Little kids in pretty dresses and tiny tuxedos are more than cute ornaments. They can (sometimes) be helpful! Depending on their age, level of responsibility and of course willingness, they can:
- Ask guests to sign pages in a scrapbook
- Walk you down the aisle
- Hand out wedding programs or directions to the reception
- Serve as altar boy or altar girl
- Greet guests
- Turn pages for the musician
- Carry the bride’s train
- Hand out flowers to guests or scatter rose petals
- Help take care of gifts at the reception
- Junior bridesmaid
- Take candid pictures of the family and bridal party
- Follow the photographer around, pointing out special people to photograph
- Play a musical instrument or solo
- Carry ceremony flowers to reception
- Help guests find their seating arrangements
- Present wedding favors to guests
- Help serve the wedding cake
- Be in charge of the guest book
For younger children, usually the simple task of holding the rings or bouquet is a big honor and about all they can really handle. Teens can stand up with the couple, play the CD or tape of wedding music, or even just take pictures of the ceremony with a one time camera. Go with his or her interests.
The Invitation to Participate
It is very important if children are coming into the marriage that they be recognized or participate in some part of the wedding ceremony itself. Children often are not able to express fears or doubts they may have. Incorporating the children in the ceremony establishes their important role in your new life together. It may take some time for your child to fully digest and accept your request for their participation. What may be a clear rejection at the beginning may become an enthusiastic acceptance, if given a little time. So provide them the time they need to fully accept the changes before expecting them to embrace a supporting role.
Establish the Children as Part of the Union
When a parent gets married, it’s not just a couple that is joining together; a family is being forged. The children are an integral part of that equation, and they need to have their importance reinforced. Use their names right in the ceremony, or even incorporate them into your vows. It is also appropriate to mention them in any prayers said during the service. Have them front and center when the officiant introduces the new husband and wife. You can even have them sign the papers with you!
If a unity candle is part of your plan, make it a Family Candle instead. Give them all a chance to light the candles.
If you choose to present roses as part of the ceremony, it’s a nice touch to have a rose for each of the children. After exchanging roses, you can give each child a rose. If your doing a simple ring exchange, perhaps give the children a small jewelry-type gift immediately following the ring exchange – a necklace, medallion or ring.
When children are coming into the marriage, it is appropriate to mention in the ceremony that not only is a marriage being formed, but also a family – and then we name each child.
After the Ceremony
The ceremony is a whirlwind of carefully planned events, with thought going into every aspect. You’ve taken such care to weave your children in the fabric of that day and make them an important part of it. Just after the ceremony, most children do not know what they are supposed to do. Adults tend to flock around the couple in congratulations, leaving the children to feel out of place and awkward. So take a moment to thank them for their help in the ceremony, and giving them some direction about what they are free to do. Just a few moments here will mean the world to a little one.
Flower Girls and Ring Bearers
Generally speaking, flower girls and ring bearers are between three and seven years of age. The younger they are, the more unpredictable their behavior will be. If the child is old enough to walk up the aisle and be relatively well behaved throughout what will appear to him to be a relatively long time, then he’s old enough. It really depends on the personality of the child.
Children who are eager to participate in the wedding ceremony can be bridesmaids, junior bridesmaids and ushers. Old rules don’t apply here, so make your own. If you’d like your daughter to be your Maid of Honor and she’s game, then do it! A ten-year old son can stand up as an honor attendant (in place of a bridesmaid) on the bride’s side of the wedding party. Mix up the rules, and make them work for you!
The ceremony shouldn’t be the first time that you’re making this a group event. You can begin incorporating them from the start. That’s not to say that you’re 4 year old needs to pick your wedding dress. But asking for their input on things like colors, food and decoration would give them an opportunity to have input and take some ownership in the event. Give them options about what they will wear. Perhaps use their favorite flowers.
At the Reception
Some kids get easily embarrassed, so you have to play by ear how much you want to spotlight them at a party. But a toast in their honor would be a delightful way to welcome them to their new family. Even do a Mom and Dad dance instead of the traditional First Dance.
The ideas are endless, and the rules are all flexible. So depending on the age of your children and their personalities, go with what makes you comfortable. Just don’t lose them in the shuffle!