Being a Parent at a Wedding – A Realistic Account

Wedding season is upon us. Throughout our social media feeds there are plentiful pictures of gushing brides and grooms in the usual staged poses, next to hotel water fountains or the ever so non staged, yet staged photos of them laughing into each other’s eyes.
Several months ago you may have received your invite with all members of your family artistically scripted inside… Yes all of them, including your children. You weren’t lucky enough to receive an invite to a “child free” wedding. These weddings may cause uproar, stating the wedding to be “child free” but in actual fact you relish the thought of the child free wedding. The reason being, weddings with children are hellish. Here we talk through the various stages of a wedding and the realities of the full day affair.

Wedding Attire

There was nothing I enjoyed more than choosing an outfit for a family wedding before I had children. As I have mentioned in previous posts, clothing suitability is dramatically altered when young children are in tow. Having nearly broke my leg running after an escapee toddler in a pair of skyscraper heels (now banished to my youth) at a family wedding a couple of years ago, the sensibility of my outfits for such events has overridden any desire to look remotely glamorous. Likewise toddlers require a lot of bending over to attend to, which can be hazardous, bordering on obscene in outfits I may have worn prior to their arrival.
Of course it’s not just our own attire which is in question before a wedding. With the day looming it will be time to take your shopping – loathing child to the nearest department store to pick an outfit as far removed from the comfort of their Buzz LightYear dress-up costume as possible. The demon task of shoe shopping will most likely be involved which is definitely on my top 5 worst tasks to be undertaken with children, along with the hairdressers. I remember as a girl, around the age of 7, I was asked to be a bridesmaid. As a child who lived in a West Ham kit I was horribly unimpressed being forced into a pink merengue, taffeta type ball of fluff with satin ballet pumps. To the horror of my mum they were destroyed quickly when wearing them to play football in the car park of the reception hall.
Of course dress code is vital to the majority of weddings. Exhausted you return home from your shopping escapades with outfits costing a months wages, which all of your children detest and possibly will never be worn again after the upcoming wedding.

The Ceremony
I can completely understand why bride and grooms decide to banish children from the ceremony. The last time my son was at Mass with me he yelled “Buzz LightYear” each time the priest cast the congregation with “Let us Pray” My husband and I have spent the majority of ceremonies we have attended outside in the church graveyards urging our children to stop climbing the grave stones or playing hide and seek behind them, waiting for the service to finish, after forcibly removing them from the church. It is understandable that children, unless familiar with church settings, will be slightly abnormal in behaviour during a wedding day. Surrounded with what they may deem as strange, slightly haunting statues and pictures and made to sit in silence definitely alters behaviour no matter how much you preempt them for the day ahead. As a Catholic the majority of church services seem to last at least 3 hours and with my children having the attention span of 2 and a half minutes I opt out of the church services altogether. My son screamed solidly from start to finish at his own christening and I momentarily panicked it was an exorcism, such was my unbearable tiredness and exhaustion to try placate him as the priest continued the longest service known to man. Contagious crying is also something I believe as a secret conspiracy between all children, as when one child starts it is inevitable a whole chorus of babies will join in, drowning out the pledges of eternal love between the bride and groom.

The Reception
The ceremony is over. Hooray! You can slip into the descending crowds from the church and throw your biodegradable, dye free, eco friendly confetti into the joyous faces of the bride and groom and gush about how emotional the home written, personalised wedding vows were.
You buckle your sweaty, irritable and hungry children (because let’s face it when aren’t kids hungry) in the car to travel to the reception. Downing the welcome champagne/prosecco which is most definitely welcoming after the ceremony, the alcohol hits your empty stomach and all is becoming a little happier until you realise one of your children is currently heading across the open fields, surrounding the stately home chosen for the reception. Breaking from jog to sprint in a pair of heel sinking quickly into the grass you grab the runaway and haul them back to the entrance hall where guests are due to assemble in a copious amount of choreographed photographs.
I refrain from trying to spot myself in any wedding photographs anymore due to once finding myself in an image shared on Facebook, my face distorted with the effort of trying to regain composure and some modicum of grace whilst wrestling with a red faced, back – arched screaming toddler.
Finally you may be able to placate your child with food as you find your table on the seating plan which from my experience as an ex wedding planner can almost end a marriage before it began. The bride and groom has had sleepless nights over the intricate designs of the seating plan to find the perfect balance between guests. Yet here you are sat with an elderly, distant, hard of hearing, family member or a work colleague of the groom with banging halitosis to endure for the remainder of the day, whilst trying to pay attention and keep your feral children in reign at the same time.
As outlined in a past post, Eating out with Children, meals out with children can be troublesome. However, at least when you have taken your family out for a meal you have the control. You can leave whenever you want! If your child decides to smear tomato sauce over your dress – you can leave. If they launch a pepper pot at a neighbouring diners head – you can also abruptly apologise and leave. Not at a wedding you can’t though. The doors are sealed shut and you are there for all five courses and speeches. There are no colourful, kid friendly colouring menus and the table is laden with an assortment of glasses for toasts and crockery. Sneaking them your mobiles you spend your time hissing at them to turn the volume down, as the distinct American vocals of unboxing videos, accompany the grooms heartfelt speech.

The Evening
Fed and watered they are happier and starting to actually enjoy the day. The important parts seem to have been ticked off the list and people are starting to become tipsy around you which is great as drunk people don’t remember feral children and you will be a hazy memory of “a lovely little family” the next morning. The tables are cleared away and you escape the hard of hearing aunt and mentally bid them farewell until the next get together.
It was at this point at a cousin’s wedding that I found myself relaxed, slightly inebriated, chatting to my cousins and waiting to watch the first dance. As my cousins new wife’s dress glittered across the dance floor for their perfect musical moment I noted a familiar item of mine swaddled in the train of her dress. In horror I watched as the bride visibly strained to keep her composure during the dance, before I leapt into action in front of the circular crowd and retrieved my toddler from the crumpled heap he had made in the ivory train.
I come from a large family and have many close cousins. As a child we used all family weddings as a basis for war on the opposing family. The outside areas would become battlefields to determine us the stronger family in tournaments of runouts, tag and British Bulldog. This seems to have carried on with our own children and retrieving my children from the gardens of wedding venues seem to be the main part of my evenings at weddings.
Lately the arrival of candy carts and other sweet laden treats for the children has diminished the promise of children falling asleep. As a child, at the time when I would have been tucked up under a coat with two chairs pushed together, in a makeshift bed, my children are now fuelled with sugar and ready for another rampage in the venue’s grounds.
Admitting defeat you wait for a reasonable and acceptable hour you can leave before thanking the newly weds for inviting you. Clambering into the car, crumpled and defeated you secretly hope the next invite causes uproar by stating their wish for it to be child free.

Catch this topic discussed with Spanners on BBC Cambridgeshire on Saturday 6th July. Link is here and I’m on from 1 hour in. Lots of fun!


  1. Ha ha, all very true. I had a child-free wedding, and there are cousins that still don’t speak to me 39 years’ later because I didn’t want their children running around the church and screaming, and then running around the dance floor afterwards.


  2. I have been to a few weddings where the kids get out of control, but mostly they are well behaved or the parents do their best to keep them that way.
    But it’s a long time for any child to sit still, especially through a looooong Catholic Mass, boring (to them) speeches and the rest, even worse if they are autistic or just can’t sit still for very long.
    A joyous day can indeed be a parent’s nightmare sometimes.


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