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Written by:  Leah Ingram
Date: April 25, 2011

When I was 4 years old, I was the flower girl in my uncle's wedding. However, when my youngest daughter, Annie, was 4, I wouldn't allow her to do the same. Why was being a flower girl OK for me but not for my daughter? Two words — different personalities. For Annie, being a flower girl would probably equal disaster. I was a mild-mannered child; Annie is anything but. She is as high-energy as Tigger and as accident prone as Pooh.  

Before Annie had turned 4, she'd been to the emergency room twice for stitches and had banged herself up pretty good on other occasions, fortunately with no long-lasting negative effects. As my husband and I pondered whether or not Annie should be in our friend's wedding, all we could envision was her running around instead of calmly walking down the aisle or playing catch with the rose petals. We were also afraid that because of her antics she would trip, land face-first on the floor and knock out some teeth.

Besides our concern for our daughter's well-being, we figured Annie's activity level was exactly what our friend, the bride, didn't need at her wedding. There was one more reason we decided to decline the offer: Since our older daughter was not invited to be in the wedding, having Annie participate would have left us in an awkward position.

Has your child been asked to be in someone's wedding? Or do you think he or she might be in the near future? If so, consider the following questions, along with the potential expense of an outfit, before saying "I do" to your child acting as a flower girl, ring bearer or junior bridesmaid.

Does the task suit your child's personality?

While I touched on this topic with our decision for Annie, other personality types may not be a good fit for a wedding party. A would-be wallflower would probably find walking down the aisle alone at a wedding as scary as the imaginary monsters in her closet, says Shelly Lindauer, Ph.D., an associate professor of family and human development at Utah State University. A child who doesn't take direction well probably won't follow the wedding planner's instructions, and the bride could end up with a temper tantrum on her hands.

Children can be cute and entertaining, but are always unpredictable, says Kathy Moore, a certified wedding planner in Wake County who works independently and with The Hall and Gardens at Landmark in Garner. If a wedding is less formal and the bride is willing to accept whatever happens, young children can be a delightful addition, she adds.

Will being in the wedding be a positive experience for your child?

If you have a precocious 6-year-old who has no problem in social settings, then she'll probably have a great time being in a wedding. On the other hand, if your son is a bit of a klutz, being expected to hold the wedding bands on a little pillow for the entire ceremony may be too much pressure for the little tyke to take. (Likewise, if a preteen or teenager is self-conscious of her body, having to wear a dress that someone else has picked out for her could be a recipe for disaster.)

As a wedding planner, Moore stresses practicing with children, and then practicing some more. After that, relax and just enjoy whatever happens.

Will you or your spouse be in the wedding as well?

If a parent is in the wedding party, he could walk a ring bearer with sudden stage fright to his post or stand beside him in front of the altar. Having a parent in the ceremony may help a child be less apprehensive, Moore says, but the child is more likely to end up being held by mom or dad which then distracts the parent. She once had a ring bearer fall asleep on his dad's shoulder.

With an older child, you can always ask to be seated close to the front, where your son or daughter can see you, your proximity can help calm potential fears.

Funny thing about Annie is that three years after our friend's wedding, my cousin Cara asked to have both of my daughters be in her wedding, my elder daughter Jane as a junior bridesmaid and Annie as the "bubble" girl. This time we said, "Yes," and we're so glad that we did. Annie was more mature, and having her sister nearby made the experience less scary for both girls. Jane did a beautiful job holding Cara's train, and Annie took her job as bubble girl very seriously, making sure to stop at each aisle to blow bubbles along with kisses to guests seated nearby. To this day, she still talks about how much fun it was to be in Cara's wedding, and that's exactly the kind of experience we wanted her to have.  n

Writer Leah Ingram is the author of 12 books on weddings, gifts and etiquette, including Tie the Knot on a Shoestring (Alpha Books, 2007).



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