Ask Team Practical: Honoring Loved Ones

Families who aren’t supportive have been covered on APW before, I know. But I have kind of a different twist on the problem. Both of our mothers have had significant issues coming to terms with the fact that their daughters are getting married to women. Early on in the wedding process we decided that we would be excited if our moms could get in the right mental space to even be at the wedding, and we would deal with it if they couldn’t.

But now, a couple of months out from the wedding, we find ourselves with an amazing problem—two moms, completely on-board and excited about the wedding they never dreamed for their daughters! (And we absolutely realize and appreciate how lucky we are to be in the position.) We have already set up the ceremony to replace all of the usual parent of the bride functions, and our grandparents and brothers, etc. are excited about those roles (e.g., walking us down the aisle). But we want to appreciate our mothers and all the work they’ve done to be able to be there to support us, and we don’t want them to feel sad for not being included.

Any suggestions for ways to incorporate parents during the ceremony itself? We want to honor and celebrate where everyone is today because, in the end, it’s all about the journey that gets you there and propels you forward, right?

More Support Than We Know What to Do With (a happy problem)


Happy problem is right! And, it seems in your case, an unexpected one.

Many people find themselves in the lucky situation of having more people to honor than they have traditional roles to fill. That’s one of the best parts of thinking outside the box for a wedding—you get to honor as many people as you want. It’s what a wedding ceremony boils down to, after all. Sure, you have the whole “getting married” bit—I guess that’s sort of important. But, if you choose to, you get to pay a bit of homage to the people who love and support you in your relationship. It’s not a matter of having a specific checklist of roles to fill. It’s the opportunity to say, “Who do we want to involve and how can we do it?”

Here are just a few ideas:

Programs. Some people skip on handing out ceremony programs, but if you’re having them (I, for one, will take any opportunity to have another pretty piece of paper), they’re a really nice place to honor loved ones. You can say something simple like, “Mary and Jane want to take a moment to thank their moms for their love and support,” or get more poetic. If these ladies are anything like my mom, you’ll find that sucker in a frame above the mantle.

Talents. Do your parents have special talents that might be nice to share? Singing, playing an instrument, or writing a piece of poetry are all great ways to include someone in the ceremony. Unlike some of the other suggestions, this one is tricky. You want to be sure that the person you ask feels included and honored, not obligated to perform as an unpaid sideshow. Usually, though, people are eager to express themselves through their talents. For a mom at her daughter’s wedding? There’s a whole lot to express.

Reading. Special readings offer so many options—just some of which were discussed here, here and here. Your moms could each read a separate piece individually, or demonstrate the unifying of two families by reading together. You could choose something sentimental and reminiscent from your childhood (maybe an excerpt from a picture book your mom read when you were young). Or, you could find a poem, quotation or song lyric that represents your relation to your mom. Or, you could ask your mom to choose something that is significant to her. See what I mean about “options”? A less common (but equally valid) approach is to ask your parents to do a Charge to the Couple—basically a small speech on the weight and importance of marriage that’s given before the officiating of vows. This involves them, honors them, and gives them an integral piece of the ceremony to make their own by passing on what they’ve learned about marriage. (Meg points out that an option that’s similar, and less Christian in origin, Blessing of the Couple by the parents, where they express their hopes and dreams for you. Either of these could be modified beautifully for a non-religious ceremony, as well.)

Carrying stuff. It sounds like a minor job (especially when you immediately conjure images of a six-year-old boy carrying a pillow), but carrying things is a big deal during a ceremony. You can ask your parents to carry something secondary (flowers or candles to adorn the space) or something integral to the ceremony itself (the rings, a book of prayer, a ritual object). There’s something subtly symbolic about having loved ones bring together the pieces that make up the wedding day.

Standing there. If your moms aren’t terribly interested in doing much more than blubbering into a tissue, standing beside you as you say your vows can be very meaningful. This makes them more than an audience at the ceremony and can serve as a direct visual representation of their support as they stand beside you.

