Creating a wedding guest list can turn out to be one of the most trying aspects of preparing for the big day. Inviting an ex partner of one of the spouses-to-be is usually a big no-no, but that wasn’t the case for bride-to-be Katie Musser. While some people would prefer to leave their partner’s past behind them, Musser would acknowledge it face-on on what was to be the happiest day of her life. Not only did she invite her groom’s former partner, but, at the altar, she would directly address the woman for an unconventional reason that wouldn’t leave a dry eye. Get the Kleenex ready for this one.
1. An Unusual Request at the Altar
When Pennsylvania couple Katie and Jeremy Musser stood at the altar on their September 2017 wedding day preparing to say their vows, their guests looked on expecting the typical, tearfully heartfelt addresses that nuptials usually guarantee. As the then 24-year-old bride began to speak, though, all those in attendance realized that this would be far from what they had expected.
Not only had Katie invited Jeremy’s ex girlfriend to the nuptials, but the bride was now asking her to stand up in front of the entire wedding party. Given the fact that the relationship between the two women had started out quite rocky, the unlikely path that led them to that unpredictable moment was all the more incredible. And, little did any of them know at the time, but the spectacle would eventually turn into a huge viral sensation.
2. How It All Started
Years before their wedding story would make headlines, Katie and Jeremy began their journey together under relatively conventional circumstances. The pair first met in college and began dating in 2013. It seemed the two fresh-faced co-eds were starting with a clean slate. Katie knew little of Jeremy’s past going in the relationship. But that’d soon change.
There was something major about Jeremy’s life that he hadn’t initially shared with Katie. A few weeks into their romance, however, he would reveal the truth that would forever impact their future life together. What Jeremy would eventually tell Katie would leave her repeatedly questioning her relationship for a significant period of time.
3. The Bombshell Reveal
About six weeks had passed since the young couple began their romance and everything seemed to be going swimmingly. One night, Katie and Jeremy were texting each other from their respective homes when Jeremy said something that completely threw Katie off guard. What had begun as an unassuming conversation would soon turn into a defining point in their relationship.
It was the type of daily back-and-forth couples regularly engage in these days, however this one would pose as a make it or break moment. It was then that Jeremy revealed to Katie that he had a child – a son. Katie was floored as she took in what he was saying, but as she learned more about her new boyfriend’s past, she became all the more shocked.
4. Thoughts Racing
Questions raced through Katie’s brain as she processed the information. She could hardly think straight with the information Jeremy had just divulged. Although not unheard of, it’s not every college student in their early 20s who has kids these days. Instead of saying something she’d later regret, however, Katie’s first reaction was to ask how old the boy was.
For some reason Katie had assumed the child was about two-years-old, which would mean Jeremy’s relationship with the child’s mother would have likely had sufficient time to settle. But the answer Katie received in return to her question about the child’s age left her dumbfounded.
5. The Three Week Gap
“His name is Landon and his is three weeks old,” Jeremy told Katie. “He was born on April 28 .” Katie sat in her apartment in utter shock as she took in what Jeremy had just said. As she processed this new tidbit a million new thoughts were going through her mind. She had known Jeremy for six weeks and he had a three-week old son.
That meant that not only had she not known that her boyfriend was expecting to become a father from the get-go, but she’d even been in the dark for three weeks after the baby’s birth. “Why didn’t he tell me? How do I react” she thought in the moment. She likely didn’t even expect the words that were about to come out of her mouth.
6. A Defining Moment
Such news would be quite a bombshell to receive in any blossoming romance. Although budding relationships are ripe for partners to discover new and surprising things about each other, this was quite a shock. Katie tried to calm herself as she thought of what to say to Jeremy in response.
Eventually she composed herself enough to write back, saying: “Omg that’s so exciting!” From there, Katie started to learn more about the backstory on the mother of Jeremy’s son. Still, she never could have guessed the role Jeremy’s previous girlfriend have in all of their lives. Additionally, given the events that were about to unfold, Katie’s actions at their future wedding would be all the more astonishing.
7. A Matter of Trust
Jeremy explained that he’d had his son with his ex-girlfriend, Casey Bender. His relationship with Casey had ended before Jeremy and Katie began dating. Nonetheless, Jeremy was still a father and there was no question that his son would forever be a driving force in his life.
While Katie didn’t want to give up on Jeremy she later admitted that she struggled, constantly questioning herself, overthinking and panicking. “I constantly asked what am I missing? What else don’t I know?” she recalled. Although she was deeply in love with him, she felt as if she couldn’t trust everything her boyfriend said. And the road ahead would be full of many challenges before it would come to a surprising moment of truth at their wedding.
8. A Baby Changes Everything
Katie noticed that Jeremy was different after Landon was born. “There was a constant battle and fight,” she observed. Co-parenting apparently came as a challenge for Jeremy and his ex Casey. Not only did Landon’s birth affect the dynamic between the two of them, but, of course, it also had an impact on Katie.
