Though it has been over twenty years, I still remember the incident like it was yesterday. It was July 9, 1983, and my favorite aunt, Jewell, was getting married. I was ecstatic. There were five children in the wedding party: my cousins, my little brother Jonn-Jonn, and me. The huge wedding of over 300 guests and twenty attendants was beautiful and came off without a hitch—almost. The hitch, as it turned out, was Jonn-Jonn, the ring bearer.
The rest of the wedding party made it down the aisle just fine. First went the bridesmaids followed by the groomsmen, with each bridesmaid carrying a candle. Then it was time for the ring bearer. He looked so dapper in his little white tie and tails. You could almost hear the collective “awww” in the minds of the guests as they turned to look at him or watch the spectacle as it turned out.
See, my brother, who in his defense was only four years old at the time, had been promised money and a toy if he behaved himself and walked down the aisle as rehearsed. But there was no manner of money or treats that could persuade him. He wanted to carry a candle like the bridesmaids. The thought that we got to handle something as cool as fire, and he didn’t was just too much for him to take. He would not budge and had actually begun to cry—loudly. Whispers of wonder at what the hold up was started to spread amongst the guests as my “Madea” discreetly waved a dollar at him in a vain attempt to coax him down the aisle.
The wedding planner, at her wits end, briefly considered giving him a candle, and might have if the likelihood that a four-year-old would succeed only at setting the sanctuary or himself on fire, not been so high. My parents, as members of the wedding party themselves, could only stare in embarrassment at their son’s staunch refusal to move, thus bringing the ceremony to a halt.
Then an usher stepped in and calmly saved the day, escorting a tearful ring bearer down the aisle. Even now that infamous snapshot of my brother crying and being escorted down the aisle by an usher at my favorite aunt’s wedding still just cracks me up. Although my aunt has yet to see the humor in it.
For those of you planning that special day, there are some things to consider if you are making children a part of the wedding party. Though experts agree that there really is no age limit because the level of maturity can vary depending on the child you should be prepared and have some contingency plan in place if you intend to incorporate a child under six in the ceremony. As in the example above their actions can be somewhat unpredictable.
Though some people think it’s cute that the flower girl decides to count the rose petals out loud, think about how important it is to you that everything be absolutely perfect and whether or not your three-year-old niece, for example, could handle it.
With a small child it is best if her parents are seated near the front, next to the aisle if they aren’t in the wedding party. You could also have the child walk down the aisle holding Mom or Dad’s hand during the processional. This is especially important if you are concerned about controlling the child’s behavior. After the processional make sure to have the child sit with an assigned relative for the remainder of the ceremony.
Also be sure to speak with the child’s parents before the ceremony and ask them to make sure that the child completely understands what he or she will be doing and or carrying and why it may be different from others. In the case of my brother, the actual lit candles had been substituted with flowers at the rehearsal, so it was at the ceremony that he first learned of the candles, and the drama unfolded as a result.
Most of all, simply trust your instincts and everything will be fine.