Ask them! When it comes down to it, the best way to figure out how to make someone feel important is to ask them what role they’d like. An honest conversation with your mom along the lines of, “I’m really grateful that you’re so supportive, and I want you to be involved in the ceremony. Is there anything you want to do?” might bring out some obvious answers that you won’t find here. Maybe Mom will blurt out a deep desire to stand at the altar or serenade you or carry the rings. Maybe she’ll need some ideas. The important part is that you’ll have honored your relationship and her growing support.



Team Practical! What other ideas do you have for incorporating loved ones into a ceremony? How did you honor your family and friends?

Photo by Lauren McGlynn Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com or use the submission form here.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). However, don’t let thinking up a sign-off stress you out; we’ll love you regardless. You’re already writing in for advice, don’t you have enough to deal with, sweetie?

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  • MadGastronomer

    When my brother got married, he and his wife included everyone’s parents in the Unity Candle ceremony, which got tweaked around to be about parts of two families joining to create one new family. There was a part of the ceremony where the officiant asked who support each of them, and their parents stepped forward, and then each mother lit a taper for her child, which they then used to light to single candle.

    Oh, and when they wanted to find a place for me in the ceremony, but my sister in law already had seven attendants, they came to me and said, “We really want to include you in the wedding, but we don’t know where to put you.” I said, “You know I’m ordained by the Universal Life Church and can legally perform weddings, right?” So I was the officiant, and I wrote the ceremony for them. I’ve still got it, if anyone wants the specific language I used.

    • Rachael

      I do!

      • MadGastronomer

        A marriage is not made in a vacuum; a new family needs the support of their loved ones.

        Who supports (Hername) in this?
        Parents: We do

        Who supports (Hisname) in this?
        Parents: We do.

        Thank you for your love and support.
        (Hermom), (Hismom), will you please step forward and light the candles? [Each mother lights a candle for her child.]

        These two candles represent you, your lives, your passions. You are each a whole and complete person on your own, burning with your own light.

        Now, light the third candle together, to represent the new life and new family you are beginning together. Do not extinguish your own candles — you are not consumed by this new life, but rather your light and the light of your new family shine out together, making everything around you brighter.

        (Text is mine, inspired by lots of other stuff. Use it freely.)

  • Instead of the typical entrance, we had everyone process (walk in). My husband first walked in his grandmas before the ceremony. Then, we had an acolyte, the four attendants, and him with his parents. My brothers walked in, and then I walked in with both my parents.

    The other way we honored folks was through music. We got married right around Christmas, so all our music was Christmas stuff. We processed in to his mom’s favorite (O Come, all Ye Faithful), and we recessed to my mom’s favorite (Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella).

    We also had a wedding reading that came from my parents’ wedding (Kahlil Gibran’s two trees). My father is a minister, but we had other minister friends marry us so he could be my dad. But I honored him by using a communion liturgy he wrote as part of our communion.

    There’s lots of little ways to weave people in. It might not be overt (as in, maybe everyone doesn’t know), but the person who is being recognized will understand that it’s for them.

    • Josephine

      I just want to say how lovely it is to see a Christian giving advice to a same sex couple :o) Thanks Leah!

      (Christian and gay)

      • meg

        I feel like I need to say OF COURSE here. I’d *hope* that at APW we just assume that religion and tolerance go hand in hand. I am, of course, religious, and we have two religions in our family… both very involved in fighting hard for gay rights.

        • Josephine

          I do expect it at APW but I just thought that I’d celebrate it anyway!
          For reference, the Church of England is fighting against gay marriage as we speak, and the key Catholic bishop just compared gay marriage in the UK to bringing back slavery. Just before reading APW this morning I was reading articles on that. So this was a lovely comment to read.

  • I always hesitate to say “this is what I did” because I know it’s not always useful, but in this case it might help with ideas- my husband and I had our families process down the aisle instead of a bridal party, which put them in the spotlight and they appreciated, and we had our moms do a reading together, which ended up being really adorable. There are some great pictures of them laugh/crying while trying to read from the same piece of paper.

    I’m so glad your moms both ended up being so supportive!

    • Shiri

      We’re doing something like this, too. I had a similar situation with my father (though for a different reason) and I think we’ll just be adding him to the family processional. Also, in our tradition (Jewish), there is an opportunity for relatives/friends to say one of the seven blessings over the couple – though we’ll be making it a secular blessing – and I’ll have my dad do one of those, too. So even though he won’t have the “traditional” father of the/a bride role, he’ll have a special role.

