Most of the people I know have had to build or prune or reshape their families. From the simple and traditional (marriage is the classic way to claim a new person as a family member; adoption another) to more intense and unusual, most of us claim family members who aren't related to us by blood or marriage, and many of us have cut bonds with people who are related in those traditional methods. Some of my friends were expelled from their circles of kinship for reasons of religion or sexuality.
Since I'm gearing up for my wedding, family is on my mind. One of the major reasons my partner and I are marrying is to help him adopt my daughter. He's the only father she's ever known and we understand that we need to protect their special relationship. Our marriage is the first step toward taking better care of our family.
And of course having a wedding means inviting friends and family to be a part of the ritual. Sometimes it's hard to know where "friend" ends and "family" begins, especially in families where relationships are sometimes strained. Or where friends are exceptionally closely bonded!
I'm lucky to have so many wonderful people joining me to celebrate the new direction my family is taking. I know there have been times in my life where I've dreamed of moving away and starting fresh, with no ties, floating like dandelion fluff along the wind. But there is a pleasant weight to family, no matter the bad memories, the difficult times, and the hard choices. I'm glad I've chosen to keep them.