How To Instill Correct Wedding Etiquette In A Child

by admin on September 3, 2012

Let me start this off by saying that, as completely low-maintenance bride, I was very surprised and pleased with this example of etiquette from a young niece.

I would never want a child in my wedding as an accessory, which is why I declined to have my very young nephew as a ring bearer. He would have been way more interested in getting out of his suit and shoes, which at the age of three is a totally understandable position. However, my seven-year-old niece is a different story. I wanted her as a flower-girl because she is very special to me. I made sure to ask her (not relying solely on the judgement of her parents) whether she would like to participate in that way, and she was ecstatic.

As I said, she is very special to me. Beginning with her infanthood, she and I have always shared a special bond. Rocking on the porch swing, going out for ice cream, and all the auntly activities have fostered the bond between us. When her baby brother was getting all the attention by virtue of being new, I’d take her off for special “Just us girls” activities that neither downplayed nor overplayed the importance of other siblings. As an example, when we watched her little brother being cleaned and dressed behind the glass walls at the hospital, I hugged her close and said, “I remember watching the nurses do this to you when you were born, and I loved you so much even though I hadn’t gotten to see you yet. Look at how tiny and perfect he is. Isn’t being a big sister awesome?” Basically I did my best to make sure she was loved and adored when she needed affirmation, and left room for her to grow in security.

So naturally when I got married, I wanted her to be my flower-girl. And this secure, happy little girl was so happy to participate. We went shopping for a flower girl dress, “just us girls,” and she was so well-behaved and proper. I took pictures of her in everything she loved, and we discussed them over ice cream. All of seven years old, with sprinkles around her mouth and sticky hands, she said, “Aunt Cessy (her baby-speak name for me), it’s your wedding and I want you to love it, what do you want me to wear?” She has the same itchy-aversion as my younger sister, so we went through the dresses on comfort and then she gave me her Steely Gaze inherited from her father and said, “You tell me what to wear, it’s like all your birthdays in one so you get to pick!” I eventually gave her a choice of the three I liked the best and she picked her favorite out of those to be her dress. And then we played on the moon-bounce and got pedicures and had a beautiful day away from official wedding planning to spend time with my youngest party-member.

On the day of my wedding, I was a nervous wreck and so many things happened that I could have gotten upset about, but I just remembered my mother braiding my beautiful niece’s hair into a french ponytail and my niece grimacing because the tugging at her scalp hurt. I said, “Do you want to do a different style?” and she said, all seven-years-old and four feet tall, “You said this was pretty on me and I want to look beautiful for you!” So I dealt with all the day-of problems with grace and aplomb, because a seven-year-old taught me to suck it up.

Watching her walk down the aisle throwing flower petals, and then following directions exactly (“Set the basket here, walk to Granny and sit beside her”) calmed me down so much. And it cheered me to know that there was at least one person who had the precociousness and directness to tell me if everything was ugly and gross and didn’t do so, and her walking down the aisle in the dress she picked with the hair she endured.

When I related all of this, not so verbosely, to my father, he had this to say: “That is an incredibly special girl, and you should thank the people that raised her. She didn’t come into that on her own.” I sent a thank-you note to my brother and sister-in-law that acknowledged both their special parts in the day (SIL was a bridesmaid and my brother was an usher) and the special, never-to-be-forgotten part that their lovely, well-mannered and individual daughter played in pulling off my wedding day in a spectacular fashion.

All this to say: Kids are smart enough to know when you’re using them as accessories versus loving them to death. And every well-behaved, bright and inquisitive child is the result of treating them like an actual person (Which, surprise, kids are!) and the people who raised them to be considerate and conscientious individuals. Don’t “use” kids and they won’t use you in return. Love kids and they will give back to you tenfold.

