Everyone has attended at least one wedding ceremony in their lives. It is a beautiful moment full of joyful excitement. But as you silence your phone and settle into your seat, everything gets quiet, and a prolonged wait begins. That’s when you realize, ever so confidentially, there is probably someplace else you would rather be. This was not the case at Katie and Jeremy’s wedding!
Guests in attendance witnessed an unforgettable ceremony. Thanks to a noble expression from the bride, the vows she shared left the entire wedding party sobbing and guests in awe. On September 23, 2017, the bride and groom stood together in front of everyone to share the most wonderful day of their lives. Family, friends, and loved ones filled the Pennsylvania church. Included was an unlikely guest. Most brides do not invite the groom’s former partner, but Katie did.
At the Altar
On that day, Katie from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, walked down the aisle past adoring eyes to meet 23-year-old Jeremy Musser. He waited at the altar as her lovely figure adorned in white approached. The loving young couple had known each other for almost four years. When Katie, 24 at the time, readied herself to say her vows, she veered off-script. Turning from her groom and facing the congregation, her request caught him by surprise. In fact, everyone in the room was surprised.
Addressing the sea of guests, Katie spoke directly to her groom’s ex-girlfriend and asked her to come up to the altar with the rest of the wedding party. The two women had not always had a congenial relationship, so guests held their breath as the spectacle ostensibly unraveled.
Katie & Jeremy
Katie met Jeremy in college. It was 2013 when the two lovebirds began dating. They were young and enamored with each other; everything was fresh and new. Katie was unaware of significant details of Jeremy’s past, and even less aware of the major effects it would have on their relationship.
For just over a month, as they went on their first dates and talked and texted constantly, Jeremy had not mentioned an important fact about himself that would forever impact their relationship. Once he came out with the information, it would send Katie into a tailspin of questions and concerns.
Jeremy Reveals the Truth
As the young couple were getting to know each other, thinking about each other all day long, spending uncounted time absorbed in late night texts, they talked about everything. Except for one thing.
Six weeks of romancing and sharing intimate details about each other had missed an important detail, that is, until one night of back and forth texting, when Jeremy typed in four words that would change Katie’s life as she knew it. ‘I have a son,’ he told Katie.
Shocked, Katie did not know how to respond. Her mind spun in every direction trying to absorb this new reality, a reality that changed everything. If she dreamed of being a bride, with this new bit of information, she was already a mother, a stepmother. It was too much to process. Finally, when she gathered her thoughts and emotions, she asked Jeremy how old his child was.
Katie could only guess the child must be around two years old. That would mean that the relationship had ended awhile ago. She was trying to make sense of this revelation. But when he told her the actual age of the boy, it left her spinning once again.
‘His name is Landon and he is three weeks old’
Katie read and reread the text while her mind rushed to unscramble the meaning. The details kept coming. Jeremy told her the baby was born on April 28. Thinking back just three weeks, half-way into her new relationship with Jeremy, Katie searched for clues of this significant life event in their frequent conversations.
How could he have kept this from her? Who was this person? Katie’s thoughts spiraled.What could she say? She had to say something. But what? And how should she say it? Finally, the words came out...
A Life-Altering Moment
This was the last thing she expected to be texting to her new romantic partner. Obviously, when love is newly forming, we learn surprising details, some good, some not-so-good. But this was beyond finding out your love is vegan and Republican when you’re neither. This is a life-altering fact - if the relationship is to go anywhere. She collected herself and went on with the text. It was the only response she could manage to get out. “Omg that’s so exciting!”
In return came information about the mother, about his ex-girlfriend, about the person who would be entangled in her life forever. Jeremy knew this was a touchy situation, so he tried to be as open about it as possible. He said they had broken up a while ago.
The Whole Story
Her name is Casey, Jeremy explained. He went on to say that Casey, who is from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is the mother of his child, but the two of them had definitely split up before he met Katie. Katie thought to herself, ‘Jeremy is a father.’ He is already a father. The truth was sinking in. She would never share the moment when he becomes a new dad as they welcome their first child.
She was panicking. Three weeks ago, her new friend became a daddy, and she did not know. She had just fallen in love with Jeremy, and now this. “I constantly asked what I am missing? What else don’t I know?” Katie recalled those days. The trust she had with him had been shattered. The couple would struggle through this. At last, on their wedding day, Katie would find the words to make everything all right.
