Ever wonder what the point of flower girls and ring bearers are beyond celebratory cuteness? These mini grooms and brides are not conceited homages to the newylweds. The pomp and circumstance of the tiny tyke parade has everything to do with fertility superstition actually. They represent the biological children the couple are expected to have. By incorporating them into the ceremony, they act as good luck charms so that the couple will have no problem conceiving (there’s no precedent on what it means when the ring bearer loses the ring or the flower girl takes a tantrum). The tradition originates from when old school wedding tradition believed the sole the point of marriage was to procreate. This also explains why flower girls throw flowers. Flowers are also fertility symbols and by throwing the petals around, it’s like blessing the wedding with even more fertility.
Nowadays, procreation is rarely the entire point of marriage (that idea diminished when people started marrying for love in the early 20th century)(and women today are embracing the benefits of birth control), so the relevance of these decked out toddlers is up for debate. Many couples today may not want kids immediately, others not at all, so it’s worth considering whether to follow this tradition. The important thing is understanding that superstition really has no place in wedding culture in this modern age. If a couple experiences infertility, it won’t be because they skipped it; or if a couple produces their own in-house soccer team, they can’t attribute it to little Donny marching down the aisle.
Not wanting kids, but choosing to incorporate ring bearers and flower girls into the ceremony does not remove the symbolism of the tradition either. It’s tradition because it’s there for that reason explicitly. Luckily, there are plenty alternatives to this tradition. Doing away or at least modifying the tradition does have some modern benefit though, especially when it comes to gender roles. There’s really no reason a little girl can’t deliver the ring or the boy sprinkle flowers. This division of labor is just a product of stereotypical gender roles, where the ring is men’s domain (which started because of the wage gap) and where fertility is women’s. By sharing or alternating the theoretical baby responsibility, it’s possible that it will lead to more egalitarian practices when there’s an actual baby. Making the roles more gender neutral relinquishes the old school wedding tradition idea that these roles are implicitly heterosexual too. It creates more opportunity for the roles to be filled with all girls or all boys.
So when deciding whether or not to have the pitter patter of little feet precede the newlyweds, remember there’s a lot more to do with this tradition when it comes to asserting specific ideas about obsolete gender roles, sex and reproductive destinies. There’s no reason you have to follow it if it doesn’t fit with your values or future family intentions.