      And yay for your moms being on board!

    • We’re thinking about doing the same thing; since it’s a Jewish wedding, my fiance’s sisters and their children would walk in, then his daughter, then him with his parents, then my brothers, then me with my parents. I think it would feel really nice to have that group at the chuppah with us.
      Now, all we have to do is wait for his family to decide if they can come (they live in England)….

  • Alexa

    A friend of mine did a rose ceremony where, as a couple, they gave roses to each of their parents. I though it was especially nice because the one actually giving the rose was the one joining the family (so she gave one to each of her husbands parents and vice versa). They actually gave a total of 5 roses because her parents were divorced and her dad had remarried. You could adjust this to just include your mothers, or whatever subset of family you want to especially recognize.

    • We did this too! (Although we just gave them to our mothers.) We also had my father do a reading during the ceremony.

  • Jessica

    We did several things to incorporate our families into our ceremony. One example is that each mom and dad answered some questions about marriage/love/us prior to the ceremony and our officiant incorporated their words into the ceremony. We also had a point in the ceremony where my parents and siblings were asked if they would embrace my husband into their family. Then his family did the same for me. It felt like a really powerful and emotional part of the ceremony for all of us.

    We also asked both of our mothers if they would like to give a speech at the reception (making it clear that it was totally up to them). We didn’t see any reason to only give the fathers the opportunity. My mother-in-law said no but my mother was *thrilled* to do so. I’ve also been to wedding receptions with mother-daughter dances or family dances. Just a few reception ideas too!

  • J

    We had our moms hand us the rings at the right moment. There was something really special about in the middle of the ceremony my mom giving me the ring that would live on my husband’s finger in future. Not to mention the wonderfulness of an impromptu hug with mom in the middle of the ceremony!

    • Gigi59

      We did something similar with my “stand-in mother” – gave her custody of the rings until the right moment. It really was special to get that hug during the ceremony!!

    • Liz

      Spontaneous hugging FTW. Our moms lit candles as the ceremony started, and hugged right there. It was so touching.

    • Robin

      A similar thing my friends did (two ladiesssssssss as well):

      Instead of a giant ringwarming (too many people there to pass the rings along through the crowd) they each had their moms give a small ringwarming (whispering words into their palms, a moment of silent prayer, whatever felt right) over the ring their daughter would give to the other mom’s daughter.


  • We had a wine ceremony where our siblings poured us each glasses of wine (but that could clearly also be your mothers — and might work better that way) and included language recognizing the families that we each came from, how they had shaped us, and had them affirm their support for our new family. I still have the language if you’re interested.

    Also, yay for your moms! I love stories like this.

  • DKR

    I want to second Liz’ point to ask your moms if there is some way they would like to be included. My mom surprised me – we were talking about the walk down the aisle one day, and I was trying to figure out what to do. My dad died three years ago, and I never expected him to not be at my wedding (I was very much Daddy’s Girl). I’d heard of people doing different things: walking alone, walking with their partner, etc; my mom said she’d always liked the Jewish tradition of both parents walking with their child. I found out it’s really important to her that she and my brother walk with me, so that’s what we’re going to do. I know the writer has grandparents filling in the aisle walk, but their moms might have something that matters to them, a role they feel strongly about fulfilling. I’m glad your moms turned out to be so supportive!

  • I’ve been to several weddings (and did this at my own) where the ceremony included parental blessings, where each parent had a chance to share a short blessing/reflection. I’ve always found it to be very meaningful and it can be easily adapted to be religious or not.

  • C

    We did a few things to honour our Mums:
    – In place of the traditional “giving away”, we had both sets of parents step forward and vow to love and support us in our marriage. This was something they all really appreciated.
    – We had our Mums act as the witnesses in signing the marriage certificate
    – I gave my bouquet to my Mum during the speeches

    Hope this helps :)

  • LPC

    Moms are made to carry stuff. How many times when the kids were little did I look down at my hands and think, “Wait, where did that come from? How long have I been carrying that {rag, toy, piece of paper}?” So it could be cute, the carrying stuff.

