Kids at weddings is a polarizing topic. Some brides can’t imagine even walking down the aisle without an adorable flower-crowned little girl in a poufy dress and a mop-headed little boy in a teeny suit going before her. It’s a touching way to involve family members’ or friends’ children. Sometimes, the bride and groom have children who they want to incorporate into the ceremony in a meaningful way.
On the other hand, many couples are wary of having kids at their big day. After all, weddings are often at upscale venues with expensive or valuable surroundings. Some brides and grooms go so far as to establish a no-children rule and request that parents leave the tykes at home with a babysitter. Although this can be alienating or frustrating for parents, it’s important to remember that the couple probably isn’t banning your children out of malice, and guests should respect the couple’s decision.
Whatever your stance, you have to admit that kids are almost always unpredictable. When I got married, my husband’s niece and two nephews served as flower girl and banner bearers, respectively. All three were younger than age 4 at the time. During the rehearsal, they were overwhelmed by everything going on, and getting all three of them down the aisle with no tears on the big day seemed tenuous. But then the wedding day arrived and, despite a bit of (hilarious) pouting during the family photo sessions earlier in the day, all three kids made it down the aisle with big smiles and completely charmed all the guests. The great thing about kids is that usually even their mistakes tend to be more adorable—our niece forgot to drop flower petals down the aisle and, when she saw her grandparents motioning for her to do so, she upended the basket, dropping them all in one place and eliciting a round of laughter from everybody watching.
Ways to involve children:
• If they are old enough to care, ask for their input in what they are wearing or doing during the ceremony. Although you can always have the last call on an angel-wings-and-cowboy-boots ensemble, getting their input will make them feel important.
• Indulge their sense of fun. I’ve seen lots of wedding photos online of brides who accessorize their ring bearer’s tiny tux with sunglasses, a fake earpiece and a mini briefcase or safe to hold the rings—making the whole experience into a secret service or CIA game for them (plus, the photos are really cute). And hey, if your flower girl really, really wants to wear her cowboy boots under her pretty dress, why not let her?
• If you don’t want to go the traditional flower girl/ring bearer route, consider having a children’s choir sing a song or a group of youngsters read a poem.
Keeping kids entertained:
• Ask your venue if they have or could create a designated kids’ zone, or set up a kids’ table with games and activities. Consider hiring an on-site babysitter for the evening to take some stress off parents.
• Take time to introduce guests with kids who might not know one another (or ask a family member to do so), so their kids can play together while the adults socialize.
• Create wedding-themed activities for the little ones to do, like a coloring book about your romance or wedding day. As a bonus, you’ll end up with some totally original and adorable mementos from what they create.
• Ask your caterer to put out little glasses of milk and cookies for young guests to enjoy while your adult guests are toasting with Champagne and cake. If your dinner menu is geared toward adult tastebuds, ask if the chef can whip up a few chicken tenders or veggie bites just for the kids.
• Everybody loves a photo booth, so consider renting one and putting out costume bits or props for kids of all ages to enjoy.
Kathleen M. Mitchell is the features editor for Mississippi’s Jackson Free Press where this article first appeared.