How can I include children in my wedding ceremony?

Whether it’s your first or subsequent marriage, you may have children, your own or other people’s, whom you wish to include in your wedding ceremony. 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 couple.

Here are some tips for including young children in your wedding ceremony and making it all as happy and stress-free as possible, for them and for you.

1. Children as ringbearers at your wedding ceremony

Always ensure that there’s someone with whom the child feels comfortable to walk with (or to carry them) up the aisle – whether it is an attendant, the bridal couple, or someone in your wedding party. You could ask a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, or nanny. Or one parent could set the child on its way at the start of the aisle, and the other wait at the end. If the child gets stage fright, he or she can just be picked up, carried, and comforted.

If you have a small child, say under the age of six, as your ring bearer, it’s a good idea to have them carry fake rings, tied to the pillow or in a box, or 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. 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. Make sure you have a backup plan. At a recent wedding I officiated, the ring bearer, aged 18months and wearing the colours of the wedding party, was carried in on the shoulders of his father, the Best Man

2. Children as flower girls at your wedding ceremony

Your daughter, niece, best friend’s daughter walking up the aisle scattering flowers is a very sweet sight at your wedding. Help yourself, the child and the guests to feel happy and comfortable by having the child walk up holding hands with or carried by a family member or someone else they feel comfortable with to pre-empt tears, stagefright and downright refusal to walk down that aisle in front of all those people.

3. Children as readers in your wedding ceremony

Plenty of rehearsal and total flexibility are the key to make this go well. The child who’s reading or reciting may be totally comfortable performing in front of everyone at your wedding ceremony. But if at the last minute they become nervous, overcome or upset, have a backup plan. Maybe the celebrant or one of the bridesmaids or groomsmen can step in and do the reading or read with the child?

4. Children as performers at your ceremony:

You may want your child/children or someone else’s to sing, dance or play an instrument at your wedding ceremony. Again, plenty of rehearsal in advance, and plenty of flexibility and patience at the ceremony are key to the performance going well.

5. Children participating in any rituals/enhancements of your wedding ceremony

You may want a child/children to present you with the ribbon for a handfasting or with flowers, or the loving cup. Make sure they have lots of time to practise and that it is fun for them.

6. Children saying special words to you at your ceremony and vice versa

Rehearsal and scripting of words are key. Make sure the words are at the right level for the age and understanding of the children, and be prepared to help them say the words, by prompting or saying them together. Make sure you’ve rehearsed with them what they will be doing. and that those words are written into the wedding ceremony script, so you are not making it a feat of memory, but focusing on the fun and importance of what that child is doing

7. Blending families at the wedding ceremony

If you are blending your families – my children his/her children and our children, you can have special words to welcome the children into the new family and give them gifts, before or after you exchange rings.

Something else that’s easy, fun and special, is to have a sand-pouring ceremony, where each of you, adults and children, pours a different colour of sand into a jar to symbolise how you are now blending your families and lives together, and that each of you is a very important part of the new family.

It’s lovely to include children in your wedding ceremony. Making sure you have a backup plan and that a designated person is “in charge and keeping an eye” and can step in and help, is vital. The key to happiness and fun for you, the children and your guests, is to be flexible, patient go-with-the-flow, and to have good backup plans for anything you may want the children to do in your wedding ceremony.

<