Many couples grapple with ways to include family and friends in the ceremony. You might be seeking a way to honour your heritage and family traditions. Perhaps to acknowledge specific loved ones, or merge the new family that is formed by your marriage. The trick is to do this in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel pressured or excluded, and that is true to the spirit and the tone of your ceremony.
The ideal, in fact, is to make everyone feel included and welcomed. A favourite of mine is to have grandmothers as flowergirls.
It is always an honour for me to work with a couple to create a meaningful ceremony that manages to blend families and smooth rough spots while celebrating the spirit of their love. Here are some examples:
1. Using symbolism Have something that represents the family or a particular member on your person or at your wedding altar. “Something old, something new,” -the something old is meant to be something the bride carries or wears that is passed on by a relative. For example, grandmother’s handkerchief, or a bouquet of 8 calla lilies that may represent 8 important people in life. This can be mentioned in the wedding program.
2. Unique walks down the aisle Why not have some family members walk to one point down the aisle and others the rest of the way ?
3. Having loved ones at the wedding altar It is traditional to have the bridal party at the wedding altar with you, however you may like to honour others. When a bride or groom hails from the Jewish tradition, you may see a chuppah. This is a canopy on poles under which the wedding ceremony takes place and which represents the new home. It usually involves at least four people, usually selected family members, to hold the poles.
4. Rituals that merge the families There are many lovely rituals that can include the family. A sand ceremony includes parents and or children in a creative way to symbolically blend families together. Bride and groom pour coloured sand into a bottle, and then the children pour, representing the new family formed on their wedding day. A unity candle also helps families unite on a common ground.
5. Inviting loved ones to offer readings and blessings Your wedding celebrant can read poems or blessings you select. However it is always nice to ask a loved one or two to participate. I am regularly asked to provide readings for people you love and trust to read. Often too parents offer a personal blessing.
6. Honouring family traditions Sometimes it is extremely important to acknowledge your parents and family by honouring your heritage. There are many ways to do this, so that is does not dominate the ceremony. For example, duplicating readings in different languages, blending in traditions of both families, including a blessing from the elders. I regularly explain the meaning of the traditions to guests which makes the occasion more meaningful and inclusive for everyone.
7. Including children If you or your beloved come to your new marriage with children in tow, it is important to acknowledge the new family that is formed on your wedding day. If you have all been together for a while, you might already feel like a family — which is great — so your ceremony can celebrate and reinforce that. At a recent wedding ceremony the groom gave the bride’s daughter a little ring too
8. Honouring those no longer with us There are many lovely ways to do this. You can have family members come up and light a candle, or light one yourself. You can then move on to celebrate the occasion.