Including Children in your Wedding Ceremony

“Accept the children the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because they are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.” ― Isabel Allende

We at Forever, Together, Seattle Wedding Officiants always welcome children in our ceremonies, and the more, the merrier!

Whether you have children from a previous relationship, or have other young family members, you might consider making these kids a part of your wedding ceremony. There are many meaningful ways for a child to be included, but since kids can be unpredictable, you’ll want to make sure they are playing an appropriate part for their age, and that you’ve done everything you can to make them comfortable.

Roles in the Wedding for Older Children

  • Junior Bridesmaid/GroomsmanThey will wear an outfit similar to the other members of the bridal party, and fulfill many of the same roles as they do (they need not attend bachelor/bachelorette parties or showers 🙂
  • Reader – They will read a passage about marriage or love during the ceremony.
  • Escorting the Bride There’s no reason why your child can’t be the one to walk you down the aisle.
  • Serving as an UsherThey will help guests to their seats, pass out programs, and do everything the other ushers do.

Roles in the Wedding for Younger Children:

  • Flower girl – A flower girl is usually a young girl between the ages of 4 and 8 who has a special connection to the bride and groom. Perhaps she is a niece or cousin, or a family friend. She follows behind the bridesmaids (sometimes before and sometimes after the maid of honor) with a basket of flowers, scattering them down the aisle.
  • Ring bearer – A ring bearer is usually a young boy between the ages of 4 and 8 who has a special connection to the bride and groom. He may be related to them, or just be a family friend. He walks down the aisle immediately after the flower girl, or last bridesmaid, with the wedding rings tied to a small pillow.
  • Bouquet holder – Hold’s the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony (expect it to get a little squashed!)

Making Children Comfortable During the Wedding Ceremony

Children might not do everything you think they will during the ceremony, but whatever they do will probably be cute and entertaining. A favorite story concerns a little boy walking up the aisle with the rings. Every few steps, he turns around, makes a ferocious face and growls at the audience. The crowd laughs, of course, but no one really understands why he’s doing this. Later, his dad asked him what was going on, he answered with all seriousness, “I was the ring bear!”

Here are some things you can do to make them more comfortable:

  • Assign them a helper, ideally another member of the wedding party who can keep an eye on them, hang out with them before the ceremony, and take them outside if they start to cry.
  • Bring a change of clothes for the wedding reception. This way they can eat, run around and play with crayons or other toys, without fear of ruining their nice clothes.
  • Practice walking down the aisle, until they are comfortable with it. Show them exactly where their parents will be sitting. Consider buying them a book that talks about being a flower girl or ring bearer.
  • For a child whose parent is getting married, include them in the ceremony. This may mean asking your Wedding Officiant to mention their names several times, it may mean doing a Family Medallion, Unity Candle or Blending of the Sands ritual that makes them feel like an important part of your new family. You can also include the children in your vows to each other. Having a part to play in the wedding ceremony often makes a child feel less anxious about the marriage.
  • Whatever happens, be patient. Children may get suddenly shy or uncomfortable with what’s going on.

In the end, the best advice is to let them do as much (or as little) as they are comfortable doing.

Wedding Worst Cases…and How to Handle Them!

“Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.” – Francis Ford Coppola
Okay, before you read any further, bear in mind that each “nightmare scenario” on this list is worst-case. I’ve included pretty much every catastrophe, major and minor, that could occur at your wedding, but based on over six years’ experience as a Seattle wedding officiant, I’ll add that most likely, everything will go just fine. If they don’t, then your wedding will just be more memorable for the mishaps!

If one (or more) of these nasties does find its way to your wedding, the best advice is to soldier on! Remember: nobody will know that the Groom wore a borrowed tie or the dessert served by the catering company wasn’t the one you ordered, unless they hear it from you! If anyone asks, act as if it was supposed to happen!

