I love going to weddings. Dressing up, flowers, vows, family, dancing – I love it all. In the last year or so going to weddings has been a little different for us. You usually don’t see many children at a wedding, unless they’re a ringbearer or flower girl, or possibly part of one of the families in the wedding. Weddings are generally events for adults, and many people get babysitters for their kids when they go to weddings. We don’t really have the luxury of affording a babysitter for a wedding, nor do we really want to – I think our little one enjoys weddings just as much as we do!
A couple weeks ago we went to a wedding within the extended family. We enjoyed our time but here are a few things I was happy I remembered or sorry that I missed when it came to being prepared for my toddler.
1. Scope out the location and style of the wedding beforehand.
Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Are the ceremony and reception at the same location? (you may have extra driving time)
- Is the style formal or casual? (a.k.a. how uncomfortable will your child be)
- Is the ceremony/reception outdoors? (bring bugspray and sunscreen/hats)
- Will there be a sit-down meal or just snacks at the reception? (sit-down meal means be prepared to have your toddler sit in your lap the whole time because no one is going to have a high chair available for them)
- What time is the wedding? (afternoon wedding – bring more snacks; night wedding – bring lots of milk and a pacifier!)
Make sure you and your husband know the answers to these questions, so you won’t be taken by surprise. If you’re just with adults and you end up waiting an hour and a half before eating food at the reception, it’s not that bad, but it’s a little harder to “roll with it” when you have a tired and hungry toddler!
2. Make the time prior to the wedding very chill.
Weddings + receptions are long events, lasting up to 4 hours total, which could be longer than your little one is awake between nap times. If you’re going to a local wedding in the afternoon, keep the morning low-key. If your child is already worn out by the time you make it to the wedding, it’s going to be much harder for her (and you) to make it through the event. Also, for a child that’s a little more introverted, being around large crowds of people for that long will be overstimulating and exhausting. Share a quiet morning/afternoon at home before heading out to the big event.
3. Pack lots of snacks.
Depending on the timing of the wedding, the ceremony may be during your toddler’s usual mealtime. So while it may be fine for you to wait 30 more minutes to eat dinner, to them it throws their tummy off-schedule. The wedding that we went to recently started at 5:30pm, which is pretty much exactly when our little girl usually eats dinner. So I gave her a peanut butter sandwich before the ceremony and thankfully they had food ready when we arrived at the reception around 6:30.
As I said before, lots of weddings are geared towards adults (which makes sense), so even if dinner is served there may not be a lot of food that your child can/will eat. My toddler ate olives and pickles for dinner at the wedding we went to a couple weeks ago, and the wedding before that she just ate fruit and cheese. You really have no idea what food will be served at a wedding, so make sure to pack healthy snacks that your toddler is sure to eat so she won’t go hungry.
4. Pack one or two changes of clothes and a diaper changing pad.
The ceremony dress code may be formal, but people won’t mind if your little one dresses down a bit for the reception. For girls especially, changing out of a dress will be so much more comfortable if she still crawls around a bit. If it’s an evening wedding, you’ll want to bring her pajamas along, too – that way you can change her into them before you leave for home. And then there’s always the very real possibility that she’ll rip, stain, or drool all over her first outfit, so you’ll need an extra one for her to change into.
During the wedding and reception, doubtless you will need to change your toddler’s diaper at least once. Sometimes churches will have diaper changing tables, but I have found that most event venues don’t have family-friendly restrooms. Especially if you are outdoors, there might not even be an easily accessible restroom. Make sure to bring a diaper changing pad and/or a blanket to lay your child on. I’ve had to change mine on too many bathroom floors to count.
5. Plan on what time you’re going to leave the reception start leaving a good while before that.
Before we had a child, we loved to stay at the reception until the bride and groom left if we could. Now our curfew is determined by our toddler’s needs, which means we usually can only make it about an hour and a half max at the reception. However, it can be very hard to pull away from a party, especially when you know a lot of people there. Here’s our story from the latest wedding we went to:
We planned to leave the reception at 8:30pm. We thought that when we started getting ready to leave at 8:20, we would make it out by our goal. What actually happened was…
We had to say goodbye to everyone we knew that was still there.
We had to change our child’s diaper.
We had to pack up all our stuff.
We had to wait 10 minutes to get a picture with the bride and groom.
We had to console our weary but resistant child who didn’t want to leave.
And we had to walk half a mile back to our car.
We left the reception a little after 9 pm, 30 minutes after our intended departure time.
All of a sudden, once you have a child, everyone wants to say goodbye to you, hug you, fawn over your child, and then say goodbye again. Everything takes two to three times as long with a toddler. Make sure you and your husband are on the same page with your departure time, and start getting ready to leave well before that.
It’s a lot of work to take a toddler to a wedding, but if you have to/want to, it is worth it! People love seeing our little one, and she enjoys meeting new people. I hope these tips help it be a little less stressful, and more relaxing for you and your family! If you have any suggestions from your own experience, please share in the comments below!