What to Expect at a Grandchild's Wedding

Grandparents Usually Have a Special Part to Play

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Dancing at a grandchild’s wedding is on the bucket list of many grandparents. Often, there's no desire to actually dance, but the wish symbolizes a desire to live long enough and be healthy enough to share a grandchild’s wedding day. Of course, many grandparents are perfectly willing and able to cut a rug! 

If your wish has come true, and your grandchild’s special day is approaching, you may be a bit nervous.

Have no fear. Here’s everything you need to know to make the day enjoyable and worry-free.

Give a thoughtful gift.

Some couples will opt for a traditional wedding registry, and a gift chosen from it will be sure to please. Many modern couples prefer cash, a contribution to the cost of the honeymoon, gift cards or practical items such as tools or camping gear. Whatever you choose, consider adding a sentimental gift, preferably something handed down from earlier generations. Have the gift delivered before the wedding, and you won't have to worry about transporting it or forgetting to take it.

Worried about how much to spend on a wedding gift? That depends upon your financial situation and how close you are to your grandchild. If you have multiple grandchildren, you might also consider whether you'll be able to spend the same amount for future grandchild weddings. 

You may be invited to bridal showers and other festivities.

Do not be hurt, however, if you are not included in every event, especially if it is a lingerie shower, a bridesmaids' luncheon or other event designed primarily for the younger set. If you are invited to multiple showers, you are not obligated to buy gifts for every one. If you feel that showing up empty-handed would be awkward, opt for something small but personal.

Offer a special memento for a grandchild's wedding.

Grandparents are a prime source of the "something old" that is supposed to be part of the bride's ensemble. Perhaps you have a lovely piece of jewelry that you could loan to the bride or groom for the wedding. Make the offer, but don't be hurt if it is not accepted. Be prepared to offer something else that can be tucked away inconspicuously, such as a vintage hanky, ribbon or hatpin.

Seek advice about what to wear.

Clothing selection is very important to some brides; however, the grandparents’ needs and wishes should be respected. Some grandmothers are more comfortable in pants than in dresses. Grandmothers who have mobility issues should not be expected to wear long dresses or high heels. The grandmother of the bride or groom need not wear the “wedding color” but may wear a flattering color of her own choice. Although many wedding rules are becoming more flexible, it's still best for women attending to avoid wearing white, including ivory, ecru and similar shades.

The grandfathers can either wear the same attire as the fathers, or they can choose the attire that will be worn by the wedding guests. For example, if the fathers wear tuxes, the grandfathers may simply opt for dark suits.

Know what to expect.

A few non-traditional couples are asking grandparents to be a part of the wedding party, but that's a trend that's unlikely to become common. Most often grandparents are honored by being part of the wedding processional or by being seated immediately before the wedding begins.

Grandparents are generally seated immediately before the parents. The traditional order is bride’s maternal grandparents, groom’s maternal grandparents, bride’s paternal grandparents and groom’s paternal grandparents. If great-grandparents are present, they should be seated before grandparents. In Jewish ceremonies, the grandparents are second in the wedding processional, right behind the rabbi or cantor. Grandparents of the bride precede the grandparents of the groom. In the case of 

Alternatively, sometimes grandparents are simply seated when they arrive to keep them from having to stand and wait.

Grandparents should be seated in the first or second row. At the reception grandparents are usually are seated with the parents at a family table which is near the head table.

Honor those who are not there.

It is a lucky bride and groom who have a full contingent of grandparents at their wedding. Deceased grandparents, like other close relatives who are deceased, can be honored in various ways at the wedding. Sometimes a chair is left vacant at the ceremony for the missing grandparent, and a flower can be placed in the chair, perhaps by the bride on her way up the aisle. This type of memorial is most often observed for a family member who was very special and who is recently deceased. A memorial candle can be lighted in honor of the missing loved one. Such decisions are at the discretion of the bride and groom, and under no circumstances should a funeral mood be allowed to impinge on the wedding day.

Be tolerant and flexible.

Pets in the wedding party, boots with the wedding dress — modern couples sometimes do things differently. Do not be critical of the decisions made by the couple. Do ask enough questions to know what to expect, but don’t be a pest. Be sure to arrive at the wedding a little early. If the festivities go on until the wee hours, feel free to exit a little early.

At the wedding itself, you are allowed a few tears during the ceremony, but the rest of the time, be sure to smile!