As a divorce lawyer I deal with people all day long who are at an end of their spousal relationships.

In our culture as a whole, we often see divorce as a bad thing. It is an end. It marks the failure of two people not being able to make it through to “the end.”

Because of what is seen as this failure, there are often divisions between the extended families.

In-laws, in the interest of supporting their biological family member, will want to make sure they are “backing the right horse.” This happens at the expense of their former daughter-in-law, former sister-in-law, or what have you.

What if we simply ditched those artificial divisions and expanded the meaning we have of what family means.

Rather than limit our definition of family to biological connections and connections made by marriage, there is an opportunity in our changing world to view family in a more inclusive way.

I had the honour to witness a really beautiful thing recently.

I was at a wedding. The wedding was beautiful.

But wait.

It gets better.

The bride, I will call her Cheryl, is in her late 40s, is 48 years old and this is her second marriage. Her and her groom are hopelessly in love and excited to have met each other. They are thrilled to share their future together. Cheryl’s now almost adult children attended the wedding. Her groom’s almost adult children attended the wedding too.

The setting was amazing. The mood was light and playful and full of love. The bride and groom were gorgeous. It was a true celebration.

But wait.

There is more.

Included in the attendance of guests were the usual suspects. There were friends, co-workers and family members all in attendance.

The people making up Cheryl’s family at her wedding were made up of what some would call her “ex” in-laws.

Only there was nothing “ex” about them.

In attendance was the entire, and I mean entire, family of Cheryl’s ex-husband. His elderly mother and father, divorced from each other for many years, were each in attendance. There was also the brother-in-law of the first husband, the sister of the first husband, and the nieces and nephews all related to her first husband.

Just because Cheryl and her first husband are no longer together does not mean that her heart stopped loving his family. It doesn’t mean that his family stopped loving her. His parents are still the grandparents to her children. His siblings are still the aunts and uncles to her children.

The grandmother said, “Cheryl is the mother of my grandchildren and I am here to support her on her special day.”

The grandfather said about Cheryl, “I love her. She has always been like a daughter to me.”

Cheryl and her groom acknowledged that their families had just gotten a lot bigger.

Rather than viewing her first marriage and family as broken or ended, Cheryl has chosen to embrace her first family and included these people in the next chapter of her life. They have continued to embrace her.img_5210

If only more families were like this. This wedding celebration was a day and experience that was truly about the heart, connection and love.