    • Liz

      Are you suggesting Moms carry handfuls of cheerios and legos down the aisle, LPC? ;)

  • Kristen

    We did three things to honor our parents and grandparents during our barn ceremony. We wanted to have a more personal feel, so we invited my father-in-law to tell our love story so that everyone there could hear it. He told it wonderfully and had everyone laughing every 10 seconds, and did a beautiful job sharing our love story. It was awesome to hear it retold from someone who watched our story unfold (especially since I lived with my in-laws for a year prior to getting married.)

    The other way we honored our parents was to have our immediate families (parents & siblings) come up after we said our vows and everyone circled us and prayed over us. Most of my close friends have done this as well, but I wish we would have thought to have a microphone for this, because it was very powerful.

    We also honored my grandparents but placing a quote in our program from my great-great grandfather, who had moved to the United States from Russia as a boy. I had found the quote from a small-town newspaper clipping at my grandmother’s house a few months before our wedding. The quote was about his marriage and how God had sustained them in the good times and hard times. I also spent hours and hours digging through old photos and had many of them professional restored and hung them on the walls of the barn. It was very cool to see my grandparents looking at the old photos, especially when they realized it was them! :) They felt very honored.

    Besides honoring our family in our ceremony, I also honored my mom after the ceremony by giving her my handkerchief (which I had purchased on Etsy and tea-dyed to make it look vintage) that I had carried in my pocket during the ceremony. I had been obsessed with family wedding items, but my grandmothers and mom had not saved anything for me to wear or carry in my own wedding. I was able to “hand up” my handkerchief (instead of hand down!) It meant a lot to my mom and was a private moment the two of us had after the ceremony that I will remember forever.

    Best wishes to you!

    • I was going to suggest standing together for a prayer or blessing, too. I attended a wedding once where the members of the bridal party all put their hands on the shoulder of the person in front of them, with the maid of honor and best man putting their hands on the bride and groom while the officiant said a prayer. I thought it was really cool to see and probably very powerful for the couple. I think the same thing could be done with parents. For those who aren’t religious, a blessing would be nice.

      I also attended a wedding where the moms were both asked to speak during the ceremony. (I don’t think this would work for everyone; it could get very emotional.) The groom’s mom spoke about how she had previously been in ill-health and that it meant so much to her to see her son happy. Hands down, the best wedding I ever attended. I didn’t know the couple very well, but I felt like I did by the end of the ceremony.*

  • alana

    It was super important to me to have my parents involved and honoured (especially as they felt rather left out of it all at my brother’s wedding). We are having a ‘family blessing’ just before the vows, where the minister says a little about family being an absolutely central value for us, and then asks my parents and brother to stand. I’ll then say a few words of love and thanks to them, before asking them if they will welcome my fiances ‘into the fierce love of our family’ and support us in the vows we make that day, and they say ‘we will.’ Rinse, repeat on fiance’s side. Except he is Dutch, so in a little intimate touch he will speak to his family in Dutch. I think it’s a lovely way to incorporate them into the ceremony itself!

  • Alyssa

    I’m adding to the chorus echoing Liz’s “Ask them!” Especially if you want both sides to do a variation on the same activity. It’s great if you decide on an honor without their initial input, but if one is on board and the other is hesitant, it might make for awkwardness.
    My mother is painfully shy and though she’d gladly do anything I asked, asking her to do a reading would have put her in panic mode. And, being my mother, she’d either do it and want to die the whole time or decline and then feel horrible about saying no. ESPECIALLY if my mother-in-law was already all for it, then she’d feel she was letting us down, even if I promised it was okay. (Oh, MOMS…)

    Anyway, throwing it out there are just something to keep in mind, not something to worry about. Us kids of shy people can be overprotective. :-)

    • Liz

      Asking really is the way to go, isn’t it?

      My dad is kind of reserved, so I assumed I’d save him the trouble of dancing in front of strangers, and nixed the father-daughter-dance bit. Turned out, he really WANTED to dance.

      Never can pin those parents down.

      • Robin

        “Never can pin those parents down” might be one of the best wedding mantras ever.

