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North Hills Monthly

Involving Children in a Wedding Makes the Event Even More Special

Jun 01, 2015 11:31AM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Photo courtesy of Rebekah Lebovitz, Looking Glass Photography

Here comes the bride…and the groom…and the kids…

Second marriages are on the rise and blended families are rapidly becoming part of the fabric of life. Participating in a parent’s wedding is an important step in helping a child adapt to the new reality and family life, and in some cases, a new couple may want to include nieces, nephews or other special children in their wedding festivities.

There are many ways to keep the little ones included in the celebration so that they don’t feel left out. Alexis Maddox is one of the lead principal planners at the Pittsburgh-based Shayla Hawkins Events, and said that often when children take part in a wedding, they are given the roles of flower girls or ring bearers, or if tweens, may serve as  junior bridesmaids. But recently, she planned a second wedding for a couple with five girls between them, ranging in age from seven to a senior in high school, and the daughters comprised the entire bridal party.

“They incorporated their children so beautifully, down to the invitations, which listed all of their daughters’ names,” said Maddox. She added that the children were involved in the entire planning process: helping to choose the floral arrangements, choosing their dresses and helping the bride get ready.  “It made the day that much more special. It was more than about two people marrying; it was about fusing families.” Maddox added that the entire family formed a circle around the couple at the ceremony, adding a very heartfelt dimension to the wedding. 

Shari Zatman, owner of the Fox Chapel area-based event planning companies, Perfectly Planned by Shari and It’s Your Day, said that including children in the wedding festivities should be based on a case-by-case basis and should be appropriate for the maturity level of the specific child. “You have to make sure that every child has an age-appropriate skill set and evaluate each child based on that,” she explained.

Zatman has had older children act as ushers, and had younger children hand out programs. Maddox has also had children hand out programs, but recommends that they be supervised as the task can be a little overwhelming.

Zatman said that if a child is below three, you may want to question whether they should be involved at all, citing a recent experience where stage fright overtook a small child before he was to walk down the aisle. “You have to be flexible when kids are that young and be ready to switch things on the fly,” she advised.

Once the ceremony is over, there are ways to involve kids at the reception as well as keep them entertained. “At the reception, if the children are close to the bride and groom, you might want to involve them in speeches or special dances,” said Zatman, adding that they can also participate in blessings over the bread and wine, such as at Jewish weddings. 

An experienced wedding D.J. should know how to engage children in the entertainment portion of the reception without turning the party into a kindergarten field trip. Local D.J. Steve Lebo, owner of Party-Time Productions, has many suggestions for keeping children occupied, noting, “There may be some people who simply cannot attend the wedding if it will not include their children.”

In addition to providing a diverse selection of dance music, Lebo has crafted many creative ideas to engage kids of all ages during the reception. For example, he suggests hiring a clown, magician, caricature artist or providing a video game area.

“Have a craft table or separate tables for the young ones. You can put crayon books and crayons out, put heavy white paper over the tablecloth and let them color. I have even seen centerpieces of Legos in buckets for the kids to enjoy,” said Lebo. He added that the DJ can also provide games for the children during the cocktail hour, such as Limbo or Simon Says, or some outdoor games in good weather.

“Provide a disposable camera for a game of ‘I Spy.’ The tweens love this. Prepare a checklist of things that need to be captured on camera and let them run with it,” he continued. He also suggested Candy Toss, where a bride throws candy to children as a bonus to the bouquet toss, or, for tweens, a teddy bear toss.

Regardless of the role that children ultimately will play in a wedding, the key point is to make them feel as if they matter, even though the day doesn’t revolve around them. “Weddings are emotional in the best way possible, so when you are including younger children as part of it, it magnifies how much they’re loved,” said Maddox. “Including children can make the day that much more special and create a great memory for the child.”