Weddings are brilliant: lovely people in love, celebrating the marriage of a couple, with food, drinks and lots of fun. Weddings, generally, are brilliant.
Until you have a toddler in tow. Then, weddings are really hard work.
Of course, your toddler might not be like my toddler. When everyone else is at the ceremony, my toddler wants to shout, “Car, mummy! Car!” at the bride. When it’s pouring with rain between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast, he wants to be running around outside. When you need to go in one direction, he’ll throw a tantrum to go the other way. Preferably towards the ducks.
We went to one such wedding last Saturday. It was a very child-friendly wedding, as they go. The couple themselves have a two year old, and they had obviously really thought about keeping the children entertained, especially during the wedding breakfast. So, inspired by that, and by the thoughtful provision of my sisters-in-law, who are much more experienced at things like this than me, I’ve come up with some tips for handling a wedding with a toddler.
1. Arrive a bit early…
This way, you can scope out the lie of the land. You can figure out where the baby-changing is, and secure seats to make a quick exit if necessary.
2. But not too early.
You really don’t want a bored toddler on your hands before the ceremony has even started.
3. Stock up on snacks.
Raisins, crackers, toddler-flapjack, fruit, cheese – whatever will take your child a while to eat and keep them entertained. This is particularly useful for the ceremony, as are…
4. Sticker books and activity packs
While Ben tried to stick the stickers on himself, his older cousins were engrossed by the CBeebies Peter Rabbit comic. It helped that their grandparents were happy to read this to them too.
5. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else
Enlist their help, certainly. Try to get them seated in strategic places, definitely. Ben was regularly captured by his grandfather after running down the length of the reception venue, as they were seated half-way down.
6. Bring a change of clothes
During the ceremony, the bride and groom’s son wore a gorgeous set of tails to match the groom and his ushers. After the ceremony, he was much happier in his causal, comfy clothes.
7. A range of ‘bigger’ toys, if you can
My sister in law, Suzie, brought a train set, Duplo, and a assemble-your-own truck kit. This kept the smaller children entertained for ages during the meal. My other sister in law brought craft and drawing activities, which did the same for the older children. The bride and groom thoughtfully provided party bags with masks and play doh, which went down very well.
8. Use reins
Ben loves to run around. In a crowded room, this is tricky, especially if there are multiple exits. He could get through gaps that we couldn’t push through without knocking people over, and would be outside before we knew it, and, while it was a fairly safe site, there was still traffic and other dangers. Putting the reins on him meant that he was safe, could wander around happily, and that he was slow enough to allow me to keep up with him in heels.
9. Enjoy it!
Ben loves his cousins, and one of the loveliest things about the day was watching him interact with them. My particular highlight was watching him try to dance like them, particularly when they wanted to break dance. Precious.
10. Get a babysitter (if you can)
We left at 7.45pm and drove home. Ben slept all the way, and all through the night. But we did miss the party, and that’s a bit of a shame. It’s one of those sacrifices you have to make as a parents. I don’t know how many weddings we’ll get invited to in future, but just over a year ago, when we were invited to the evening do of a wedding, Ben’s grandparents babysat. We had a fantastic time.