Since lockdown lifted, we’ve all hit a huge onslaught of weddings. Our Autumn has been rammed with them, but our boys have only been invited to one.
Initially, I was a little sad that I wasn’t allowed to bring my boys to these super fun love-days, but after attending our friend’s wedding at the end of October, I could see the benefits of leaving the kiddos with the grandparents for the night.
Don’t get me wrong, the boys had an amazing time, and their first wedding was filled with magic. If they get invited to another wedding, I will be excited to take them.
It’s just that, the day is not about them, so therefore, it is our job to stop them from stealing the thunder (by having meltdowns, giggle-fits, fights, shouting matches, pooing in the aisle etc etc). So, a lot of planning had to go in to making sure they had a happy, yet restricted time.
Here are some tips to help you survive a wedding ceremony with a toddler:
Preparing your toddler for a wedding
Watch YouTube videos of wedding ceremonies
If, like mine, this is their first experience of a wedding, let them see what a wedding looks like first. Not all ceremonies are the same, so try and find a video of one that will match the vibe of the wedding you’re attending (e.g barn, beach, religious etc).
Here is an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvuY_jyJmPU (this is obviously a link to my own wedding ceremony #shamless).
Have a little chat about what’s happening and manage their expectations for the day ahead. Talk about what people are wearing, how they are behaving and what it all means. Build it up like it’s an awesome immersive experience that they will be a part of.
Test out the clothes in advance
If you have a special outfit for your little one to wear, let them try it on beforehand… months, weeks, days and hours beforehand. Compliment them and help them feel confident in their ‘costume’ or ‘outfit’. Before wearing it talk about the colours and feel the fabric, so it’s not a surprise when they put it on. Our son liked the idea of looking like his dad so he paraded around the living room, saying ‘What do you think?’ He loved the idea of looking like the bride even more, but like I said to my best friend before my own wedding day, “No one should be wearing the same dress as the bride…. and take off that veil.”
Google images of the venue
Let them have a virtual tour of the wedding venue. All these tips are to avoid meltdowns and build confidence. If I ever spring anything new on my toddler without giving him warning, a meltdown or tantrum ensues, and I only have myself to blame. His birthday was a nightmare!
Before the ceremony
Be the last to sit down
Get all the wiggles out before you even enter the ceremony. Find some space for a good run around or game of hide and seek. Basically, shatter them out before sitting down. Have you ever known a toddler to sit still and be quiet for half an hour, just because we’ve asked them to? Let’s give them all the help we can.
Sit at the back near an exit
This seems like an obvious thing to say, but just in case, it needs to be said. Even if you follow these tips, the likelihood is… your toddler is going to kick off, need a poo, giggle, scream, cry because a fly sat on their knee etc. So having an escape route is key.
Refer to the YouTube video
Say things like:
‘Remember on the video when we saw everyone sitting down? That’s what we’ll need to do in a minute.’
‘We’ll see the bride walk in through those doors later. I’m excited, are you?’
‘There’s the groom stood at the front, just like in the video, see? He’s wearing a suit like you!’
The more narrative you give, the more interest they will have.
Give lots of warning
To give our toddlers the best chance of behaving how we’d like them to during a wedding ceremony, we need to give them a heads up, for everything. A heads up and a running commentary at the same time (in a whisper). Channel your inner David Attenborough.
During the Ceremony
It’s important to remember that no matter how prepared you are, or how rigidly you follow these tips, it is still tremendously unlikely that your toddler will watch quietly and listen carefully through the whole ceremony, so if you feel things brewing, exit quickly and quietly.
It’s sad to miss out yourself but know that you’ve done a good thing. Letting your toddler take the limelight during the ceremony may not be as cute as you might think. My son’s version of Mr Tumble’s ‘We’re All Friends’ is super cute, obvs, but I guess not every bride wants to walk down the aisle to it.
Have distraction tools at the ready
Don’t have any “mum guilt” about taking your go-to distraction tools. Let them watch their favourite TV show on your phone (on mute or with headphones obvs), have chocolate buttons ready-to-go in your pocket, favourite toy, game, colouring etc… as long it’s quiet and they’re quiet while they are doing it, it’s a definite yes.
While our friends were getting married, I was popping chocolate easter balls into my toddler’s mouth; I looked across the aisle and saw a dad holding his iPhone out in front of his toddler, letting him watch Paw Patrol on mute. We gave each other a quick smile and then were back to business. Always good to know you’re all on survival mode together.
Gosh, they are amazing for even getting there without taking all their weird, uncomfortable clothes off immediately. Tell them they are amazing.
Let them know how well they did, coping with all those strange people smiling and talking to them before the ceremony… even if they just hugged you and didn’t say a word back; even if they had a little panic, they still experienced it and that’s enough. Well done, Little One. Keep going.
Whisper words of encouragement and pride throughout so they know they are doing a good job (you should probably practice your whispering skills now, you’re going to be doing it a lot). The more you make them feel good, the more they will enjoy themselves and want to impress you.
After the ceremony
- Let your little one throw confetti, it can be super fun and a little release of some pent-up energy.
- Get to the happy couple as soon as you can to say congratulations, get a quick snap, make your excuses, and skedaddle.
- Make sure you contact your babysitters as soon as you depart so they know you are on your way back. This will hopefully ensure a quick turn around so you can get back, chug some free Proseccos and chill your beans.
- When you arrive at the babysitters, let that little one take all those clothes off, do a nudey dance and feel free.
- Dance with them, hug them tight, congratulate them on surviving and then let them play, read, watch TV, eat, run, jump… whatever they need to do. They did it.
- Now – head back to the wedding and know that you did everything you could to make the ceremony as successful as possible. Well done mama, it wasn’t easy. Or, if you’d rather be done with the wedding – take all your uncomfortable clothes off, fall in a heap and stay home and watch far too much CBeebies with your family.
Some parents may brave keeping their toddlers there the entire wedding, much like an amazing couple at our friend’s recent wedding (the dad was the one with Paw Patrol on tap). At each point of the wedding, they were on high alert; they did a fantastic job at keeping their children happy, yet restricted. They were still going at 11pm. Their toddler was doing stunts on his balance bike in the courtyard, making me miss my boy terribly in my tipsy state. I spoke to the mum just as I was about to leave, and she looked near to tears. She had clearly given it everything she had, and she was exhausted. A virtual hug to you, fellow mother of sons! And good luck to all you other parents who are taking your toddlers to a wedding – I hope they find it magical.