recess radio program

06/08/06
Children at the Wedding
    by Cari Keebaugh

As a soon-to-be-bride, people have asked me one particular question most over the past few months. It's not how we came to choose our wedding date. And it's not how long I have known my future husband and he me. Instead, what I've been asked most often is, "Are there any children in your wedding?"

The history of having children perform in weddings is a very hazy one, and we can really only guess when and where this custom began. It may possibly date back to the Middle Ages, when royalty were attended to by young, male pages who would be assigned the honor at ceremonies of carrying royal objects on pillows. Over time, this tradition evolved into the practice of presenting any precious gift on a pillow. Today, we recognize this tradition in the form of a ring bearer carrying wedding rings down the aisle

But being part of a wedding isn't a privilege reserved for boys. Everyone can easily recognize the cute little flower girl coming down the aisle, strewing blossoms behind her, or, depending on her age, eating the flower petals she carries. The custom of having a small girl drop petals before the bride is an Old English tradition. The wedding guests would follow the flower girl and her trail of petals to the ceremony site; apparently this way, none of the guests would get lost on the way to the service. But perhaps function isn't so much the issue here as symbolism. One of the primary concerns for couples in ages past has been fertility. Throwing rice at the new couple and sewing wheat into their hems are more widely-known versions of ensuring fertility, but what better way to suggest to the gods that they grant you children than to have children serve in your wedding?

Or, perhaps the wedding gown can give us a clue; white wedding gowns became popular in the Victorian era, and symbolized purity and childlike innocence. Don't feel innocent enough? Have some children in your wedding! But enough speculation. Today, the most readily cited reason for having children in the wedding - they look impossibly charming all dressed up. So, to everyone who asked me if I'm having children in my wedding, here's my answer; we're not royalty, we're not asking our guests to find the ceremony by way of a flower trail, and I wouldn't bother cute little children, on a day of joyful celebration, by making them wear stiff formal clothes!

Sources:
http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/customs.htm
http://grandcountyweddings.com/?Wedding_Traditions_and_History
http://www.wikipedia.com

Copyright 2006 Cari Keebaugh

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Wednesday, 05-Jul-2006 13:29:07 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."