Taking a toddler to a wedding can feel pretty ambitious. We have taken our eldest to a few and while each experience was different to the last, there was a lot of pre-event planning that went into making sure that we all got through the day and had a good time.
It is stressful taking your kid to any event where their best behaviour is expected. No matter how reassuring friends can be about the possibility of your toddler having a tantrum mid-ceremony or during the speeches, you pray that your child doesn’t unintentionally become the focus of their big day.
We have taken Jack to four weddings in total, each with different challenges.
My husband was best man on a couple of occasions and was often called away for photos, greeting guests and generally lending support to the groom. At one of those weddings I was 30 weeks pregnant so this presented a few challenges due to being huge, but we got through it and still had a good time.
Manage Your Expectations
Start by accepting that if you are going to a wedding with a young child, then there are going to be parts you miss out on. There may be tantrums, tears and escape bids mid-ceremony – from the toddler – not the bride.
Weddings can be great fun for kids, but they are a long day and don’t exactly fall in line with your child’s normal routine. Photo’s overrun, things run late and the wedding breakfast that was supposed to commence at 4pm doesn’t start until 5.30pm leaving your ravenous, over-tired toddler teetering on the edge of a meltdown.
Prepare to be a little more relaxed in regards to routine and don’t panic if your toddler does get a bit grumpy. Most people will be focused on the bride and groom and enjoying a drink to notice anyway. You might even get some friendly guests offering support if you are solo-parenting that day.
And if you feel like your little one can manage it, then a late night won’t hurt. Let them enjoy the party for a few hours and make some happy memories. Having said that, don’t be afraid to call it a day a little early if your toddler is starting to get a bit fractious. I’ve missed a few evening receptions, but by 8pm I was usually exhausted, yet happy and relieved that we got through the day and had a good time.
My limitation on treats goes out of the window at weddings, there were many times throughout the day where a tasty bribe came to the rescue. During the ceremony or speeches make sure you have plenty of snacks on hand to keep hands busy and mouths shut.
Pack a bag with a selection of toys, stickers and books that are new and only reveal them throughout the day. I also took our iPad and loaded it up with Jack’s favourite videos that he could watch when he was getting tired or overwhelmed.
If possible then have a look at the venue beforehand so you can find places to escape to if your child needs a bit of peace and quiet or to let off some steam.
Sit next to the aisle during the ceremony so you don’t have to disturb too many people if you need to make a quick exit for a bathroom break. Although don’t make the mistake that I did and allow your child to sit aisle side. Jack decided to try and make his exit just as the bride made her entrance – now forever captured on their wedding video forever. Luckily our friend’s saw the funny side!
Jack still needed naps so if the ceremony was taking place at 1pm, we’d get ready early and then jump in the car and have an extended drive so he could nap on the way there.
We also booked accommodation close to the venue so we could put him down for a short nap after the ceremony and before the wedding breakfast. If possible, then try and make your child nap in the buggy instead. Unfortunately, this never worked out for me as neither of my kids ever sleeps in the buggy!
A few weddings the church and the wedding venue were around an hour apart from each other, which meant Jack could catch up on sleep on the drive between the two.
If your child is a picker eater and you are worried that they won’t eat anything off the menu then ask if there are any kid-friendly options. Another option is to take a pack-up lunch.
Check whether high chairs will be available. If not, then you could always take a portable high chair. We purchased the Chicco Pocket Snack Booster which has been invaluable on many holidays and events.
I took Jack back to our accommodation between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast. I knew everything was running late that day so I used the time to feed him a quick and filling meal in the peace and quiet. By the time the wedding breakfast came around, Jack was full of energy and ready to have fun.
We all hope for glorious sunshine on wedding days and I envisioned Jack running around the grounds and exploring instead of being stuck inside.
Unfortunately a few times we have experienced complete downpours. My advice is to take some wellington boots and a splash suit and let them get some fresh air without getting soaked. And don’t forget some wet weather gear for yourself too! Sure, it’s not that glamorous, but who cares?
These tips helped us get through a fair few weddings and by the time our youngest came along, we felt like parenting pros and we had a really lovely day. Prepare ahead, expect the unexpected but most of all relax and enjoy the day. Kids can be the highlight of the wedding and they are never afraid to get on the dance floor!