Do Children Belong Under the Huppah?

Are there good alternatives?

Those who have children of their own, or in the family, and who are planning a Jewish wedding often wonder as to the wisdom of involving the children in the ritual. There are a number of considerations involved and every family is different. 

• What if you already have children? How are they feeling about all of this? Flower girls and boys don’t often handle the pressure of such an assignment so well. One alternative to consider is for the children to have an aisle seat and throw petals when the couple walks by. Children typically experience far less performance anxiety this way. Remember, children pick up on the couple's stress level, that's a lot to handle. 

• Children give vivid reports of how very loved and respected they feel when invited under the wedding canopy before the seven blessings to receive a blessing or vow of commitment from their mom or dad and new step-parent. Here’s an example of how that can work:

“Patsy and Denny, please come join your mom and step-dad up here under the huppah. Elliot and Jason, will you come join your dad and step-mom please?”

“Your parents have something to say to you. So that they can hold you if you wish in a hugging huddle, I will read aloud, and they will repeat the words after me.” Little Elliot, the youngest at age four, leads the way by clinging to his dad, and soon all the children press into the embrace of their parents. I call out the vow written specially for this family situation, which is then repeated with tenderness and feeling:

“On this holy day of our marriage, let it be known before Heaven, family, friends, and community, that these children were conceived in love. Elliot and Jason, Patsy and Denny – we both love you so much. We vow to coordinate and act as parents and step-parents must to secure all possible safety, health, education, and happiness for each of you. We pledge never to speak ill of your birth parents or their loved ones in your presence, for we know that hurts you. We will respectfully negotiate time for their needs, your needs, and ours to be with you. Our marriage unites more than the two of us; we are now a formal family ready to become a real family, which happens through loving and constructive attention to one another. We so commit to this with you not only for so long as we are married, but for so long as we both shall live. Keyn yehi ratzon. So may it be!