Flower girls and ring bearers are undoubtedly the most adorable members of your wedding party. But encouraging a little one to walk down the aisle without tears or tantrums may seem impossible. Consider the processional from the kids' point of view: They're asked to walk down a pathway wearing formal (read: uncomfortable) clothing, while tossing flower petals or holding a pillow, in front of dozens of people staring and snapping photos. Can you blame them for feeling a little bit of stage fright? Luckily, there are some simple ways to help your young attendants feel great on the big day. Here, two experts share six foolproof tips for getting your flower girl and ring bearer down the aisle.
Have toddlers walk with a parent.
Most flower girls and ring bearers fall between the ages of three and eight, and for good reason: Younger kids typically don't understand the processional, and they're more likely to act out. If you're recruiting a toddler as an attendant, consider having one or both of their parents walk with them down the aisle, since young children are more comfortable with trusted adults. "I say having a parent walk down with them is a lot better than a child refusing and not walking down the aisle at all," says Tara Angelopoulos of Dream Makers Event Planning. Similarly, if your ring bearer and flower girl know each other, allowing them to walk together may ward off nerves or tantrums.
Talk up their role.
If the child is older than four, try emphasizing the importance of their role in the wedding. According to Kelly Dellinger, owner and principal planner of Kelly Dellinger Events, knowing just how special this job is will encourage them to do a great job. "Kids love knowing they play a big role in such an important event. The more you can do to get them to look forward to walking down the aisle, the more likely they'll enjoy it and really get into it." You can also speak with the child's parents before the wedding, and have them hype up the child's "special job" in the days leading up to the ceremony.
Offer up a treat.
Our experts agree that children of all ages can't refuse a bribe. If you're working with younger kids, enlist a parent or member of the bridal party to hold a treat at the front of the aisle. In theory, the child will be distracted by the goodies during the processional, and they'll focus all energy on reaching the item. Alternatively, if you're working with older kids, a parent can promise to give them a coveted toy after the wedding, as long as the child behaves during the processional.
Practice, practice, practice.
Prior to the ceremony, have your flower girls and ring bearers practice their entrance several times, and to do this as close to the actual processional time as possible, Angelopoulos recommends. If you rely on solely on the ceremony rehearsal, the child may not remember the directions properly, since they aren't fresh in their minds. Plus, the vibe at the actual ceremony will be completely different than at the rehearsal. According to Dellinger, "Know that you're not necessarily guaranteed the same star performance that may come the day before. A child may be struck by social anxiety once the entire church fills up with strangers."
Keep kids busy.
Let's face it: Most little kids are bored out of their minds during a wedding, and that includes in the moments leading up to the ceremony. "Diversions, like an iPad to play on, can help with boredom before the ceremony," says Dellinger. She also recommends having snacks on hand to prevent hunger-induced tantrums. Stick with foods that are easy to transport and won't cause a mess, like string cheese, fruit, crackers, and puffs.
Schedule down time.
Thanks to the unfamiliarity and fast pace of weddings, little kids may burn out quickly. Be sure to give them some downtime throughout the day. Dellinger says this is especially important if you plan to have littles ones around for any pre-ceremony photos. "The shorter the time required for taking pictures beforehand, the better your chances are for a compliant ring bearer or flower girl," she says.