Last month my family attended a wonderful family wedding out in Sonoma: the weather was perfect, we got to see lots of family, and the bride looked beautiful. I was so honored and excited that all four of us were not only invited but also asked to be in the wedding party- our two young kids would be the ring bearer and flower girl, my husband the Best Man and myself a bridesmaid.
As the wedding approached, the practical mom side of me started wondering whether the kids would actually willingly participate as the ring bearer and flower girl. Would they be able to pull it off? What could I do to make things go smoothly? Selfishly, I also worried that they might consume all of our time and energy, making it harder for my husband and I to enjoy ourselves.
Luckily, it was a blast, and the kids did great, but I learned a thing or two along the way about how to maximize cooperation and enjoyment when bringing kids to weddings, so I thought I’d pass along a few tips.
1) Hire a babysitter for the big day. If you only take one piece of advise from this post, please make it this one. I was initially very against this idea, mainly because I suffer from the “I don’t need help; I can handle this on my own” approach to all things. I was also nervous about the idea of having someone we didn’t know attend such a private family event.
But, having a babysitter there to help out with the kids was such a life saver. The day of the wedding we were so busy getting ready and running last minute errands that the kids would have been miserable if we had to drag them along (and also would have set them up for guaranteed meltdowns by the time the ceremony rolled around). We hired a sitter to occupy the kids all day and then bring them to the wedding venue just in time for pictures and the ceremony. She helped us entertain them during the cocktail hour, and then took them back to the hotel to put them to bed.
It worked out so well – the kids were fairly rested, they were a part of the big day and saw all the family, but we were all much less stressed. The best part was my husband and I got to stay out late and party! We had such a blast drinking and dancing and even made it to the after-party. (I did not see that one coming!)
2) Bring lots of presents. I know, I know, bribery is not a good long-term parenting tactic, but we brought small presents for the kids to open each day. Having new things to play with made it easier to drag them along to wineries without getting (as) bored. It also kept them entertained during the wedding day while waiting for the ceremony to start.
3) Practice, practice, practice. Before the wedding, we had the kids watch our own wedding video, so they could get a sense of what it would be like. Then, at the rehearsal, we had them practice their roles as ring bearer and flower girl. Then, on the wedding day, we practiced again before guests arrived, helping them feel more comfortable with their role in the wedding.
4) Try to relax and roll with it. I had one brief breakdown when my daughter, H, refused to put on her flower girl dress (remember, she is a threenager). I panicked and was teary eyed, worried that my daughter’s poorly timed act of defiance was going to ruin the wedding! Lucky for me, my new sister-in-law is so thoughtful and patient, she brushed aside my worries, reminding me she was just glad H could be a part of the ceremony. My daughter (and me!) were able to pull ourselves together and have a lot of fun, although at one point she did plop down in the middle of the aisle after her brother criticized her flower throwing technique. I was able to help her make it down the aisle, and, while it was not entirely according to plan, I think her humorous resistance gave everyone else a good chuckle.
Ultimately, whenever young kids are involved, you can’t completely predict their participation or what mood they will be in that day. My best advice for a good time for all is to prepare in advance, arrange for help, and just roll with it. Happy wedding season!