If you’ve spent any amount of time with young children, you are probably aware that they’re pretty unpredictable. Add in formal attire and a crowd of people staring at them, you might have a meltdown on your hands.
Keep the situation under control (as best as you can) by following these tips for well-behaved little ones.
Consider ages and personalities
Flower girls and ring bearers typically range in age from three or four to eight years old. It may look adorable to have your 18-month-old niece toddling down the aisle, but the younger the child, the more difficult to control. And don’t only consider the children’s ages when selecting your young attendants. Some kids just don’t like being in the spotlight— they may prefer handing out programs or a more low-key honor instead.
Talk to the parents in advance
If you have a child in mind for a flower girl and ring bearer role, discuss it with his or her parents first. Make sure they are comfortable with the idea, and think their child will be able to handle it. Ask them what they need to help their child be calm and well-behaved on the day of the wedding (maybe having a quiet spot for them to nap pre-ceremony or having a grandparent present to help out), and do your best to accommodate them.
Talk it up
When asking a child to be part of your wedding, be positive and put them in control. Say something like, “You know how Uncle Chad and I are getting married in a few months? We want you to have a special part in our wedding and [explain what the role in, whether it’s carrying the rings down the aisle or tossing petals]. Do you think you can be our big helper?” Make sure the child’s parents talk about the wedding frequently so the child doesn’t forget!
Let them help pick out attire
You want to make sure that the kids are relatively comfortable in their wedding attire. So let them have a say in some aspect of their attire. While a little boy might not be thrilled about wearing a suit, he might be more into it if he gets to pick the tie he wears.
Practice makes perfect
If you know the song that will be playing when the little one walks down the aisle, send the track to the child’s parents so they can listen and practice at home. We can tell you from experience, that this actually works—when the child hears the familiar music during the ceremony, they will know it’s time to walk down the aisle!
Give them a task
Whether it’s holding the rings or tossing petals, carrying a sign or waving a wand, keeping kids focus on a task will distract them from the people staring at them and the grandeur of the moment—and make them feel important and special.
Bribery. Pure bribery.
Just like your bridesmaids and groomsmen, your youngest attendants should get gifts as well. You may want to give the child their gift before the wedding, or you might want to have it waiting for them at the end of the aisle if they need a little motivation.
Make sure they’re napped and fed
Do all you can to create a safe and comfortable environment for the little ones before the ceremony—even if things are a little stressful. Try to keep them as on-schedule as possible throughout the day by having them eat and nap at their regular times.
Dress them at the last minute
Kids have a funny way of getting their clothes dirty at the most inopportune times. Put the kids in their outfits as close to the ceremony time as possible. If they require a snack while they’re in their wedding attire, keep it as mess-free as possible (crackers rather than chocolate).
If a little one won’t wear her hair wreath or wants to carry his stuffed animal down the aisle, that’s okay. Allow kids to walk in groups rather than solo if that makes them more comfortable. And if a child refuses to walk at the last minute, don’t force them.
Have an adult on stand-by
Some children may need a helping hand to get them down the aisle. Familiar adults should be by the child’s side both at the beginning and the end of the aisle. Telling a child, “Walk to Mommy” is usually a good incentive for him or her to start walking if they’re a bit nervous. And make sure the child is seated with a family member who can remove them from the ceremony if they start to get too fidgety or fussy.
Give them lots of praise
Attending a wedding is a big deal for a little one, and having you and your spouse thank them for their help will mean so much. Be sure to take a moment after the ceremony to give the little ones a hug or high-five for a job (hopefully!) well done!