When attending a wedding don’t you just love when the back doors of the church swing open and we see a bride and her father arm in arm? Most of us will then quickly turn to catch a glimpse of the groom’s expression in that shimmering moment.

Personally my favorite wedding moments are when children are involved in the ceremony. I do not think that I am the only one hoping that ring bearer goes rogue on his way to the altar, am I? It is the stuff memories are made of. In fact, I have a favorite flower girl memory that occurred at an outdoor wedding along the Mississippi River in Trempealeau, Wis.

At just barely three years old, this little flower distributer was being positioned by a teenager for her solo walk across the lawn to the waiting bridesmaids and groomsmen. Everything was going fine for the teenage wedding guest/toddler rustler until our toddler suddenly and completely froze. All those people in the chairs were not here yesterday during rehearsal. This was entirely different deal and our 3-year-old was not having any part of it. Your heart went out to the frightened little one but also to the high-schooler who was enticing, pointing and smiling, cajoling, and trying everything she knew to get the wedding processional unstuck.

What saved the day was a groomsman’s dad, up in front, stepping out into the aisle and into the sightline of his timid daughter. My heart still warms as I picture the huge smile dawn upon his daughter’s face along with a look of single-minded purpose.

She handed the basket of petals to said babysitter and ran down the aisle flinging herself into her daddy’s embrace. It was wonderful, loving, and just so adorable. There was an audible “Aww” that rose from the guests—right before they all turned and looked at a somewhat surprised teenager who was looking down at the basket of rose petals that she was now in possession of.

Then an absolutely radiant smile lit up her face as well as she improvised her newfound role as flower girl with panache, flinging flowers with gusto, to the applause of the appreciative guests.

Back in 2001 the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released a song called, “Dance Little Jean.” The lyrics tell the story of a little girl dancing at her parent’s wedding. The refrain goes: “Dance little Jean this day is for you, two people that you love stood up to say I do. Dance little Jean, a prayer that you had, is answered today your mom is marrying your dad.”

At a recent wedding, the little ring bearer and his little flower girl cousin each had minds of their own. At rehearsal they did things their way, and nothing changed during the actual ceremony. But as it came time to bless the couple, I suggested to the ring bearer (the bride and groom’s son) that he might want to put his hand on their hands and mine for the blessing.

To my delight he did. But then his cousin, the flower girl, wanted to join in too. So she did. Then he upped the ante by adding a second little paw. She called – and with all hands in, the blessing proceeded. As I ended the blessing I said “God Bless” three times in a row. Our little ring bearer whispered, “God bless, God bless, God bless”—loud enough for mom and dad to hear and I heard mom let out a little emotional sniff. At the end of the blessing I said “Amen” and opened my eyes to see that the little hands had not let go yet and our flower girl’s eyes were still closed. Then with the deepest sense of solemnity that someone who has not yet experienced kindergarten can muster came her own beautiful “Amen.”

Next time you find yourself at a wedding worship service, find a way to shine, let prayer spill from your heart and marvel at the love God gives us to share. It’s the stuff memories are made of.

The Rev. Mike Woods is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent.

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