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This could happen to you—toddlers in the wedding

July 1, 1993

The summer is a prime time for weddings, June being the biggest month of conjugal ceremonies, with July and August following closely. Weddings differ greatly depending on taste, religion and custom, but frequently, as with many family events, somewhere in the wedding party a baby is involved. Whether the child is the bride’s 16-month-old niece, or the groom’s unexpected baby brother, the question arises of how exactly old does a child have to be to be involved in the ceremony. It’s always adorable seeing a toddler ring bearer or flower girl skipping down the aisle, but as exemplified below, it doesn’t always work out that way.

My sister was married in late June when my little niece Isabella was merely 19 months old. Everyone in the family pictured our little Bella as the world’s most beautiful flower girl, and when we spoke to her about it, she seemed reasonably willing. Of course, if by sticking her finger in her mouth and giggling, she meant “yes,” then she lied. The mother and father had a few inhibitions, but were willing to try it out as long as we didn’t put their child through any cruel and unusual torture. What with the silk bridesmaids’ dresses with water stains, the hysterical in-laws getting lost on the way out of an empty cardboard box, and an attendee vomiting in the church, we entirely forgot about the baby. When the time for her big debut came, my mother presented me (I was supposed to walk her down the aisle and help her chuck flowers at unsuspecting family members) with my charge, who was gleefully throwing petals all over the church basement floor. I picked them up, brushed her off and took her to the entrance of the sanctuary. She held my hand and looked fully prepared to do her duty, that is, until the music started.

She just sat down, crumpling her violet silk dress, and commenced to drool in the flower basket. I picked her up, set her on her shoes again and gave it another try—no luck. Bella just sat down again, and started eating the flower petals.

“Get up!” I hissed, but to no avail. She merely stared, and then wrinkled her nose up with the warning sign of a hysterical fit. I picked her up, set her on her feet, and then watched as her knees gave out, spilling the basket again. People were beginning to stare, so I snatched her under my arm, and we charged down the aisle. Things were going well until she caught sight of her mother in the 15th pew, and the waterworks began. I, too, wore a Chantung silk that became thoroughly soaked by tears and drool, and by the time I made it to the mother, Bella (not so beautiful by then) was ready for the ceremony to be over.

There are three good lessons to learn from this when planning a wedding: a child needs to be at least 3 (preferably 4) to be involved in a ceremony, silk and babies don’t mix, and never, ever believe a child when she agrees to do something important. Of course, the entire congregation found it absolutely adorable, but they weren’t the ones juggling a fussing, kicking, spitting bundle of “joy” down a heavily incensed aisle on the biggest day of their sister’s life.

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