The big day: Weddings and children
It’s wedding season, and if your brood’s on any guest lists, it really is worth putting a bit of extra thought into how the day might pan out.
Ok, so you don’t have as much to worry about as the bride, but the average wedding tends to be a pretty long day from start to finish, and with little ones to feed/water/change/entertain/keep tabs on during the celebrations, you’ll want to go prepared, both mentally and physically.
While you might use a friend’s wedding as the perfect excuse to splash out on something exquisite for yourself to wear, remember your children will be too tall for whatever you get them within about a week (they just won’t stop growing, will they?). Look to the high street for sweet little pieces that won’t break the bank.
That said, if you’re determined to go all out on ensuring your kids are dressed to impress, do be aware of upstaging the flower girls and page boys. Your children might accidentally get ushered into the official wedding photos, then you’d have some explaining to do.
Might you still be breastfeeding when the big day arrives? It sounds obvious, but do bear this in mind when you buy your outfit. I attended a wedding once and had to spend most of the evening sitting in the loo, because in order to feed I had to remove the entire top half of my dress. Not good.
Not access all areas
Do double check those pesky bra clips and make sure the puppies are properly put away when you stand up. I mean, talk about stealing the bride’s thunder.
Ease them in
If your child is of an age where you can explain what a wedding is all about, then do (several times!) before the big day. If they know the ceremony is a special time for your friends, and it’s important that all guests stay quiet, they might be less tempted to fill that big, echoey space with the sound of themselves, or to race around the bride and groom, Lewis Hamilton-style.
Take them out
Sod’s law decrees that if you take a small baby to a wedding, it will do a very loud poo at the same time the happy couple take their vows. It’s unavoidable and hopefully everyone will laugh it off. But if your child starts to fuss or shout, don’t try to quieten them down (you know how they hate that), just remove them quickly to give other guests a chance to hear what they came for.
Find out in advance about the wedding venue – are the grounds safe for your children to run around? If staying overnight, can you easily nip back to your hotel room or is there somewhere quiet you can go if your baby needs to take a nap?
Do also check out the timings of everything. If you know your child will kick up a stink if their routine isn’t honoured, then try to work out how to manipulate it. It really shouldn’t matter if your one-year-old doesn’t take up a place at the table for lunch because they’re sleeping – and you might get to chow down in peace!
Not every child will take to smoked salmon or caviar canapés, so be sure to stock up on plenty of suitable, convenient snacks for the children to keep them going until their meal is served.
When it comes to the meal itself, don’t expect the bride to remember or take care of your children’s culinary whims and fancies. If your children have any special dietary needs, it’s best to let the bride know sooner rather than later – and it’s helpful and polite to offer to take something yourself.
If the bride-to-be has the ‘brilliant’ idea of seating all toddlers together on one table, talk her out of it! Unless she’s also willing to provide chaperones, it will end in chaos, and parents will have to come to the rescue and sit on the floor for the duration of the meal.
Instead, gently suggest she seats parents and children at the edges of the room, close to exits/loos. And when you’re seated with your own toddler, stay relaxed when they get the fidgets five minutes into the mains. It might not be the height of sophistication, but it would be best for all if your little one played quietly under the table, rather than having tantrum on top of it.
Children don’t tend to enjoy wedding speeches – they hardly ever get the best man’s jokes (do any of us?), and if the bride and groom don’t have children, they can’t be expected to know the average attention span of a two-year-old is about 14 seconds. So do take along your own bag of goodies to keep the kids quietly entertained – a favourite sticker and colouring book might help. Even better, Usborne do wedding-themed ones.
Don't get banished
But don’t go chucking stuff in that bag willy-nilly – include nothing that makes any noise and it’s definitely crayons only please, no felt-tip pens! A bridal gown, well, it’s like a blank canvas to a budding Picasso really, isn’t it?
Out of sight
If your friends have taken the decision to invite children to their wedding, they might also have taken the decision to ease the pressure on you by providing some entertainment or activities for the kids – if so, hooray! You should get them an extra special gift for such thoughtfulness and love them forever.
Not out of mind
That said, remember even the most creative of activities might only hold your child’s attention for a limited amount of time, so always be aware of their location. If you notice them loitering next to the wedding cake, do not confuse an apparent air of innocence for what might actually be a quiet intent on nicking the top layer to sample. Really, I have seen this happen and there were tears… from the bride.
You and your partner both want to be able to enjoy the wedding, so divvy up the childcare during the day, ensuring you each have a chance to mingle with friends.
If you’re staying at the venue, one of you is going to have to retire early, so ahead of the day, talk it through amicably and decide who’s going to bed at 8pm with the children. Better still, check if the hotel offers a babysitter service. Or, you know, go for the other mature option: have a row over lunch, then flip a coin for it. (Only kidding!)