So we didn’t do things in the standard order… wedding, house, baby. In fact, it was a little bit backwards, considering I was 8 weeks pregnant when we were moving boxes into our first home. So when it came to organising our wedding (after house and baby!) we had a 20 month old toddler to consider in the mix.
From hen parties to honeymoons, we already knew we couldn’t follow another ‘normal’ yellow brick road, but not being a fan of drinking, nor wanting the attention of a proper hen party, we honestly weren’t too bothered.
I may not be the most qualified or knowledgeable on the subject, but here’s a few ideas, tips and things-we-learnt-pretty-fast from organising a wedding with a toddler in tow.
1. The timing
We knew it couldn’t be an all-day affair, mainly because she would get BORED. In fact, even with organising the fastest-ceremony-ever (no readings, no songs, no mid-ceremony speeches), I was still worried about whether she’d last the 20 minutes, particularly seeing Jon and I up front, with her seated (she doesn’t sit still for 20 seconds). Incredibly, she did so well, even if she did speak up when they asked if anyone had any objections, with a very loud “hiya mumma, hiya dadda”!!! She also sat politely on our knees during the registry photos, and thankfully the pen was a fake, as she enjoyed drawing over the fake register!
We had a 5pm ceremony so managed to get her to nap from 1-3pm, leaving her not in a dosile, ready-for-bed mode through the ceremony, and meant I still had a fun day in the hotel with her, not needing to get dressed til she went down for a nap at 1pm. (Though it did feel weird being in my hoodie at 1pm on my wedding day when I started feeling like most people should be panicking/getting ready by now haha!)
We also kept the speeches early on (6pm-ish) so they were out the way for all the younger ones, and meant the formalities were all over by then so people could just enjoy their food when it came to it, rather than worrying about tired children by then! She even wanted to join in the speeches…
We also wanted to make sure there was little hanging around and time wasting, so with lots going on, it meant she was kept entertained.
We were expecting her to nod off by 9pm but the dance floor was far too much excitement, as was all the playtime with her lovely cousins, so she finally gave in at 11.30pm and was outcold despite the live rendition of Sweet Child of Mine blasting round the venue.
2. The distractions
We packed a whole trunkie of distractions, containing enough snacks and games for her (thanks Organix!!) that would’ve usually lasted a week, but with the excitement of the venue, and a whole host of older kids to play with, she was in her element the whole evening. We were pretty glad to have the distraction case for the hotel though, as that was a whole different story!!
3. The guests
Firstly I didn’t have any bridesmaids, so it meant Lily was the only one I needed to worry about, but during the wedding itself, it was, understandably, a bit confusing for her. We kept the ceremony guests to around 15 people, immediate family, so she wasn’t so overwhelmed, but we had 100 coming immediately after for the ceremony, most who ‘knew’ her through my over-sharing on social media, and all who wanted cuddles/to say hello, so she was fairly shy at times, although having a load of other kids there helped keep her far more entertained than we could have imagined, and we needlessly worried that we’d have a very grumpy, irritable toddler on our hands all night. She definitely made up for it the next day!
4. The clothes
Yeah, she HATED that dress!! She had an absolute meltdown when we first put it on her (though to be fair if someone tried to surprise-dress me after a lovely, long nap, I’d cry too), but once she saw the flower wand she was quickly distracted! She lasted about 2 hours in it before demanding her leggings, tshirt and Vans, then with the heat of the dancefloor, she ended the night in just her vest and Vans. Definitely taught her well 😉
5. The planning
Planning the wedding was understandably tricky. We had the venue in mind straight away, so we didn’t have to drag her round various venues, but she did have to sit through a couple of meetings early on, and we learnt to put her in nursery for the later meetings as we couldn’t easily concentrate on what the events lady was saying when you’re trying to ensure your toddler doesn’t destroy everything, or run off to chase something exciting!
I also found it best to do the DIY stuff when Lily had gone to bed, in order to make sure she didn’t eat all the kids’ sweets, open all the colouring pouches, or just generally muddle up my attempt at organising something I’d never organised before!
We were also lucky to have alot of special friends who helped us out with the wedding (from signs and photos to rings, band and cupcakes) so we could just leave them to it, and know that we could get on with whatever else we needed. Delegation is definitely the way forward 🙂
6. The venue
We got married at the incredible National Space Centre who could not have looked after us any better every step of the way. Part of the reason we chose this venue is because we knew how many families were coming from such a long way (and a lot of closet geeks!), and kids (and adults) often get BORED at weddings. We wanted to give them something fun, memorable, worthwhile making the long journey, while also taking the focus off us as much as possible, because the entertainment was completely on tap! Having a venue like this also helped not only entertain all the kids and toddlers, but also was a safe space for them to run around and explore, which meant parents could all relax too, knowing their kids were safe and happy – many telling me the kids were reluctant to leave, and staying well past their planned leaving times. It meant alot to hear how much they enjoyed it, but also being so well looked after by the venue staff meant we could relax and enjoy the night ourselves.