Life with Landon
Katie realized that the birth of Jeremy’s son had changed him. Things were not the same. “There was a constant battle and fight,” Katie recalled. On top of that, co-parenting with Casey was not going well. Jeremy and Casey fought a lot. The tension spilled over into Katie and Jeremy’s relationship.
Things were rough on Casey’s end. As a new, young mother - stuck in the position of having to deal with the father, her ex, who was happily in love with someone else - it was not easy to contain her emotions. She was hurt and overwhelmed and burdened with new responsibilities. She didn’t always say the right things or do the nice things. And Katie returned fire. It was a tense situation. Extraordinarily, the three of them beautifully resolved it on Katie and Jeremy’s wedding day.
Off to a Rocky Start
The two young women clashed right off the bat. According to Casey, “Our relationship started out very rocky. The rumors fly and things were said, and we did not like each other.” She added, “But we didn’t have a reason.” They simply disliked each other. They both judged the other harshly, spreading rumors and lies, and were generally unkind.
Katie felt resentful. Most ex-girlfriends just go away and you never hear from them again, but this one was here for the long-haul. Added to that, Casey’s parenting bond with Jeremy would continue indefinitely. There was one more connection both women would always share...
Katie and Casey's Love in Common
Between the two young women, there was a tiny spark of love. Little Landon. Katie had known the boy since he was just a few weeks old. Every day she grew more and more attached to the sweet child. Her role as Jeremy’s son’s girlfriend was changing her. Loving and caring for Landon felt like loving her own son.
Katie’s love for Landon inspired a life-changing experience that led to those touching yet unconventional vows. The new and very special relationship caused a sea of change in Katie’s heart, a realization that she needed to change her thinking to create a better life for her and Jeremy. She realized the toxic relationship she had with Casey would forever poison her relationship with Jeremy if she didn’t do something about it.
The Tension Was Rising
As much as she was growing attached to Landon, the fact remained that ever since Jeremy admitted he had been hiding the birth of his son, her trust in him had suffered a blow. The revelation engendered doubts in Jeremy and inflamed animosity toward Casey. The negativity was stalking her well-being, and she didn’t like the direction it was leading her. It got so bad that she woke up one day with a stark realization. “I truly hate who I have become,” she thought, recalling the feeling with a Facebook post some years later.
Landon’s first birthday was rapidly approaching. Meanwhile, Katie had been envisioning the child and Jeremy in her life on a long-term basis. She felt she had to do something to end the distrust and anger she harbored in her heart ever since their relationship hit that bump. As celebration plans for Landon’s big day neared and thoughts of birthdays and celebrations for years to come preoccupied her, Katie was moved to take action.
‘I Cannot Be This Person’
It seemed momentous, important. The party for Landon’s first birthday was almost upon them, and Katie was thinking about the precedent that special day would make and how it would shape the rest to come. It was a defining point of the relationship between all involved. She couldn’t take the pressure any longer and knew something must be done. Frustrated, she thought to herself, ‘I cannot be this person any longer!’ She took action.
The moment weighed heavily on her mind. She desperately wanted to be a good example for Landon. With his language skills starting to take shape, she was thinking. Did she want his first words to mimic the toxicity between his mom and herself? Katie considered everyone’s happiness when she made an odd request. She asked Jeremy for Casey’s mobile number.
Making the Call
Katie gathered her courage and called her rival. It was with anxious trepidation she dialed Casey’s number. At first, Casey wasn’t responding. Things were tense. Finally, Casey agreed to talk with Katie. The women met, face to face, and the conversation took some unexpected turns. Katie told Landon’s mom what was on her mind.
Realizing Casey might not be open to all she hoped for, she did not expect to win her trust immediately. The two young women centered their initial conversations on Landon, sharing their mutual adoration of the little guy. Katie told Casey that she felt like a stepmom to the boy, even if she only saw him on weekends. She said she really cared for him, and that even if she wasn’t his main caregiver, she had bonded with him. Soon enough, the conversation between the two went into a surprising new direction.
