How to include children in your wedding ceremony

There are lots of ways, big and small, to include children in your ceremony even if they are not part of the bridal party. Most children love having a special job and will be delighted to be included, just make sure the job is appropriate for their age.

  • Give older children readings to do
  • Older more outgoing children might want to sing a special song (but beware of this one, you don’t want any Simon Cowell commentary from your uncles about ‘performances’ afterwards)
  • Giving wedding programmes to guests before the ceremony is usually the job of the groomsmen or ushers, but smaller children love to be special helpers. Grooms-minimen?
  • Include your own children or your partner’s children in the lighting of the unity candle, or as part of a sand ceremony, hands blessing, tying of the knots… most rituals can be adapted to include children. These are perfect ways to show children that they are an important part of their parents’ lives and to show their importance in their parents’ future.
  • Ensure their names are mentioned in the to make them feel extra special.
  • Of course, the real fun one – kids love throwing rose petals so putting them in charge of handing out bags of petals or distributing the alternatives is a dream job for kids.
  • Surprise them with a gift within the ceremony, usually after their parents have exchanged rings – I recommend a pounamu pendant or something similar that they will keep as a memento of the very special ceremony they have just been a part of.

In a child’s mind, weddings seem like loads of fun – a day of partying in a pretty dress, hanging out with your favourite uncle, lots of sweets, treats and general mischief to get up to. In reality, they can often find wedding ceremonies long and dull.

If you’re including kids in the proceedings as flower girls,  junior bridesmaids, page boys or ring bearers make sure that their outfits are comfortable and age-appropriate — they’ll look better and be much happier! Make sure they have a cardi or jacket so they’re not too hot or cold.

Little girls will be usually be delighted with pretty dresses, though don’t assume! Some girls would be way more comfortable in shorts or pants.

Likewise for the little boys, they won’t take kindly to things that are uncool. They can be picky about what they will and won’t wear. 

The most traditional role for a boy participating in a wedding ceremony is that of a ring bearer. The boy proceeds down the aisle carrying a pillow that is meant for carrying and displaying the rings. Depending on the age and level of responsibility of the boy, you can opt to place the actual wedding bands on the pillow or fake ones.

Roles for children:

Children can be a witness as long as they are old enough to understand the ceremony

Children can do a reading, recite a poem or sing a song/play an instrument. They can hold the wedding rings. They can escort you or your partner down the aisle. And they can even be the witnesses and sign your marriage licence, however they must be able to understand what’s happening. If they:

* are children, they have to be old enough to understand the ceremony, and be able to explain their understanding in court later if required

To achieve this, you celebrant will usually have some quiet time with the child and ask them to describe marriage and love – some of the answers I have heard are wee treasures:

“A man and a woman promise to go through sickness and illness and diseases together.” — Marlon, age 10

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but rugby is pretty good too.” — Greg, age 8

“I’m in favour of love as long as it doesn’t happen when Dinosaurs is on television.” — Jill, age 6

How to Make it Smoothly Through Your Wedding with Kids

  • Make sure that any of the kids who will have a part or job on the big day attend the rehearsal and are prepared, so that they aren’t panicked when it’s go-time on the big day (no one wants to be the kid on the wedding video being prodded and prompted).
  • It’s especially important if they’re part of the bridal party, that they have a practice walking down the aisle in front of people until they are comfortable with it. Even the most outgoing children can get suddenly shy when put on the spot.
  • Safety in numbers: an older sibling or groups of kids can make the walk down the aisle easier for a younger child.
  • Likewise, readings can also be done in groups if there are some shy children in the bunch. Here are some reading ideas.
  • Don’t get flustered if one of the little ones gets stage fright. It’s your wedding – not a stage show, and small children can’t be expected to perform on cue! So be ready with a plan B if your niece decides she no longer wants to scatter petals down the aisle!

One Tip: Consider having your ushers or groomsmen seat parents of very young children near the end of rows in the church ceremony so they can make a quick and quiet exit if their child starts crying during the ceremony.

One thing to note: It’s totally up to you whether or not to invite children to your wedding, and which children you invite! You may want just your own kids, all your nieces and nephews, or perhaps the children of all your guests – there’s no right or wrong answer, just try not to feel pressured either way!

Here is a suggestion suitable for a child (or it can be shared by more than 1 child) to read