helped get them involved in the day.

CW: Where did they sit during the ceremony?
Ashley:
Regardless of where we wanted them to sit, we knew there would be no keeping them away from my parents, so we made sure there were seats for all of them up front.

CW: You took family portraits before your couple portraits. What that intentional?
Frank:
It was absolutely intentional. Little kids don’t have a long attention span and we knew they’d want to play after the ceremony. Plus, little boys aren’t known for keeping their clothes in good shape.

CW: Any tips on how you all have been melding as a family since the wedding?
Ashley:
Blended families can be hard, sure, but if you take the time to appreciate each other’s unique qualities and what each person adds to the family, love always wins in the end. We have found that individual time with each child is paramount, so we make arrangements for individual date nights where my parents will watch one of them and Frank and I will split up the others. Then, all three rotate on an upcoming day. Each one gets individual time with their grandparents and individual time with each of us.

 

INSIDER IDEA:

To find great beach rental homes and other seaside reception location options click here. Also? Know that permits are required to wed on most Charleston beaches. Visit each city’s wedding permit pages for details.

 

Vendor List
Images: Nonpareil Photography, www.NonpareilPhotography.com
Venue: Fred Holland Realty, www.FredHollandRealty.com
Beach: Folly Beach, www.follybeach.com/folly-beach-marriage-licenses-and-permits/
Bride’s gown: J&B Bridals & Formals, www.JBBridals.com
Beauty: DIY
Groom’s attire: Calvin Klein, www.CalvinKlein.com
Boys’ attire: The Children’s Place, www.ChildrensPlace.com (pants, shirts); Etsy (suspenders, bow ties)