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  • Writer's pictureLisa Flahant

Including friends and family in your ceremony

It’s been a busy few weeks, fitting in new bookings for next year among those postponed from 2020, and getting to know all these lovely ‘new’ couples. And there have been some really interesting trends, from more DIY and holiday home ceremonies, to a definite shift in more intimate and personal wedding celebrations - which are my absolute favourites!

One request I have received on numerous occasions, is that couples want to take the opportunity to FULLY involve friends and family in their ceremony – which is wonderful, as a celebrant ceremony is all about taking the opportunity to personalise your day exactly as you want, and naturally, I have a host of ideas to help with that :-) Read on to find out more about just a few of them!

Including parents While tradition dictates that dad will walk his daughter down the aisle, there’s no reason that mum should not do this, or indeed mum AND dad. Or gran and granddad, or auntie and uncle – completely depending on your family set-up. And of course with extended families, step-parents can share in the escorting duties, so that all parentages can be included in this ceremonial rite of passage. Exchanging a kiss or a cuddle with your folks, or hearing some quiet words of encouragement or advice are moments you will always remember – and is something I positively encourage just before the ceremony starts.

Mums and dads are invariably brilliant at delivering readings – whereas mums tend to choose something heartfelt and meaningful, dads will usually favour funny and entertaining, but both options are lovely ways of including your parents in the heart of your ceremony.

There are also some beautiful vows or blessings that can include parents, as well as any number of rituals that are perfect, such as the rose ceremony – adding roses to a central vase to create a unified bouquet - or the unity candle ritual – using separate candles to light a central candle. One of my ceremonies next year will include the parents in a wine ceremony – presenting the couples with the wine to pour from the small carafe to the large, blending the wines to represent the union of the two families.

And of course, there are ceremonies where we start with remembering parents who are no longer with us. Asking a family member - often a sibling - to come up and light a remembrance candle, perhaps next to a photograph, and having a short moment of reflection can help us honour and connect with those who are deeply missed.

Including children For many couples, not only will they be celebrating becoming a husband or wife on their big day, but they will also be moving into the official role of step-mum or step-dad. And quite a few have said to me, they don’t want their day to be all about them, they want to ensure their children feel included and special.

Whether it’s walking mum or dad down the aisle, or throwing rose petals in front of the bridal party, there are lots of ways to involve children that should make them feel important. I have seen children be a best man (or woman), usher and bridesmaid, ring bearer and dog-handler – and they have all done these things wonderfully. Occasionally a child will be brave enough to do a reading (sometimes with the support of a sibling or another member of a family) and as long as they are happy to do it, it usually works amazingly!

Another creative and inclusive way to involve the smaller people in your life, is a symbolic ritual. There are so many to choose from – but ones that work particularly well are ring warming ceremonies (the children are responsible for setting off the rings on the journey around the guests) – or a hand fasting (children can help with tying the ‘love knot’ of ribbons or cords around the couple’s hands) – or a sand or water ceremony (when the while family gets involved by blending different coloured sands or water in one vessel to represent the blending of the families).

Including friends One of the most welcoming ways to involve all your friends is a guest vow, or a declaration of support - guests respond ‘We do’ or ‘We will’ to a question asked about giving their commitment to support you both as active friends and families in your future lives. I love including this, as it sets the tone beautifully for a highly inclusive, personal and sometimes raucous ceremony! Depending on the many talents of your friends, you might decide to include them as readers (a surprise reading of the lyrics of a carefully chosen song can be comedy gold or wildly romantic, depending on the choice!) or indeed performers, particularly if they have a musical ability – an acoustic performance of a favourite song can be a really special moment.

And of course there are many rituals in which you can involve friends – wishing stones are a lovely way of including everyone – wishes or piece of advice are written on stones, and then during the ceremony friends come up to place their stones into a vase or bowl for the couple to keep. Including furry family I cannot tell you how many of my ceremonies involve furry pawed ones! Mainly canines, for logistical reasons, but I do look forward to the day I might be graced with the presence of a family feline.

If your dog is pretty chilled and likely to take things in his or her stride, there’s absolutely no reason why he or she shouldn’t be with you on your big day. Whether as a hairy best man or bridesmaid, the bearer of the rings (the most popular option) or a VIP guest, there are various ways your four legged friend can be with you on your day – just be sure to tailor your plans to their personality; you want it to be as stress-free as possible for them, and for you.

So there you go, a few ideas you are welcome to borrow if you are wanting to include those closest to you in your big day. And if you’d like me to be a part of your day, just drop me a line!

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