I'm trying to add a class to the body tag based on whether current menu items either have children, or are children. The custom menu was added via wp_nav_menu.

I have hooked into wp_nav_menu_objects via a filter, and am successfully detecting whether the current active menu item is a ancestor or child:

function has_submenu( $menu_items ) {

    $current_id = 0;

    foreach( $menu_items as $menu_item ) {

        // Get the id of the current menu item
        if( $menu_item->current ) {
            $current_id = $menu_item->ID;
        // if the current item has a child
        if( $menu_item->menu_item_parent != 0 && $menu_item->menu_item_parent == $current_id ) {
            $body_class = 'has-submenu';
        // if the current item has an ancestor
        if( $menu_item->current_item_ancestor ) {
            $body_class = 'is-submenu';
    return $menu_items;
add_filter( 'wp_nav_menu_objects', 'has_submenu', 10, 2 );

Now the issue i'm having is how to I then filter body_class to add the class?? I created the variable called $body_class, however i'm not sure hot to pass it to the body_class hook function. Make it a global variable? Create a class for all this?

Thanks in advance!

  • When you print the menu, the body class was already outputted. Is not possible with php modify something already printed to browser. You have to use javascript.
    – gmazzap
    Sep 13, 2013 at 23:24
  • Perhaps if you tell us why you want to add 'is-submenu' or 'has-submenu' to the body class, we can help you find a different solution. Sep 13, 2013 at 23:31
  • @G.M. you're totally right, I need to hook into the menu before the body tag is called.
    – plankguy
    Sep 13, 2013 at 23:59
  • @CharlesClarkson The menu is fixed/sticky at the top of the page. On pages where there is either a child menu, or is a child page, the sub menu (level 2) is visible. So i need/want to add a class to the body, so I can move the content down via CSS so the fixed menu doesn't overlap. I was hoping to find a non-js solution.
    – plankguy
    Sep 14, 2013 at 0:01

1 Answer 1


As @CharlesClarkson has already explained, you cannot modify the page output with PHP after the output has been sent to the browser. Your menu certainly runs after body_class since the menu must run inside the <body> tag.

The only PHP solution I see would involve editing your theme templates in addition to the code above (with changes).

If you run wp_nav_menu before the <body> tag but use output buffering to capture the content instead of print it, what you are trying to do might work.

You would need to run your menu before the <body> tag, like this:

$my_captured_menu = ob_get_contents();

In your function callback, instead of lines like this:

$body_class = 'has-submenu';

You would need this:

  function($classes) {
    $classes[] = 'has-submenu'; // or 'is-submenu'
    return $classes;

And of course, use echo $my_captured_menu wherever it needs to be printed.

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