There is a window of time in all of our lives when receiving a wedding invitation in the mail is a cause for excitement and joy. Someone who you know cares enough about you enough to invite you to bear witness to one of the most important days of their lives, and if you’re lucky, you’ll also be surrounded by many of your friends and/or family while eating, drinking, dancing, and partaking in similar activities of celebration and general merriment at the event.
While all of this generally remains true regardless of your age or the stage of life you may find yourself in, attending a wedding when you have a child, particularly one of toddler age, makes things considerably more…interesting.
This summer, our almost-two-year-old was invited to be the ring bearer in not one, but two separate weddings. Obviously, Stu and I were completely honoured and said yes without hesitation. As a parent, there is no better opportunity to parade your child around in front of friends and strangers in a shameless plug for “oohs” and “awwws” than putting them on display at someone else’s wedding, and we now would get to do this in front of two separate crowds. Incredible.
Prior to this summer, we had never actually attended a wedding with our child in tow, so really had no idea what excitement lay in store for us. While I’m sure that this experience would have been a learning curve under normal circumstances, the fact that our son would be in the spotlight for a short period of time added an extra element of fun. Luckily for us, both weddings were for incredibly patient, forgiving and flexible brides and grooms, so no pressure came to us from their end at all. But still. If your kid has ever thrown a temper tantrum at the grocery store and you felt mortified, multiply that emotion by 666 and you will have an idea of the angst felt by the mother of the ring bearer who is laying on the floor rolling all over the place and behaving more like Chucky than the adorable tin soldier marching dutifully down the aisle that she had hoped for.
So, how should you prepare yourself for attending a wedding with your child between the ages of 1 and 3? Of course, this list depends on the temperament of your little one, but please keep in mind that all children are masters of the element of surprise, so best to expect the worst and hope for the best, amirite?
My 6 Tips for Attending a Wedding With Your Toddler
1. Upon receiving the invitation in the mail, find out if you will be able to procure a babysitter for the event. If you are, do this immediately.
If you are a cheapskate like me who doesn’t like hiring babysitters, don’t get one, but take a $100 bill with you to the wedding and light it on fire during an important moment during the ceremony or reception, because apparently you like to watch the world burn. If you were not able to find a babysitter through no fault of your own, like your child has a role in the wedding or it takes place out of town, then perhaps karma will be on your side and there will be an open bar, in which case, everything will be just fine.
2. Once you have RSVP’d, start planning the adorable outfit that your child will wear.
Especially if your child is involved in the wedding, they will need to be dressed in their finest formalwear. God help you if there is a specific outfit requirement, like a certain colour of shoes, or a particular dress they need to wear, because if that’s the case, you can be almost certain that that item will be either out of stock or available in every colour and size but the one that you need from now until two weeks after the wedding is finished. If there is time, you might want to see if there is anything in your closet that fits and can pass off as wedding-wear, because by the time you remember you’ll need an outfit for yourself, it will be too late to go shopping for one.
3. In the days leading up to the wedding, pack a bag full of extra clothes, pajamas, diapers, a high chair, and, most important of all, entertainment for your child.
Your “Emergency Entertainment Pack” may include (but is not limited to) items like Play-Doh, colouring books, toys that don’t make too much noise, and an iPad with every single episode of every single show your child has ever shown even the slightest bit of interest in downloaded to your Netflix account. Please don’t forget this very important step and to follow it to the T. If you only download a few episodes of their favourite show, they will get bored in 12.7 seconds and want to watch something else. If you choose to stream the episodes, there will inevitably be no Wi-Fi access, no LTE, or your data will run out.
I also can’t stress enough the importance of bringing an inescapable high chair, or making sure that one will be available for you upon your arrival. As I’m sure you know, weddings often = candles (worst-case scenario) and an unsupervised dessert table (best-case scenario). If you have to restrain your child from these temptations all night long, you will want to die. If you choose not to restrain them and they get their hands on said candles or desserts, you will die.
4. In the 20 minutes before the wedding, proceed to dress your child in the outfit you carefully selected months ago.
Hopefully you, yourself, are already dressed and ready to go. There will be no time for this afterwards. No matter; your hair and make-up will be a disaster by the time you leave either way (see below).
Also, do not attempt to dress your child outside of this pivotal window of time. If you dress them prior to the 20 minute mark, they will eat something (think spaghetti), drink something (think grape juice), find a water fountain to climb into (even in the winter), poop their pants (because, of course), discover a mud puddle (even though it hasn’t rained in 2 weeks), get into your make-up (all of it), or uncover your secret stash of permanent markers and/or scissors. There is not a chance that this may happen. It is a guarantee.
If you wait any longer than exactly 20 minutes prior to departure to begin the dressing routine, it will inevitably take you 30 minutes to locate the outfit that you thought you had put in a clever place, iron the outfit that you thought was wrinkle-free, capture your child, who is probably hiding in a cupboard you didn’t know you had, and wrangle them to the ground to pull the clothing onto their writhing body as you sweat all of your makeup off and ruin your hair (see above).
5. In the car, on the way to the wedding, discover that you forgot to pack snacks in your “Emergency Entertainment Pack” and stop at the nearest convenience store to pay $14.99 for a 3-pack of animal crackers.
At this point, money is no object. Just fork over the cash.
6. Upon your arrival to the wedding, run into the venue with your child under your arm like a football and locate your post. Shove the recently purchased animal crackers into said child’s mouth one by one (to avoid crumbs) and pray that this will help to prevent a Hangry meltdown.
If your offspring is in the wedding party, also pray that whatever tricks you have been planning to use to lure them down the aisle in a respectable manner will be effective, but know deep in your heart that they probably will not. Take note: if your child runs down the aisle, cartwheels down the aisle, takes 45 minutes to get down the aisle, rides in a wagon down the aisle, or does anything else in between but gets to the altar in the end, this is considered a success. Pat yourself on the back.
7. Head to the reception, locate your table, and get Jr.strapped into the highchair of doom mentioned previously.
Provide them with some of the items packed in their entertainment package. Note the key word, some. If you give them everything all at once, you will run out of ammunition and you will have nothing. No toys. No food. No will to live.
8. Take note of some of the perks of bringing your toddler to a wedding.
There are actually a few. First off, regardless of how you felt about your child’s performance earlier in the day, strangers will probably still come up to you and tell you how adorable/funny/special your child is, and this will make you feel proud. Next, a busy toddler is a built-in excuse to leave the room if speeches become too long and you need to escape. Even if your kiddo is being a perfect angel, feel free to use this Get Out of Jail Free Card any time you want to. You earned it. Third, children often get to be some of the first to enter the buffet line. Even if you feel too guilty to load up a plate for yourself, you can always sneak some off of theirs while the rest of your table looks at you enviously for the first time all day. Finally, and perhaps best of all, you get to watch your sweet lil’ bub having the time of their life running around and boogie-ing down with anyone and everyone on the dance floor, and it will melt your heart. This will make you forget
everything at least some of the things it took to arrive at this moment. But either way. Congrats mama/papa. You have successfully introduced your child to the magical world of weddings, and have earned yourself a badge of honour that no one can ever take away.