Creative ways of including family and friends in a wedding
June 14, 2012 1:12 PM   Subscribe

What are some creative ways of including or honoring special family and friends in a wedding, beyond the typical bridal party?

Unnecessary backstory: We're getting married at the end of the year. We have a lot of special people in our lives. My fiance has a mom, dad, grandma, three siblings, and four nephews he's very close to. I have my mom and dad, my stepmom and stepdad, two older stepsiblings and three younger half-siblings, whom I'm pretty close to (mostly...). And we each have a few good friends we're pretty fond of. My fiance also has a 13-year-old son from a previous relationship and together we have a 3-year-old son. Lots of people.

We're trying to figure out who to include in the ceremony/reception, and how. Our first pass at figuring out the bridesmaids/groomsmen left us at 5 each, but I keep getting sad about people we're leaving out and making it any larger is just ridiculous. We talked about the idea of each of us having our mothers stand up with us, but then I'd be leaving out my stepmom which seems a little rude. We've also talked about each of us having our siblings as our wedding party, but then I would have five and he would have three. He's talked about having his sons and nephews as his groomsmen, but they're all kids and the people on my side would not be kids, so that seems a little weird too. And really, I'm not even 100% sure we're going to have bridesmaids/groomsmen because we want a pretty simple ceremony and the thought of having 5-10 people walk out in front of me makes me feel weird and self-conscious.

Other things we've considered: having his dad perform the ceremony (but he's, uh, verrrrry longwinded and I'm afraid we'd be there for hours), dedicating the bouquet to my mom instead of tossing it, having some people do readings (but again, we want a short ceremony).

The Actual Question: Are there any happy alternatives to the traditional bridal party? What are other creative ways of including special people in our wedding day?

(No 'have your little sister man the guestbook table' or whatever...I don't want to give them jobs to do because I want them to relax and have a good time!)
posted by logic vs love to Human Relations (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's not unusual for the bride and groom to say a few words and mention people to whom they're particularly indebted. E.g.
posted by valkyryn at 1:26 PM on June 14, 2012


Remember, unless you are purposefully being mean or imposing on the kindess of others, anything that you and your fiance want to do with your wedding is OK, even if it's not traditional.

So, a lopsided bridal party is fine. So is not having any bridal party. Maybe just one each (eldest sibs? best friends?)

Be creative about the processional, his mom can walk him in, your moms can walk you in together, hug your fathers at when you reach their seats.

Can you reign your FFIL in on the length of the ceremony by sitting down with him and planning out what you want?
posted by sparklemotion at 1:27 PM on June 14, 2012

I want them to relax and have a good time!

Perfect! Then let them do that!

Disclosure: I'm a hyper-traditionalist when it comes to weddings and feel that trying to incorporate something "special" or "creative" is a formula for having something go wrong.

Maybe give the family members a special boutineer or corsage to wear? And, yes, mentioning and thanking those people in your family at the reception.
posted by deanc at 1:28 PM on June 14, 2012

I was just at a wedding where the bride's side was a larger, blended family of all ages. There was an empty vase on a small table near the officiant. Each of the family members (from both the bride's side and the groom's side) were given a long stemmed flower and at one point in the ceremony, the officiant asked everyone to come up one by one and put their flower in the vase. He read a nice story about how the vase was empty, but now it was a beautiful bouquet, representing the joining of the two families (I don't have a copy of what he read, but you could probably Google for something similar or write your own). It didn't take very long and it was a way for lots of people to be acknowledged within the ceremony. You could put your own spin on it and include your close friends as well!

Congrats and good luck with the wedding planning!
posted by Nutritionista at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Our family is not quite as large but here's what we did to include all (as many) special people as possible. My sister was my MOH, Husband's brother was BM and his sister was a bridesmade. I also had 2 close cousins as bridesmades. This left us unbalanced but it was fine. 6 women, 3 men. Another cousin sang before the ceremony (she studies music). For the readings (married not in a mass but in a catholic church) my sister, father in law and uncle gave a reading/spoken psalm. The close male friends and cousins were ushers. My mother walked me (the bride) down the isle. At the reception we had the standard toasts and a couple special dances where I danced with FIL and husband danced with his mom. Then instead of throwing the bouquet we played the wedding song of a special couple and presented her with the flowers and they danced. I think we honoured or recoginized everyone that we needed to. Best Wishes!
posted by saradarlin at 1:32 PM on June 14, 2012

posted by saradarlin at 1:35 PM on June 14, 2012

You can have people read scriptures or poems during the ceremony.

For my wedding I bought a few extra corsages/boutonnières to give to a few people who are really special to me.