While Jeremy had moved on and found love again with Katie, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son, Casey, was very upset and hurt at the time. As expected in such a situation there were stories, rumors and judgement flying. The two women inevitably did not get along. Thing would go from bad to worse before they’d ultimately take an unexpected turn that’d come full circle while Katie and Jeremy were at the altar.
9. Persistent Differences
Katie admitted that there wasn’t a specific reason that she and Casey didn’t like each other but still, feuding seemed like the normal thing to do. The two women had each painted a picture of the other based on unfounded presumptions and bias, and the result did not make for a comfortable situation for any of them.
While many former partner can move on without retaining any form of contact or connection, Jeremy and Casey would always have the bond of their joint child in their lives. For months the struggle continued between Katie and Casey. But still there was one thing the two women had in common.
10. One Common Interest
Despite all of differences between Katie and Casey, there was still one aspect of their lives that they all had in common – Landon. Although their roles in the baby’s life were different, both woman had been there since he was a newborn.
For Katie, no matter how she felt toward Landon’s mother, she deeply loved the little boy as she did his father. And of course Landon was top priority for Casey as well. And it was because of Landon, that Katie would suddenly wake up one day realizing that she desperately needed to make a life change for her own sake and the sake of her relationship with Jeremy.
11. The Wake Up Call
Months into her relationship with Jeremy, all of Katie’s lingering doubts about her boyfriend and her animosity toward his ex, Casey had taken a toll on her. She recalled in a Facebook post years later that she woke up one day and thought, “I truly hate who I have become.”
She wanted to be able to trust Jeremy fully and didn’t want to stay in the rut of mistrust and loathing that had started when she first found out that Jeremy hadn’t been totally upfront about Landon. However, Katie wanted to move past that especially since she saw Jeremy and Landon in her life for the long term. At the time, Landon was about to have his first birthday when Katie would make a bold gesture.
12. ‘I Cannot Be This Person’
Landon’s first birthday would undoubtedly be a big life cycle event not only for the little boy, but for all of the adults in his life. It was ahead of that momentous event that Katie took a good look at Landon and her boyfriend Jeremy and thought, “I cannot be this person [anymore].”
She wanted to be a good example for Landon and put an end to the toxicity in their lives. With everyone’s happiness in mind, she asked Jeremy for Casey’s phone number. Katie then gathered her bearings and reached out to Casey. At first, Casey wasn’t ready to accept the gesture, but ultimately she agreed. The two finally spoke woman to woman, and the discussion went in a direction neither of them had expected.
13. A Brave Step
It wasn’t easy but Katie told Casey the truth about everything that was on her mind. She wasn’t expecting her full trust immediately. At first their discussions centered on Landon. Seeing that the little boy spent time with both women and that he was at the center of what connected them all, it was an obvious first topic.
Katie felt that although she hadn’t been there for Landon’s first step, potty training or his first dentist appointment, she did truly care for him as if he was her own son. As time passed, though, the conversation between Katie and Casey veered in another direction, one that neither of them had foreseen.
14. From Foes To Friends
“We bonded on so many more levels than just Landon. And we realized we had more in common than we didn’t,” Casey said. “At the time, I thought we would be able to be cordial and co-parent.” Never in a million years did they expect where this first point of contact would eventually lead them.
The two women continued to foster their relationship and only grew closer over time. They started meeting up for what they called “mommy dates” and talk about everything. Landon, their innermost personal thoughts, their relationships, they laid it all out to each other. As the two women bonded, another person would enter the picture who would again change the dynamic between them.
15. A Shift In The Dynamic
While many people in their situation wouldn’t have found the strength to put aside their differences, Katie and Casey had made the concerted effort to mend ties. However, tensions again mounted in 2015 when Casey married a man named Tyler. This time, though, it was the men in the equation who couldn’t see eye-to-eye.
Tyler willingly stepped-in to serve as a parental figure to little Landon as well, but he and Jeremy couldn’t forget the past. Seeing how far Katie and Casey had come, the women hoped their male partners could do likewise. One night, Jeremy ended up sending Tyler a message that shocked Katie.
16. A Civil Agreement
In essence, Jeremy thanked Tyler for being there for Landon and being the dad he couldn’t always be given the living situation. Jeremy told Tyler that he saw both of them as fathers to Landon. Apparently taking Katie and Casey’s example to heart, Jeremy then made one more gesture.
Jeremy ultimately invited Tyler for drinks. And although the two men were able to come to respect each other, they weren’t able to share a connection like their partners’. The two didn’t make additional plans and didn’t go for the drink together. With that in mind, what would soon play out at the wedding was all the more unexpected.