  • Say what?:
    Occasionally, invitations are printed with the wrong names, dates or other miscellaneous items gone awry. This is compounded if the wedding announcer, or (gasp!) even the wedding Officiant, reads out the wrong name.
  • “Wedding” Time:
    You want your guests to remember your wedding for how beautiful it was, not for how late it started! Sometimes, this happens because a particular person (like the maid of honor or best man) or item (like the cake) is either AWOL, or stuck in traffic.
  • Fashion Faux Pas: This is the most frequent wedding day mishap. Some examples: the dress is delivered late, has fitting issues, tears at the seams while putting it on, gets stained, has a bad zipper or someone steps on it.
  • The Other Shoe: There are pretty much only three things that can go wrong with shoes: they’re misplaced, they don’t fit or they’re damaged.
  • Faint Praise: With all the wedding excitement (and stress), it is not unusual for a stressed-out bride to start feeling light-headed, get a killer headache, go on a crying jag, panic or get cranky. Other bride-related boo-boos include a breakout the night before the wedding, swollen eyes or a beauty treatment or medicine that suddenly turns against you.
  • Makeup:
    Your wedding day is one day when you want to look your best. Unfortunately, things can go wrong when the makeup artist is late, never shows up, makes a mess of your hair or makeup, or you have a makeup melt down from rain, sun or emotional overheating.
  • Decorations:
    Almost all weddings run into issues with the decorations: flower arrangements are wrong, lighting is lousy, linens are wrong for the theme, items are missing or damaged (e.g., runners, centerpieces, etc.). The list goes on and on.
  • Play it again, Sam:
    There are lots of wrong turns the music can take: the DJ doesn’t show up (we have actually seen this one happen ourselves), is inexperienced, obstinate, or unwilling to respect your wishes; the music is inappropriate or poorly selected.
  • Food, Glorious Food:
    Sometimes, despite your best efforts to give your guests the culinary experience of a lifetime, you can still end up with culinary disaster: dishes you never requested and don’t want, poorly prepared or low-quality food.
  • Let ‘Em Eat Cake:
    Virtually anything can go wrong with the wedding cake: it falls, tilts, melts, gets dropped or smooshed by some hapless guest or vendor.
  • Drunks, Show-offs and Blowhards:
    Anyone who’s seen “The Wedding Crashers,” knows that almost every wedding (except the ones that use bouncers), is “graced” with uninvited guests or guests who never replied to the RSVP. Sometimes, unruly or otherwise belligerent guests who bother others or try to steal your thunder (or the spotlight). Occasionally, you may even have to deal with inebriated guests who present a danger to themselves (or everyone else).
  • Rain, Rain, Go Away:
    Sometimes, your plans run into weather problems, and there’s not much you can do about it. Unexpected showers, severe heat, even strong winds have wreaked havoc with more than a few outdoor weddings.
  • Throw the Book at ‘Em:
    Sometimes, you find out your vendor or venue has you double-booked. Sometimes, your booking mysteriously disappears or gets cancelled. Sometimes, services promised by a vendor or venue turn out to be non-existent or unavailable. Transportation of food or decorations gets botched (usually due to a shortage or delay of transport vehicles).
  • It’s So Hard to find Good Help These Days:
    Friends you’ve enlisted to help with the preparations show up late, or not at all. Vendors who were so accommodating at the interview – DJs, musicians, caterers or even (dare I say it) Officiants – turn out to be inflexible, unprofessional or obstinate, renege on their contract, get lazy or sloppy.
  • Missing Wedding Rings: |
    Once in a blue moon, in the chaos that happens just before the wedding, you can lose track of the rings. This can happen regardless of whom your entrust with their safekeeping.

If mayhem does strike, you pretty much have two options. You can go ballistic – cry, scream, tear your hair or fume about it all the way through the day – or go with the flow, and do it with dignity, style and grace. Assuming you decide the second option is the better alternative, here are some ways to accomplish it:

  • Be prepared.Have your maid of honor or best friend (or both) carry an emergency kit just in case. This kit should include (but not be limited to) these ten essentials:
    1. Necessary medications (including anti-anxiety meds if you think you’ll need them)
    2. Safety pins
    3. Tape (regular and double-sided)
    4. Essential toiletries, hairspray, lotions, deodorant, etc.
    5. Breath mints (no kidding – for the kiss!)
    6. Makeup and eye drops
    7. Healthy snacks (e.g., PowerBars or fresh fruit)
    8. Tissue and/or hand towels
    9. Extra matching jewelry, lipstick and nail polish
    10. Stain remover wipes, mending kit, baby wipes and white chalk (for stains the wipes can’t remove).
  • Let someone you trust handle any unexpected disasters, so you’re free to be the center of attention and revel in your wedding celebration.
  • Make a schedule for everyone and, within reasonable limits, insist they stick to it.
  • Try to bring all the essential items ahead of time and store them in a safe place at the venue. It’s always better to be early than late!
  • Don’t allow anything that might stain anywhere you might be, and don’t eat or drink anything that might stain.
  • Allow only essential people in your dressing room: Crowd=Mess, and Mess=Mishaps.
  • Weatherproof your makeup and if, for some reason , it gets trashed , discreetly remove it with baby wipes (enlist your maid of honor or else you might end up making it worse).
  • Use eye drops to remove redness, and special eye to reduce swelling. Don’t use ice – it will dry your eyes and make them itch.
  • Ask the venue to arrange extra chairs for unexpected guests.
  • Try to ignore disruptive guests, but if they you can’t, ask someone to have a discreet chat with them or their companions.
  • Have slices of ‘secretly’ cut regular cream cake available if your wedding cake gets trashed, dropped or delivered late.
  • If your DJ is late, connect an iPod or MP3 player. Even better, if there is a decent singer among your guests, ask them if they’d be willing to sing without instruments while you arrange a new plan.
  • Have umbrellas available in case it rains. This is especially important if you live in western Washington, where the weather is unpredictable even in the middle of Summer.

If you’re like most people, your wedding day is something you’ve been planning for a long time. Emotionally, you have a lot invested in making it right, and while it’s perfectly okay to strive, and hope for the wedding of your dreams, you should never forget the real reason you’re there: you are marrying your best friend and true love. If things go south on you, try to stay calm and enjoy even the not-so-perfect experiences.

One thing you are sure to regret, more than the mishaps, missteps and minor catastrophes, is wasting precious time worrying about things you can’t change, instead of participating in the festivities…that are all about you! Never forget that weddings should be a celebration. Your only worry should be how to have as much fun as you can!