Flower girls and ringbearers can be so cute in weddings (in a perfect world.) How young is too young is a question I’m never asked but inevitably faced with the consequences of. Most brides tell me “it is what it is and that’s okay with me,” yet really have no idea of what “it” means. My guess is they imagine some adorable shenanigans that will be immortalized in photos or videos of the wedding.
The reality is pretty far from that actually.
Kids under the age 8 are the great unknown and, quite honestly, can ruin your wedding or at the very least, totally detract from your magical moment. Kids over 8 do a decent job and if there is going to be a cute, catch it on film moment, this group that will provide it.
Here’s what to expect from younger tykes: (actual stories from weddings I’ve performed)
o Annabeth is a 3 year old flower girl and looks amazing and precious and cute as a button on Stephanie’s wedding day. She immediately precedes the bride and is supposed to walk daintily throwing flower petals on the ground for Stephanie to stride upon. Instead she appears to be shot out of a cannon as she rockets to the front where her mom is waiting as one of the bridesmaids whereupon she starts crying and clinging to her mother’s gown. Everyone starts laughing. It is cute (for about 5 seconds.) As Stephanie is escorted to the front by her brother (and the flower girl’s father,) Annabeth ramps up her crying until it becomes a shrieking that is just below the decibel that only dogs can hear. Unfortunately for us, we can still hear her. By the time the flower girl’s father reaches the front with an increasingly distraught bride, the flower girl is now jumping up and down in the middle of the ceremony screaming, “I have to poo poo. I have to poo poo.” I’ve no choice but to begin the ceremony as neither the child’s mother nor father are able to come corral her since they are both in the wedding party. My opening statement is lost in the shrieks of the fecally challenged toddler, the bride is crying and the audience looks uncomfortable. Mom and dad of kid look like they want to crawl under a table. I immediately change my order of the ceremony so I can get to the “Who gives this bride question” that dad may give his answer and take the little monster….er…..darling away.
o Bradley is a 5 year old ringbearer who is the spitting image of his dad and totally adorable in his tiny matching outfit. Unfortunately for the bridal party who have not listened to Bradley’s repeated proclamations that he does not want to be a ringbearer, they are now faced with a sullen faced Bradley. Everyone from mom, dad, grandma, uncle bob and barney the purple dinosaur have tried to cajole, bribe, threaten, sweet talk little Bradley into performing his part gracefully who is having none of it. The ceremony starts. Everyone looks beautiful. The music is lovely. The temperature spot on. The wedding party makes it way forward to the dais. All eyes are on Bradley as he takes three steps….stops….takes another step….stops….then promptly throws the rings into the creek below the bridge we are standing on and runs away. You can imagine the rest….. A ceremony completely halted. A state of disarray. Plans ruined.
o This next story involves neither flower girls nor ringbearers. Instead it touches on a family who have invited treasured family members to sit in the front row on their special wedding day. However, with forethought withheld it seems, the family members are all parents to babies ranging from very new to one year……five babies to be exact. Prior to the ceremony both bride and groom have separately told me that if a baby cries, it’s no big deal. Who could have expected that all five babies would beging crying at top volume simultaneously? Moreover the parents simply sat there instead of removing the crying babies. Not only was every word of the ceremony lost as neither the audience, the wedding party or anyone else on Earth heard them but the bride and groom were so distracted by the outcome that neither was able to pay attention to the ceremony and kept glancing at the babies. I literally had to constantly reach out and touch them on the arm to get their attention back on the wedding.
As a wedding officiant, I am one part officiant, one part unplanned wedding planner and one part solver of problems. There have been times when I’ve had to take a time out during a ceremony to solve a problem, ie., helicopters buzzing the beach during vows requiring before continuing, music snafus throwing off cues mean quick adjustments, dads who are clearly about to faint to suggestions they take their seat prematurely. It requires a nimbleness and ability to quickly resolve a wedding blip before it can become a problem.
Children however are so incredibly mecurial, so unpredicatable that very often, we are simply forced to endure the outcome. Any resolution we might be able to come up with is as equally unpalatable and distracting as whatever behavior they are exhibiting.
Thus I provide this humble advice from a wedding lady who has not yet seen it all but has seen a whoooooooooole lot……no kids in the wedding party under the age of 8. (And baby free weddings are the smartest bet.)