7. The non-do
I’m also very thankful to my bestie Zsuzsi for organising a non-do (an anti hen-do, because I didn’t want a proper one!) of a lovely afternoon of relaxing in a spa (very much needed!!) and some afternoon tea cake with some lovely friends, where Lily and some other toddlers were able to enjoy it too 🙂 it meant alot, especially as my days of drunken parties are a distant memory – I can’t think of anything worse now, especially with looking after a toddler while hungover!) but also gave me some much needed R&R time before the following few weeks of chaos.
8. The meal
We decided on a buffet meal because it was not only far cheaper, and meant you didn’t need to worry about dietary requirements, but also it meant families could be more relaxed feeding their little ones, without having to wait for each course to come out/cleared away/ silver spoons/ whether they like the food. The venue were great at supporting us with the buffet and everyone raved about it.
We also provided a whole load of Organix snacks and various food sachets for the toddlers to make sure they were looked after, and activity boxes for the children to keep them entertained. I made the boxes really cheaply, mainly thanks to party bag fillers from eBay and cheap craft bits from The Works! They contained treats, personalised age-approproate activities, bubbles, ball-bearing games/puzzles, and a few other bits with their names tagged to the boxes. The venue also provided some alien trails for the kids to do around the Space Centre which was fantastic – even the adults got involved!
Having a relaxed meal meant people could enjoy themselves without the formal sitting down, and those with kids were happy for them to run around safely or play with their party boxes, while they enjoyed their food.
The 3 biggest challenges…
1. The dress fittings. The dress fittings were probably one of the hardest as she didn’t like me disappearing behind the dressing room curtain, so the 2nd time I put her in nursery, then took her on her own separately for her fitting, which again she wasn’t too impressed with, but did give the lady a huge “bubyeeee” as we left!!! Also, having no bridesmaids meant visits could be as quick as possible, and even choosing my dress in the 1st place was a 15minute job, in and out the store after an unscheduled visit, so short and sweet is definitely the key 🙂
2. The hotel
Lily is a little explorer, so as soon as she knew there was a whole new world outside the hotel room door, she wanted to be out there. She was an absolute gem during the whole wedding, but was so exhausted afterwards that she just wanted to sleep with mummy, and explore from 6.30am the next morning, despite the 2.30am bedtime! So she was tired, and definitely made up for it the next day!! We were also exhausted, so that didn’t help when we just wanted to sleep!!
2.5 – the hotel buffet breakfast…. She wanted EVERYTHING on the buffet! I advise against ever attempting a hotel breakfast buffet, with a toddler, on your own. If it wasn’t the juice spillage or wanting to rip apart ALL the sugar sachets, it was attempting to get plates of food with a toddler under the other arm, while working the maze of tables with people wanting a peaceful Sunday morning breakfast, before she demanded going back for MORE food (understandably, why one plate when there’s hundreds of plates of food in that room, mummy?!)
3. The disappearing mummy
The biggest confusion was probably me having to leave her and get taken away to another part of the venue. She’s not a fan of me walking away from her, but my parents are pretty good at knowing stock distractions to quickly rectify that situation!!
I think Lily was my biggest worry for the wedding, as I was nervous that I couldn’t predict how she was going to react to so much of a strange day. But it was pointless me worrying as she totally surprised us all, even if she did make up for it the following few days til she recovered her lost sleep!
People complained I was ‘far too chilled’ in the run up to the wedding but in fact I wasn’t sure what I needed to worry about, and it wasn’t until 20 seconds before the ceremony that I actually got nervous (they asked me if my father was still alive, which shocked me as he had just left the room… but from then on the nerves kicked in!). I think it was more being focused on making sure Lily was happy, and having delegated so many tasks to some truly amazing friends, I was lucky to have little to worry about.
Lily loves older children, and so having others there in such a child-friendly venue, really made a difference, and I can’t thank my cousins enough for adopting Lily for the night, because she truly loves you all!
It may not have been easy in the run up to the wedding but it was so special to have her there by our sides, so that she could be part of our special day. It truly was the best day of our lives and we are lucky to have so many special people in our life who came so far to help.
But with the wedding out the way, we still had a ‘familymoon’ and a full house move lined up for the following fortnight, so that was only the beginning of yet another chapter of our exhauating journey that is parenthood! Bring on the next dose of Lily-induced chaos…. 🙂
*(Part 2, the ‘familymoon’ coming soon…!)*
(Photos mainly thanks to the amazing @jamesnorthphoto)