You’ve received a wedding invite and this time, the inner envelope includes the words “…and family.” The wording makes it very clear that your kids are invited to the wedding, but should you take them? Scenarios begin playing in your mind. What if your toddler throws a tantrum mid-vow and you find no escape route?
If your friends or family have included your kids on the guest list, they’ve probably added other tots, too. So you won’t be the only one with little ones in tow. Couples that include kids also tend to create a kid-friendly environment – although you shouldn’t assume this to be true. However, if this is your wedding, there are so many ways to keep them involved and ensure that they feel included in the wedding!
When you’ve decided to RSVP with the entire family or made the decision to include your kids in your upcoming nuptials, you need to begin planning for the event with your kiddos. Each age group has different demands and challenges, but most kids are the happiest guests at the wedding (and especially the reception!).
Here are a few tips to survive the wedding with your kids:
Don’t bring kids unless they are specifically invited!
The number one rule that every family must follow about bringing kids to a wedding is the most obvious: make sure they are invited! If the invite or inside envelope does not specifically list children by name or include “and family,” then the kids are not part of the guest list. Do NOT bring kids to a wedding in which they are not invited. Not only is this a breach of etiquette, but it’s really rude to the guests of honor.
Scope out a place to feed baby!
Bringing a baby to a wedding will mean midday feedings. If you’re breastfeeding, you will need to find a comfortable space to feed your little one. Remember to wear an ensemble that’s nursing-friendly; ideally, don’t select a dress or blouse that zips or fastens in the back. If baby takes a bottle, you’ll still want to find a location outside of the ceremony when it’s mealtime. Sometimes hungry babies are noisy!
This doesn’t have to entail a drawn out pep talk. Just sit down with kids and talk to them about the event. Get them excited, but also discuss manners and what you’ll expect from them while you’re there. With smaller kids, too many expectations may overwhelm them. But you should expect good manners, and remind them about inside voices. If they have a role in the wedding, rehearse their part before the actual rehearsal. Have flower girls practice walking and tossing petals. Have ring bearers practice with a little pillow. Get them excited about their role!
Pack a change of clothes
Kids get messy. Prepare for spills, accidents and other mishaps. For kids in the wedding, wait to get dressed in formal attire as close to go-time as is acceptable. Obviously, you don’t want to rush, but you also don’t want small children running around in a tux or white dress all day. For kids who will be a guest, dress them for the occasion and remember to pack spare clothes. Pack something comfortable and some pajamas if you plan to stay late.
Remember to bring healthy and tidy snacks
Do not head out for a big event without snacks. This is especially true if dinner will be late. Be sure to bring a few bottles of water and some healthy snacks that won’t make a mess! Goldfish, carrot sticks, and fruit are all good choices. If there is no eating in the wedding venue, make sure to let kids munch a little before taking your seat.
Keep them busy!
One of the biggest worries for parents is that their children will get bored during a long ceremony. To combat boredom, make an activity bag to bring to the event. This bag can include crayons, colouring sheets, books, small (and quiet!) toys, and maybe even a disposable camera for them to take pictures (just make sure this is ok with the couple!).
Know your escape route
If you have young kids, consider sitting near the back and close to an aisle. That way if your kids get restless or have to use the restroom, you can make a quick exit without drawing attention. If your kids are in the wedding—or you’re the bride—make sure a grandparent, relative or close friend can keep a close eye on your child.
Let them have fun!
While it’s good to set all the rules and expectations, allow kids to be kids. Let them dance, eat a little cake and enjoy their first wedding. If kids are misbehaving, you also should still abide by your family’s normal consequences. This could mean a time out in a quiet spot to help them calm down. All parents are apprehensive about taking their kids to a wedding, but weddings with kids often to turn out to be more fun! Enjoy the event together, take pics and get up and dance!
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. @AmyKWilliams1