Let’s face it – not all marriages follow the pattern of first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes bride/groom with the baby carriage. Many people already have children when they get married, or remarried, and it makes the planning a different process than those who start their families after the nuptials. Here’s what it looks like when you have your kids in your wedding.
Did it make things a little more complicated? Yes. Was there a time or two that I was mildly annoyed that we were dealing with “kid” things instead of focusing just on the wedding? Yes, that happened. But overall, having kids in your wedding and having them be such a big part of our big day was really pretty awesome. They don’t remember a lot of it but love looking back at the photos from it and asking questions about what they did that day. If you had to have kids in your wedding all over again, I would go into it with these few pieces of advice in mind with having kids in your wedding:
When You Have Kids In Your Wedding:
Let people help you
Grandparents, other family members, friends …. if they want to help keep your kids in line and happy on the big day, let them bless you in that way. My husband flew with his parents so he had help on the flight to the wedding location and home again. When there was an issue regarding my stepdaughter’s age (and no birth certificate to prove she was still free), my father-in-law bought her a last minute ticket and we figured out all the details later. After the wedding, the kids stayed with different grandparents. Even my daughter’s paternal grandmother paid for a flight to be there and was part of our wedding party (and helped with the kids when she saw an opportunity). These wonderful people, and others, also helped us set up the day of the wedding and offered to run to stores to pick up last minute items we might need. Simply put, without these extra people helping and being willing to step in on kid duty, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy our wedding as much as we did.
Explain your expectations to your kids
This will vary based on the ages of your children. For us, it meant telling a 4, 3 and nearly-2-year-old what actually HAPPENED at a wedding and what their role would be in it. We told them there would be a few minutes of the day when they needed to be quiet and pay attention (they did adequately well on this portion) but that the rest would be a big party with dancing, food, and cupcakes. We just needed them to be as well-behaved as possible during those few minutes.
Let them be them
To go along with my first point — make sure those expectations are realistic. My stepdaughter was in a phase where she never, ever let go of her bedtime bear. EVER. It would have been unrealistic for me to pry it from her arms before she walked down the aisle, especially since she is shy to begin with. Instead, the bear was an honorary member of our wedding party. My stepson’s Nintendo DS managed to stay out of the actual ceremony but shows up in many of the formal and after-party pictures. Most of the time he is just holding it (once my daughter Emilia is holding it), but it’s there. Would my picture be more “perfect” without the electronics and stuffed bear? It depends how you look at it. My kids would probably not be happy in the pics so that wouldn’t be perfect to me. Find ways to make your kids feel comfortable with the big day and it will be a happier experience for them.
Hire a professional photographer
We hired a professional photographer (thanks Amy Straka!) to photograph before, during and after our ceremony for a few reasons. The first was that we had some aging family members in attendance and I really wanted some large, quality family shots. As it turns out, my two remaining grandparents died within months of my wedding and those large family pictures are even more poignant today. What we didn’t anticipate was that our officiant, my husband’s best friend Colin, would also pass away about 18 months after the wedding. The photos we have of him from that day with our kids are priceless treasures that would likely have been missed if we had asked a family member to volunteer to snap pictures.
The biggest reason I wanted a professional, though, was because I knew that our wedding wasn’t just a timestamp of my husband and I — it marked a new beginning for our already growing family. I wanted A LOT of pictures of my kids. More than I was comfortable asking a volunteer to take. I asked our photographer to follow them around and get shots of the small moments of the day — the girls feeding each other cupcakes, my son sitting like a grown up by his place card, all of them busting a move on the dance floor. She would have taken them all anyway, even if I hadn’t asked, but knowing that someone was going to capture that for me in the chaos of the day was one less thing that worried me.
Remember that your kids are celebrating just like you are. Get out on the dance floor and do the Chicken Dance alongside them. Smush some wedding cake in their sweet little faces. Let them hold your hand during the ceremony when they start to get nervous. Not everyone has the privilege of spending such a momentous day with their kids beside them — so ENJOY that.
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