It’s wedding season! And with it comes parties, travel, new outfits, dancing, and maybe the chance for your child to be in a wedding. If your child has been asked to be in a wedding party, there are a few simple steps I recommend to prepare her.
When my sister-in-law asked if my daughter Hazel would be a flower girl in her wedding last fall I was very excited for her. When I was a kid, I loved being a flower girl and I couldn’t wait for my daughter to have an exciting new experience to help her grow and feel more confident in herself.
And then, I realized that a wedding could be overwhelming for a toddler — being the center of attention for a crowd of strangers and then having to walk down the aisle — it could be tough and maybe even scary. How could I prepare an impetuous and emotional two and half-year-old? My daughter is social, but big crowds are a lot for any kid. Not to mention all of the photos and a new sleeping arrangement for nap time — we would need to really prepare her for the wedding weekend.
Then, I decided this was an amazing opportunity to help her develop new skills for herself, so a few months before the wedding I began to teach her about being a flower girl. The good news is, the event proved to be an incredible learning experience for us all and her self-confidence truly blossomed!
Here’s how we prepared for the wedding:
Step One: Answer the Big Question, “What is a Flower Girl?”
Our experience began when my sister-in-law gave my daughter a sweet note asking her to be a flower girl in her wedding. Once we got home I explained that her Auntie Amelia (“Yaya”) was going to marry her boyfriend, Ryan. We looked at my wedding album together and I explained all of the different roles in a wedding: How mommy was a bride and daddy was a groom, along with all of the other roles our family and friends held like bridesmaid, groomsmen, officiant, etc.
Then I explained that the flower girl was a very special job (maybe even the most special helper for the bride). The flower girl walks down the aisle right before the bride and sprinkles flowers for her while the ring bearer carries the wedding rings.
After looking at our wedding album and chatting for a bit, she seemed intrigued and began asking lots of questions about marriage and the logistics of Yaya and Ryan’s wedding, like where she would walk and with whom. Why were there flowers? What would she wear? Who was going to be the ring bearer? After answering her questions I turned to YouTube and found a really cute video of flower girls. Hazel loved it! She got very excited about being a flower girl, so we pranced around the living room pretending to be flower girls together.
Step Two: Let’s Play Wedding!
As the wedding approached, I thought it would be smart to incorporate play into her concept of “wedding.” I think it’s such a big concept and event, but if we played wedding, by acting it out with her toys, she may gain a deeper understanding of what happens at a wedding by using her toys to act it out.
Hazel loves Little People and Daniel Tiger so we used her toys to demonstrate our wedding roles. I incorporated all of her Calico Critters and mini Elsa and Anna — basically all of her toys that were about the same size. It was important to let her choose who was who, that way she could keep track of everyone. And then, I set up what a wedding looks like with our family and friends in place, ready to go.
We acted out the procession and I showed her who would walk where and what everyone’s tasks were in the wedding. It was really fun! Once I ran through it once, I let her take a turn. She totally understood! We played together for a long time and repeated this activity several times over during the months approaching the wedding.
I think this was the best way to familiarize her with the concept and prepare her for the big day. She knew exactly where everyone would be and what they’d be doing. Playing wedding brought the concept to life.
Step Three: Time to Go Shopping
We tried on some dresses to see what she would like and I used that info to help my sister-in-law choose something that Hazel would like. We wanted her to be comfortable and love what she wore. Auntie Yaya ended up finding a beautiful blush pink dress on Etsy that had short sleeves and a tulle skirt. And Uncle Ryan, the groom had a bright idea for shoes: white converse sneakers. The ensemble was cute and safe — toddlers are so clumsy and love to run, sneakers were ideal.
While we didn’t let Hazel decide what she wore, we took her preferences and comfort into consideration. I let Hazel wear her new dress a few times before the big day, but she wasn’t allowed to wear it for long, so we could keep it clean. However, I wanted her to bond with it, so she would feel comfortable wearing it at the wedding. She said she felt like a “ballerina” or “princess” in her “special dress.”