17. Headed To The Altar
In light of everything, Katie and Jeremy’s bond had only grown stronger over the years and the two eventually got engaged. The young couple set their wedding date for September 23, 2017. As the date approached, Katie was ecstatic that her, Jeremy and Landon would officially be family, but, still, she found herself struggling to write her vows. Something was missing.
She finally realized what that missing piece was and made a secret plan that would play out on the big day. She deliberated with herself for weeks before the wedding about whether she should go through with the undertaking. She was afraid of what people would think. Would they understand her reasoning? Would they think it was strange? What would they say? Only time would tell.
18. Wedding Day Nerves
The big day finally arrived. Katie was the spitting image of a perfect bride in white and Jeremy was dapper in his suit. Before she walked down the aisle, Katie prepared with her bridesmaids and gave them all matching bracelets to match the sunflower theme of their wedding.
When the time came, the bridal court took their positions as the wedding guests packed into their chairs. Perhaps it was a surprise to some, but Casey and Tyler were also present. As Katie prepared to take those long-anticipated steps down the aisle she found herself nervously holding back tears, knowing what she was about to do.
19. A Ceremony Of Surprises
The ceremony began beautifully, and the excitement in the air was electric. It then came time for Katie and Jeremy to exchange their vows. Katie was up first. With tears in her eyes she tried to collect herself as she took out her notes preparing to recite her promises. She hadn’t told Jeremy or anyone what she was about to do.
At that moment, the wedding officiant called for Jeremy’s ex, Casey, and her husband Tyler to stand. The couple stood up from their seats as everyone held their breaths and looked on in anticipation unsure of what was about to happen.
20. The Unexpected Address
To everyone’s amazement, Katie took the microphone and began to address Casey and her husband. “First I want to thank you for accepting me as your friend and allowing me to be a part of Landon’s life,” she began in her unique vows.
“I promise to be an amazing mother to your son. I will guide, teach and love him every single day,” she added. “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 brave bride wasn’t finished yet, however, and continued with another surprise that wouldn’t leave a dry eye in the room.
21. A Tear-Jerking Promise
With a voice shaking with emotion, Katie then called Landon over. On her special day, the bride then bent down to the level of her then four-year-old step-son and proceeded to read her “vows” to him. “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.
“I promise to be a best friend to mommy and your daddy Tyler. We will be one big family that I promise you will have for the rest of your life,” she continued as tears streamed down her nearby groom’s face. The entire wedding party was sniffling with emotion as Katie and Landon hugged. Katie then proceeded with her vows to groom Jeremy. After the wedding ended, Katie explained her reasoning behind her bold actions.
22. A Bold Heart Of Gold
Katie had thought long and hard about her altar surprise after she’d realized that she wasn’t just going into a marriage with Jeremy, but the whole blended family. She explained how, although unlikely at first, Casey had become one of her best friends. But the driving force for Katie, was actually someone else.
The past four years had been hard for Katie, but the bottom line was that it was all about Landon, whom Katie has described as: “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.” Surprisingly, the vows weren’t the only way in which Katie included Casey in her wedding.
23. Saving Grace
“Casey and Landon… saved me,” Katie said about her step-son and his mother. “They opened me up to so many situations. I could never show them how much it means to me.” Katie also admitted that her bond with Casey had only strengthened leading up to the wedding. Casey was always there for her, whether as a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to or just as a friend.
Therefore, to show her gratitude, Katie also gave Casey one of the same bracelets she’d given her bridesmaid. Additionally, Katie held a “first look” with Casey instead of in the traditional way – with bride and groom. But how did Jeremy and Casey feel about everything that’d transpired?
24. Blown Away
Weddings are always emotional, but this one seemed particularly so. After all the crying, dancing and celebrating, the night came to a close and Jeremy confided to Katie that the blended family never would have made it to that point without her and Casey’s persistence, and he was truly grateful for it all.
As for Casey, Katie recalled: “Casey wanted to kill me! She told me ‘Hey, a little warning would have been nice!’ And then we laughed.” In all seriousness, though, Casey also addressed Katie as her best friend and expressed her gratitude for her and all the lessons she’s taught Casey. Still, their story didn’t end there.
25. Going Viral
A year after Katie and Jeremy’s unforgettable wedding, Katie took to Facebook to publish an honest and emotional post about her journey. The post – which included photos and a video from the touching ceremony – went viral with viewers barely able to get through it with a dry eye.
What started as a retelling of her personal account, ended in a message for all those involved in co-parenting. Katie stated that while it isn’t possible for everyone, she wants her story to encourage everyone to communicate, go against the norm, and do whatever is necessary for the children to have love and respect on all sides. So where are they today?
26. A Beautiful Success Story
Nowadays, Katie Musser and Casey Bender are still great friends. And although the couples live about three hours apart, they still coordinate visitation schedules, though primarily through the women. Casey has since had another child and the two couples hope to one day go on vacation together.
