What used to be absolutely scandalous now barely raises an eyebrow: Many millennial couples are having babies without being married first. And while some never officially tie the knot, those who eventually do often want to include their little ones in the ceremony, says Shawn Miller, an officiant and founder of Young Hip & Married, a wedding planning company based in Vancouver that specializes in unique and custom nuptials. “Our kids are a very special part of our lives, so of course couples want to incorporate them into their weddings,” he says.
Here are six fun ideas for working your kids into your big day.
1. Make them mini-wedding planners
Getting kids involved from the get-go will help them feel special and involved. If your kid loves to shop, or has an affinity for princess dresses, they’d probably love an afternoon of wedding dress shopping, for example. And pretty much all kids are guaranteed to be on board with cake testing. Older kids can even help with wedding website design, perhaps by selecting favourite family photos to include or by adding their own personal touches, like a favourite restaurant suggestion (and even dish!) at a spot near the venue or close to suggested hotels. Kids can also help with the nuts-and-bolts jobs like licking stamps and sealing envelopes. Anything to help them feel like a part of it.
2. Write them into your vows
How to keep your relationship strong when you have kids Acknowledging your little ones in your vows is a simple way to make a statement about your commitment to your family and give the kids prominence on your big day. Family vows are especially popular in weddings with blended families, says Miller. “We’ll hear these beautiful promises that the parents are able to make to the kids and it’s really heartwarming.” Google “family wedding vows” or “wedding vows that include children” for ideas.
3. Give kids a role in the ceremony
Although it’s customary for the bride’s father to walk her down the aisle, anyone can escort you to the alter. Preschoolers and schoolagers will take pride in this special role. If your ceremony will be more traditional, the classic flower girl/child and ring bearer roles are sweet and simple ways to include your kids in the ceremony.
That said, it’s important to acknowledge that kids can be unpredictable in a ceremony, which can create some very cute moments, but also has the potential to derail your big day. “I once had a ring bearer stop at the end of the aisle to pee in a flower pot,” says Miller. “I’ve also had babies cry through the entire ceremony and the mom is so distracted that it steals her moment from her,” he says. Miller recommends having a family member, friend or babysitter at-the-ready to either escort little kids away from the ceremony as soon as they complete their part (like walking down the aisle) or in case they become disruptive or upset.
4. Give them a “day-of” gift, too
In the same way that couples will often present their partner with a piece of jewelry, parents can also gift their littles with tokens of affection on the big day. Miller says necklaces and rings are common choices. It’s a keepsake kids can cherish forever, and a way of making them feel extra-special on your wedding day.
5. Ask them to perform
If your kid loves the spotlight, or is studying music or dance, ask them to play a song or prepare a routine as part of your wedding program. Older kids could also make a toast, read a poem or even give a speech at the reception.
Approach performance plans with caution, though, says Miller. Kids can suddenly feel shy or overwhelmed once the big day arrives, and might decide to bow out. “They don’t necessarily have the emotional intelligence to understand the significance of the day and can be caught by surprise,” he says. It’s not uncommon to have little kids suddenly crying or simply shutting down because they’re so overwhelmed. Keep the pressure and expectations low, and be prepared with a plan B.
6. Offer kid-focused activities
There are plenty of ways to make your wedding family-friendly and inclusive of your littles. A kids dance floor and/or playlist designed by your kids is usually a pint-sized crowd pleaser that’ll get the party started. You can add a (low-mess) craft or colouring station to your reception. Or ask your child to help design a signature mocktail ahead of time and allow them to name it for the guests. Anyone for a Molly’s Minty Mojito?