A Budding Friendship
Things were going well! The two girls were sharing their lives and getting to know each other. “We bonded on so many more levels than just Landon,” Casey said. “And we realized we had more in common than we didn’t.” Surprised, she added, “At the time, I thought we would be able to be cordial and co-parent.” Not expecting any more than that, both women were amazed to see where the friendship took them.
As time went on, Katie and Casey became closer and closer. They began to plan time together, just the two of them. Soon, they called their frequent meetups “mommy dates,” and when they met, they would discuss everything. They were becoming best friends. As they became closer, another person would come into the picture and change things up a bit.
A New Man
An unexpected twist to the dynamic came into play after Casey met Tyler Bender. The two married in 2015. While the women were getting along swimmingly, against all odds, a new source of tension popped up with Tyler joining the mix. Katie welcomed Tyler and got along with him just fine. But it was not the same for Landon’s dad. Jeremy and Tyler did not hit it off well.
It seemed that Tyler’s willingness to step in as a parent was not appreciated by Jeremy. He had trouble accepting Tyler into Landon’s life. Yet, the girls had hope. They had managed to get along very well, so perhaps the men could too. Katie was caught off guard one night when Jeremy texted a message to Tyler.
Following Katie's Good Example
Jeremy contacted Tyler. He sent an honorable message. Jeremy thanked Tyler for stepping up to the plate with Landon. He told him he appreciated him being there for his son, especially given the distance of the current living situation. He wanted to let Tyler know that he respects his parenting efforts and that he sees Tyler as another “dad” for Landon. It seemed like Jeremy was following in his girlfriend's footsteps. Especially when he went a step further.
Jeremy suggested the two go out for a drink sometime. Tyler was prepared to be civil, but going on a “daddy date” was a little more than he bargained for. Ultimately, the two young men did not develop a friendship like the girls shared, but that didn’t mean they did not develop a mutually respectful relationship for the sake of Landon.
Katie and Jeremy's Engagement
The special day arrived! Jeremy proposed to Katie. Through the years, the couple grew closer together around Landon, and their love for each other was thriving. Their bond was strong. They set the date for September 23, 2017. The newly engaged couple decided to compose their own vows. It was a beautiful idea, but Katie soon realized writing her vows was more difficult than she thought it would be. She found herself grappling with the task. Something was not quite right.
When she put into place the missing piece, she realized it was essential, yet, very unconventional. Would she have the courage to go through with such an uncommon plan? Would people understand her gesture? It was nerve-racking. For weeks, she wavered back and forth, but finally, determined to go through with her plan, she prepared herself for the day.
The Day of the Wedding
Katie glowed. In full bridal attire, dressed in white, she prepared to take the steps down the aisle that led to her life with Jeremy. She was also preparing mentally for what she needed to say. She held a bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers, similar to the floral bunches her bridesmaids held. Additionally, each wore a beaded bracelet that Katie had offered as a gift. Jeremy, handsome and proud, stood at the altar waiting for her.
The bridesmaids and groomsmen flanked Jeremy on either side. Guests filled the room sitting in chairs. Even Casey and Tyler were present. Katie readied her nerves and drew a breath of composure, fighting off nervous tears, thinking about the vows she would say.
A Surprising Ceremony
The ceremony commenced. Excitement rippled through the room. Soft gasps of awe greeted Katie as she glided down the aisle. It was a perfect day. As Katie stood facing Jeremy, the time for the exchange of vows was nearing. Katie would say hers first. She had not told anyone her plans to rewrite the marriage contract, not even Jeremy! So, she pulled out her notes, took a deep breath, and made her vow.
But first she surprised everyone by turning to the guests and asking Jeremy’s ex-girlfriend, Casey, and her husband Tyler to stand. Sounds of awkward fidgeting in chairs greeted the couple as they stood. What was going on? No one knew.
With microphone in hand, Katie began. “First I want to thank you for accepting me as your friend and allowing me to be a part of Landon’s life.”
“I promise to be an amazing mother to your son. I will guide, teach, and love him every single day,” Katie professed. She went on, “I promise to respect, work, listen, and communicate together as co-parents. I love you guys no matter what comes our way. We are one family, always.” The room exhaled in adoration, but what was coming would leave not an eye dry.
Turning on the Water Works
The bride, visibly absorbed in emotion, did something else that surprised everyone. She called Landon up to the altar. Redirecting her special day to the child, she kneeled down, meeting the four-year-old at eye level. To the boy who would now be her stepson, she vowed, “I promise to stand by you, listen to you and love you every day. I promise to love daddy with all my heart,” she said.
