Everyone talks about how cute the flower girl and ring bearer are in weddings. We all know that once you include cute smart children in a formal event it is changed! So, what should you expect from the children in your wedding party?
We are going to take a look at the various developmental issues you might face. Then we will look at what are appropriate ways to include children in something as special, formal and important as a wedding day. It is important to remember that every child, every family and every wedding is different. This information is meant to be a general guideline and give you something to think about as you plan your wedding.
Children three and under really have no understanding of the importance or special nature of a wedding ceremony. Very young children reflect the intensity of the energy around them in any given situation. The excitement of a wedding will encourage the child to be much more active. Often that activity is uncontrolled-they really don’t know what to do with all the energy around them or how to respond to it. It can be very scary for them. The child might talk very excitedly and eagerly about being a part of the day but not have any understanding of what it actually means. The child then becomes very shy and frightened once in the large crowd of strangers. And to the child, even people they know well look very different when all dressed up with their hair done and formal make up on; they often don’t recognize folks they otherwise would know. This leads to unpredictable behavior. The toddler who eagerly goes down the aisle at rehearsal may panic and refuse to walk once they see the crowd. Or they may, as we have experienced, get halfway down the aisle; throw down the basket or pillow and run back towards their parents. If you are going to include children this young, it is important to understand that they will in fact upstage you on your wedding day! Be prepared for nearly anything to happen. If the wedding couple is also parents of the child, they might insist in being in a parent’s arms or sitting at their feet playing with the flower petals they were supposed to drop!
Preschool age children, older threes to about five, have a better understanding of the importance of the day. You can more easily explain what you need from them and rehearse things, so you are more likely to get the behaviors you need/want from them. This age child will have some difficulty being still and quiet during a very long wedding ceremony. They may be able to stand still and remain in place with the wedding party but will fidget—twirling the ring pillow or swinging the basket the flower petals were in.
Early elementary age children, ages 5-8, have a much better idea of the importance of the occasion. They have the attention span to be able to do what you need from them. This age child often feels very grown up and honored to be allowed to be a part of the wedding ceremony. They try very hard to do exactly what you expect of them. This age child is the most predictable and dependable to be a part of the wedding party.
Pre-teens, ages 8-11, can be very excited to be a part of something as important as a wedding or they may not want to be the focus of attention. It is important to talk with the child and be sure this is what they want to do and are willing to participate in the way you want. While we might think it is sweet for them to walk down the aisle as flower girls or junior attendants, they may not be interested in being on display, as they see it. They may be happier and better suited to supervise the guest book or hand out your programs.
Teens generally are ready to participate in the wedding party as fully as most of the adults. They understand the importance of the role they are taking on as a member of the wedding party and can handle most of the responsibilities. They may not have the financial resources needed to fully fund their participation, therefore it is still important to discuss with their families what is expected in time and finances.
A wedding is a wonderful time to celebrate family and allow the entire family and friends to celebrate your love. Including children and teens in your wedding party or as part of your wedding day is a great way to honor their place in your heart! Allowing all members of your family and friends to be a part of the festivities can be a fun time for everyone as long as your expectations are appropriate. Be sure to talk with your wedding officiant to let them know about the children and their involvement in your ceremony. A professional wedding minister has a lot of experience working with children and youth; they can offer advice and recommendations on how to make it a great experience for everyone.