DEAR ABBY: Will you take one more comment about children at weddings?
Traditions defining many public ceremonies arose in times when the only public record was the public recollection. Centuries ago, before publicly recorded deeds secured property owners' rights, buyers and sellers would gather witnesses, including 10 small boys, and define the boundaries before exchanging a bag of gold for a symbolic clump of dirt. The men would then beat the boys to fix the transaction in their memories. This provided witnesses able to attest to the land sale covenant in the event a dispute arose, even decades later, in spite of limited life expectancies. I discovered this fact while researching land sales during law school.
It is my understanding that weddings included children for similar reasons. Celebrations, parades through the streets and processions into the church provided a positive reinforcement to the memories of the young children included to preserve a good public "record" of the marriage covenant. Modern ring bearers and flower girls apparently represent a remnant of this tradition. If correct, the tradition explains why such participants should be old enough to be cognizant, but otherwise very young.
Regardless of the reasons, sniffling, giggling, chattering children, missing their cues in the procession or fidgeting among the witnesses, remind me that some element of the family and community can attest to the vows long after the other witnesses and I are gone. In my opinion, a ceremony that excludes children misses the point of a public ceremony. -- BENJAMIN PITTS, CHATTANOOGA, TENN.
DEAR BENJAMIN: Thank you for a fascinating letter. However, let's agree to disagree on the subject of children at weddings. Older children, who know how to behave and are aware of their surroundings, can certainly be invited to share the festivities. Small children, with short attention spans, are disruptive and should not attend a wedding unless specifically invited.
P.S. Thank God society has progressed beyond beating boys to record real-estate transactions.