It's wedding season and the chances are you've got a a lovely embossed invitation winking at you on your mantelpiece. But does the small print say, regrettably children are definitely, strictly, not on your nelly invited OR the more stampeding childebeests the better? (you may want to read 8 ways to survive ‘wedding season’ when you have kids)
If the bride and groom to have embraced the concept of a multi generational celebration and do want your adorable smalls running around their ankles and let's face it trebling the ahh factor of their wedding album photos, there are a few etiquette rules that you could observe to stop great Aunts from tutting and more importantly help you to relax on the big day.
According to wedding planner Mark Niemierko, the secret to success lies in the preparation. "It’s important to the run through the ceremony so children will know exactly what they’re supposed to do and where to sit,” he says. "Even if you can’t go to the actual wedding venue, have a little practice at home to prepare them for the big day."
And how to survive a long afternoon of photographs and feasting? "One strategy is to give your child a disposable camera and get her to be photographer’s assistant, capturing shots of guests," says Mark. For the meal, Mark recommends children sit together, ideally with a nanny to chaperone. And after a few whirls on the dance floor, he suggests a not-too-tardy bedtime. "It’s wise to leave before anyone becomes tired and emotional."
Afterwards, your child can compile a scrapbook of mementoes. When I Was A Bridesmaid by Antonia Swinson (Ryland Peters & Small) has pages to fill in and makes a lovely keepsake.
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The Baby Show's resident baby and parenting expert Rachel Fitz-Desorgher also has plenty to say on the subject. “Weddings are a time of celebration and also of unbelievable stress so, with that heady mix of excitement and anxiety, it is understandable that tensions can come to a head when the invites go out. For most parents, the idea of leaving a baby behind is unthinkable; whilst it seems that, for a massive 66%, the idea of a baby crying during one of the most precious moments of their life is equally unthinkable so it’s important to find a compromise.”
- Plan Ahead
Now you know the facts you can plan. Babies under about 6 months struggle to stay with anyone other than parents for more than half an hour so, if your baby is little, consider asking a grandparent to walk your little one around the park during the ceremony and then handing baby back to you for a good cuddle and feed somewhere private (use your fact-finding mission to get details of a warm room at the venue where babies can be fed and changed). Rinse and repeat until you can be finally reunited with your little one for the rest of the day. Older babies will certainly grumble when left but they will cope for some hours as long as they are with someone they know well. Make sure that your trusted adult knows your baby’s routine and is staying close enough to the venue (consider booking a family suite at the venue if there is accommodation) that you can be called to the rescue if needed.
If you are breastfeeding your baby, don’t bother trying to “get baby used to a bottle” beforehand. It rarely works and just increases anxiety in the lead-up to the big day. Simply express some milk the night before the wedding and leave it with your baby sitter. Your little one really will take a bottle if they get thirsty enough. Grandparents are great at non-boob soothing techniques so will happily walk and jiggle and pat your fractious baby until they are really ready to drink. Often, they never take the bottle because they never get that thirsty, and then they have a mega-breastfeed hours later when you come back! If you are bottle-feeding your baby, make sure your baby sitter knows how to make up a feed safely and also knows that your baby doesn’t need milk every time they cry - mostly they simply want some high-intensity soothing. You really don’t want a windy, overfed baby to deal with the night after the wedding.
- Be Sensitive
Be sensitive to the needs of the wedding couple if your baby is invited to later parts of the day. As much as you want to hear the speeches, it is simply miserable for everyone if the best man’s speech is highjacked by a crying baby. A breastfed baby can simply disappear under mum’s blouse the minute they kick off - even if they are not hungry, they will generally pop onto the boob for a welcome suckle and snuggle. A bottle-fed baby needs a dummy and a cuddle if a feed isn’t due and, however you feed your baby, if they won’t quieten, take them out of the room fast. Have plenty of toys at hand and a comfy pushchair for quick walking naps. Be a good guest!
- Be prepared to turn the invite down
If you look at all the options and decide that you and your baby are going to find it all too much, try to plan a babysitter for during the ceremony and then go home. It’s a shame but it isn’t the end of the world. Be grown-up about it - don’t make the wedding couple feel guilty, and maybe arrange for a great dinner party at your house after their honeymoon so that you can enjoy hearing about the big day whilst your baby is safely asleep in their crib or snuggled in your arms!