Joining together in celebration
For couples getting married later in life, it’s not uncommon for children to already be in the picture. That means an opportunity to incorporate the blended family into their wedding celebration in fun and creative ways from the planning stage to post-wedding festivities.
By sharing the nuptial spotlight with children, couples can create unique and intimate moments that ensure the wedding is remembered by the whole family as an exciting new step forward rather than a stressful period of change.
Looking for some ideas? We’ve got it covered with ideas, and inspiration on how to include children before, during, and after a wedding to help celebrate the new family’s beginning plus expert advice from Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Kaleigh Boysen-Quinata from Family Roots Therapy in Portland, OR.
Meet our Expert
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Family Roots Therapy in Portland, OR.
Kaleigh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and received her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Edgewood College in Madison, WI in 2012. She has practiced in a variety of settings, including community mental health agencies, crisis response, and school-based settings. She has also taught a course in child and adolescent counseling at Lewis & Clark College in the Professional Mental Health Counseling Program.
Kaleigh’s mission is to help parents understand their young children’s frustrating and challenging behaviors and teach them new tools and skills to connect with their children and foster the social and emotional skills needed to succeed in life.
Q: A lot of emotions are swimming around the wedding day. For kids, what can some of those emotions look like?
For kids, I think emotions can vary a lot depending on the relationship with the step-parent, the age of the child, and other factors. Some kids feel really excited and happy, some feel nervous or anxious, some feel angry or upset, and some feel conflicting emotions at the same time. Encourage your child that any emotions they are feeling are OK! Keep in mind that some children might feel a sense of loyalty to their other parent or might struggle with accepting a step-parent into their lives, and accepting that and allowing them to feel whatever they feel is important, even if you really want to have everyone integrate smoothly or feel as happy as you do about your marriage.
ideas + advice for how to include Your KiddoS Throughout the Planning Process
Inviting children to join in the wedding planning process may sound a bit far-fetched with all that there is to do, but it’s actually much easier (and more fun!) than it may seem. No one knows your children better than you do, so begin by thinking of tasks or activities that they would actually enjoy being a part of, such as food trials and cake tastings.
This is a wonderful way to work in some family bonding time while deciding on important wedding components and is an easily customizable experience for different cultures and family types. And it makes a beautiful start to your blended family.
If you have a strong opinion or idea about a certain component, try narrowing down a few pre-approved options before requesting input from kids. This way, no matter what the final verdict is, it will be one that both you and the children are happy with. Want to rank a bit higher in the fun department? Make up scorecards where kids can vote on each item using different emoji faces (i.e. happy smiley or pukey green).
Have them help choose the wedding color palette or picking a color they like to be featured on the big day (narrow down to 2 or 3 pre-approved selections to avoid overwhelm).
- Picking a favorite flower to be used in bouquets or arrangements. Or, for the adventurous, maybe try out a DIY bouquet class for the whole family. This can add a sense of ownership in the decoration!
- Curating the wedding reception playlist with a few of their favorite tunes.
Q: What advice do you have for couples thinking about including their kids in the wedding planning process?
I think talking to kids about the process and taking their lead is the best approach. Your child might show interest in certain decisions, and it might be fun to have them taste the cake, for example! But don’t put too much pressure on it if they aren’t interested. And if they do want to be involved, still keep some decisions for you and your partner to enjoy together without the kids.
pre-wedding events + activities
ideas + advice for how to include Your KiddoS
Depending on children’s ages, certain pre-wedding events or activities may not make sense for them to be involved in. While this decision is best left up to the couple’s own discretion, there are a few family-friendly ways that kids of any age can join in events leading up to the wedding:
Make a unity puzzle together to be placed on display at the wedding.
Invite them to join in the fun of trying on wedding gowns or outfit fittings!
For destination weddings, schedule a day or time to explore the area together.
Include them in getting ready before the wedding (even if they’re not included in the wedding party). Children who may be too young for make-up might still enjoy getting dolled up with a fancy hairstyle or getting their nails painted.
Ask if they’d like to assist with the wedding set-up or decor placements.
Designate a special task for them on the day of to make them feel helpful, included, and considered.
Q: What factors should you consider when choosing a role for each child for your ceremony?
Follow your child’s lead on choosing a role for them in the ceremony. Younger children may be only minimally involved. For older children, it will depend on their temperament and their relationship with their parents and step-parent. I would encourage parents to ask their child how much they want to be involved and give some ideas and suggestions. Some may only want to watch, some may want to participate, and some may want to stand with their parent but not participate. It’s hard to give one answer because it depends on what your child is comfortable with.
ceremony + reception
ideas + advice on how to incorporate your kids in your big day
Asking children to be a part of the wedding party is probably the most common way to incorporate family members into the ceremony itself, but it certainly isn’t the only way. Taking the opportunity as newly married heads of your family to recognize each member of a blended family during a ceremony or reception, when the focus is typically on the newlyweds, can go a long way towards reminding children how important they are to their parents.
We’re all familiar with the traditional flower girl role as a way to incorporate young children in a wedding, but there are so many more options. Including the whole family in the writing and exchanging of vows, or having them play another role traditionally reserved for someone else (such as walking the bride down the aisle) is a great way to make the wedding stand for more than just the marriage of a couple.
By including children directly into parts of the wedding traditionally reserved for others, couples can reinforce the idea that their union is about the creation of a new blended family together.
Presenting children with a personalized gift during the ceremony or reception.
Asking them to perform live music if they play an instrument.
Lighting a unity candle or holding a ceremonial ritual that links the joint family members together as one
Adding representations of each child to the wedding cake tiers.
Planning a special “second dance” with the kids at the reception.
Q: Do you have any tips for talking to kids after the big day?
I think after the wedding, discussing everyone’s favorite parts of the day and what it means to be married and join together as a family could be really helpful. Talking about how roles might change (or not) and what they are looking forward to in their time together as a family could be a really beneficial discussion for kids.
after the wedding
After the food has all been eaten and the guests have returned home, it might be easy to fall into a new routine and forget just how big of an adjustment the wedding may have had on your children. Carving out some intentional time post-wedding to reflect on the ceremony and check-in with children provides an opportunity for newlyweds to continue working to strengthen their connection that their whole family shares.
Plan a special family trip, game night, or outing to recap and share everyone’s favorite wedding moments
Bring kids along on the honeymoon trip
View the wedding photo gallery together and have kids pick out their favorites
Let children open some or all of the wedding gifts and help write “thank you” cards
Each family is unique, and each child will have their own expectations, perspectives, and feelings about their parents getting remarried. Making sure that the wedding is meaningful for everyone and that children feel included isn’t going to transform family dynamics overnight, but it’s a good first step towards making sure that the wedding can serve as a positive symbol of growth and inspire even more love and unity for the whole family moving forward.
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