Many couples want their own or other people’s children to be included as particpants in the wedding ceremony. And/or as guests at the wedding. This can be very charming and special. It can also be a cause of chaos and may even end in everyone dissolving in tears—including the two of you.
Here are some tips to make the inclusion of children as stress-free as possible, for them and for you.
1 Make the child feel comfortable
If a small child, say under the age of six, is participating in your ceremony, as a flowergirl or ring-bearer, always ensure that there’s someone with whom that child feels comfortable to walk with (or to carry them) up the aisle – yourselves or someone in your wedding party, or a family member, guest or nanny.
What works very well is to have one parent set the child on its way at the bottom of the aisle, and the other wait at the end. If the child gets stagefright, he or she can just be picked up, carried, and comforted.
Be prepared that the child may simply have a meltdown in the presence of so many strangers and will need to be taken away from all the excitement to calm down. That way the child is happy and the ceremony can continue.
2 Have a backup plan for ringbearer and rings
If you have a small child as your ring bearer, it’s a good idea to have them carry fake rings, tied to a pillow or in a box, and to make sure the Best Man or someone else in the wedding party retrieves the rings once the child has walked up the aisle. Then you’ll be sure that the rings are available and ready for the “Exchange of Rings” part of the ceremony. It’s even more important in that scenario to ensure that the Best Man or Best Woman has the real rings ready for when you need them.
3 Children as guests at the wedding
If your guests have been invited to bring along their young children, be sure to suggest, in advance, that if their child becomes very unhappy during the ceremony, would they mind taking charge and taking him or her out of the room or garden where the ceremony is being held so that it may proceed peacefully.
It’s not fair to you as the wedding couple, or to the guests, if the ceremony is disrupted . And it is also not fair to the child, to be wailing and upset in an unfamiliar environment
4 Hire a child minder
If you’re expecting lots of guests to bring their very young children, it might be worth investing in a child minder or two for during the ceremony and even for the reception.
5 Including your own children in the ceremony
Whether it’s your first or subsequent marriage, you may have children whom you wish to include actively in the ceremony. We’re not talking here just about ringbearers, or flowergirls, but about anything from bridesgirls to groomsboys, to the select list of people called upon to do or say something as part of the ceremony.
Sometimes, the children have been the ones to “give this woman to this man” and “this man to this woman”. Or they have read a poem, sung a song, done a special dance or played an instrument. And sometimes the child or children will say words of welcome to the new parent.
A word of caution: in rare circumstances, in blended families, the child or children may be finding it difficult to accept the new “mother” or “father”. Be sensitive to how they’re feeling, and take the time in the months leading up to the wedding to prepare them for the ceremony and to talk to them about their feelings and yours. If any of the children is particularly upset about the situation, it may be worth making alternative plans for them to be doing something else when you’re actually getting married. It’s also a sanity-saver for you to be prepared for the child or children to change their minds at the last minute as to whether they want or don’t want to be at the wedding.
Lovely as it is to include children in your ceremony, make sure you have a backup plan, and are prepared to be flexible and to work round moods or crankiness if the situation arises. And don’t force any child to be at the wedding if they really don’t want to be there. Having a very reluctant child at your ceremony makes everyone unhappy. Having a happy child or children adds to everyone’s enjoyment of the occasion.
Catherine Kentridge Customweddingceremonies.ca