Is it the time of year, or the phase of our life that seems to spell sudden, numerous wedding invitations? Either way, we find ourselves with a handful of creamy letterpress cards hung on the fridge. This year, however, we've found that many of the invitations include a slightly smaller guest-- my three year old son.
Now that he's past the baby stage, we need to think of new strategies for keeping him occupied and happy during the events. Bringing a toddler to a wedding isn’t as difficult as it may seem. It’s all in the preparation. I check in with the couple in advance to see if there will be any entertainment for the children or any additional food options for pickier eaters. I ensure he’s well rested on the day of the wedding, and I pack a bag. In it, I keep an extra change of clothes, a few favorite toys, and some special surprises like neat and quiet snacks, stickers, or a new book.
Luckily, the reception side of weddings are great for little ones. Food and dancing are the stuff three year olds dream about, and I happily set him (mostly) free to munch and wiggle as he pleases.
It's the other part- the short but very important ceremony, that seems most tricky. For that, I plan an exit strategy. In weddings where I have a more active role, I make sure to ask a loved one to do the same so I can attend to bridal party duties.
But leaving is a last resort, of course. Before the ceremony even begins, I explain to my son what will happen and what's expected of him, preparing him to be quiet and still. He has a much easier time meeting my expectations for good behavior when he knows what they are.
Still, I don't set the standards too terribly high. I pack a small collection of quiet, unobtrusive toys. I sit near the back just in case I need to slip out. If it won't disrupt the ceremony, I'll let him play on the floor instead of squirming uncomfortably in a stiff chair. I try to be mindful of his age and his attention span, and the fact that a wedding is a happy celebration, one that toddlers can enjoy, too.
What are your views on bringing small children to weddings?
Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.