All the best to you, everyone will be delighted to attend. Have a wonderful time.
posted by ibakecake at 1:36 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

More honoring than including: at the bar/bat mitzvahs I attended back in 7th grade, they always did a "candle lighting" portion where they'd light 13 candles and call up a significant person/group of people for each candle and say something about how important they have been in their life (since we were kids, these were generally pretty corny and one candle was always for "ALL MY FRIENDSSSS").
According to a brief Google search this is an Americanism invented by catering companies, but maybe you could adapt the basic premise into something a little less cheesy.
posted by hot soup at 1:52 PM on June 14, 2012

"We've also talked about each of us having our siblings as our wedding party, but then I would have five and he would have three. He's talked about having his sons and nephews as his groomsmen, but they're all kids and the people on my side would not be kids, so that seems a little weird too."

Both of these things are okay, and the latter is adorable.

I mean, really, it's not like it MATTERS if human beings match properly at a ceremony that's about love and people you love. It's not like they're your footmen greeting the queen. They're there for you. Not that many photographers do the "everyone in an official line" group shot any more anyway; they'll stand you in some attractive grouping where you're in a smaller horizontal space so it's not a photo that's 1/3 a line of people, 1/3 ceiling, and 1/3 floor.

You also don't have to have your attendants walk in front of you; they can just all be standing at the front already.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:53 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can also just NOT have a wedding party (or special bouquets or rank or walking before/with you and your beloved) - everyone will be much more relaxed because they do not have to perform on "your special day." Intimate ceremonies are lovely.
As an alternative, I love Nutritionista's idea.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 3:01 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've noticed that when planning weddings, people like to have "rules" to go by to make decisions - and having to defend decisions while keeping family peace - much easier So, in keeping with that I like your idea:

We've also talked about each of us having our siblings as our wedding party, but then I would have five and he would have three.

Both sides are represented and the "rule" is siblings. Doesn't matter that you have more. Have two of the groomsmen have a bridesmaid on each arm down the aisle, and then the maid of honor just has one groomsman. That seems the most "fair" way to do it.

Use music as a fun way to incorporate each family member into your special day. Ask each single person what their favorite party song is and each couple what their favorite slow dance/their wedding song is and have the dj dedicate those songs to those people throughout the reception. You'll get a good mix of fast and slow dance songs that way too.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:22 PM on June 14, 2012

I've seen the father of the bride and groom give speeches at the reception, but this means the mothers of the bride and groom are typically left out. My sister got around this by having her mother and new mother in law witness and sign the marriage certificate.
posted by Cattaby at 5:16 PM on June 14, 2012

Our ceremony included an element for a "we do" in unison from our community of family and friends. The preamble had something to do with recognizing and supporting us as a couple, sharing wisdom with us, etc.
posted by cior at 6:05 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here it is:

Will you who are present here today, surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship? At times of conflict will you offer them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern? At times of joy, will you celebrate with them, nourishing their love for one another?

Response: “We do.”

If you wanted to acknowledge certain individuals, you could write specific vows for them based on what they bring to you as a couple. It would be overwrought to do this for too many folks though it might work to do variations on collective vows -- from your family members, from your elders, etc.
posted by cior at 6:10 PM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

For heaven's sake, DON'T have each do a reading, or anything like that. It will take forever!

The best gift you can give your guests and your family is a short ceremony followed by a hellacious reception!

We had both of our parents walk us each down the aisle. My sister was my maid of honor (only bridesmaid) and we aimed for a 20 minute ceremony (despite our Rev's attempts to do otherwise, at least the Rabbi was on board.)

So that covered the immediate family. At the reception, make a beautiful toast, thanking everyone for attending, and mentioning those who came from an exceptionally long distance.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:11 PM on June 14, 2012

A the wedding of a good friend last summer, I was not in the bridal party but I was invited to the getting-ready-before-the-ceremony activities with the bride and the ladies in the bridal party. I got dressed and did my hair and make up with them and we all helped the bride out and there was champagne and snacks and I ended up feeling very included despite not officially being a part of the wedding.

Maybe something like that would work for your close lady friends/female siblings? It was very special and memorable for me.
posted by Ginkgo at 7:21 PM on June 14, 2012

My to-be husband and I were closer with our family than friends and we didn't really want anyone standing with us during the ceremony (too damn ceremonial!) so we had our families "process" down the aisle at the their seats up front. First the groom and mother, then.......etc. etc. until I came out with my mom. We had fun with it and it felt natural to march our family members before us. Plus it takes seconds to march, but everyone marching is honored and on display. You can see what we did here. Skip to the bagpipe. :)
posted by Jezebella at 3:22 PM on June 17, 2012

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