  • Montclair

    Adding to the other suggestions, if you are doing flowers, you can also have corsages or boutonnieres made for special people that match the other wedding flowers. It’s a small thing, but I know my grandmother, who otherwise wasn’t involved in the wedding ceremony or speeches, really appreciated the corsage we got her.

    And it’s so great that your moms are supportive and excited! Sometimes weddings really bring out the best in people in ways you weren’t expecting. My parents are divorced, and they have a bit of a rocky relationship. They are civil with each other, but only see each other when necessary – like my wedding. So I was a bit worried about how they’d act with each other on the wedding day and hoping the friction between them wouldn’t cause any added stress. I was pretty hands-off with most of the details of my wedding, and I didn’t put much too much thought into the ceremony. I had a wedding coordinator that had three standard ceremony scripts to choose from, and we just picked one and made a few edits here and there. One of the parts we cut out was the Presentation, where the officiant asks, “Who presents this woman to be married?” The father is traditionally supposed to answer, so I cut it out because it seemed regressive.

    So cut to the ceremony and the officiant asks who presents me to be married! I panicked and looked around for my dad, thinking I’d have to whisper some instructions. Instead I saw both my parents, standing side by side, say perfectly in unison, “We do, with love.” Turns out they had worked it out with the officiant just before the ceremony. It was a wonderful surprise, and one of my favourite parts of my wedding day. :)

    • Sounds like your parents handled the wedding with grace! I love when things work out like that. I also have divorced parents who don’t have the best relationship. Like yours, mine really surprised me by being so dang grown up and keeping things cool on my wedding day.*

  • Lisa

    What about having a part of the ceremony where they “bless” your rings? My brother and sister-in-law did this and I thought it was a beautiful way to include family in the ceremony.

    • My husband and I did this too. It was one of my favorite moments to get to be close to both my parents and godmother and my in-laws.

  • Plum

    I think a really cute idea would be to incorporate a chuppah from the Jewish tradition – it is considered a huge honor to be asked to hold one of the four chuppah poles. You wouldn’t even need to ask them to hold it for the entire ceremony, but could make it more symbolic and have each of them hold one side of a small chuppah as you walk down the aisle, and then once you are there, they could hold it throughout the ceremony or sit and watch.

    I thought of the idea of a chuppah because one of the symbols is the home, so they are literally ‘supporting your new home.’ I’ve been a long-time lurker, but the symbolism of the support was enough to make me comment!

    • Shiri

      Oooh ooh yes!

    • Liz

      Thanks for the suggestion Plum! One thing I think we should always be careful of is being sure that we don’t re-appropriate traditions that are packed with religious or cultural significance. Chuppahs are terrific for those who are culturally or religiously connected to that background, but there may be other ways to incorporate the same meanings and ideals without stepping on toes.

      • Shiri

        I think there are a lot of non-Jewish couples who have found a way to have a wedding canopy or arch that works in a similar way. I feel like we see that on the style blogs all the time. As a Jew, I don’t think I’d find this offensive (though perhaps others do). A chuppah can be very particularly Jewish – if it is made of a prayer shawl or other religious object – but many arbors and canopies can function in the same way without having a religious meaning to it. I think if we take the general idea that Plum is getting at, which I see as having family members literally supporting something that is part of the wedding, it can be extrapolated to other uses.

        • Liz

          Shiri, exactly! I think we’re saying sort of the same thing from different perspectives.

      • Lizzie

        I know this is a significant diversion from the main thrust of the conversation, but this is a fascinating point to me. I understand the problem here (I still kinda hold a grudge against Brangelina for their Namibian wedding that I think didn’t even really happen…), but I think it is really hard to distinguish between what constitutes not-okay appropriation and okay borrowing/reinterpretation from another culture.

        I have Jewish grandparents, so I guess I could have had a chuppah at my wedding without raising too many eyebrows. I love the symbolism and I think they are beautiful objects, but for me, having one at my wedding would have felt a little like signing up for a free birthright tour of Israel just to enjoy the Mediterranean sun – technically okay but not very honest.

        On the other hand, there was a recent APW wedding that incorporated a Thai string ceremony. It looked really lovely and respectful and sincere, but neither the groom or bride was Thai. If I had been a guest at that wedding, I probably would have thought it was beautiful and meaningful, but I also might have had a fleeting thought on the subject of cultural appropriation. If I were to do a comprehensive survey of every Thai person I know, I might or might not find someone who thought it was problematic.

