Don’t underestimate the importance of your wedding for your children. What you don’t want is the children sitting by silently, feeling left out, like guests at their own party. Please take the time to include them in some way. It will help create a happier, healthy, new family life. It’s been said that love is the best medicine, and there is more than enough to go around, once you open your heart.
For the fifty percent* of men and women who walk down the aisle more then once, how to involve children from a previous marriage can be a challenge. The most important message you can send is that whether a child is yours or mine, he or she is now ours. Involvement is the key to making a child feel part of this new union and to provide a loving and positive message.
Here are some simple ideas to include children in the wedding, and to help unify the family.
ASK THE KIDS: Always ask the children how they would like to be included. They may have mixed emotions, so go slowly and be sure they are ready to participate, and then give them choices, perhaps including some of the following ideas.
A FAMILY RITUAL: Invite the kids up to light a ‘Family Candle’ instead of the usual couple-only Unity Candle, or pour sand together for a ‘Family Sand Ceremony,’ which is a great symbol, showing the importance of the individual and the strength of joining together. Many other ritual ideas can be expanded to include children. I’ve done everything from sharing food and beverages, playing with rocks and water… there is always a way to express joining together.
EXPRESS COMMITMENT: Before the couple exchanges vows, consider saying an ‘I do’ to the children. You can also arrange to have the children say an ‘I do’ to a new step-siblings. This needs to be worked out in detail with your officiant, and can be a very powerful thing! The wording should be simple and clear.
GIVE A FAMILY SYMBOL: Just as the couple exchanges rings, so can you give a physical symbol to the children during the ceremony – consider necklaces, rings or other special engraved gifts, or simply choose something that appeals to them! There are even some items marketed for this specific purpose.
Children can also participate by handing a rose to their moms or grandmothers, giving rather than receiving.
INVOLVE THEM IN THE WEDDING PARTY: Younger kids will be honored to be ring bearers, flower girls or junior attendants, while older children can stand with you as an attendant, best man or woman – or even walk with you down the aisle.
ADDING THEIR VOICE: If they are comfortable speaking at the wedding, children can read poems or letters they have written directly to you and your spouse. Encourage practice and have it written down – don’t expect anyone to memorize anything at a wedding! But be flexible: kids may get butterflies on the day of the ceremony, and assure them it is all right if they choose not to go through with the reading.
FIND SPECIAL TASKS: Have children create program booklets, or perhaps design the cover. They can also arrange flowers, greet guests, escort guests down the aisle, or any number of special jobs. Let them know that they are part of your team!
Don’t underestimate the importance of including children of any age. A marriage is about so much more than just two people. Even if they say ‘no’ to these ideas, do something special for them anyway, find a way to acknowledge your love for them on your wedding day. They will appreciate it.
*52.3% according to the last U.S. Census