Step Four: Practice Makes Perfect
In addition to playing wedding, we practiced walking with baskets and talked about the wedding in the weeks before the wedding. I wish I had thought to get some books about it. I recommend that you get “Pinkalicious: Flower Girl” and “The Most Special Flower Girl.” My sister-in-law gave these books to my daughters after the wedding as gifts and Hazel loved reading them repeatedly, comparing it to her own experiences as a flower girl. I think they would be very useful for preparing for the big day too.
Step Five: Prepare for the Big Day
When the wedding weekend finally arrived, I packed and prepared for any outcome: tantrums, hunger, thirst, boredom, potty accidents, and weather changes. I packed favorite toys, snacks, stickers, paper/crayons, two new toys, books, a memory game, back up outfits, sweaters, diapers, wipes, a foldable travel potty (since the wedding was outside), hand sanitizer, and anything else I thought I may need while we were getting ready, taking photos, and at the ceremony and reception.
The truth is, it paid off. Not only did I have everything either child needed, it helped me feel less worried about having two kids under three in a wedding. (I know I haven’t said much about my younger daughter, but as an infant, she was pretty easy. She fell asleep whenever she got tired and ate when she was hungry, no biggie. And, my husband carried her down the aisle since she was only able to crawl at the time.)
The dress rehearsal was Hazel’s first time at the wedding venue, a beautiful bayside park. She met the other members of the wedding party and got to see what the wedding ceremony would be like the next day. Let me just say right now, it did NOT go well. She didn’t want to socialize with anyone, even people she knew, and my husband held her most of the time except when they took a break to play on the nearby playground.
When it came time to practice the procession, she lit up as we pointed out the real people in the places we had practiced with the toys. She felt proud recognizing the officiant, bridesmaids, etc. However, when it was our turn to walk and she had to wait behind, she screamed and cried, running after us. It was heartbreaking! I didn’t want her to feel sad or scared. Needless to say, our expectations for the wedding day were low because she refused to walk down the aisle at the wedding rehearsal.
Step Six: Build Her Confidence, Believe She Can Do It
Over the course of the evening and the following day before the wedding, she kept recounting that she did NOT do her job as flower girl. We reassured her that she tried and that was good in itself. We also explained how she could have done it and how she could do it on the actual wedding day if she felt like she wanted to try again. We praised her and let her know we believed in her. I kept telling her that it would be great if she could be brave and do it, but if she couldn’t that was ok too.
I think the rehearsal was tough because she wasn’t able to nap that day, she was too excited. For the wedding day, I would try to get her to nap so she could feel her best.
Step Seven: Listen, Let Her Decide
On the wedding day, we played outside and did yoga together in the morning. We ate a good breakfast and snacks throughout the day as we hung out in the bridal suite before lunchtime. After lunch, she was so tired from the day before, she actually napped in the bridal suite! Both of my girls were so good all day, it was great.
When it came time for the wedding, Hazel kept reminding us that she didn’t want to walk by herself. She wanted to walk with us and Lola, not in “the flower girl spot.”
We assured her it was fine to do what felt comfortable. Then, right before it was our turn to walk, she started asking if she could still be the flower girl…to our surprise, right at the last moment she bravely said, “I want to be the flower girl.” And she did it!
We walked ahead and she waited and was the only person in the whole procession to walk solo down the aisle (her buddy the ring bearer decided to walk with his mom). She walked straight to me, eyes fixed on me, face determined. (It was amazing to watch and it took everything in me to NOT run to her, ha!) In the last five feet to the alter she smiled proudly and ran to me, shouting: “Mommy, I did it!” Tears welled up in my eyes with pride as we hugged in front of everyone and prepared for the main event: The bride!
It was a wonderful day and I truly believe all of our preparations helped her be an amazing flower girl.
Best of luck to you and your child’s first experience as a flower girl. I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!