Ok, so this is a big topic , so I’m breaking it into two parts:
Part One: Your OWN kids at your wedding - keeping them busy and involved
Part Two: OTHER people’s kids - how to occupy them, or not invite them
I’ll address Part 1 here (your own kids!) and Part Two in next week’s email! Don’t have kids? You might still find this really interesting.
I’m talking from experience here! When we got married in 2017, our son had just turned 8 (I think? He’s 11 now in 2020, ha!). He also has a few sensory processing things to deal with (not huge on crowds - I can relate to this entirely), needs lots of preparation for things, that kinda stuff - again, literally just a tiny version of me.
So, here’s what we did to make sure the day ran as smoothly as possible! We also made a huge effort to include him in our ceremony, so I’ll talk about that more below.
Ok, so we used to make social stories ALL THE TIME for Oskar, every time we went on holiday, or to the hospital or when he started school, and our wedding was no different! A social story will benefit any kid, regardless of whether you normally create them or not, it’s an awesome tool to make sure your kiddo knows what to expect and how to behave.
When I say social story, I literally just mean we made a (terrible by the way, this was prior to me learning how to use design programs) story about what was going to happen. We made ours in the Google equivalent of PowerPoint (Google Slides) so he could watch it on the iPad. No printing necessary!
If I can find it I will link our wedding social story so you can see it! Basically the story has lots of pictures and talks about what is going to happen, for example “mum and dad are having a wedding - a wedding is a big party with all our friends and family. You will be there too” - like that, keeping it simple and clear.
Basically, you wanna list what will happen, in what order, and talk about when your kiddo is expected to be quiet and sit still, and make a big deal about the fun parts too (e.g. “there might be lots of sitting quietly while grown-ups make speeches, but after that we will be eating yummy cake and having a dance.
As I said, we did this for our son and it meant that the day went smoothly and he knew exactly what to expect - he knew that there would be ‘boring’ times where he had to sit and listen, but that there would be plenty of fun stuff too, and cake of course!
2. Create a space
Our wedding ceremony and reception were at two different venues, but this can apply to any wedding, just adapt it to your needs!
Our wedding ceremony was held at a big old estate with lots of grassy space, so we were able to let our son run around in between the ceremony and photos, and have a play (we took a ball and a frisbee I think!).
Our reception was held in the sweetest community hall, which happened to have a small room at the back where we set Oskar up with a space just for him. This is what I did:
Put up a small linen tent (aesthetically cute, but also amazing for creating a ‘chill’ zone)
Filled the tent with a camping mat, a sleeping bag and a pillow - because weddings go until LATE and kids get tired, I think I also packed his teddy
Packed a backpack full of activities: books, colouring in stuff, and iPad obviously
Snacks, lots of snacks - and a drink bottle!
Oskar spent a lot of the wedding chatting to family and friends, he even spoke in our ceremony. It was a huge day for him, so once we had eaten dinner he went off to his little tent and snuggled up to play on his Ipad (let’s be honest, there was no need to pack a book!).
He stayed in there for most of the night, occasionally popping out to see what was happening. This meant that we knew he was safe, he was happy and most importantly he was relaxed - which meant that we could enjoy ourselves without having to worry too much about him, and led to a much more relaxed evening for him and us, which is what this is all about!
3. Occupy and entertain
I talked about this above, but basically what we did was fill a backpack with things to occupy our son and made sure my parents had it with them ready to go (I didn’t wanna be lugging a backpack down the aisle, ya know!).
The backpack had a heap of Oskar’s favourite things to do, to make sure that if he got bored, tired or overwhelmed, he had his own little bag of goodies. From memory, we popped a couple of gifts in there for him too!
As I mentioned, we didn’t pack heaps of extra activities for our ceremony, because Oskar was very involved in this, and then there was plenty of space for him to play while we had any photos that he didn’t happen to be in.
At our reception though, we had lots to do! As well as his very own little space to retreat to as needed, we made sure there was plenty to do for everyone.
I organised some board games (not sure if anyone touched them, but they were there!) - chess, dominoes and some packs of cards!
Our reception venue also had a grassy outdoor area, so we popped up a totem tennis pole and some quoits - not only did they keep Oskar occupied, but the other guests too! I have photos of my husband, Oskar and myself playing totem tennis with some of our friends and it’s one of my favourite moments of the day.
I also found some cute little retro style egg and spoon race kits (with a wooden egg of course!) which were an absolute hit!
We included Oskar in our wedding day as much as we could - for us, our wedding wasn’t just about us as a couple, but us as a family.
Here are some ways we included him:
Oskar walked me down the aisle with my dad
Oskar did a reading (well, my mum did it with/for him)
We gave Oskar a gift during the ceremony
We took some fun and silly photos with him
We made sure there were things for him in our mid-afternoon hamper - juice box
He sat with us for speeches etc (on the floor !)
We thought hard about how we wanted the day to go, and how we could involve Oskar as much as possible. We also asked our celebrant for advice - she was a wealth of information. Don’t forget, you can ask your vendors for tips and tricks, they’re literally experts!
5. Be flexible!!!!
I have to admit (and I may have mentioned this before) but I like to be prepared, and I definitely had a spreadsheet outlining who was going to be where on our wedding day. You could say I like to be organised!
But I’m sure if you’re reading this you will understand, when you have kids you’ve gotta be organised - what if you left them behind somewhere and didn’t realise?!
BUT, you’ve also gotta be really flexible. Weddings are a big day, and no matter how much you prepare your kid/s, it can be overwhelming, and overwhelm looks different for everyone right?!
So I guess what I’m saying is, you can only prepare so much, and then you’ve just gotta be ready for whatever happens. There’s a saying about working with small children and animals isn’t there? That would go well here, ha!
But, basically everything might not go to plan, there might be a meltdown, your kid might be too anxious to read the poem they prepared (that happened to us! My mum read it on his behalf) - you’ve just gotta go with the flow and remember why you’re there - because you LOVE your partner and family, and so it’s about enjoying your time with them, rather than things running perfectly and smoothly.
Plus, some of my fondest memories are the moments where things went ‘off script’ so to speak.
Our wedding was quite relaxed, fun and informal, so it lent itself well to these kinds of things. But, the above tips can be applied to any style of wedding if your kids are going to be there. Basically, be prepared, but also remain flexible!
Wedding pictures by Scott Gelston / @scottgelston