What do you think about child-free weddings?
Wow! I bet there are some polarised responses to that question!
Child-free weddings will certainly be a matter of opinion. As a celebrant, I’ve had good and bad experiences where children have been concerned. Without getting implicated in controversy, let me make a few observations.
Young children do have the potential to turn solemn moments into a nightmare. Even entire ceremonies. Parents suffer, of course, but so do those around them. With the best will in the world, children ‘s behaviour cannot be taken for granted, whether or not they are ‘on show’.
Naturally, the age of the child will enter into the equation, but here are some tips to make it easier for child, parent and other guests.
It’s good if your child can maintain his natural rhythms. If he likes to sleep at a certain time, make it as easy as possible for him to sleep then, even if it means you have to miss some of the post-ceremony socialising and feasting. If you’re lucky, there may be a quiet room you’ll be able to use.
Formal clothes may be uncomfortable for the child, and she may make that discomfort obvious!
You don’t have to take on the whole burden yourself. Your partner can share in the duties! Or you might rope in relatives or close friends. If a parent is participating in the ceremony, then it’s essential that someone close to the child or baby looks after her. It’s also reassuring for the child to be surrounded (in a crowd) by familiar faces, so have such people seated close by.
It’s probably best to take your child out of the main event, if he is showing signs of strain or fatigue.
Don’t expect to be able to stay till the wee hours. Your child will almost certainly have other ideas!
If the child is older, you may be able to prepare him beforehand. Bribery is permissible! Tempt him with the prospect of a good buffet, if he’s good. Consider offering a book, some paper and crayons or even (muted!) a hand-held electronic device.
Few people will complain if your little one is playing quietly with some toys.
If you are relaxed, you are more likely to find that your child relaxes too, and the dreaded tantrum can be averted.
You may be able to get your child to be a flower-girl or an usher. Explain the role clearly and stress what a privilege she has been given!
With a bit of preparation and thought, the ceremony need not be a nightmare at all. A lot of people will be supportive and understanding, if there are minor lapses. Most will be appreciative of good behaviour and will even express this (which will reinforce your child’s desire to earn praise next time).
It’s not a minefield. Of course, you may prefer not to bring your child – or not to come at all. But, I hope you can see that the risks can be reduced, and the event may pass far more pleasantly than you imagine!