        This is not meant to be incendiary, and I especially do not want to cast aspersion on the wedding in question, it was just a moment that made me think about the extent to which you can ever judge this from outside the context of an occasion.

        • Liz

          I think that’s exactly why as the one in the ceremony, I would tread carefully and err on the side of caution.

    • meg

      Liz has been far more graceful than I probably would have been (bull in the china shop, me). But a chuppah is considered a core part of a Jewish wedding, and is only supposed to be used by people with a relationship to the Jewish faith. Using one when you’re not Jewish is a bit like using communion as a non-christian because it’s cute. IE, chuppahs are in fact, beautiful, but they’re also particular and important religious and cultural symbols, that are supposed to be limited to the faith and cultural community of Judaism. While there are Jews like Shiri who won’t mind, for most of us, it’s deeply upsetting. I know that might not be what you see on lots of design blogs, but it’s still painfully true. Cultural appropriation is a whole other thread we don’t need to get into here, but I’d nudge you away from this choice.

      That said! If you’re having a Jewish or partially Jewish wedding, this is a WONDERFUL idea. It’s an important cultural or religious or ritual honor, and it’s exactly what we did for our wedding party.

      • Amy March

        Meg, I’d love to hear more from you about this, and the issue of cultural appropriation v. awesome meaningful new-to-you wedding “traditions” in general. (um, unless you already wrote this and I just missed it, I think I spent a whole weekend on the couch reading the archive, but there was def wine involved).

        • Liz

          There was a lengthy discussion in the comments over here.

          • Aims

            I find this conversation interesting. I’ve read all of this thread as well as the other one you mentioned Liz.

            I do completely understand how one can use the symbolism of the Huppah, but in their own way. However, I do find Meg’s and other people’s reactions to wanting to use an actual Huppah in a non Jewish wedding a little confusing. Isn’t saying that a Huppah can only be used by a Jewish person or jumping a broom by an African American, … (insert any religious/cultural icon here) the same line of thinking as gay people can’t get married because it will mar marriage for straight couples?

            I certainly don’t mean to offend, but as a non religious person, I don’t understand why it’s ok for me to be excluded from any religious tradition, just because I am not a part of that religious/cultural group. I think that everything that the Huppah symbolized and celebrates should be available to anyone who wants to use it. I’m not just referring to Huppahs of course, but anything that a cultural or religious group calls sacred. Where do we draw the line as to what’s ok to use and what’s not? And who’s permission would we need to get to use something from another culture/religion?

            Again, I don’t mean to offend, but to understand and continue the conversation.

  • Ania

    We have a bit of a tricky situation as I have an unusual family — my “sister” was a teen mom, so my “parents” are really my grandparents (and will not be able to attend the wedding), so we are going to honor both my parents and my sister in that role. We’re having my mom write something to be read at the wedding that my sister can then read — and have both the his mom and my sister (see – it gets confusing!) participate in a sand ceremony and the building of the base of our relationship.

  • so, i’ll just list the things we did in case any of the ideas strike your fancy.

    we included a statement of intent thing in our ceremony (“have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?” or something similar), but before that we included almost the same wording directed at our families and closest friends – we had our parents, brothers, and two close non-family folks come to the front to be asked “do you freely and without reservation give your blessing to this marriage?” – it was important to us to include our families’ blessing, but not be “given away.” it was also nice to *specifically* include the blessing, because i think it is doubly significant that our families are so supportive ’cause i know that’s not something that all gay couples have (or all couples in general, of course, but more so for the queers).

    i say we weren’t given away, but we were both walked down the aisles by both parents, and then she and i walked in together (a locational thing about having two “aisles” that meet).

    we also had 4 readings, essentially broken up as representing “her family” “my family” “her friends” “my friends”. (the readings were chosen by the readers, and hearing them, not knowing what they were going to be, was one of the *very best* parts of the ceremony.)

    good luck!

    • kathleen

      oh— I love all of these ideas, and have bookmarked this post to revisit at ceremony-planning-time in a few months. especially love the “have you come here freely” part— lovely. thanks so much for sharing.

