Getting Married… With Children

Little Girl in Wedding

To this day, Hollywood warns against working with children (and animals, but that’s a topic for another day). But there are times when you need or want kids to be involved in your wedding ceremony. You want to be cute, elicit “awws” from your guests, and—most importantly—not end up on a video blooper reel.

So how do you get married with children part of the event?

Children as Participants

What would a wedding be without a tuxedoed little guy carrying the rings down the aisle on a pillow, or a sweet dressed up little lady scattering rose petals on the way to the altar? Bridal party and guests alike enjoy these traditions, and there are many other ways to involve kids in the ceremony. Certain relationships make it even more special—and important—to incorporate younger participants. Rather than being afraid of “what might happen” if bad behaviors or meltdowns occur, often kids who are made to feel special and that they are given a place of importance will rise to the challenge and help make the day special indeed! And for the younger ones who may struggle to pay attention or stay quiet, consider having their roles occur (and end) early in the ceremony so they can then go with a trusted adult to another room to play and wait for the reception. Then everybody enjoys the event.

These are some specific ideas for including kids depending on their relationship to the bride and/or groom.

Siblings

Couples marrying in their early 20s may have younger brothers and sisters who will attend—and likely participate in—the wedding. Teen siblings can have any number of roles in the ceremony, from being part of the bridal party (bridesmaid or groomsman), to ushering, to reading Scripture. Elementary-age or even toddler siblings often serve as flower girls or ring bearers, but depending on your relationship with your little bro or sis, it may be an opportunity for a tween to fill a more grownup role, perhaps as a junior bridesmaid or groomsman. It will make them feel extra special as they get a new brother- or sister-in-law and watch their older sibling take this huge new step in life.

Yours, mine, or ours

Couples marrying later in their relationship, or after a previous relationship, may have young children of their own to involve in the wedding. Just like with younger siblings, there are great age-appropriate roles for kids to fill, but it’s even more important for your kids to feel special and invested in the ceremony as a blended family is formed. The wedding for this couple isn’t just a union of husband and wife, but the committed lifelong relationship of parents and children, so the ceremony and experience of the kids should reflect that.

Friends’ kids

Are you the “aunt” or “uncle” of a close friend’s child(ren)? Particularly when there is such a close relationship with your friends and their families, their kids might naturally fill children’s roles in your wedding ceremony. Clearly in this category you can be more selective based on behavior, but it can also be a blessing to the parents, demonstrating how important they (and their kids) are to you.

Child Guest(stars)… or Not?

The other big decision many marrying couples face is whether to allow your guests to bring children to the ceremony, reception, or both. It is a very big decision dependent upon a number of factors (and your fear of being upstaged), and ultimately only you can make it. But these questions may help you as you try to decide.

  • How many kids will be in the ceremony? If you have children involved in the ceremony, it may bother some guests if their children are not “welcome.” It may also be boring for the kids involved if no children will be at the reception.
  • How many people will be affected? Do many of your guests have young children? Will requesting “no children” prevent them from coming, or will they see it as a welcome night out alone? If it affects a lot of your guests, don’t guess—it’s worth asking at least some of them whether excluding kids will result in an empty building.
  • How many relatives will be affected? Depending on your family structure and relationships, accommodating relatives may be important for maintaining peace in the family. If it’s important to relatives to have their children present, ask yourself whether having “more quiet” is worth some strained relationships down the line.
  • What’s your motivation? Why would you prefer not to have children at the event? If it’s for a picture-perfect wedding video with no kid interruptions, you have to decide how important that really is to you—and if it’s worth upsetting some (or even many) of your guests. If it’s for costs or age-appropriateness at the reception, then consider allowing kids at the ceremony but not at the reception (and make sure there is time and distance enough between the ceremony and reception to allow parents to drop their kids off elsewhere).
  • Are there alternatives? If cost isn’t an issue, or for a small fee, would your venue be suitable to provide programming for kids? Whether a supervised play area or even outdoor entertainment like inflatables and games, everyone would have a blast at the celebration!

Children can be a wonderful part of any wedding celebration, and with a little planning and some creative ideas, the experience can be enjoyable for everyone!

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