Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on January 13, 2005. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Kids bring spontaneity to wedding ceremonies
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Family time or adult occasion? Opinions differ on the subject of children at weddings, but experts agree including them lends an element of uncertainty, for better or worse.
Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said couples should consider their expectations of the wedding day when deciding whether or not to invite children.
"If you're envisioning a perfect ceremony where everything goes exactly as planned, you probably should not invite children to participate," Davis said. "On the other hand, if you have a laid-back personality and your ceremony is informal, children could be a fun addition to the event."
Davis said couples and parents should remember children younger than 5 cannot be expected to sit still for long periods of time. If the wedding budget allows, consider offering child care during the ceremony for parents who want to bring young children.
If a couple chooses to offer child care, they should include that information on the wedding invitation. For planning purposes, ask guests to respond if they will require this service.
For children 5 years and older, Davis suggested taking time to prepare for the event. Let children know well in advance what behavior will be expected of them.
"Tell your child that a wedding is a very special occasion for the bride and groom, and that the child needs to be very quiet and still during the ceremony," Davis said. "It's probably a good idea to give your child time before the event to let off steam by running around outside and using his or her 'outside voice.'"
Try role-playing the event to emphasize the behaviors expected of children. This activity can be fun and allow children time to become comfortable with their parents' expectations.
Beth Bell, Extension child and family development area agent in Tallahatchie County, said children can participate in the wedding party if they are mature enough.
"There are differing opinions on this topic because some people feel children take away from the attention that should be focused on the bride. But if the wedding director plans properly, it can work out," Bell said. "Give the children time to walk down the aisle, and allow the audience time to 'ooh' and 'ahh' over them before the bride walks down the aisle. Allow plenty of time for the children to be escorted to the nursery once the bride arrives at the alter and before the vows begin."
When choosing young flower girls and ring bearers, think about the child's maturity level and behavior in past situations. If a child was clingy and unable to let go of a parent at an event a month ago, for example, that child might not be mature enough to participate in the ceremony.
"If a mature child is asked to participate in a wedding, the parents can help by talking about the event ahead of time and making it a special event for the child," Bell said. "Be sure you prepare your child well in advance so they know what to expect."
Bell said parents should remember they will be responsible for purchasing their child's wedding attire and attending the rehearsal.
"It may not be appropriate for children to attend the rehearsal dinner because they need to get plenty of sleep the night before the wedding," Bell said.