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Image / Style / Weddings

Getting hitched with your kids in tow – madness or magic?

by Jessie Collins
29th Dec 2020

Flower girl via GETTY

Post baby nuptials can be intensely poignant, but they can also bring an extra mix of logistics and challenges. Jessie Collins talks to some brides who were mums first and wives second.

There are many things that define the modern wedding: unusual venues, humanist ceremonies, sharing food plates, portable pizza ovens (2018 is all about transparent elements apparently, so start booking those greenhouse venues fast), but having your children from either your current or prior relationship is also one of them.

For some, this may be a perfect storm of elements. Lots of stress, a huge performance, trying to be, for just once at least, the centre of attention. Kids don’t tend to want to be sidelined so how do you have the time of your life, and include them in it?

If they are of a post-toddler age, chances are they will want to be involved, which no doubt comes with a health warning but can also be something to treasure. Taking part in the ceremony, leading the procession down the aisle, are just some of the bits that can reduce people to tears. And how special that your children get a chance to see you publicly celebrating your bond, as a family, as well as a couple.

But what’s it really like for the bride? As yet, I can’t speak from personal experience, though our four-year-old is starting to regularly pop the question, usually when we are shoving on backpacks and forcing on shoes on the way out the door, leaving both her parents a bit tongue-tied and fluffing over the answers. So the first person I needed to check in with was my sister, who married her longterm partner when her eldest was three and she was pregnant with her second. “I know she loved being there as she was the ring bearer and for me it did feel really special that she could be a part of it. It’s such a big occasion probably the biggest most grown ups have in their lives, so I think it’s nice for the kids to be able to see that.”

The real deal

“Once you have children you already know you’ll be joined for life to your partner,” she added “whether you stay together or not, so getting married feels like a more realistic commitment, you are not just agreeing to a possible future you are agreeing to a future you already know exists. If you have already managed to survive the first few years of children together I think you know each other very deeply at that stage.”

The legalising and solidifying of the family unit definitely seems to play a part, perhaps even in a bigger way than baby-free couples experience. “When you have children with someone you can feel very vulnerable, getting married helped me feel more protected which is something I really needed as a mother, to know my children would be protected by the law if something happened to me or their dad. I can’t actually imagine getting married to someone before having kids as it’s only then you really see who you’re dealing with!”

Apart from the practical pluses, Natalie Marquez Courtney, editor, photographer and blogger, who has captured more than a few post-baby nuptials says they are often the sweetest, too. “I love weddings where the couple already has kids! I definitely find they are more chilled, easygoing celebrations. Something about the fact that the couple has children seems to break the tension in a way, and the day becomes much less stressed; it’s about celebrating as a family.”

The lead up, more often than not, tends to be less pressurised also. “The couples themselves tend to be a lot less anxious and not nearly as nervous during the prep time, which I think helps set the tone. It filters out to everyone else and makes the whole experience a lot more laid-back.”

That’s not to say the attitude is blase, far from it. “They often tend to be that bit more emotional too; traditional pre-baby weddings are full of giddiness, hope and optimism, which is gorgeous. But when the couple already has kids, there have usually been a fair few ups and downs. The couple has been through things together, and there is often so much emotion wrapped up in taking that moment to reflect and enjoy how far they’ve come.”

“Of course, you also have the added bonus of guaranteed kid cuteness at the ceremony, as the couple’s kids are often flower girls or ring bearers. I also love seeing how excited the kids themselves get at the whole thing!”

Kate O’Dowd, formerly editor of IMAGE Brides, and co-founder of the excellent event planning and styling consultancy  love & , married her now-husband when her son was a year old, something that had its pluses, and its challenges. “There are positives and negatives to getting married post-baby. “The cute child in a ridiculous outfit is a definite bonus. We put our little fella in a suit and bowtie that matched his dad’s, at the age of 12 months – hideous, yes… but how could you not? Children make the wedding photos better and induce more tears when you look back at the film. And it’s a great excuse to properly ditch tradition; we didn’t actually call ours a wedding, we called it a family union ceremony, or something equally naff. We all walked down the aisle together and Teddy’s naming ceremony was part of it. That was great. The love was literally tripled.”

“However, especially if your child is small, it’s undeniable that your craic will be hindered, with a smallie in tow. Firstly, I didn’t really find that self-pampering time brides seem to indulge in. At that point, getting dressed at all was a bonus, so fitting in hair, makeup and putting on a fancy dress was the absolute limit. There were no optional extras. And Teddy was really too young to make it through the day, so he had to go home with the nanny after lunch, which, of course made me feel like a witch. I was also still breastfeeding him, so I had to pump at some point and, though my parents-in-law stayed with him that night, while we lived it up in our honeymoon suite, we did have to leave our own afterparty before any of our guests, because we knew we had to get home to look after him the next day. I’m still raging about that.”

Kate concludes, “so I suppose the moral of my story is this: don’t bother with the formalities until your children are old enough to drive you home when the party’s over… or at least until they have the decency to sit quietly under a table with a bottle of Fanta and a packet of crisps. But then again, I wouldn’t change a minute of it.”

Note: This article originally appeared on IMAGE.ie in 2017

Read more: Keep calm and parent on: What to do instead of shouting at your children

Read more: ‘Nothing prepares you for the yearning that comes when you want to have a baby at a later stage of life’

Read more: ‘Don’t command me or my daughter to smile for you’

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