  • Ariel

    I’m so happy for you! How wonderful that your mothers are so supportive.

    What we’re doing at our wedding probably won’t work for most people, but I thought I’d chime in anyway. For our ceremony we’re having our guests’ chairs arranged in concentric circles, with us at the center. We’re asking our birth families to sit in the innermost circle, along with our bridal party (our chosen family), and they will walk in as part of the bridal party as well.

  • When my husband and I were married in September, we similarly had more support than we knew how to manage! So, we invited our parents to join us in a dramatic family reading of “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg. That little children’s book is so sweet because the words don’t include “he” and “she”; its a real tribute to how the “you” that I like can be anyone I choose. We framed the reading with comments to the effect of, “we know we’re so lucky to have the support that we do….” and I think it kicked off the ceremony with a genuine yet playful tone. Anyone important, regardless of their relationships to you both, could share in this reading. Maybe both moms could read it with you? Good luck!

  • Laura

    At our wedding last summer, we had a tree ceremony. We ended up using a plant from my parents house, that we dug and placed in a pot. During the ceremony, we had each of our parents and grandparents come forward and pour a small amount of dirt from their own yards into the pot. Then, my husband and I watered it together. After the wedding, we planted it in our yard. I think it’s fair to say that our parents and grandparents thought it was weird when we explained it, but in the end, I think it meant a lot to all of them to be included in the ceremony in addition to just being listed in the program. Good luck!

    • Our original plan was to have the wedding on a piece of land my fiancé inherited that we hope to someday build a house on. We wanted to plant a tree there using some dirt from my home state (on the other side of the country. I still get very homesick!). Reluctantly, we decided the amount of work and money required to make a wedding on that land happen just wasn’t realistically within our means. We are both so excited about our apple orchard wedding now, but the loss of the tree ceremony still stings a little bit. Yours sounds like it was beautiful!

  • Josephine

    I’m also lucky to have family that are very happy that I’m marrying my wife to be.

    However, my mum still comes from the “supporting challenged” camp of mothers. she is happy that I’m marrying, loves my fiancée but is a very negative person who has strong views on money etc, and isn’t very self aware. She is also married to a man who is very negative, and neither of them really speak to my dad. Who is very shy and wouldn’t want to be too “on show”. My step-dad wants to give a speech (argh!), as I think does my mum.

    So, I want to make them involved ( to stop mum being too controlling/negative/b!tchy/embarrassing) without telling stupid stories about me, fighting or spending the next several years holding any aspect of the day against me. I already turned down wearing her wedding dress (dresses for a 50 year old don’t suit someone rather younger) and would prefer a bigger event than the no-dancing one that she had. She doesn’t understand this. My fiancée would prefer for her not to contribute financially because she will probably hold it against us.

    Fiancées parents are lovely, still together and fun. I don’t know how to involve both sets without causing resentment on mum’s side. I want to protect myself by minimising her involvement but need to find a happy medium where she still feels involved enough. Any suggestions?!

    • Liz

      I’d say readings for the ones who want to give speeches. This way they get to talk in public without embarrassing you.

      For shy dad, maybe just ask him?

  • I am loving so many of these suggestions — thank you!

    We’ve been trying to figure out how to included excited youngsters in our ceremony — we have several young cousins of flower-girl/ring-bearer age, but we’re not having an aisle or a super-traditional ceremony, and we’re getting married at a park where we can’t have flower petals anyway — anyone got some cool suggestions for including kids in a low-key, low-responsibility way?

    • Liz

      I stinkin love singing kids. Could they sing?

    • MC

      If there are things to hand out before the ceremony where it’s okay if not quite everyone gets one (bubbles; whatever) or where you have a backup, that can work well; the “I am doing an important job and am carrying an official wedding basket!” part is pretty exciting to a lot of kids, at least initially.

      Giving them flowers, corsages, or flower-wreath-things-for-the-hair might be ways of making them feel included as well.

