Being one of the oldest traditions of our civilization which survived to this day, the wedding ceremony is as much a story of humankind as it is the celebration of the union of two people who love each other. Children have always been prominently featured on wedding ceremonies – apart for the obvious reason for that (they were children of the wedding guests or the relatives of the families), they were also considered a part of the ritual. For instance, in some parts of the world, the bride was supposed to hold a small child in her arms immediately after the wedding; this was meant to help with her fertility and, by evoking the images of maternity, introduce her to the world as a future mother.
In this article, we will talk about two wedding roles assumed by children during the course of the ceremony – the roles of the page boy and the flower girl. These traditional roles originated in the Western Europe and later spread to North America, from where they were introduced and sometimes adopted by the rest of the world, mainly through Hollywood movies.
The role of the page boy was, throughout the history, reserved for young male relatives of the family, or children of family friends. Page boys’ role consisted of carrying the bride’s train (which was long and would otherwise drag on the ground) and generally helping with parts of the wedding ritual. Although the boys were often very young, due to the fact that their duties were not always simple, they were rarely younger than seven.
Nowadays, for one reason or another, page boys are not that often seen on weddings. The tradition still lives on special occasions, such as royal weddings (the most recent example being the marriage of Prince William and Princess Catherine of the British royal family) but it is generally rarely seen anywhere else. One of the things a page was in charge of was carrying a pillow with wedding rings. In this, pages were only recently replaced by the best man.
Flower, Wheat and Garlic Girls
Flower girls, in contrast to their boy counterparts, exist to this day. Female children of the relatives or friends, their role is to walk in front of the bride and carry a box or a basket full of flower petals, which they spread on the floor in front of her. The origin of this tradition is in a slightly different tradition of ancient Romans, who had a young virgin carry sheaths of wheat, a gesture which was supposed to bring well-being to the newlyweds. It is easy to see how the wheat gave way to flowers during the course of time, but it is interesting to point out that during the middle ages girls used to carry garlic.
Be it this role or that, children will always be an integral part of the wedding ceremony, due to their association with family and marriage. And while one day their traditional roles might be part of history, their excited faces and precious apparels are here to stay.