“Rachel, can you keep an eye on Sophia?” I looked up at my lifelong friend, sitting in front of a spectacular view on her wedding day. The hair and makeup artists were buzzing around her, brushing out her long, blonde locks and moisturizing her face ahead of the layers of makeup they’d soon be applying.
As the bridesmaid who made the mistake of waking up first, my hair and makeup had already been done by the pros, and I was spending my morning sipping on mimosas and loading up our get ready playlists with songs from our childhood (it wouldn’t be a wedding morning without some Spice Girls).
The flower girl, Sophia, had arrived moments before. Her mom—who had an infant in tow—dropped her off so that she could be involved in photos and bond with the bride before her big debut down the aisle.
I hesitated when the bride gave me babysitting duty, my champagne flute poised at my lips. As an almost 30-year-old with no children, I was never one to flock toward kids. I didn’t invite or include them in my own wedding, and I’m the last person to reach for a baby at showers or parties.
So, when I was found in charge of a five-year-old little girl with way too much energy at 9 a.m., I was less than enthused. But since it wasn’t my day, and my role as a bridesmaid was to help my bestie have the best day of her life, I lowered my glass and looked down at the little brunette girl next to me.
She was in a mini robe that matched the rest of the wedding party, her long hair recently curled and her painted toes wiggling on the lush carpet. She looked back at me, her brown eyes bright and interested. “Let’s play a game,” she said, reaching for my hand and pulling me away from the couch. “I’m bored.”
We played. Sophia and I played and played and played. We played hide and seek. We played clapping games, giggling whenever one of us missed the other’s hand. We played “fill up everyone’s cups with more Champagne” and “put on lipgloss.” We played as each of the bridesmaids got ready and as the bride put on her princess-worthy wedding gown. We played while waiting for photos to be taken, and we played in between photos, the photographer capturing our enveloped hands and laughter.
By the time the reception started, I had a shadow. Everywhere I went, Sophia went too. She snuggled on my lap during the speeches and she twirled in between my husband and me as we danced. Each time I tried to slip away, she was next to me, begging me to dance with her or play with her or take another photo in the photo booth with her.
So eventually, I just stopped trying. When my parents—who are family friends of the brides’—saw my face, they couldn’t help but laugh. “Are you tired?” My dad asked as sweat poured down my back and I gave the flower girl a piggyback ride. “Very, I said,” reaching for his glass of water. “I don’t know what to do.”
As I chugged his glass, he leveled me with a stare that I won’t soon forget. “You’re doing it,” he said. “Do you think she’s going to forget this night? She’s going to remember this for the rest of her life. So keep going.” And with that, he whisked my mom onto the dance floor as I adjusted the child on my back.
He was right, of course. And as soon as he said it, my whole mentality changed. Instead of trying to escape her, I decided to show her just how wonderful weddings can be.
I didn’t sit down once that evening and by the time her mom came up to thank me with tears in her eyes, I was exhausted, yet exhilarated. As someone who never gravitates toward kids, who never even really considered having them in general, let alone at a wedding, I finally got it.
Seeing her face light up when the bride walked down the aisle, hearing her laughter when we took off our shoes to dance, and holding her hand before she tossed her petals might have been more memorable for me than it was for even her. It’s not too often that you get to look at an experience with fresh eyes, but having a flower girl did just that.
While it’s too late for me to have a flower girl at my wedding, I couldn’t advise it more. I might not have spent my night drinking with my friends, but spending it with a five-year-old who had never seen anything so beautiful made it the best wedding ever.
There’s nothing more memorable than watching your little one walk down the aisle. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that the day goes off without a hitch:
Because you’re not by your daughter’s side the entire day, make sure that you have an idea of what to expect. Knowing what time she needs to be in different locations, what accessories she needs, and whether or not she’s invited to the reception are all important to know. Before just dropping her off, ensure that there’s a bridesmaid or babysitter available to keep an eye on her if you don’t plan to be by her side all day.
Ahead of the wedding, make sure to connect with the couple to see how involved they want your daughter to be. Is she hanging around all day or just expected to walk down the aisle? Is the party comfortable watching her, or would they rather keep the preparations to adults only?
If your daughter has a hard time sitting still or being around crowds, think twice before having her at the whole event. If you need to book a babysitter or plan to leave the party earlier, it’s better to know that ahead of time, rather than facing a tantrum or having to make a quick, unexpected exit.
Whether you hire someone or a bridesmaid takes over, be appreciative of whoever spent their day entertaining your little one. Whether that’s with a payment, a thank you note, or even a small gift, be sure to show your appreciation to your daughter’s helper.
Keeping the flower girl happy and entertained is essential. Here are a few of the most tried-and-true ways to keep a smile on her face:
This goes for the entire wedding party, not just the littlest VIP. Ensuring that everyone’s tummies are full and nobody ends up dehydrated will keep tempers under control and smiles on faces.
Whether it’s a simple game of Go Fish, Hide-and-Seek, or even Eye Spy, some easy games that aren’t loud and don’t create a mess are the perfect options to whip out if the flower girl gets bored.
Bust a move with the flower girl in tow! Teach her your favorite moves and ask her to show you hers. Not only does this make for a really fun time, but it makes for adorable photos too.
Chances are that the flower girl will be nervous, not only for walking down the aisle but also for being a part of the event. From dancing with the adults to sitting down to a fancy dinner, she might be anxious about what the night entails. Shoot her a thumbs up after she tosses her petals and let her know what to expect as the night unfolds so that she can feel more at ease and less thrown off by the not-so-usual evening.
Whether you volunteered for your role or it was assigned, here’s how to make the best out of being a babysitter at a wedding reception or at pre-wedding events:
Even if you weren’t planning to be on babysitter duty, you’d be surprised how rewarding it can be! Being a flower girl is a big honor—as is being a bridesmaid—and it’s one night that neither of you will likely forget. The better her experience, the more wonderful a lifelong impression you’ll make. There will be plenty of other chances to hit the open bar with your friends.
Most importantly, you want to be honest. If you’re asked to take care of the flower girl and you’re not comfortable with this bridesmaid responsibility, or you don’t mesh, speak up. It’s better that she’s safe and well-cared for than with someone who isn’t up to the task. Explain the situation and go above and beyond to help in other ways.
Take selfies. Be dazzled by her dance moves. Tell her how great she was as a flower girl. Boost her confidence so that she not only remembers how special the day was and how special you are, but how special she is. Positive reinforcement at a young age could stick with her for a lifetime.
There’s no one way to celebrate at a wedding, and while babysitting might not have been what you initially had in mind, it can actually be a lot of fun. Do silly dances, take tons of pictures, teach her the art of kicking her shoes off before hitting the dance floor, and remember how happy you’ll make the bride—and her family—by showing her littlest party member a night she’ll never forget.
Looking back, I wish I would have had a little bridal party member at my celebration. So, if you’re on the fence, consider opting for having a flower girl. Trust me, it’ll be a night she—and whoever babysits her—will never forget.