Many couples want their own or other people’s small children to be included in the wedding ceremony. This can be very charming and special. It can also be a cause of chaos and may even end in everyone dissolving in tears—including the bride.
Here are some tips to make the participation of very small children as stress-free as possible, for them and for you.
1) Make the child feel comfortable
Always ensure that there is someone with whom the child feels comfortable to walk with (or to carry them) up the aisle – whether it is an attendant, the bridal couple, or someone in your wedding party. You may also ask a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, or nanny. At some weddings where I have officiated, one parent sets the child on his or her way at the bottom of the aisle, and the other waits at the end. If the child gets stage fright, he or she can just be picked up, carried, and comforted. On several occasions, a very young child has been carried up the aisle in the arms of the bride or groom and has participated in the wedding in that way.
2) Carrying the rings—have a backup plan!
If you choose to have a small child, say under the age of six, as your ring bearer, it is a good idea to have them carry fake rings, tied to the pillow or in a box, or to make sure the Best Man or someone else in the wedding party retrieves the rings once the child has walked up the aisle. Then you’ll be sure that the rings are available and ready for the “Exchange of Rings” part of the ceremony. Be prepared that the child may simply have a meltdown in the presence of so many strangers and will need to be taken away from all the excitement to calm down. Everyone loves to see a child running about and chatting during the ceremony. No one is happy if that child is crying or having a tantrum. Make sure you have a backup plan, and are prepared to be flexible and can work round moods or crankiness. It is lovely to include children in the ceremony, but a backup plan and making sure someone is in ‘charge and keeping an eye’ and can step in and help will be a bonus.
3) Children as guests at the wedding
If your guests have been invited to bring along their very young children, it might be as well to ask (in advance) if they will keep an eye on them to avoid holdups or too much distraction during the proceedings. It’s not unusual to suggest that if their child becomes very unhappy during the ceremony, would they mind taking charge and taking him or her out of the room or garden where the ceremony is being held so that it may proceed peacefully. It is not fair to the bridal couple or to the guests if the ceremony is disrupted and, least of all, to the child, to be wailing and upset.
p.s. If you are expecting lots of guests with very young children, it might be worth investing in a child minder or two for during the ceremony and even for the reception.