how to have happy kids at your wedding

If you're involving children in your wedding, then you've probably thought at least in passing about what you'll do if your little ring bearer or flower girl completely melts down or freezes during the ceremony. Kids bring something to weddings that nobody else can, but no matter how much you love them and think you're ready to roll with whatever they might (or might not) do, you're still probably hoping for as few surprises as possible from the littlest members of your wedding party.

ring bearer and flower girl

Even though you can't control the children -- or anyone else! -- involved in your wedding, you can do a few things to make the kids' experience as positive and stress-free as possible. And that, in turn, will make it more likely that extreme cuteness will be the only reason people are talking about the kids after the ceremony.

Here are a few tips for helping your little flower girls, ring bearers, and other wedding kids have a great wedding day:

  • Make each child a little "practice pack" for their role in the wedding. For your flower girl, send her a little basket and some play petals, and maybe even a sweet little tutu she can wear while she plays with them. For your ring bearer, send a fun pillow and a couple of cheap costume rings. You don't have to make these duplicates of what you'll use in your wedding; make them fun! For example, I made our ring bearer (a smart little tractor-obsessed five-year-old) a practice pillow out of John Deere fabric, and his mom told me loved playing with it. The idea is to make them feel special, and also to encourage them to practice their role so they'll be comfortable with it.
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  • Do your best to see to it that the little ones are well-rested the night before the wedding. This may be out of your control -- heck, as a mom, I can tell you that there are nights when my own kids' sleep seems to be out of my control! -- but you can help by ensuring that your wedding eve activities don't run into the wee hours. This will actually be a good thing for everyone involved in your wedding: There's nothing fun about being red-eyed and groggy on the wedding day.
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  • Do what you can to work around the kids' naptimes. This may not be something you can do. If your wedding is scheduled for 3:00 and your ring bearer typically starts his nap at 2:30, then you're probably out of luck on this one. But if you have a child in your wedding who's still a napper and you can find a way for that regularly-scheduled nap to happen on your wedding day, then do it.
ring bearer
  • Make sure the little ones are fed before the wedding. Don't stuff them with food or anything -- you don't want to have an overly full tummy collide with showtime nerves right in the middle of the aisle you're about to walk down -- but make sure there are healthy snacks around so the kiddos aren't running on empty. Talk with the kids' parents and find out what they like to eat and have those foods around. Do try, though, to steer clear of foods that  might stain your wedding gown. An excited flower girl + strawberry-covered fingers + a hug for the bride = badness.
bride with flower girls
  • Be sure the kids take a bathroom break shortly before the ceremony begins. You don't want them to be uncomfortable during the ceremony, and potty dancing at the front of the sanctuary will surely be a distraction you don't want.
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  • Give the kids handlers they know and trust. Usually this means Mom and/or Dad; it can also be a beloved aunt or uncle. You know who the little ones love. Pick those people. It's also helpful if those people take a few minutes to introduce the kids to your wedding coordinator(s), and don't rush this too much. Giving the children the opportunity to establish a good rapport with the wedding pros they'll see the most of during the day will serve everyone well during the wedding.
flower girl
  • Finally (and probably most important!), just roll with it. If it turns out that your flower girl won't set foot on the aisle unless Mommy's down front waiting for her with open arms, then put Mommy front and center for a minute. If your ring bearer ditches the dignified walk you rehearsed in favor of flying down the aisle Buzz Lightyear style, laugh it off. Remember that the kids are there because you love them, and it takes way more than an exuberant child to truly steal the show from you on your wedding day.

Have any tips to add or stories to share? We'd love to hear them! Share your great ideas, sweet stories, and nightmare experiences in the comments section!

All photos except black-and-white photo of bride and flowers girls via the stock.xchng. Black-and-white photo of bride and flower girls via Wikimedia Commons.