My niece was the only child in my wedding because we love each other deeply, not because she was an accessory. Not all children are the same, not all children are shy or outgoing or out of it or cheesy or what-have-you. Every single child is an individual whose own opinions should be considered when making wedding-day decisions about flower girls and ringbearers and the like. Don’t use children as accessories, but don’t cut them out because their age makes them unfit. If you love a child, that child will love you back in a way that blesses you every day. And despite my own knowledge that my wedding was about my family, my husband, my husband’s family, and making sure all parties felt equally involved and happy with the events, my seven-year-old niece’s insistence that, “This is all your birthdays in one day, you get to pick everything, I just want to do what makes you happy!”, made me smile and made me proud of my brother for raising a small person who has more decorum and tact than most adults I know.    0811-12

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

sv September 3, 2012 at 6:31 am

Loved this!

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Melinda September 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

This is SO sweet to read. Sounds like you have a wonderful family, where people respect each other, and know how to behave. And what a peachy kid!!!

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AS September 3, 2012 at 11:57 am

You made my day!

And as you said, this child is brought up well too. Some children can become very selfish when they get the attention.

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Jessie September 3, 2012 at 11:57 am

This was amazing to read, that is one very special little girl, and her upbringing to be so well-mannered will be a blessing to her for her entire life!

You are an amazing aunt for sharing your life with her in such a way, not just the wedding but also just spending time with her so she feels loved and special no matter what. I suggest that you send this story you’ve written to her parents (perhaps along with some nice comments from readers) for them to let her read, she deserves to know how amazing and special of a girl she really is to be featured on this site. 🙂

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manybellsdown September 3, 2012 at 1:05 pm

This was so beautifully written. My 8 year old daughter was my sole attendant when I married her stepfather, and she took the whole thing with the seriousness of a woman 20 years older. There was a funny moment when our officiant asked for the rings, and the best man (husband’s adult brother) looked blank and then alarmed – he didn’t have them! Whereupon my daughter calmly produced them from her little purse and handed them to him with utter solemnity.

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Dear! September 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I’m smiling so wide right now. Best feel good post EVER!

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emwithme September 3, 2012 at 4:39 pm

In twelve days’ time, I will be married.

When I asked my (nearly) seven-year-old “niece”, L, to be my bridesmaid (her mother is not my sibling, but may as well be – she is my Very Best Friend’s foster-sister, and I have loved L since we knew she was on the way), it was just after the Royal Wedding of 2011.

Her questions (and my response, in brackets):

Can I wear a princess dress? (Yes, of course)
Can I wear fairy wings? (If you want to)
Will Mummy be there? (Of course she will)
What about Granny and Granddad M? (Yes, I hope so)
Will there be a red carpet? (We’re not sure yet)
Will I get a day off school? (It’ll be at a weekend)
Will it be on TV? (No, but people will take pictures)
Will you kiss D (my DF)? (Yes, there will be kissing)
Are you sure about the princess dress? (Yes. That’s one thing I’m sure about.)
Can I wear my wellies? (If you must).

I was a bridesmaid seven times between the ages of 22 months and 14 years. My overriding memory of weddings as a child is being bored, itchy, bored, hating the food and never being able to wear the dress again. For the dozen or so pre-teens at my wedding, we’ve prepared gift packs, themed to our venue, with small, inexpensive toys, puzzles and colouring pages, stickers etc, and they’re getting a “special” menu of pasta and ice-cream (not together!), as well as their own favours. I’ve also said to their parents’ that they shouldn’t buy them new, uncomfortable, formal clothes, because I’d rather have happy, comfortable children than bored, itchy ones.

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Puzzled September 4, 2012 at 4:27 am

Can I wear my wellies? Ok, that’s just too cute for words. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t let her just to see it, and with the fairy wings as well.

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Phitius September 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm

It’s such an adorable image!

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GleanerGirl September 5, 2012 at 3:22 am

Fairy wings, wellies, and a princess dress – Oh, I would love to see that! And I’d cheer the bride and groom who allowed it. She’d probably be on her absolute best behavior, then, out of sheer gratitude.

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Enna September 22, 2012 at 7:15 am

I like the wellies.

