Why I'm Letting My 3 Year Old Help Plan My Wedding
When my fiancé and I got engaged in May 2019, I didn't worry much how my 3-year-old daughter would take the news. My marriage won't really change anything for her—my fiancé has been in my daughter's life since before she could talk. She calls him Dad and he lives with us full-time already.
But as an only child, she's used to being the center of my attention and the apple of my fiancé's eye. So when she discovered what a wedding ceremony is, she instantly voiced her desire to be included in all of the glitz and glam, too. And as the wedding day draws closer, I'm realizing just how much she wants to be included.
My fiancé and I are working extra hard to make our daughter feel really special on our wedding day. Since our daughter is quick to dress up for any occasion and doesn't mind being in front of a crowd, it was a no-brainer for us to make her a flower girl. But we are taking it a step further by also letting our daughter help make decisions about the big day—especially since experts recommend it.
Why that’s important? Who a parent marries is outside of a child's control, so it's a good idea for a parent to allow a child to regain some of that control in other ways.
"Allowing a child to help make decisions sends the message that their opinion not only matters, but is valued," says Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and founder and executive director of Horizons Developmental Resource Center, a facility in Caledonia, Michigan, that treats children and adults with developmental and mental health disorders. "Giving control in small ways, like during the planning process, is also a great way to soothe anxiety."
Our daughter has stepped in to help choose the color rose petals she is throwing as the flower girl, what kind of dress she gets to wear, and what flowers will be in my bouquet. We are also planning a sand blending ceremony—a symbolic gesture that represents the joining of two people into one—and prior to the wedding, we're going to take our daughter shopping and allow her to choose the color sand she wants, as well as the vase it goes in (as a huge fan of sand art, she's ecstatic about that!).
By allowing her to give all this input, she will hopefully be able to remember and recognize that she was included in making this special day happen, too.
Conversely, not including a child in the planning of your big day—or omitting them from the wedding day completely—can cause a rift. "Once a child is at an age or developmental level where they can understand, there could certainly be hurt feelings," says Dr. Beurkens.
And even if you're unsure of whether or not your child will want a role on your big day, it's still best to at least provide the option. "Children could feel even more overwhelmed and stressed out at even the thought of having all eyes on them that day," says Dr. Beurkens. "If that's the case, a child can help pass out programs or assist their parents with getting ready before the wedding. Tailor the role of the child to whatever will be the most comfortable and exciting for that child."
My daughter is what some parents lovingly refer to as a "threenager" (read: she is socially advanced for her age). I know that if I did leave her out, she'd totally understand—which only makes my fiancé and I want to keep her in the loop even more. And seeing how happy it makes her to be involved, I know we’re making the right decision.