‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage…’
I don’t know why it surprised me, but four of the first six weddings that I wrote wedding reports for had their children at their wedding. It was my first real clue that the traditional processes of raising a family don’t necessarily have the baby in the carriage as the final piece of the puzzle.
My own parents got married when they discovered that my mum was six months pregnant with my brother. 30 years and untold heartbreak later, we now all realise that this may not have been the best choice for them, despite my grandparents’ fervent belief that it was the ‘right’ thing to do.
In this instalment of observations, I would therefore like to salute the people who work out whether having children together really does mean that they should be together before they take a trip down the aisle.
Now, the more observant readers out there will know that both Annabel and Franky had their beautiful children first and their weddings second, so in a way they are perhaps more qualified to tackle this topic than I, the baby-phobe, who didn’t have any children at her wedding, let alone ones that had come from our own loins.
Nonetheless, my adventures on the matrimonial frontline have really taught me a thing or two about the traditional schedule for major life events. There are of course no right or wrong answers in this particular discussion and every situation is different. Whilst one of my best friends has stoically refused to entertain the thought of child-rearing until her boyfriend of seven years put a ring on it, one of our other friends was happy to fall pregnant and then get engaged and married before the baby had been born.
But as my parents’ situation has continually taught me, life doesn’t always work out like you think it’s going to. Go to university, get a job, find a boy, get a good credit score, get engaged, buy a house, get married, get promoted, have offspring…whereas this might be a linear path to some, for others it’s more of a mix ‘n’ match. The cards fall where they’re dealt and you have to make the most of it.
Whether through accident or design, marriage is not necessarily the main priority in many modern relationships. Some might say that working out whether you can live together and raise children is both test and expense enough without throwing in the extra consideration of planning a wedding to the mix. Others would say that having a child together is the ultimate commitment you can make anyway, and that a piece of paper and a ring is not nearly as symbolic of their union as the physical embodiment of their love that is their child.
As an entirely impartial observer, what I see from weddings where the bride and groom already have children is a very poignant celebration as a family. It’s not just about acclaiming a beautiful bride in a dress and a nervous groom waiting for her, but about cementing and solidifying an unshakable family unit. Many a storm has already been weathered by the time they reach the altar and you can bet your booty that the ‘for better, for worse’ part of their vows has probably already been thoroughly tested.
There’s also something a little bit magical about seeing a child watch their parents publicly vow to spend their lives trying to make each other happy and protect their family. Even the smallest of faces becomes mesmerised when they hear their mummy and daddy addressing each other with strange sounding formalities; even if they won’t remember it in years to come there is definitely a poignancy in having your children witness your vows.
For their part, the children I’ve observed seem to absolutely love being part of their parents’ wedding. I can’t tell you how many cheeky little munchkins have become the star of the show as they work the room, charming the pants off all of their relatives and ensuring that every single guest falls in love with them. I’ve seen babes in arms, tantruming toddlers and fully formed miniature adults join their parents’ side and you can just tell that the pageantry and ceremony of the occasion is enough to capture their imaginations.
In a nod to the 21st century reconfiguration of the family unit, a wedding often brings together children from disparate relationships. I guess this in itself is proof that not everyone who procreates ought to marry each other, but it’s also really lovely to watch various families join together under the umbrella of a happy marriage between two people who are soul mates.
'We invested a great deal of money in an Artful Splodgers crèche
so our younger guests wouldn’t have to sit through boring speeches or a
lengthy wedding breakfast. In turn, we hoped their parents might be
able to relax a little and enjoy the day free of the usual demands that
go hand in hand with bringing a small child to such an event.' Franky, Love My Dress
For me, I guess I’m proof that children do not need a marriage to have a
stable life, especially if that’s an unhappy marriage. Nonetheless,
what I’ve seen over the last few years has gladdened my heart every time
I’ve seen a flower girl bolt delightedly down the aisle toward her
So what are the most delightful things I’ve seen at weddings with children?
Invitations from the couple’s children inviting guests to their parent’s wedding (as opposed to the traditional phrasing of the bride’s parents as hosts)
A brother and sister carrying the ring cushion down the aisle – with matching expressions of deep concentration.
The bride being given away by her small son.
Little boys snuggled into their mother’s lap during the ceremony, regardless of the fact that she looks like a bridal bombshell and is listening to something pretty important.
A bespoke poem by the maid of honour on behalf of the couple’s daughter, read under the little girl’s watchful eye.
The father of the bride’s speech given in conjunction with the son of the bride.
A father-daughter first dance with the groom and his little girl.
Family photo bunting or pre-wedding portraits including the kids used as signing frames or guest books.
Children of the newlyweds hosting their own kids’ table during the wedding breakfast (and absolutely holding court).
Portraits of the bridal party painted by the children given as wedding favours/thank you gifts.
A wedding cake with three different flavours chosen by each of the kids.
of our favourite wedding photographs are of those taken by the children, who were each given a disposable camera! This is a
photograph taken by our eldest daughter, who was taking a photograph of our wedding photographer photographing her! I wrote about this for the Any Other Woman blog.'
Annabel Beeforth, Love My Dress
If you’re lucky enough to have your children at your wedding I’m sure there are 101 ways that you can incorporate them into your wedding day to make them feel a part of, rather than overawed by, the festivities. I don’t know much for sure, but I’m fairly certain that they will, in time, be thrilled to look back at your wedding photos or film and know that they were a vital part of not only your relationship, but also your wedding.
What are your thoughts on children at weddings? What are you planning on doing, or what did you do to make sure the little ones at your wedding are/were looked after? Is the idea of children at weddings something that puts you off or are you looking forward to treating them and seeing them enjoy themselves?