By now the groom was overcome, his face wet with tears. Katie gave Landon a big hug and said, “I’m so happy that I now officially get to be your bonus mommy.” Standing to rise, she turned to exchange vows with the man she loves. The wedding concluded traditionally with Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Musser introduced to all as newlyweds.
Katie Shares Her Inspiration
Many people marry into a blended family, but very few people work to make sure the family blends nicely. For Katie, it was very important that the commitment she was making for the rest of her life be done right. Well before she approached that altar, Katie had considered how to go about recognizing the bonds that were being forged with her marriage to Jeremy.
It started with her friendship with Casey. Though unlikely, it became the instrument of her act of devotion. Beyond that friendship was an even deeper connection. For four years, as Landon grew, Katie struggled with the blended situation as a young girl facing adulthood. A driving force in her understanding of life was Landon. She said he is “the beat to our heart. The little guy who not only changed our routines and norms, but he changed us. Giving us patience, understanding, and love.”
Katie Welcomed Casey with Open Arms
Katie went out of her way to include her close friend in the wedding ceremony. Just like all the bridesmaids, Casey received a special bracelet from Katie, a gift that showed the importance of the friendship. But Katie went a step further. It was Casey, not Jeremy, who received the “first look.” Traditionally the bride looks first to her groom. Katie looked to Casey and then to Jeremy.
The reason she did that was Katie’s way of expressing how much she appreciates the friendship. She said, “Casey and Landon. . . saved me.” Going on about the two, “They opened me up to so many situations. I could never show them how much it means to me.” She described the way Casey was always there for her. Casey and Tyler had a similar effect on her coming of age experience. “I truly love Casey and Tyler. They saved me when I needed it most without realizing. They made me grow up and they truly showed me what love meant,” Katie explained.
A Wonderful Wedding Celebration
The emotion from the ceremony spilled over into the reception room. The goodness Katie engendered infected everyone, and the celebrating went into the night. Dancing, laughing, and toasting the happy couple went on and on. At some point, Jeremy expressed his appreciation. He told Katie that the blended family as they knew it could never have happened without her persistence and Casey’s acceptance. He was full of gratitude.
Casey was overwhelmed by the way Katie included her in the ceremony. She was shocked. The two of them were best friends by then. Casey expressed her gratitude as well. Having Katie as a best friend taught her as many lessons. Casey said, “I was blindsided by the whole thing, but looking back, Katie is that type of person. She loves to love and shows it to you by any means necessary.”
The Story Went Viral
On their first wedding anniversary, Katie posted pictures, videos, and memories to Facebook. She documented highlights from the extraordinarily touching wedding ceremony. A video of Katie on her knee vowing to Landon was included. She also shared her thoughts. Needless to say, the post went viral. People all over Facebook fell in love with her sentimental expression and her selfless act of kindness.
She retold the story of the day. In sharing the memory, Katie urged others to communicate and go the extra mile to make co-parenting a success story in their lives too. She emphasized the need for children to have and know respect from everyone. To find out how the Benders and the Mussers are doing today, read on.
A Loving Friendship
Katie Musser and Casey Bender have remained close. Their mother/stepmom relationship is unique, no doubt. But Katie and Casey agree that it is not necessary to be best friends to co-parent the way they do. They say it is just necessary to put the child’s interests first.
The families live three hours apart, so it has been up to the women to arrange visitations and schedule time together with Landon. And now Landon has a brother. Casey and Tyler welcomed a son into the family. The two families hope to take a group vacation and spend some quality time together. Landon’s father and stepdad have also moved forward in friendship.
About That Drink...
Tyler Bender and Jeremy Musser clashed at first. They did not welcome each other into the mix with open arms. They were able to stay cordial after some time, but a strong friendship did not develop. Things changed with the emotional wedding celebration. That very evening, Tyler offered Jeremy a gesture of acceptance.
Things were wrapping up at the wedding reception. That’s when Tyler approached Jeremy. He wished him well as a married man and said his goodbyes. As he reached out to shake hands, Tyler told Jeremy that they should definitely go out and have that drink. Jeremy respected the gesture. It hit him hard later, Katie said. She shared with TODAY, “Jeremy told me that it would’ve never got to that point if Casey or I didn’t fight as hard as we did.” Adding, “We finally made it.”
