Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Including Children in Weddings

Alison Bauer, who pastors a church in PA includes children in worship regularly in wonderfully creative ways. After I saw the pictures of her wedding album page for children, I asked her permission to share. She sent the pictures and the ...following. Thank you, Allison!

 Here's an idea for your next blended family wedding when the couple is interested in including their children in the service or a wedding where you KNOW there will be a bunch of kids in attendance. 

Consider adding a children's sermon! (Or, do this at the very beginning of the wedding as a welcome for the kids.) Ask the kids if they will help you make a present for the bride & groom. Hand them a coloring/drawing page tailored to the couple. (See examples in the pictures.) Ask them to fill in the boxes, color the letters, and draw their own pictures. Because the questions asked involve the wedding, hopefully this will both help them to pay attention to what's going on AND keep little hands busy during the service and picture-taking and the reception. (You can provide crayons or perhaps the bride & groom could.)

Have the kids bring you their pictures when they are finished (either at the end of the service or during the reception.) Punch three holes in a manila folder and all the papers, put the papers in the folder, tie some string through each hole and, presto!, you've got a homemade wedding album from the kids! Even children who cannot read can do this with a little help from a sibling or grown-up. (I even had a grown-up who liked to draw make one of these!)

[SIDEBAR: Of course, not every child will want to participate, and you know not to force them. :o)]

But don't stop there!! There are lots of other ways to involve children in the ENTIRE wedding service! Traditional suggestions (for which you can do a simple internet search) include helping as bulletin-passer-outers, ushers, and ring-bearers/flower girls. Also, if you feel like walking on the wild side, kids could (with supervision) roll out the aisle runner or (again with supervision) light the unity candle. This could be especially poignant if it is a blended family service and candles are included for the kids too.

If you REALLY want to walk on the wild side and the parents REALLY want the kids involved AMAP (as much as possible!), consider these suggestions: at a recent wedding I performed, after the parents declared their vows to each other, the kids came up and stood with parents as they made vows to the kids (Parents: "[Insert kids' names], we both love you very much. And we promise to take care of you. And laugh with you. And cry with you. And love you with all of our hearts."). And then the kids made their vows back to their parents ("Thank you for loving me. And for letting me love you. I’m so glad you are now part of my family.") (And the kids stayed up with the parents for the rest of the service.)

And when it came time to exchange rings, the oldest sons from each family held them while I prayed over them. Then the bride's oldest son gave his mom's ring to his new step-father to put on his mom's finger, and vice-versa. (Or, you could do it the other way around too.)

During the ring exchange, couples can also present gifts to the children (no matter how old they are!) as part of the service. One couple, who had a two year old son who wouldn't remember much about the day, gave him a tractor, which was his favorite kind of toy. They called it the "wedding tractor" and when he would play with it, they would tell him the story of their wedding. Another couple had three teenage girls involved in the wedding. The parents ordered necklaces in a heart shape with ALL their birthstones included and gave them to the girls after exchanging their own rings.

Of course, you need to consider the children's willingness to participate. Particularly in a blended family situation, not every child will be enthusiastic and eager to participate. But try to bring them along as best you can. (For example, one of the four boys involved in a wedding was not happy that his dad was getting re-married and he wasn't quite sure he wanted to color the worksheet I gave out. He WOULD, however, color a picture from a coloring book and allow me to include that as part of my wedding album.) Treat it on a case-by-case kind of situation.

Don't be afraid to be creative with other parts of the service too--have the children read the Scripture or a poem or sing a song. See if you can come up with something everyone can participate in as a substitute for the unity candle. The sky's the limit!

Who can add other ideas?!

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