Children hit various milestones at in their early lives, some bigger than others; there’s taking that first step, having the first meal made from solid foods, the first day of school, successfully writing the alphabet and, sooner or later, attending their first wedding. Parents may be at a loss about how to best manage their young ones during this formal affair, so below are ideas on how to ensure that your kids and you have the best time possible.
1) If your child has been asked to participate in the ceremony as a flower girl or ring bearer, make sure that he or she receives plenty of sleep the night before and, to help quiet their nerves and potential confusion, do a few test-runs in the privacy of your own home.
Even if your child is not a member of the party, children like being the center-of-attention and feeling appreciated, so reflect on the possibility of tasking them with a small assignment to make them feel needed and accountable. With the couple’s permission, perhaps your little ones can ask attendants to sign the guest book, hand out programs, wave streamers during the sendoff, or take photographs throughout the reception using sturdy, disposable cameras like the ones offered by American Bridal or Cameras For All.
2) Prior to the wedding, have a conversation with your children about “how much the wedding means to Jane and John” and that “it is an honor to be invited.” Let them know what may await them, like sitting for long periods or posing for photographs, and ask what they would want to make the experience more enjoyable. While they may look adorable when dressed like tiny royalty, make sure that your children can easily move and are comfortable in their chosen outfits, or else they’ll become increasingly grouchy as the wedding progresses. Think of a special treat for your kids and let them know what is in store for them the next day “as a reward for all their hard work and good behavior” in order to provide an extra incentive for polite conduct.
3) During the ceremony, it is pertinent if you sit at the end of the aisles and close to the door so you can make a smooth, easy exit if your children start acting up. While silent activities will keep them entertained, sitting for long periods of time might make them fussy; if you sense your kids starting to get irritable, excuse yourselves to take a quick walk outside so they can stretch their legs. After the ceremony is over (and perhaps during), provide positive reinforcement by letting your kids know that their efforts are being appreciated and that you are proud of how well they are handling themselves.
4) Children may grow cranky while waiting for the food to be served or find that the limited menu too outlandish for their young taste buds. Instead of combatting them to just “give the Chicken Marsala a try,” have healthy bites like carrot sticks, crackers and juice ready to be passed out. Avoid serving up sugary foods, as this will first make them hyper and then grumpily tired as they crash.
5) Consider consulting with a member of the wedding party about the layout of the venue (but not the overwhelmed bride and groom); if there is a nearby area where children can play, ask whether or not the couple would appreciate you organizing a play space in which the children can be entertained away from the more-adult festivities. While you and the other parents might want to take hour-long shifts watching the children, you can propose to hire a babysitter to supervise the little ones as part of your gift to the newly wedded couple.
6) Just like adults, children can get frazzled when tired, so frequently check in with your kids about their energy levels. A fifteen-minute nap in the car (with you present of course) might perform wonders, and make sure to leave the celebration at a reasonable hour. Remember that the reception is about the couple celebrating their love and not about you having the night to relax and be “off-duty,” so don’t put your own wants ahead of your child’s needs, even if that means taking a brief hiatus from the reception to put your child in “time-out”.
No matter what, kids will be kids and they aren’t about to magically transform into prim lords and duchesses. And just think, one day in the not-too-distant future, you might be attending their big day and be wistfully reminiscing about the years when they were small.
A lifetime resident of the Badger State (Wisconsin), Leslie Branche is absolutely passionate about the great outdoors. When she isn’t juggling the responsibilities of mothering three boys, she loves to go hiking and camping, do photography and write about the everyday pleasures and challenges of raising a family.