How to include your children in your wedding

flower girl walking up the aisle

One common wedding question is how to include your children or your partner’s children in your wedding. Maybe your wedding includes your children, your fiancé’s children, AND your children together.

To fully include kids in your wedding, give them a designated role and make sure to check in with them at regular intervals during the day. Roles should be age-appropriate and based on what would make them comfortable in front of a large group.

I recommend giving kids a special role in the wedding so they do not feel left out. When I got married in 2018, I carefully considered how to include my husband’s 7-year old son. He ended up being the Best Man, and we made lifelong memories that day. Our little Best Man got to spend quality time with his dad and he felt reassured that he wasn’t being sidelined in our new family.

I wanted to write this guide to share some of the lessons I learned at my wedding. Keep reading for tips on how to include your children in your wedding and age-appropriate tips for involvement.

Dos and don’ts of having your children in the wedding

Do: Let kids make their own choices when appropriate.

Maybe your daughter refuses to wear the dress you picked out, or even anything in your wedding colors. Be flexible on the little things.  It’s important for children to maintain some control over their lives, especially in times of big change like a new marriage.

Don’t: Drop all boundaries.

Kids crave independence, but they still depend on you and your partner for support and guidance. It’s a balancing act. Put your foot down on unreasonable demands like, wearing spider-man pajamas to the wedding. Or refusing to attend at all.

Do: Have a designated child-wrangler.

Weddings can be overwhelming for adults, let alone kids. Ask someone to be available to help your kids get a nap or get a snack in, as needed. This is especially important for younger children–you don’t want to change a diaper in a white dress. Maybe the grandparents can step in and help out. 

Don’t: Ignore your kids.

Another adult is good to help, but your kid needs assurance that only you (or your partner) can provide. Make sure you schedule in some one-on-one time to check in with your child and reassure them of any fears they might have. This is especially true if there are some tricky family dynamics like children on both sides or resistance to the wedding. 

Build this time into your schedule in advance to make sure you don’t forget to check in during what can be a hectic day. For example, having a few minutes during the cocktail hour after family photos but before you return to the reception to take a few candid photos with your kids or enjoy the cocktail hour snacks is a great way to involve them in a low pressure way.

Do: Have realistic expectations.

We might want a perfect wedding day, but things happen. If something unexpected happens, like a tantrum from a toddler or a teen, just take a deep breath and roll with it. Better yet, plan for circumstances like this that might occur, so you can respond effectively in the moment. Remember that your wedding is just one day in your family’s new life. You have a lifetime to bond and build a relationship together. 

Don’t: Expect everyone to blend right away.

It takes time for stepfamilies to adjust to each other, especially if there was a difficult divorce or death of a parent. It’s okay for the kids to have some reservations or big emotions on the wedding day. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love you or their other parents. 

ring bearer looking happy

How common is it to have kids at a wedding?

Having kids at your wedding is more common than you think! Almost 80% of weddings have some kids invited – either for specific roles like a flower girl or ring bearer or kids of family and friends invited as guests to the wedding. You can read more about whether you should invite kids to your wedding here.

Breaking down wedding roles by age:

When planning your wedding, consider the ages of each child. You want to tailor each child’s role to their individual personality and maturity level.

Here are some ideas for each age group: 

Wedding roles for babies

You might be wondering, “How can I include a baby in my wedding? They don’t do anything!” That’s true, their main responsibility is looking cute. I  recommend including them in your wedding photos. For best results, take photos with them first, before they get cranky. Then whisk them away to grandma while you finish your photos. You can also include babies in your ceremony procession. One idea is for a wedding party member to wear or carry them down the aisle. Older babies can also be wheeled in a cute, decorated wagon.

Wedding roles for toddlers

Toddlers are a great age to be included in weddings. Obvious choices are flower girls and ring bearers, but don’t feel obligated to stick to gender roles. Flower boys work too, or just have the kids all come in together! Don’t expect fidgety toddlers to stand up front during the ceremony with the wedding party. Once they have processed down, have them take a seat with some trusted adults up front. 

