Those spiffed-up little boys in tiny tuxes and doppelganger miniature brides in Mary Janes are almost too cute for words...until the bottom drops out. No bride wants her wedding day tarnished by a child's sudden stage fright or to be upstaged by a toddler's life-of-the-party personality. And no parent wants to see their little one causing a ruckus during their important job as a ring bearer or flower girl. Is there a happy medium?
"Some grade-school aged children or younger are painfully shy and walking down an aisle with all eyes on them can be terrifying," says Shelley Davis, a wedding specialist from Rancho Mirage, California. She recommends not involving babies or children under four in a wedding ceremony unless they are your own or part of the immediate family.
So what are the best ages to incorporate into the bridal party? For the flower girl or the ring bearer, Davis suggests couples stick with kids ages four to seven; for junior bridesmaid or junior groomsman, ages eight to 14 is the general rule and anyone over 15 can fit in the bridesmaid or groomsman category.
However, you know your child best and regardless of their age, it's their demeanor and overall behavior that must be taken into consideration. If you're convinced that they would be a great addition to a wedding party and could handle the responsibility, give the couple an enthusiastic yes to their invite to join in the festivities. If you believe your son or daughter just isn't up to the task, it's perfectly acceptable to say thanks, but no thanks.
"Ask yourself if your child is mature enough, if he or she is prone to tantrums or upset easily," advises Davis. Realize too that not only is this a commitment on your child's part, but on your part as well. "The bride may want your child to be very involved. This may cut into play time or involve transportation." Determine if you and your child are ready to be part of such an important day and then "explain his or her role and reward," says Davis.
While there is no predicting what a very young child will do from moment to moment, a wedding day creates an environment that's fraught with the possibility of a little one acting up. Their parents aren't walking hand-in-hand with them down the aisle and this unexpected freedom can be a recipe for disaster.
There are ways to instill the seriousness of the situation into a child. Instead of trying to bargain with them to put on that tight bowtie or scratchy dress, you'll find your child a more willing participant on the day of the wedding if you get them involved early, says Davis (and make sure their wedding attire is comfortable). "This will give them a sense of importance. The more involvement in the planning process, the more excited they will be on the big day." Their contribution can come in many forms. Davis suggests asking for their opinion about colors, music or flowers, while older children can help make wedding favors or stuff and stamp invitations.
Letting the ring bearer or the flower girl know how meaningful and crucial their job is to the ceremony can sometimes be the ticket to insuring good behavior. Ultimately, remember this: "If the child doesn't want to be part of the day, it's best not to force it," says Davis.
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