The Growing Bender Family
With his daddy’s marriage, Landon gained an extra pair of parents and two loving homes. He was very lucky to have caring co-parents with excellent communication skills. Not only that, but in 2017, he also gained a new brother. Little Jax Tyler was born. Casey and Tyler welcomed their new son and made sure to include Jeremy and Katie.
The Benders invited them for a family portrait sitting. While Casey was pregnant with Jax, all five of them had a family portrait taken. This is one more reason Katie is so thankful. “Everyone facing custody problems, acceptance, understanding, relationship problems, etc. We get it. Not everyone gets the luxury of having a relationship like we formed,” she told the Daily Mail. She offered them this message: “It’s possible to get along, communicate, and give the same rules/love/respect on both sides for your child/children. Go against the norm BE that CHANGE.”
Landon and his baby brother, Jax Tyler, have grown very close. They love playing together, reading books, wearing matching pajamas, or rolling around like puppies. Perhaps Landon learned lessons of love by examples his two sets of parents showed him. Casey is very proud of her young sons and loves to share their loving moments on social media.
Their father, Tyler, joins the boys and helps them develop the special bond as brothers. Though Landon is off with his other parents sometimes, Casey and Tyler make sure the brothers have plenty of time together. When Landon is away, it just makes the bond that much stronger when he comes home to his baby brother.
At Daddy and Bonus Mommy's Place
Landon loves spending time at his daddy and stepmom’s house. As always, he misses Jax, but time with his other parents is so much fun. Of course, Katie has wonderful things planned each time he visits. He loves seeing the family kitty, and he loves when his stepmom sets up art projects. Sometimes the kitty gets involved with the art projects. He has a blast.
Katie treats him like her own son. She plans activities for the three of them. Summer is fun because they have more time to hang out at the beach. The three of them have a strong family bond.
Katie's Message Continues to Resonate
Katie continues to get positive feedback on Facebook. Her message touched many people’s lives when it went viral. The response she gets reinforces her own determination to support positive awareness about the importance of good communication in blended families.
People from around the world reached out to share their appreciation. One person wrote, “We need more Katies in this world & I hope your story finds its way to more people (like me) that need to hear it.” Sentiments like these touch Katie deeply. It makes her feel good about doing the right thing when it comes to co-parenting.
Katie's Husband is Also Active on Social Media
Jeremy is just as supportive of Katie's cause as she is. Whenever he gets a chance, he shares the amazing story with others. He makes sure to commend Katie and Casey for their commitment to the family unit.
He says, “I always knew that they changed me, but now I know they can change the world.” Aww! Jeremy’s faith in sharing the example the two women set is clear. He wants to help others embrace co-parenting too, even when it seems impossible. He tells his followers that a strong family unit is possible and that the parents can create the environment. It’s important for the children involved, he insists.
This picture of Casey and Jeremy dancing at the wedding reception touched many Facebook fans. They were in awe over the way Landon’s parents could get along so happily. Even though they split up and went their separate ways, they were still civil. One person commented, “You don’t see this! I wish every segregated couple could be like this.”
It was all thanks to Katie, the then-new girlfriend. Katie decided to change the dynamic of that relationship years before she married into it. Those on Facebook were also impressed that Landon has so many positive influences in his life. It teaches him that people can get along despite their differences. But it taught him something else too.
Lessons of Respect
Katie and Jeremy felt like they needed one very important blessing before they tied the knot. Both of them were not comfortable getting married without Landon’s approval. They wanted to ask him how he felt about it and win his support. He gave them an unequivocal, “YES!”. Katie gave Landon a central role in the wedding ceremony. She surprised everyone in attendance when she kneeled down to speak to him at the altar. But she went a step further. She made sure to include him in every step of her relationship with Jeremy and in forming their family bond.
She made sure he knew he was loved by not just one set of parents, but two. Preparing for the big day, Katie wrote, “It’s a different situation than other kids, but he has not 2 families, but one big family that loves him more than anything. He’s gonna be the “bestest” man in our wedding because he is # 1 in our hearts.” Katie and Jeremy continue to share their words of wisdom on Facebook.