Wedding roles for school age kids

Children this age can still be flower girls and ring bearers–with the added benefit of being less likely to swallow a ring. This is also a good age for ushers. Ushers are responsible for handing out programs and helping guests find their seat at the ceremony or reception. Children of all ages can also be part of a unity ceremony- more on that below.

Wedding roles for teens

There are lots of appropriate roles for teenagers at your wedding. They can be junior bridesmaids or groomsmen. A junior member of the wedding party wears the same colors as the wedding party and stands with the couple during the ceremony. You can also involve them in wedding festivities like breakfast, or hair and make up before the wedding. Just make sure they are not responsible for planning or paying for wedding events, like an adult bridesmaid or groomsmen.

Wedding roles for adult children

If you or your fiancé have grown children, you can still include them in your special day. They can be groomsmen or bridesmaids, of course. You can also ask them to read a poem or verse during your ceremony. They would probably give a kickass speech at your reception or rehearsal dinner too. 

What about other kids?

Do you want to include other children in your wedding? Maybe you have a special relationship with your nieces and nephews. These kids can be included too! The same rules apply. Just make sure you talk to their parents ahead of time so they know what to expect.

Looking for more ideas on how to involve kids in your big day? Check out this post on kid-friendly table ideas.

kids table sign

How to include kids in the wedding ceremony

One great way to include the kids in the actual ceremony is to include a unity ceremony. A unity ceremony is a symbolic ritual that represents the couple becoming one unit. In a blended family, it can be used to symbolize two families becoming one. The unity ceremony takes place during the wedding ceremony, usually after the vows. The officiant often has a reading that explains the practice and its symbolism.

Some ideas include:

  • Sand pouring ceremony: You, your fiancé, and each child takes turns pouring colored sand into a vase. The end result is a kaleidoscope of colors that you can keep as a heirloom.
  • Candle lighting ceremony: Candle lighting is another classic unity ceremony. Of course this one is best for older children, for safety reasons. In a candle lighting, each participant lights a large pillar candle using smaller individual candles. If you have more than one child, you can light each of their candles from the large unity candle.
  • Paint blending ceremony: Similar to the sand pouring ceremony, each member of the family pours a specific color paint onto a canvas. As the colors blend and combine, they create something beautiful and unique. Just like your new blended family. Take this one up a notch, by placing your child’s hand in the center of the painting.

What if your kids don’t want to be in your wedding?

You might have all of these beautiful plans and ideas, but your child (or future stepchild) isn’t having it. That’s ok! Encourage them to be a part of the wedding, but let them know it’s their choice to participate. 

Ask what their objections are and see if you can work with them. Maybe your future step daughter doesn’t want to be your bridesmaid, but would love to be the “Best Girl” for her dad. If a child is a little shy, maybe they would prefer to do a private unity ceremony before the wedding, rather than in front of a crowd. This goes back to knowing your child and having realistic expectations. Explore what works for them. It’s okay if they want to do something that’s different from the other kids in the family too. Don’t force them past their comfort zone for the sake of your vision of a perfect blended family–that will only harm your relationship with them. 

If you or your partner’s kids decide not to have a role in the wedding, that’s fine too. It’s totally normal to have reservations when one of your parents is getting married. Show them that you will love them no matter what by gracefully accepting their decision. 

In conclusion

Including kids in your wedding is a great way to make new memories as a family. There are specific roles that work best for each age group. But keep in mind, your kids are individuals and may have something else in mind. As long as you communicate, you will find something that works for you and your new family. We hope these ideas inspire you on your special day! 

Did you include kids in your wedding? Share your ideas in the Wedding Planning Club Facebook group.

Need additional tips from other like-minded brides? Whether you’re planning a wedding at the last minute or on a budget, check out our free, exclusive Facebook group – Wedding Planning Club

Loved this post from Jen and want to read other posts from a real bride who planned and catered her own wedding? Check out how to cater your own wedding or how to use a spotify playlist for your wedding.

Jennifer Woolfe

Jennifer Woolfe is a writer in Jacksonville, Florida who planned, catered, and DJ'd her own small AirBnb wedding in 2018. So she knows a thing or two about DIYing on a budget. She's also a mother of two children.

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