      A simple poem or reading or song might work, depending on the ages; or, if there’s a variety of ages, one could read/sing while the others hold up pictures or signs at appropriate points? That probably doesn’t fall under low-key, low-responsibility, but kids messing things up is still fun. :-)

      At our reception, my five-year-old newly-acquired niece went completely nuts over “taking care of” my dress (straightening it, etc.), so dress adjusting might be an option if you have any cousins who like princess stuff, although that can also go badly (kids wandering under the dress or holding it over their heads…).

      And a probably crazy idea: I know when I was a kid, I loved those twirly ribbon-on-a-stick things. This might be a recipe for putting-someone’s-eye-out, but if you wanted a flower-girl-like processional without flower petal strewing, then it might be possible to teach them how to walk while waving a ribbon-on-a-stick thing?

    • Amanda

      We have a crazy amount of kids in our lives, so we have decided to have a little “kiddo parade” before the ceremony. We’ll encourage kids who would like to participate to bring fairy wings or capes or whatever their favorite outfit happens to be and parade around before we start the ceremony. It may be a good way to gather everyone to the ceremony site…

  • Amy

    Ring-warming! I loved this addition to our ceremony…
    While our celebrant talked about the meaning of the practice of exchanging rings, our rings were given to his parents and then mine for a “blessing” or ring-warming. Some couples pass them amongst the entire congregation, which is lovely… we wanted to highlight the (intact) marriages of our parents and honor them specifically, so we passed the rings only to them. Seeing my husband’s parents take a moment to pray over our rings was incredibly emotional and moving (still tearing up thinking about it 4 years later!), and truly a favorite moment.

    We origially planned it as a way to honor our parents while still making our own choices about aisle walking (entered together) and invitation wording, etc. In the end, it was so lovely and special, for them and for us. Much more meaningful than either of us had expected!

    We also had our mothers sign our marriage certificate as the witnesses. The unexpected bonus was that, as our officiant was filling out a few things, they got to have some time away from the crowd to visit for a few minutes. And we got a few candid photos of them laughing together… so great!

    • kathleen

      amy– the ring warming by the parents is a beautiful image, and I teared up just reading it! I’m writing it down as an idea to consider for our ceremony. thanks so much for sharing.

  • In our cultures (Chinese and Korean), honoring the parents is actually built into the wedding ceremony itself. Usually right after the vows are spoken, the newly married couple turns around and goes to each set of parents, bows together, and presents the parents either with a bouquet or a gift. Like another commenter noted above, usually the person “joining” the family does the presenting – i.e. I gave the bouquet to my husband’s mom and he gave my mom hers. And then hugs all around, of course.

    I’ve always thought this was a beautifully symbolic way to honor our families of origin as well as for our new families to welcome us… and I’ve never not cried when I’ve seen this exchange at a wedding. Of course, bowing has a lot of cultural weight and significance, so if you’re uncomfortable with that, I think still incorporating the hugging/gift-giving in the middle of the ceremony can be a really lovely way of honoring parental involvement and influence.

  • Mely

    We initially had difficulty incorporating our families: while each member was individually very supportive of us, there was still bad blood between some of them. So it became a balancing act: How can we involve divorced parents in a way that doesn’t require them to interact? How can we acknowledge a special aunt and uncle without making parents feel threatened? What about siblings?

    Eventually, we went with Everyone Processes and Carries Things. My father designed and built four wooden abstract-tree sculptures, and each parent carried one in and set it up to designate the ceremony space. My brother carried & placed the Bridal Stepstool (essential when one partner is a full foot taller than the other!) and the special aunt and uncle carried & placed the teapot and cups for our wedding tea ceremony. (Each wedding party member put a pinch of tea leaves into the pot, so they had something to do as well.)

    I echo the “Ask them!” idea. Everyone was really happy with the Carrying Things ideas we asked about, and several responded with ideas of their own. My mother-in-law came up with the idea of improvising on the flute as a processional, which was great for us and made her feel so special! And my dad took our idea of “Design something each parent can carry” and ran with it–the sculptures were amazing!

  • Sabrina

    For our ceromony (which I am writing), we are only having close family. So we are going to have them all be in a circle for the cermony with us in the middle. At the begining of the cermony there will be a chalice that is passed around the circle for each person to give their blessing over, and when everyone has had their say my FH and I will drink from the chalice together to accept the blessings.