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.