A wedding is all about celebrating and expressing the special relationship you share with the love of your life. But what if you have two (or more!) people who, somehow, simultaneously mean more to you than anyone else? We're not talking about a complicated love-decagon situation a la The Bachelor; we mean the partner whom you call "baby" affectionately, and then your actual child.
"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage?" Eh, not so much anymore. When you take into account second marriages, couples waiting longer to tie the knot, biological clocks, and the way the universe seems to love throwing out a massive surprise every now and again, it's not unusual for couples to deviate from the playground rhyme's family planning strategy.
And on your wedding day, you'll of course want to include all your bundles of joys—but this becomes tricky if your babe is little more than a bundle at this point.
"It's difficult because if you're talking about an infant, they can't really do anything," jokes Tara Skinner, owner and founder of Posh Petals & Pearls based in Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Fellow owner/planner Lindsey Nickel of Lovely Day Events—which mostly services Wyoming, California, and destinations—agrees: "It's this funny question of like, 'How can they be there and involved, but not too involved?'"
Still, when BRIDES tasked both of these women with recommending ideas for incorporating a little newborn (12 months or less!) into a bride's big day, they made it look easy—and gave some quality advice about making the process as stress-free as possible.
Nine Ways to Incorporate your Newborn Baby in Your Wedding Day
1. Appoint As a Flower Girl or Ring Bearer...on Wheels!
If your baby can't walk, let the good times roll instead. "Just have someone pull him or her down the aisle in a wagon," says Skinner. "You could also have the rings tied around the baby's wrist or feet with a bow. Then, when the couple goes to get the rings off, they each pull in order to untie the rings together. That makes for a sweet, symbolic moment."
When Scott Billings and Lauren Shalleck sent their baby girl Elle down the aisle in a flower-adorned wagon, they offered us this pro-tip: "'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' is Elle's favorite song, so we made sure it was playing during the processional so she would smile," Lauren says.
2. Light a Unity Candle Together
If fire frightens you, there are tons of other creative unity ceremony ideas that could be adapted for a party of three. Skinner loves the idea of using handprints. "You could make some sort of artwork using the baby's handprints in the middle, and the bride and groom's on either side," she explains. "They'd make a sort of doubled, layered heart."
3. Give VIP Seating
Some of Nickel's most solid advice was simply this: know your child. Any parent will tell you that even newborns have a distinct personality. "It's about tuning into your kid to make sure they're comfortable," says Nickel. "Are they going to be okay at the center of attention? Being held up at the front—by a godparent or bridesmaid—with the rest of the bridal party during the ceremony? You can always just have grandma hold them in the front row." That's what Serena William's mama did for her! (See above.)
To a similar point, Nickel advises you designate a child handler for the entirety of the wedding event. "At a wedding, there's so much stimulation for babies," she says. "They're in a new place. They're surrounded by tons of people. Their scheduled routine is all out of whack. This nanny or babysitter can always be ready to take them if they need to be fed or calmed down or whatever it is."
4. Hold or (Wear!) at the Altar or Reception
If you want your baby very close at hand during the majority of your wedding proceedings, consider a wrap, Skinner says.
5. Mention or Include in Your Vows
Though your options may be limited to "yes," "no," "mama," and "dada," Skinner says if your little nugget can talk at all, you do have the option of allowing him or her to exchange some vows too. Or, you can specifically refer to your child in your vows instead. During Alexis Ohanian's vows to Serena Williams, he called Serena his queen, and added that they already have their princess—their young daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.
6. Pose for Engagement Photos with the Whole Family
You don't have to wait until the wedding weekend to implement your inclusion efforts. "What if you featured your baby in the engagement photos, or took pregnancy and/or infant photos that you could later put out at the reception as decor?" suggests Nickel.
7. Customize the Save the Dates and/or Invites
"There are super cute ways to include the baby in the save the dates or invitations even," says Nickel. "If you wanted to get really creative, you could play with the wording so that it seemed like the invite was coming from the three of you."
8. Specially Christen the Specialty Cocktail
She laughs when she mentions it, but Nickel says you could consider naming your speciality cocktail after your child. This works especially well if the name already pairs well with words used to describe drinks. "Sweet Melissa!" "Arnold Palmer!" "Shirley Temple!" You get the idea.
9. Just Snap a Photo and Call it a Day
If all of these options sound more overwhelming than inspirational, maybe don't involve your newborn in anything more than a family snapshot. "Just put them in a cute outfit, and stick them in there for pictures," says Skinner with a laugh. (She loves christening gowns for teeny-tiny infants, and baby suspenders for young boys.) As Nickel points out, "It's still really great because they'll be in those photos forever, and a part of this huge moment in their family's lives."
Nickel recommends shooting all photos with the baby first, and bringing some keys to keep their attention. "Shiny things get those bright eyes and that excitement face to come out," she says. "And again, have your babysitter or nanny there to pass the baby off back and forth."
Nickel is also a fan of having a baby emergency bag—similar to the idea of a bridesmaid survival kit—though the items and their reasonings might be slightly different. "Little babies do spit up and have diaper explosions, so bring a second outfit as back-up clothing," says Nickel. "Then have the usual baby stuff—lots of extra food, hats and sunscreen if the weather is something the baby's not used to, and maybe a blanket if it's cold. And did I say snacks? Definitely have snacks." (Maybe not so different from the bridesmaids' needs after all.)