I believe it is very important if children are coming into the marriage that they be recognized or participate in some part of the wedding ceremony itself. Children often can not express fears or doubts they have. Involving children in the ceremony helps them to transition to the new relationship they are now a part of. Many times it takes time for your child to work your request through their feelings. What may be a clear turn down today may be an enthusiastic 'sure' a few weeks from now. Give them time you won't regret it.
The number one suggestion is mention the children in the ceremony as often as you can. I think it is much more important that children hear their names mentioned in the ceremony, than it is that they play any major part of the ceremony. (There will be exceptions to this so clear it ahead of time with the shy ones). Mentioning a child's name during the wedding assures that they are an important part of the occasion and have special status which guests and other family members attending do not. At this special time children need to feel important to their parents. Remember with this ceremony a new family is being born. This is especially important to young ones. When children are coming into the marriage, it is appropriate to mention in the ceremony that not only is a marriage being formed, but also a family - and then we name each child. If a prayer is in the ceremony, each child's name can be stated in the prayer.
Watch out for the "i feel rejected" syndrome immediately after the ceremony. Where children tend to be left out is immediately after the ceremony. The bride and groom walk away and are crowded by "big people" - with the children left out of the immediate post ceremony celebration. Remember most children do not know what they are supposed to do after the ceremony ends. This is easily avoided. The couple should simply take a moment to hug their child/children, thank them for helping in the ceremony, and then telling them they are free to play etc. This time of quality recognition is very important.
Be careful with the excessive involvement of children in the marriage ceremony. Surprise! Once in a while children will not share your sense of excitement about the wedding. Often, to the child it can seem more a party occasion. Usually, giving children major roles in the ceremony quickly becomes a duty rather than a delight. It is generally best to give a child only one active role and also to be mentioned in the ceremony, rather than to actively involve a child at too many different points throughout the ceremony. With teenagers, some care should be taken not to give them roles they may feel silly doing.
For younger children, usually the simple task of holding the rings or bouquet is enough to accomplish a sense of participation. For teenagers, the role may be as simple as standing up with the couple, playing the CD or tape of wedding music, or even just taking pictures of the ceremony with a one time camera. In short try to find a non ceremony role for the child. Often if presenting roses are a part of the ceremony the couple will have a rose for each of the children. After exchanging roses, the couple will then give each child a rose, a hug, and whisper "I love you." Typically, couples may give children a gift right after they exchange their own rings and vows - usually a necklace, medallion, or ring - along with a hug and an "I love you." Use the family unity candle. As we all know children are fascinated with candles and involving them in the is an excellent involvement means. This can be done many ways. If the children are small the bride and groom light small candles for each of the children - and then they light the center candle together. If the children are older each child can have a candle to light. Then all light the centre candle together.
Generally speaking, flower girls and ring bearers are between three and seven years of age. Of course, the younger they are, the more unpredictable their behavior will be. If the child is old enough to walk up the aisle and be relatively well behaved throughout what will appear to him to be a relatively long time, then he's old enough. It really depends on the personality of the child.
Children eager to participate in the wedding ceremony can be bridesmaids and ushers as well as honor attendants (the new unisex term for the maid of honor and best man); the roles they can play are no longer limited.. An eleven-year-old son can be a best man. A nine-year-old girl can be a maid of honor. A bride's son can be her "honor attendant," as a groom's daughter can be his. A bride's son, daughter, or both can escort her up the aisle and "give her away." You may even choose to have your wedding party made up entirely of your own children as my spouse and I did.
Allow your children to come up and sign part of the official documents at the signing of the register.. Yes you need two witnesses for the license but your officiant will give you 'the record of marriage' part of the license and anyone can sign, print or make their mark! Warn your wedding photographer to be on the alert for these wonderful moments. In my experience, children love this above all other part of the ceremony, and so does everyone else .Again when your officiant introduces you have your children up there with you. They will love the applause and treasure the memory of how important they were on Mom or Dad's big day.
(Rev. K. "Casey" McKibbon BA. MA was ordained by the United Church of Canada in 1974. He served the Church in Metcalfe, Ontario in the Ottawa Presbytery since 1979 until he resigned from the order of ministry of the United Church in 1999. Now Ordained in the All Seasons Church of Canada, Casey has been conducting nondenominational, and spiritual wedding ceremonies since 1997. Among his honours is the Canada Medal which he received from the Governor General of Canada, "in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community, and to Canada". Casey's passion is wedding ceremonies which he conducts with grace, humour and elegance on every occasion.)
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