We’ve all seen pictures of royal weddings where a princess or duchess will have an entire wedding party of children. Yes, it’s adorable, but if I needed a headache that badly, I would hit myself in the head with a hammer. I know how hard it is to wrangle adult bridesmaids and groomsmen. Could you possibly imagine the job of getting a dozen or so children to go down the aisle?

Most children in American weddings serve as flower girls or ring bearers. Occasionally, you may have a page or a train-bearer. My suggestion would be to have children who are between the ages of 4 to 7.

If you have children from another relationship, then I feel it is necessary to have them in your wedding. If they are older, they could escort you or be a junior bridesmaid or groomsman. If the child is a nephew or niece or a godchild, by all means, have them in your wedding. But don’t go ‘borrowing’ children just for the ‘cuteness factor.’ At bridal consultations, I often hear, Where can I get a flower girl?

In the processional, the children come right after the maid of honor and right before the bride. It is tradition for the flower girl, who is usually dressed in white, to carry a basket of petals to drop before the bride processes down the aisle. Other options for flowers girls are pomanders (ball of fresh flowers with a ribbon loop). This is a great choice if the children are holding hands. Other possibilities include a ‘tussy-mussy’ or mini bouquet. A fixed basket arrangement also is appropriate if it’s not too large.

If the child is too young, and it’s important for the couple to have the child in the ceremony, we often use a white-painted wagon with a satin pillow and white bows pulled by another child. I’m not fond of a bridesmaid/mother carrying her child down the aisle. It really has no purpose, and as with all aspects of a wedding, the focus should be on the bride.

For ring bearers, I personally think a child of that age is too young to wear a tuxedo. I prefer the Eton jacket with short pants.

A few years ago at Christmas, we did a wedding for a bride with three sisters who each had a little boy. For them, I bought small-handled bells decorated with ribbon and flowers. The three little guys wore red corduroy pants and Christmas sweaters. The bells were a surprise to them, and I directed them to ring the bells to announce the bride was coming. Well, they rang the heck out of those bells, shouting, Hey, you guys! Stand up, the bride’s coming! It was charming and certainly memorable, but still left the emphasis on the bride.

There was a wedding we did years ago at a Catholic Church in Clayton—with no flower girl, only a ring bearer. When the little boy started down the aisle he started to growl, and three-quarters of the way down, he dropped his pillow, made clawing motions and gave his loudest growl. Everyone laughed. When questioned later, he said he was trying to be the best ring bear ever.

I think if the child is old enough to walk down the aisle, they should stay for as much of the ceremony as they can bear without getting fidgety. Have a baby sitter, nanny or relative ready to take an unruly child outside immediately. To whisk a child away immediately after they walk the aisle makes it appear as if the child is a prop.

Having children as guests at a wedding is a highly volatile subject, which I’d like to save for another column.

I’ll end by telling you a story of two flower girls, one older than the other: The younger one went first, carefully dropping her petals one by one. The other little girl followed and fastidiously picked up each petal, finally yelling at her sister, Kenzie, you are making a mess!

The lesson is that children as a part of a family can add so much to a wedding, but be prepared for anything. They may be shy, scared, hungry or tired. I have sat in the last pew with a sleeping child more than once.

The other dilemma is that the ‘aww’ factor can be so adorable that it steals the bride’s thunder. As always, at every wedding, the focus should be on the bride.

John Sullivan has a fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute. He has partnered with Ken Miesner for the past 25 years at Ken Miesner’s Flowers at Plaza Frontenac, where they have done flowers for more than 1,000 weddings!