Children at weddings is one of those topics that’s been debated half to death, here and elsewhere, among couples and families and wedding guests. Some people maintain that children simply do not belong at weddings, while others counter that weddings ought to be family affairs where children are absolutely welcome. The simplest solution, of course, is to defer to the wishes of brides and grooms. If children are invited, then they’re welcome at that particular wedding. If children are not invited, then that particular wedding is an adults-only affair. Simple, no?
The same goes for infants. When La Paloma was very young, The Beard and I were invited to a wedding – our invitation said ‘The Terrys’ – and I made a point of getting in touch with the bride to ask if babies were invited. Because I was not going to inflict an unpredictable 8-month-old on someone’s special day unless she was definitely going to be welcome. She was, we went, and there were no difficulties with the exception of my trying and failing to nurse in the confines of my automobile.
Which brings me to the topic of this post, the concessions brides and grooms can make for their littlest wedding guests. I don’t mean the toddler+ set that can amuse themselves by sticking their fingers in the backside of the wedding cake and crawling under tables, but rather those wedding guests confined to strollers or bucket car seats, the guests who sup from breasts and bottles, and yes, the guests who may not only cry during your ceremony, but actually scream. Babies at weddings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, that’s for sure. But if they’re yours, then here are 5 things you can do to make your littlest guests (and their mamas and papas) more comfortable in an unfamiliar situation.
1. Make sure that parents of infants know that the infants are invited. Not every invitee with a wee one is going to take the initiative like I did, which means that some may decline simply because childcare isn’t an option. The easiest way to ensure that babies’ mamas and papas know that the whole family will be welcome at your ceremony and reception is to include the little one’s name on their invitation. That doesn’t leave much room for confusion – though don’t be surprised if people are still confused since wedding invitation etiquette is not something taught in school these days.
2. Ask your contact at your wedding ceremony venue where parents with a distressed infant can go for some quiet time. Many houses of worship have nurseries and/or nursing mother rooms, and you can ask that these stay unlocked during your ceremony in case the babies at your wedding need to be removed. Let the mamas and papas know what’s available so they’re not roaming the halls during your ceremony looking for a broom closet to hide in until Junior quiets down.
3. Make sure the babies at your wedding reception are as well fed as the adults. If you have the time, reach out to the parents of infants to inquire as to what the wee ones are eating these days. For those still nursing, ask your reception venue manager if there’s somewhere private where a baby might breastfeed away from distractions. Preferably not a bathroom, because that’s icky. For those who prefer bottles, you can tell your catering manager that it’s likely that someone will request a mug of hot water in which to warm milk or formula.
4. If you really want everyone in your family, from the Age 0 crowd all the way to the oldest matriarch, to attend, plan a daytime wedding versus a late night affair. Bringing a baby to an evening wedding, even if said baby has been specifically invited to attend, is not something most parents really want to do. Not to mention that it’s something that most infants probably don’t want to do, either, unless they happen to be at that very young age where sleep is possible in any environment, at any volume. Daytime weddings, on the other hand, are much more doable, even if it means working around naptime.
5. Speaking of naptime, many infants will happily sleep in a bucket car seat in a pinch, but perhaps not in a room where Love Shack is blaring. As with the ceremony space, check with your reception venue to find out if there’s a quiet room where parents can retire with their sleeping infant (switching off if possible, of course). If there won’t be such a space, let the parents of babies know in advance so they can take that into consideration when deciding to accept as a a family or decline or even accept and then find a sitter.
That’s just what springs to mind, but it’s been a while since I’ve had an infant on my hip. I’d love to hear from parents who have infants now or took their babies to more than the usual number of weddings if there are other concessions that brides and grooms have made or should make. And if you’re a bride or a groom who is specifically inviting the infant set, what concessions are you making to their comfort (if any)?