When I got married back in 2017, I was a fairly new mum. Our daughter was at the time about 2,5 years old, and was in a “complicated” age. While planning for our destination wedding at Costa Brava, there were certain things that we needed to tackle. She was a troubled sleeper, had a very strong will, but at the same time shy when meeting new people.
She was not used to sleep at other places than home, and we were mostly co-sleeping with her. Despite this, we could of course not imagine our wedding day without her!
Therefore, today I want to discuss children at destination weddings. In this post I will give you some personal tips that I learnt from my own wedding, but also other general tips and advice. Perhaps you are a parent who has been invited to a destination wedding, and you are not sure if you should travel with kids or not – or you are the couple who is getting married and are asking yourself if you should invite kids to the wedding.
Let’s move back to my wedding for a moment. At the time we were living in Barcelona city, but we knew it would be impossible to have a beach wedding there. The city’s urban beaches are just too crowded. Instead, our eyes were set on the northern Catalan coast, which is an area that both of us always loved.
We found a venue that we loved, and were of course beyond exited for the big day to arrive. At the same time we worried a bit over how we would organize the day with our daughter. Here are some of the things that we did and also some general advice.
Ask for help
Ask your parents or someone else who has a close relationship with your child to help you out during certain moments of the day. You can of course have your child with you, but there might also be moments where you only want to focus on yourself and your nerves. It’s a very important day after all. In our case, we had help from my mum, and my mother in law. Both of them have a very close relationship with our daughter, so we decided to split the “babysitting” between them. My mother was in charge of her while we were getting prepared, and during the ceremony. My mother in law would then take over from the cocktail hour and the dinner. Our daughter sat with us at our table at the reception.
Our wedding was very intimate with only 45 guests. All of them were family or close friends. So our parents where never overwhelmed by the babysitting, because other people would of course also play with our daughter. They were also able to enjoy the day.
The night before the wedding
Many couples will spend the night in separate rooms the night before the wedding, and I can totally understand that. It’s a special day, and it’s so exiting to not see each other until the first look or the ceremony. In our case, we didn’t mind sleeping together. We had already been together for ten years at that point, and we had a child so we didn’t feel the need to do the separate bedroom thing. Our daughter slept in our room. Half night in her “own” bed, and half night between us.
I can totally understand if couples would prefer not to have their child with them the night before. But our daughter was a troubled sleeper, and not used to sleeping anywhere else but home. We just didn’t want to stress her too much the first night, since she was going to spend the wedding night in my mothers room. If she would have been older and less fussy about the sleep, we would have had her to sleep in my mothers room the night before as well, mainly to be able to get some more rest. My advice is to do what’s best for you. There is no right or wrong here, it all depends on your kid and what you want to do.
We had breakfast with our daughter, and after that me and my husband moved into separate rooms to get ready. From that point on we didn’t see each other until the ceremony, and my mother was taking care of our daughter. She was in charge of giving her lunch, take a nap and dressing and fixing our daughters hair before the wedding.
During the ceremony, our daughter was sitting with my mother in first row. I could see the look on her face, and she was wondering what was going on, and with the music and then her mum and dad standing up with “weird” clothes in front of everybody must have been strange for her to see. She was for sure a bit overwhelmed by everything, but we had no problem what so ever because she was very calm with my mother.
If your kids are very active and loud, you might want to sit in the back rows, so that you can quickly leave a moment with them. Yes, that’s right. You might miss parts of the ceremony, and you just have to accept that. If you are a new mum/dad and have a stroller, I also suggest that you sit on the very end of the row, so that you can have the stroller there. The stroller should of course not be in the aisle, not even if you are sitting on the last row. The couple does not want to have your stroller as a focal point in their ceremony photos or blocking their way out.
We also had 5 other kids at our wedding. Two babies, a 5, 7 and 9 year old. Everything went very smooth. One baby was sleeping during the ceremony, the other one was awake but not fussy, and the older kids were happy and sitting down watching. Some couples that are getting married might let their toddler walk around freely during their wedding ceremony, but it doesn’t mean that your kids should do it.
