Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Family Union Ceremony at The Giving Tree

"It has been said that adoption is more like a marriage than a birth: two (or more) individuals, each with their own unique mix of needs, patterns, and genetic history, coming together with love, hope, and commitment for a joint future. You become a family not because you share the same genes, but because you share love for each other."

-Joan McNamara
(Adoptive parent)


There are many kinds of family. There is the family you are born to. You don't get to chose them. You share blood and characteristics and personality traits with them. Sometimes that means you will have a wonderful relationship with them. Other times those shared personality traits lead to conflict and misunderstanding. Usually there's a combination of love and tension that defines a family.

And then there is your chosen family. Your chosen family members are the people you bring into your life intentionally and keep in your life because you find that you can love them unconditionally with your whole heart, often in the way that we wish we could love our blood family. We all have someone in our life who is a chosen family member that we can't imagine not being a part of our lives. I'm fortunate to have a very large chosen family. There have been many times in my life that I have leaned on chosen family members for the support that I needed that simply wasn't available from my blood family. I have no doubt that the ties to my chosen family are every bit as strong as the connections I have with my blood relatives. Blood ties are never a requirement for family, only love is.

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On Thursday, January 6, I was fortunate enough to be invited to The Giving Tree to document another union ceremony. This time there would be two sisters adopted into a family that already had four children, making them a family of eight at the end of the day! This was to be a happy and boisterous celebration.

First, there was pizza for lunch.

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There were balloons to play with.

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Grandma and Grandpa were there. So were lots of cameras.

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Then it was time to sign the papers to make everything official.

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And then it was time for the ceremony. The candles were laid out on the table. A special poem had been chosen for reading.

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Everyone gathered in a circle and joined hands. Prayers were said for the new family. The poem was read. There were a few tears of happiness.

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And then it was time to light the symbolic unity candle. Today a new family was born.

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It was an honor to be present for such an amazing event. I want to thank everyone at The Giving Tree for inviting me to be involved. I also want to wish this large and happy new family a lifetime of love and happiness. Thank you for letting us be a part of your special day.

I would also like to extend a very special Thank You to Mark Tioxon, the 'Mark' of LeahAndMark.com, for accompanying me on this special day. We had made other plans for this day, but when The Giving Tree notified me of the ceremony, he very generously agreed to donate his time and energy and camera as well. I was very glad to have him there when I arrived and realized what a big family we would be photographing. All of the images that you see here that aren't watermarked are his. Like this awesome last photo.

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If you enjoyed these photos, you can see another family unity ceremony here.

Thanks again for visiting my blog. It's always good to have you here.


  1. Wow Amanda...what an amazing thing to be a part of. Your post is beautifully written, and the photos are amazing (as always!) Thanks for sharing...and for being part of my chosen family!!

  2. I don't know how well I'd do at one of these ceremonies.....I think I'd cry through the whole thing.

    The comments about what makes a family couldn't have been said better.

    Love this!