When we think about parents at wedding ceremonies, the traditional role is a father walking his daughter down the aisle. Mom is nowhere to be seen and the parents of the groom are completely ignored. But all parents, regardless of traditional gender roles, can be involved in so many more parts of a wedding ceremony!

If you and your parents have been dreaming about your big day for years or you’re just looking for ways to honour your parents in your ceremony, look no further! Below we’re sharing 11 ways to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony and a meaningful part of your big day.

But first, let’s answer a few FAQs about parents involvement in wedding ceremonies:

Are both partner’s parents involved in the wedding ceremony?

Sure, if you want them to be! In a traditional wedding with a bride and a groom, it’s only the bride’s father who has a featured role in the wedding ceremony when he walks his daughter down the aisle. But many couples are choosing to involve moms, dads, stepparents and grandparents from all sides of the family in their processional and ceremony!

There’s no reason why only one parent or one set of parents should be involved in the wedding ceremony. All of the options below work for parents or loved ones of both partners.

What if our parents don’t want to be involved? 

That’s okay! If your parents don’t want to have a role in your wedding ceremony, because they’re nervous or for other reasons, that’s perfectly fine. Their involvement isn’t mandatory.

However, if it means something to you to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony, try to explain that to them. Share why you want them to take part and listen to their concerns. Hopefully you can reach a compromise. For example, if your parents are nervous about public speaking, you can ask them to sign your marriage licence instead of reciting a prayer.

parents of the bride and groom at wedding ceremony
by Aileen Choi Photo

Do our parents have to be involved in the wedding ceremony? 

No, your parents don’t have to be involved in your wedding ceremony. They can be involved as little or as much as you’d like – or not involved at all! Or, if you have other loved ones you’d rather involve in the ceremony, consider them for any of the “parent roles” below.

Based on your relationship and how weddings usually happen in your family, your parents may expect to be involved in your ceremony. However, that doesn’t mean they have to be. If you don’t want them involved, that’s okay. If you want them involved, but in a different way than they might be expecting, that’s okay too.

If possible, have a conversation with your parents ahead of time to explain specifically what you want their involvement to be on the big day. Be clear about your plans and give them time to adjust. Prepare for the fact that they may have questions or hurt feelings (neither of which mean you have to compromise your plans).

What about involving kids in the wedding ceremony or blended families? 

We’re all for it! Check out this post for involving kids in wedding ceremonies and this one all about blended family weddings.

how to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony, young hip & married vancouver elopement
by Erica Miller Photography

11 ways to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony

Remember, these are 11 options for involving your parents or loved ones. They’re a starting point from where you can tweak and edit until you find the choice that works best for your wedding ceremony. You can incorporate as many or as few as you and your parents want!

1. List your parents in the wedding program

If you’re having wedding programs – pamphlets or other pieces of paper that give guests information about what is happening during your ceremony –  they can be a great place to honour your parents. Similar to your wedding invitation, you may want to list your parents by name as the hosts of the wedding. Or you could include their names in a list of wedding party members.

You could even do something extra special by including a surprise note to your parents in your program. How fun would it be for them to open up your program and read: “We wouldn’t be here without our parents, who we love so much. Thank you, moms & dads!”

2. Ask them to join the processional

The processional – how the wedding party and couple of the hour walk down the aisle – marks the start of your wedding ceremony and can be the perfect place for your parents to get involved. There are four main options for parents joining the processional:

  1. Parents walk down the aisle before the processional officially begins: This usually happens while guests are still being seated and before the processional music has begun or the wedding party has come out. Parents take a more casual walk down the aisle, together or escorted by other family members, to their seats. This is usually the signal that the ceremony is about to get started.
  2. Parents walk down the aisle as part of the processional: If you’d rather give your parents a more formal role, they can join the wedding party processional. They will walk in with the wedding party, usually first or last before the couple, with the processional music as the ceremony begins. Sometimes parents are even part of the wedding party; who doesn’t want mom as Maid of Honour?
  3. Parents escort their children down the aisle: This is probably the most common option and most similar to the father giving away the bride. However, it’s not reserved for just fathers and daughters! All parents and all partners can take part in this tradition. This might look like each member of the couple being escorted down the aisle by their parents during their part of the processional entrance.
  4. Parents are not part of the processional and aisle walk: In this final option, parents are not included in the processional and simply find their seats with the other guests before the ceremony begins. More on seating later!

For more ideas check out 8 Unique Processional Orders for Your Wedding Ceremony!

processional alternative, groom walks in with parents, young hip and married wedding ceremony
by Erica Miller Photography

3. Share a greeting with your parents

Following the processional, many couples like to share a greeting with their parents at the end of the aisle before joining hands with one another in front of the officiant. While this is typically seen after the couple has been escorted by their parents, it can still be added to your wedding ceremony no matter how you and your parents come down the aisle!

Your greeting can be a hug, handshake or however you’d like to embrace your parents or special loved ones. If you’re comfortable doing so, it’s nice to greet your soon-to-be in-laws before the ceremony begins too!

