For parents of very young children, getting a wedding invitation might feel like a gift with a big, anxiety-inducing asterisk. While your initial reaction might be a happy one, it might be quickly followed by visions of your child screaming during one of the most important twenty minutes of your friend’s life. Like with many parenting challenges, though, you can take comfort in knowing that taking a baby to a wedding is a well-worn path many have paved before you. Here are the best tips we’ve gathered from parents who’ve done it before.
1. Communicate with the bride and groom in advance
Some weddings aren’t particularly kid-friendly, so it’s best to ask up front whether you should bring the whole gang. If the couple does welcome children, they might offer to accommodate you with things like a highchair, kid menu, or quiet room to retreat to if necessary.
2. If you plan to breastfeed, choose a cover you’ll feel confident wearing
In addition to a stylish nursing-friendly dress, you can throw on a nursing shawl like the breathable Cocoon by AMMA or pop a wide-brimmed hat on your baby like this one by Mobo Co that’s designed for maximum coverage.
3. Prioritize comfort for children’s clothes
While there’s no shortage of frilly formalwear for children, some fancy clothing can be scratchy, tight, too hot, or too cold, and no photo is worth a screaming baby. Factoring in the possibility that your child makes a mess that ruins those expensive clothes, it might be worth opting for simpler, comfier options. And throw a backup outfit in your bag in case of food stains or diaper incidents.
4. Tread lightly
Consider that you’ll likely be toting a child on your hip for at least part of the day and possibly walking on uneven ground like grass or gravel. You might want to opt for some cute flats, low-block heels, or wedges. In addition to being more comfortable, you won’t have to worry about the scary prospect of tripping with a child in tow.
5. Consider getting a sitter for a portion of the night
If you don’t think your little ones will fare well staying up too late, you can leave the event around bedtime to drop them off with a caregiver at home or a hotel. Then, return to the reception for some parent-only partying.
6. Have a game plan for the ceremony
It’s probably the only part of the wedding that you really don’t want your little one disrupting. (You might even be having nightmares about it already.) Some people have success with feeding babies to calm and quiet them. Other strategies include distracting them with small toys or slowly walking around with them. If you can, though, designate someone in advance to fully take the child out of earshot if need be, whether that’s you, your partner, or another guest.
7. Know that it’s OK to set boundaries
While the impulse to pick up a baby or kiss her cherubic cheeks is understandable, it’s also completely fine if you’d rather people don’t. You could politely explain that you’re keeping a little distance to protect your kids from getting sick or mention that the event is pretty stimulating already. So, you’re keeping them close to avoid them getting overwhelmed.
8. Don’t forget sun protection
Outdoor weddings are lovely but can also leave your little ones in direct sun for dangerously long stretches of time. Protect your child by tying on a sun hat and seeking out shady spots. Baby-safe sunscreen is a good idea for little ones 6 months or older.
9. Bring plenty of snacks
Whether you’re packing milk, formula, or solid food, bring more than you think you’ll need to avoid meltdowns. Keep perishable foods safe to consume in a small cooler (or a fridge, if available), and encourage your little ones to drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated—especially if it’s hot out.
10. Sneak in a professional family photo
Photoshoots are pricey, but a wedding can be an opportunity to grab a nice shot while your family looks spiffed up. Weddings often have professional photographers wandering around. Of course, you don’t want to interrupt a vendor while they’re capturing someone else—especially the wedding party. But if you see them taking candids, there’s no shame in making yourself available for a quick shot. You might be able to purchase an edited version from them later.
11. Get face time with the VIPs in early
As any new parent knows, children are anything but predictable. Keeping that in mind, try to say hello to the couple and anyone else you really want to talk to as early on as possible. It’s best to plan ahead in case a cranky meltdown requires you to duck out unexpectedly or retreat into a corner for a while. And don’t feel bad about vanishing for however long you need to get the job done.
12. If you’re traveling, consider renting or borrowing baby gear
It’ll make for fewer bags to haul around the airport or more space in the car. You can ask friends and family if you know any in the area or use a company like BabyQuip to rent items.
13. Consider noise-canceling earmuffs
If the wedding is loud—with a live band or DJ—and your child tends to be sensitive to noise, baby-sized earmuffs can be one way to keep them calm while protecting their hearing.
14. Be mindful of age
Young babies can sleep through a lot of commotion, and their immobility makes them easy to contain. On the other hand, older babies and toddlers may get cranky from missing naps and have to be watched a lot more closely. If your child is capable of pulling down an entire tablescape with one hand, try to steer them away from potential hazards.
15. Enjoy yourself!
Try to relax as much as possible, forgive yourself for any mishaps or forgotten supplies, and be patient with your family. Even if nap schedules go out the window and someone’s outfit gets stained, remember that it’s only one day. The goal isn’t for the day to go perfectly but to create happy memories of celebrating a couple you care about with the people you love most.