This is a lovely story. I would say that 3 years old is too young for a ring bearer – he might try to chew on the rings.

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RedDevil September 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Beautiful story.

Reminds me of my own wedding, my (much younger) sister was my flower girl at age 5, and she plastered and held a smile on her face during the WHOLE ceremony. Her little cheeks were red from holding that smile!

I agree with the sentiment that they should only be included in the party due to their relationship with you (or the groom!), and not as an accessory. We also included our nephew to appease the family, but he didn’t care for it. Got halfway down the aisle and decided to turn back! Cute and funny story as he was only 2, but lesson learnt that unless the kid wants to do it, they won’t be bothered to do it.

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Jess September 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm

This is great, made my day.
you are very lucky to have such a loving family and a wonderful niece 🙂

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NostalgiaGal September 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Bravo!

On all counts.

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German Shepherd September 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Thank you for sharing this story 🙂

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LadyLelan September 4, 2012 at 12:37 pm

A lovely, sweet, smile-inducing story that really made my day.

“He would have been way more interested in getting out of his suit and shoes, which at the age of three is a totally understandable position.” –> totally priceless picture as well. 🙂

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Erin September 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm

This is just the sweetest story!

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GleanerGirl September 5, 2012 at 3:18 am

“Aunt Cessy,” I think I love you! And your niece.

And your brother and sister-in-law, too.

And your father.

Awwww, heck. You have an all-around awesome family!

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Stacey Frith-Smith September 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

This was an enjoyable event to read about and OP’s perspective offered great advice on interacting with children and the world at large- objectify no one, respect everyone, and be grateful for your own nearest and dearest, ‘specially if they are like the niece described here!

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AnnaMontana January 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

This makes me think about my own wedding. My next-door neighbours daughter is a combination little-sister/niece/goddaughter/daughter and mini best friend all in one (Call her Daisy). She is now 5. Since she was old enough to speak, she has understood the concept of ‘weddings’ as she saw quite a few with her large family getting married frequently. This tailed off when she turned 3.5 and since then there has only been one wedding, which was the royal wedding. I was with her (babysitting, although I never refer to it this way, we say ‘we’re having a girlie day’) and we watched it together, which resulted in playing dress-up in my mother’s bedsheets and with tiaras’ made of tinfoil. She loved ‘being a princess’ and then asked be ‘when you and BF get married, will you be a real princess?’ I had to laugh. At the time we were not even engaged, nor had the subject come up, but she was adamant that it would happen. I told her I could be a princess just for one day and she smiled and said ‘Well, actually, you can be the queen on that day. The Queen is more important than just a princess anyway.’ I laughed again, told her she was right, and we carried on playing. This christmas I got engaged to my BF and after telling the family, I went to see Daisy and her parents. She was super-excited for me, wanted to know ‘all the details’ and spent ages looking at my beautiful ring. Then, as we were leaving she piped up ‘I KNEW you would be a real Queen one day.’ This little girl is so precious to me and such a grown-up young lady (even at 5) I have asked her to be a junior bridesmaid at our wedding later this year. She was very grown-up about it and asked if she could wear a pretty dress that she already owned because-here’s the cutest thing ever- ‘I know weddings are a lot of money and you don’t have to spend it on me, you can get your hair done instead.’ I reassured her we would go dress shopping together on a girlie day, and we would get our nails done the week of the wedding and she could leave her hair how it was. She then said to me-in her most serious ‘grown-up’ voice ‘I will get my hair curled, even though it hurts me, because I know how much you like curly hair.’ She is such a sweet, lovely little girl, who is such a precious jewel to me and my H2B that there’s no way I wouldn’t have her in my bridal party. (P.s When we go dress shopping, we’re going to as many shops as possible to find her the most comfortable dress we can, and any colour scheme will work off her dress, it’s more important that she’s comfortable, than H2B and I have ‘our’ colours.)
Hopefully, Daisy will carry it off, just as well as your niece did!

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