A reader asks:

I am officiating my cousin’s wedding next month and this is a particularly special one. It is going to be very intimate and relaxed – it’s also really important as my cousin was actually diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer this year (fk cancer!) and it’s really important to me to put together a really beautiful ceremony, but also one that is relaxed and casual just like their style! I was doing some research and wanted to find some nice ideas on how to include kids in the ceremony – they’ve both been married previously and are a blended family. I’ve mentioned how they can write special vows for their step children, or have a community vow – but i am very open to other ideas too – just nothing that is too ‘traditional’. I’ve never performed such a small and intimate ceremony before so was wondering if you had any advice for me – also with these special circumstances, we want to keep this a really positive celebration of their relationship but just wondering if you both had any experience with someone going through this and if there was anything different they included – i absolutely know it really comes down to the individual couple and what they want to include but just interested to know how you would approach this.

Including kids

My two rules for including kids in marriage ceremonies is to:

  1. Keep everyone’s expectations low, they are kids, not paid actors, so in the end we need to be content with them doing whatever they want to do and possibly the complete opposite of what we’d hope for.
  2. Keep it simple and meaningful. We need to be able to communicate the involvement to the kids, and kids have no time for token involvement or involvement ‘just because’. So whether it’s a reading, or carrying something, you need to be able to explain it to a five year old.

Outside of those rules, there are a handful of cute childrens books that make great readings, I like the Lovely Dinosaur, and Dr Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go. I’ve seen some kids make a speech of sorts at a ceremony, a few words of their own that they’ve written, and other kids I’ve seen the parent/s give them something.

Ultimately you want to play to everyone’s strengths, yours, the couple’s, and the children’s.

Advice on intimate ceremonies

Intimate ceremonies are my favourite, and for an odd reason: because they are much more work.

Your standard fare traditional size wedding ceremony is often more like a steam train that’s left the station. There’s a whole lot of momentum behind it and as the celebrant I feel like I simply need to kind-of harness it.

A small intimate ceremony with no, or few, guests is beautiful, but a lot more work, because you have to bring the momentum.

For a practising celebrant I find it to be so beneficial for our craft because we have to think about how it feels, looks, and sounds, in a whole new way.

My personal rules for an intimate ceremony is to try and not use a PA system unless necessary, and to try and create a family-like atmosphere. I’ll not read from notes or a script, but approach the situation like I am merely creating an opportunity for everything else – the vows, and maybe a reading, or child involvement – to take place. I take more of an MC role.

How to keep it positive

And as far as keeping it positve, I would forget that goal, and simply try and acknowledge the reality of what’s in front of all of us, without making it negative. Everyone there knows what the situation is, so to avoid it is ignorance, but to dwell on it might sink the ship.

It’s ok to be sad sometimes, and it’s ok to be happy. Neither should be forced, instead, embraced and celebrated.