For example, let’s say David is escorted down the aisle by his sister, Alexis. At the end of the aisle, he hugs Alexis and also shares a high five with his father, John, and cheek kiss with his mother, Moira. He then turns to his partner ‘s parents and shakes their hands before joining his partner, Patrick, at the altar.

4. Your parents can enjoy VIP seating

Traditionally, parents of the couple will sit in reserved seats in the front row. In some religions, parents actually join the couple at the front of the ceremony, sitting or standing by their side. This VIP seating (or standing) is one of the easiest ways to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony.

If you leave the front row empty, most guests will know to save these seats for the parents of honour. But adding a small reserved sign can help ensure an over-eagre third cousin doesn’t swoop in and steal the best seat in the house. You could also make it a special moment by including a small gift for your parents, such as a card or engraved handkerchief, on their seat.

parents of the bride and groom at wedding ceremony
by Page & Holmes Photography

5. Highlight your parents in the ceremony script

When crafting your ceremony script with your wedding officiant, let them know if you want to highlight your parents. Your officiant can point out lots of opportunities for your parents to get involved in the ceremony and be spotlighted.

For example, when sharing the story of how you two met and came to be standing in front of everyone today, your officiant can share how your parents introduced you, encouraged your relationship or helped set you up for a strong marriage. Your wedding officiant can also include time in your ceremony to honour any parents or loved ones who are no longer with us.

6. Ask them to recite wedding readings or prayers

If you’re planning to have wedding readings or wedding prayers at your ceremony, why not ask your parents to recite them? This is a great role to give to a parent or loved one who is close to you, who will take the job seriously, and who is a good fit to share advice about love and marriage.

This may be the perfect opportunity to honour the religion or culture of your family. For example, your parents may be able to share a blessing from your faith or a reading from your country of origin. This could also be a great time for a walk down memory lane, such as a parent doing a reading from your favourite children’s book (talk about a tear jerker!).

hugging parents at end of the aisle during wedding processional
by Erica Miller Photography

7. Have your parents take part in unity ceremonies

Another great way to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony is through unity ceremonies. Unity ceremonies, such as handfasting, wine blending, tea ceremonies and unity candles, are small practices done at the ceremony to symbolize a couple’s commitment. They often need to be facilitated or assisted by someone, which might be the perfect place for your parents to step in.

For example, in a handfasting ceremony, you could ask your parents to provide the ropes you use. These could be ropes passed down through your family or one’s made in a style or colour that’s significant to your family. You could even have your parents tie the ropes around your hands while your wedding officiant explains the tradition to your guests.

8. Your parents can hold onto the wedding rings

A sweet yet simple way to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony is to ask them to hold onto your wedding rings. While this is just a small moment in the ceremony, it’s one of great significance that won’t be lost on your parents. It’s a beautiful way to honour them, especially if they have a long and happy marriage they can warm your rings with.

Bonus: This is also a great solution if you didn’t want to trust the rings to a forgetful groomsman or too-young ring bearer!

tea ceremony with parents of the bride, parents involved in wedding ceremony
by Mattie C Photography

9. Ask them to sign the marriage licence

Another significant role your parents can take is signing your marriage licence at your wedding ceremony. In most places, a marriage licence is a legal document that needs to be signed by two witnesses in order for a marriage to be official. Some couples choose to sign the licence in private after the ceremony and other incorporate a signing into the ceremony.

No matter when you choose to sign the licence, it can be very special to ask your parents to join you as witnesses. Double check with your wedding officiant that your parents are able to sign in the jurisdiction where you’re getting married!

10. Your parents can join the recessional

Just like the processional to enter the ceremony, your parents can also join the recessional to exit the ceremony. Traditionally the recessional is led by the newlyweds with the wedding party following back up the aisle. You can have your parents join in behind, in front or in the middle of the wedding party.

Not only is it nice to include your parents in the formal recessional, it’s also quite practical. Once the recessional is over and the wedding party has exited, guests will start to make their way up the aisle too. This usually makes for a very crowded aisle as guests greet each other, wipe tears away and slowly find the exit. And what happens to the parents of the couple in the first row? They get stuck waiting behind everyone else to exit!

So if you want your parents to exit the ceremony right away – either for pictures or just because you want to rescue them from the venue – including them in the recessional is a good idea!

mother of the bride and mother of the groom custom mugs, vancouver wedding, parents in wedding ceremony
by Erica Miller Photography

11. Include your parents in the receiving line

A receiving line is a wedding tradition where the couple and often members of their wedding party form a line to receive guests. Wedding guests will then walk down the line greeting everyone. These are usually seen at the end of a ceremony or beginning of a reception.

Many couples will choose to include their parents in the receiving line. Not only is this a place of honour for the parents of the newlyweds, it also makes a lot of practical sense. If your parents contributed financially to the wedding, it makes sense that they would be there to receive, greet and thank them for coming. And outside of finances, it might be nice to have your parents there to help remind you of the names of all of your extended family members!

Now that you have some ideas for how to involve your parents in your wedding ceremony, don’t stop there! Make sure your wedding ceremony is exactly as you picture it with a Young Hip & Married wedding officiant at the helm. Meet our officiants and book your ceremony today!