“I know at the end of the day that Katie loves Landon just as much as I do and as a mother, you can’t ask for anything more,” Casey told TODAY. When everything has been said and done, both Katie and Casey are in agreement that while being best friends isn’t necessary to be good co-parents or step-parents, putting the child’s best interests first is. What’s more, it seems like the two father figures in Landon’s life have also come to a a positive understanding.
27. They Finally Got That Drink
While Tyler and Jeremy initially struggled to strike up a meaningful friendship and take after Katie and Casey’s bold example, things changed for the better after the emotional wedding ceremony. The same night of the wedding, Tyler had his own proposal to make to Jeremy.
When the wedding reception was coming to a close, Tyler approached Jeremy to say goodbye and offer his final well-wishing for the evening. Just as he was about to shake hands and leave, Tyler told Jeremy they should grab that drink they never came around to getting. Katie told Daily Mail that this gesture “hit Jeremy hard later,” adding, “We finally made it and Jeremy told me that it would’ve never got to that point if Casey or I didn’t fight as hard as we did.”
28. Growing Family
Not only did Landon gain two loving step-parents to guide him through life alongside his parents, he was blessed with his very own brother, Jax Tyler. Tyler and Casey expanded their family in 2017 and welcomed another son. The best part about this addition to the family, is that Tyler and Casey could’t have been more thrilled to include Jeremy and Katie in the excitement.
The Bender family even took family portrait photos with the five of them while Casey was pregnant with baby Jax. This is why Katie counts her blessings everyday. “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 Daily Mail. And she has a powerful message for everyone: “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.”
29. A Brotherly Bond
Landon and Jax Tyler share a truly strong brotherly bond. Whether it’s playing board games, reading books, coloring in together, wearing matching pajamas, sharing food, or just snuggling, Casey loves capturing these treasured moments and sharing them on social media.
Expanding a family can be challenging, especially for Landon who has two permanent and loving homes, but this hasn’t stood in the way of the close relationship and bond Landon and Jax share. Whenever the brothers are together, Casey ensures that they spend quality time with one another. Their father Tyler loves joining in their bonding sessions, helping his sons build things with their cute dog sharing in all the fun as well.
30. The Fun Never Stops
Spending time with his father Jeremy and step mom Katie also proves really fun for Landon, especially when he gets to paint and decorate Halloween pumpkins with the help of the family kitty. Katie makes a point of organizing fun activities with her beloved stepson to make him feel at home.
Katie treats Landon like her own son and enjoys mother-son activities with him regularly. He enjoys summer holidays on the beach with Jeremy and Katie, and everything in between, from spending time with his friends and other families activities during the year. Jeremy, Katie, and Landon are one strong family unit.
31. Spreading The Love
Katie’s story continues to inspire those who read and hear about it, and a lot of the time, she receives the positive feedback herself, reinforcing how important it is to share these kinds of stories with the world. The reason her story went viral in the first place, was because of the positive awareness about and insight into “blended families.”
People that don’t even know Katie personally reach out to her and thank her for her touching story. A comment like, “We need more Katie’s in this world & I hope your story finds its way to more people (like me) that need to hear it” is all the reinforcement Katie needs about sharing her story online. Katie isn’t the only one who is grateful for spreading the message of their story, though.
32. The Same Sentiments
Turns out Jeremy also likes to spread the joy on social media, and whenever he shares his beautiful story, he makes sure to thank Katie and Casey for their strength and tenacity. “I have no words. I cannot explain how proud I am of my wife and Casey,” Jeremy declared.
Jeremy believes that their story can encourage others to embrace co-parenting even when it seems next to impossible. The message he wants to spread is that four parents can form one strong family unit without conflict of interest, as well as how important it is for the child involved that the parents get along. This next post about their story so poignantly portrays this belief.
33. Co-Parenting Goals
For many people who read and engaged with Katie’s post, this picture of Jeremy and Casey dancing at the wedding stood out the most for them. Readers were truly impressed with how Landon’s parents remained so close despite splitting up, with one reader commenting, “You don’t see this! I wish every segregated couple could be like this.”
This was all thanks to Katie and her wise decision to change her approach to the situation several years before she and Jeremy tied the knot. The readers were so happy to see Landon has such positive role models in his life who teach him that parents can get along even if they aren’t together. But this isn’t the only thing Katie and Casey taught Landon.
34. From Day One
Before Katie and Jeremy went through with the wedding, they needed one very important person’s blessing first. Indeed, they refused to go through with the ceremony without asking Landon what he thought about it all, and luckily for them, he gave them a resounding “yes!”
So not only did Katie surprise all the wedding guests and make Landon a central part of the ceremony, she also made sure to make him a huge part of every step and chapter in her and Jeremy’s relationship so that he could truly embrace the meaning of having four parents who adore him and who love co-parenting him.
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