Kids at weddings
Are you getting married? Do you have children? Are you thinking How in the world can you juggle the wedding day and all it’s logistical tomfoolery whilst keeping your rug rats happy? Well this article is for you! I’ve been shooting weddings for over 9 years and have witnessed many a little person try to scupper those wonderful wedding plans, I’ve also seen some amazing parents, blending their wedding day roles with their parental ones with true style. So I have teamed up with some of my amazing past couples to discuss how they managed their days, and I’ll discuss how I shoot kids at weddings (with my camera!).
I absolutely love kids at weddings, they give me non stop shooting material and they genuinely make my heart happy. Kids are cool and I’m not afraid to say it. However kids can sometimes feel very different about the big day themselves. If it’s their parents getting married it can often be even more overwhelming for them, than it is for the bride and groom. They have been more privy to the big build up than most of your guests, they could have seen your excitement brewing, mixed in with the usual wedding planning nightmares. Throw in the fact, that for most, it’s the first wedding they have ever attended. It’s no wonder it blows their tiny little minds! So, be prepared for big emotions on the day.
How did you involve your children in the build up to your big day?
“My children were 4 and 21 months on the day of our wedding, so the younger one didn’t have much involvement.
My eldest daughter helped me put the invites in the envelopes and helped to choose her dress. I did take them wedding dress shopping on one occasion…. I didn’t do that again!!” Sarah & Paul
I often change my pre wedding shoots to a family shoot for couples that have children. I think it gives kids a little time to get to know me, so on the day it’s one less unfamiliar face for them to deal with. It also gives me a little insight into their personalities, so I have a good idea of their characters and work with them in accordance to this.
I have a set of my own little people, I try to understand them as best I can but I can honestly say that sometimes I am completely lost as to what is going through their little red heads. Kids are unpredictable, and this is what I try to get across to my couples when we talk about this. Being a documentary photographer means I love the unpredictable nature of children, if they want to sit under a table and eat sweets, I’ll get down with them. If they want to chase the lights on the dance floor, I’ll chase them too. If they just want to run around after the service and let of a little steam, then I’ll run with them. But I know when to step back, I don’t want to be a fun sponge and suck all the joy out of their games, I know when they have had enough of me and I try to step back at just the right moments. I get the shot then I give them space to be kids with the freedom they deserve.
Bridal prep can often be a hub of excitement with so much happening, the anticipation of the wedding reaches fever pitch and it’s all systems go. For those blessed with children you also need to work in their needs and requirements to the wedding morning, and this is no easy task. When I see mums and dads juggling getting ready for a wedding, along with parenting I honestly think they deserve some sort of medal. It’s not easy but here are some tips from some of my previous brides/grooms-
On the morning of your wedding how did you tackle the challenge of getting ready and being a parent?
“That was difficult so I made sure I had plenty of help. I got ready at my sisters and myself and the girls stayed there the night before. On the morning of the wedding I had my sister and her two children helping and two of my friends came up too. It worked well in that my youngest went for a nap about 9am which is usually unheard of at that time of day but we’d had a late evening the night before and we’d got up early so she was tired!! When I got ready my friends left to get ready themselves and my aunt came to get the girls dressed. It all worked well but the best advise is to ask for help!” – Sarah & Paul
When it comes to the formal shots, less is best. I like to wizz through the formal shots as quickly as we can, I try my best to make them fun and not too formal and I always advice keeping them a minimum. But lets face it, even as adults, they can be a little boring, so lets’ have a little understanding for how the kids feel. ‘Stand still, smile, stop fidgeting, don’t get your clothes dirty!’ If its really important to have some of your younger guests in these shots then these are my tips –
I always advice my couples to really think about the order of the formal shots. I suggest making sure any photos where you want the kids to be in them that they are some of the first shots we tick off the list. They will look tidy and clean at this point (hopefully!) and it means they can quickly go and join their cousins running about.
When I’m taking the shot I try to engage with the children as well as the adults, for these more formal photos, having your attention is key. Often when kids are involved parents end up looking at them to make sure they are looking at me. If you can let go of this urge then we stand a better chance of getting a shot where you are all looking at me. I can work my magic in post production if necessary, but when heads are fully turned in a different direction, it really limits what material I have to play with.
If they aren’t wanting to be in the shot, then I say, let them go. I will get shots of them during the day and these will be the real organic moments that will probably hold so much more value to you than the more formal photos. Also, it can really effect your stress levels when you are trying to negotiate a strong willed two year old who just wants to go and play. Let them play so we can get the shots done and you can then go enjoy spending real quality time with your guests who will be desperate to have some of your time.
The other advice I would offer, is to make sure you have someone who knows that they will be ‘in charge’ of the children while you are having these shots done. Giving us the focus to get these shots done, and you the reassurance that the kids are safe, and they have not snuck away and are merrily tucking into your wedding cake!
“We had an amazing day the only thing in which always worried us about was the fact that my son was 2 and as parents to a 2 year old they like to venture off and as we had a lot of people to talk to I asked his god mother to watch him during the day and he sat with her when we were eating so. Although he was sat at the table right next to us full of close family.
Having so many guests and being a marquee wedding he could potentially walk off the property and then if he wasn’t looked after or being watched that was a massive concern. So we asked god parent and grand parents to look after him. We also decided that when it was the evening time he would go home to bed and the evening was when we could properly relax catch up with family and dance. So he stayed till after the 1st dance and he went back with a grandparent who was happy to go back. Luckily they live down the road. But I did fill with it being a marquee wedding In a garden concerned. This was talked about with close family before the wedding. We felt this was the best decision as he was exhausted by the evening.” – Sophie and Dan
For me the best photos I have of my children are the ones where they are genuinely having fun. Weddings give children plenty of opportunity to play, but there are also part of the day that for them, are just plain boring. So, how do we keep these younger guests happy during the service?
“I had iPads at the ready!! My youngest had Peppa Pig all set up (on silent of course!) for my aunt if she needed it. My aunt had volunteered to take either or both of them out of the church if needed which she did do, but I didn’t even notice.”- Sarah
For the rest of the day some of the great ideas I have seen at weddings include sweet carts, a little nock in the venue set up with toys/tents/books and more sweets, A children’s entertainer coming in before the dance floor opens up for the adults, and wedding favours full of activities and toys to keep them busy during the meal, lawn games such as tug of war, coconut shies, and giant Jenga, although they will have a hard time fighting off the adults for this one! And of course, bubbles!
What advice would you offer other couples who have children and are getting married?
“Don’t forget the pushchair if you use one or even if you haven’t for a while. I only thought about it on the day of the wedding and I’m so glad I did because my youngest fell asleep at the reception and she had somewhere to lay.
We had our childminder pick our girls up at 7pm and have them at her house overnight. One of my friends said that was her biggest regret at her wedding that she spent the whole evening looking after or worrying about the kids. I know that isn’t for everyone but it gave us the freedom to enjoy our evening.”
Getting married with your children being present definitely gives you different challenges, but sharing your day with your children is so special, and the more you can relax and enjoy your day, the more they will. If your little girl won’t let you walk down the aisle because she too scared, then just scope her up and keep smiling! If your little boy decides to hide in your dress during the service, then giggle with your husband and fish him out when you can, if your daughter wants to strip down to her nappy and run wild during the speeches then let her go for it. And if your son decides to have the mother of all melt downs just before the service starts, then just pretend he’s not yours and let someone else deal with him!
These are genuine moments that your family will laugh about forever, and I will adore capturing every second for you.