How to prevent issues
Make sure to take your kids to the bathroom before the ceremony starts. If you are a parent, you know that kids have a tendency to always need to go in the most unsuitable moments. Have them eat something so that they are not hungry, otherwise there is a risk that they’ll get “hangry”. Have snacks and something to drink prepared for them. It is also a good idea to keep the sugar to a minimum before the ceremony. If your kids are a bit older, you can of course have a talk with them and explain what you expect from them.
Should we invite children to our destination wedding?
If you decide to invite kids to your wedding, I think that it’s important to understand that kids are not robots. Guests will probably do their absolute best to control them. But sometimes things happen that you just can’t control.
If you want to be 100% sure that there will be no disturbing incidents during the ceremony, you might want to consider an adults only ceremony. Just be prepared that some guests will not attend the wedding. Maybe they don’t have a baby sitter, or they just don’t want to travel abroad without their kids.
Some couples also decide to only invite kids from their closest family, and this is something you as a guest should respect. Perhaps the couple would have wanted an adults only wedding, but feels that they can’t say no to their direct family. This is their way to compromise.
Kids and jet-lag
Depending on your destination, you also want to plan enough time for adjusting from jet-lag if you are flying in from a different time zone. Small children tend to be quite sensitive to jet-lag, so plan accordingly.
We really wanted to include our daughter in the ceremony. The first thing that came into our minds was of course to let her bring us the rings. Our procession was also a bit different. We decided not to have any flower girls, only a ring bearer.
Looking back, we would have done it differently. She was way too young for the job with her 2,5 years. She is also a bit shy, so when it was time to bring the rings, she was not having it. It was naive of us to think that she would be up for it. Luckily, her older cousin was quick to offer her help. Her cousin was 5 years old at the moment, and really enjoyed it.
If I would have changed something, I would have had the cousin to bring us the rings from the beginning. Obviously, this is a very personal decision and I fully understand that parents want to include their kids in the ceremony. Just because my kid refused, doesn’t mean that your kid will do the same. Just keep in mind, that a wedding can be overwhelming for the little ones, and even if they are usually very social creatures, they might not want to do it on the actual wedding day. They might need help from mum or dad to walk with them to the altar. If you don’t want to risk anything, my advice would be to select a slightly older child for the task. The ages 4-10 years old is much more appropriate.
Kids table, yes or no?
In our case, we decided to just let the kids sit with their parents, we didn’t do a kids table or anything like that. Instead, we gave them special favors, and we also prepared candy cones that we gave to them a bit later during the evening.
A kids table might of course be nice, but it’s absolutely not something that you have to do so don’t feel obliged! Kids tables have the tendency of not being used as much as we think… After all, kids prefer to run around, join their parents on the dance floor and explore.
Things that kids do enjoy are bouncy castles and play grounds. If you are having any of these things I really recommend to hire a babysitter otherwise an adult will be stuck outdoors the entire reception.
Some venues will actually require that you hire a baby sitter out of safety reasons, many venues here in Spain have swimming pools which could be dangerous if parents get too relaxed and don’t keep an eye on their kids. Don’t be surprised if your kids prefer to join you on the dance floor instead of spending time with the babysitter in another room!
The wedding night
My mother in law was in charge of our daughter during the last part of the reception. Here in Spain the wedding dinners takes a long time. By the time that we were cutting the cake it was about 11 PM. Kids in Spain are used to be awake until late, because the rhythm of the day is also different here.
At this point the babies were asleep in their strollers (despite the music and noise). Our daughter was getting really sleepy as well. My mother watched us do the first dance, and then left with our daughter around 11.30 PM. She then spent the night in my mother’s room. The other older kids were still staying during the party, but in the end they were also super tired and fell asleep in the sofas or in their parents laps.
And that’s it! I hope you find this information useful!