Updated: Apr 22, 2019
Some children - for example my little girl, who insisted on posing for this photo - get very, very excited about weddings. If there are going to be children at your wedding, here’s why you might want to include them in your ceremony:
1) Children love to feel part of grown-up events - if you show them you’ve thought about them, their delighted smiles will repay your effort ten times over.
2) Bored children are disruptive. Engaged children, meanwhile, are angelic… not to mention photogenic.
3) If your own kids are going to be at your wedding then it’s a no-brainer that you want them to enjoy the day and feel part of it; if you’re already a family then it makes sense for the wedding ceremony to celebrate the love you all share.
4) You can’t make all your friends bridesmaids, but if you can involve their children in your ceremony, it’s a great way to show them what they and their family mean to you. Some friends might actually prefer to put their children in the spotlight than step into it themselves.
5) All marriages are about bringing different families together but if you and/or your partner have children from previous relationships, then your marriage is a celebration of a new blended family. The ceremony is a unique opportunity for you to make pledges to your new stepchildren, to show them what they mean to you and to reassure them about any doubts they may have. This one deserves a whole separate blog post! I’ll come back to it…
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. If you’re anything like me you just scrolled past that last bit to get to the list of ideas… Here they come. Some are most suitable for your own children; others could work for any child at the ceremony.
Break bread with your child
In several Eastern European cultures it’s traditional for a bride and groom to break bread together during their wedding ceremony. This would be a lovely moment to invite your children up to the front to join you and share a piece of bread with you both. If your child likes baking, you can also make it his or her role to bake and decorate a special loaf of bread for your ceremony.
Let the children jump the broom
Jumping the broom is an old wedding tradition with roots in Welsh, Scottish, Romany and African American communities. The broom symbolizes sweeping away the past and the making of a home together. From a child’s point of view though, jumping is fun. It’s a great way to bring a ceremony to an energetic and informal close. All the kids present can get involved in holding the broom and/or jumping over it.
Get them to do a reading
It could be a vow or a poem or a passage from their favourite book. Some kids might want to write something but not read aloud - or the other way round. You could even get them to perform a song or a dance. My little drama queen would want to do all the above - and she’d need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, away from the limelight…
Incorporate a family tree planting into your ceremony
This is most suitable for an outdoor event, although it could be done indoors with just a seed and a pot (acorns are a nice touch because you can use the famous 'mighty oaks' quote). Tree-planting is a great activity to get your children involved in and, like some of the best wedding rituals, it isn’t just a one-off activity on the day - your tree will grow alongside your marriage.
Include your children in your vows
You can make vows to your children and/or you can invite them to make vows to you and to one another. This is especially powerful in a blended family wedding with stepchildren as it can work wonders to set the family off on a positive and united path but it’s also a lovely thing for any couple to make vows to their children as part of their wedding ceremony.
Ask your child to gather wishes from the congregation
Creating a box of wishes is another ritual that will remind you of your wedding day and all your guests for years to come. Before or during the ceremony, you give your guests a pen and paper (or whatever exquisitely Instagrammable variant you come up with) and ask them to write down a wish for you both. You can ask your child to go around the room and gather up all their wishes and put them into your box of wishes.
Get your children to perform a handfasting ceremony
Handfasting is an old tradition that’s increasingly popular with modern couples. There’s no reason why the celebrant has to be the one to bind your hands together though; your celebrant can show your children just how to tie the cord at the wedding rehearsal and guide them through it step by step during the actual ceremony. It’s not difficult and what’s more, if your child is into crafts, you can ask him or her to make the cord for you beforehand - or one of its traditional three strands - with colours or materials of particular significance to you.
Include your children if you’re having a sand ceremony
Another favourite wedding ritual, sand ceremonies are a symbol of unity - in which each of you pour containers of different-coloured sand into one big jar. The inseparable grains represent your lasting union. You guessed it: you don’t just need to add sand from two jars - give one to each of your kids too. Little children can’t get enough of sand (so it’s a good idea to bring a few spare jars in case of mishaps!).
Exchange meaningful gifts
This is a really personal idea that you can take in any direction you like. Get your celebrant to create a spot in your ceremony for you and your children to give and/or receive significant presents with your children. You and your children can take all the time you need before the ceremony to think about what you want to give and what you want the gifts to represent.
Allow space for your children to sign your wedding certificate
While a legal marriage certificate you’d sign in a religious or register office wedding only has space for two witnesses (and don’t even get me started on the fact that it only wants to know the names of your dads!) a celebrant can create a beautiful and unique commemorative certificate for you to sign during your ceremony - with just the wording you want and spaces for children to sign. Nothing makes a child feel more important than being asked to ‘sign here’!
Ask your child to contribute to a memory box
Some couples seal a ‘memory box’ during their ceremony. This is a box they agree not to open until a particular anniversary - or until their marriage hits a rough patch. You can put anything you like inside. Lots of people go for a love letter from each of you to the other and a bottle of wine. The sealing of the memory box is a great moment to invite your children to come up and add their own little letter, picture or gift. This idea works for even the youngest of children.
Light a unity candle to represent your whole family
The unity candle tradition - in which each one of you lights a candle with a smaller taper - doesn’t have to just signify your unity as a couple. It’s a lovely way to show the unity of your whole family and again is a particularly sweet idea when you want to bring your new stepchildren into the ceremony.
Give your children a role adults traditionally take
There’s no reason why a child shouldn’t be best man, maid of honour or even give you away.A confident child might enjoy leading the wedding procession into the venue and calling out a big, loud ‘please stand!’
Get the children blowing bubbles
How delighted would a child be to get a little bottle of bubble mix at your wedding? This is a popular green alternative to releasing balloons, butterflies or doves.
Give the children ribbon wands to wave in place of confetti
As you walk away from your ceremony as a married couple, give all the children a ribbon wand. Get them to stand in two lines, waving their wands high in the air, to create a tunnel for you to walk through.
Another confetti alternative for an outdoor ceremony is to give the congregation wildflower seeds to scatter around the married couple. Children will love this and, if the ceremony is held in a place that’s special to you, how lovely would it be to come back and find a blooming meadow to mark the spot where you got married?
Ask the kids
One last idea is to read this list to your kids and then ask them for their own ideas. It’s your wedding so you’re in charge. And kids are deliciously creative. If your child wants to ceremonially present you with a dead woodlouse in a matchbox, that’s fine… If you think it’s fine.
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