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Getting Married After Children

After 9 years together, 2 children, a house purchase and watching all our friends get married, Scott & I got engaged in 2015 and married in 2016. We had a lovely year from Proposal to Honeymoon.

Having watched and spoken to many friends who had got married before having children, I could see that whilst some aspects to planning a wedding day where the same, getting married with children does have some particular aspects to consider. These are the main points I discovered:

Everyone Loves a Wedding

This didn't change when we got MAC (Married After Children), actually the support and enthusiasm from those around us carried us through that period and supported us in having a magical time throughout the whole period.

Whilst I had comments from others about when we would get married or why we weren't (and my own inner-critic at times) before we were married, no one mentioned the fact that we were having a wedding after having clearly been living together and created a family after our engagement. Even from friends who valued marriage before children in their own life. 

In fact, our wedding day was largely supported and love of those closest to us, as life after children does mean that there is less time and energy to manoeuvre with as a couple.

Set Your Budget and Priorities

This point is important to all couples getting wed, I am sure, but it felt even more pertinent in our life when our finances were having to stretch further, when everyday life was important to invest in and after a period of 2 maternity leaves, 2 young children and a reduced income due to me working part-time, finances weren't as disposable as they had once been.

I was so aware that our savings could be spent towards a house extension, or renovation rather than an item for one day of our lives. We really had to decide at each point which were the areas we wanted to invest in for our wedding day and which were areas we were happy to compromise on as our savings could also make a difference to our everyday family life, which was well established by the time we got married.

The easiest way we found to do this was make a list of the areas we felt were an important aspect of the day we wanted to create, based on us as a couple, our values and what we enjoyed. From there were were able to allocate and portion our budget, as well as look at ways of saving in other areas, such as borrowing items, getting creative, asking for help and simply letting some things go.

The Dress

This is a big one and should be the fun one too (along with the theme, style and decorations). What type of dress do you go for? I had no idea to be honest and this one took me a while.
Should I wear white as I walk down the aisle with kids? I looked into this and white isn’t traditionally worn at weddings to symbolise virginity and purity but because white fabric was a sign of wealth. I was sold. Also figured if I wanted to keep and re-work my dress afte our wedding day white would be easy to dye...
What length & style? I loved vintage lace and short dresses but also wanted a full length gown but knowing we had kids wanted to keep it practical. I had two dresses, a short Chi Chi London dress that a friend altered for me by removing the netting which I wore to our legal ceremony in Mayfair, London and a full length gown for our main wedding day.  
The short dress my mum saw on ASOS and I thought, looks nice, let’s go for it.
The long dress I found at a wedding dress boutique and then ordered online via a sample sale from USA to make it work for our budget. A designer friend made the amendments for me and added a bustle so I could pin the train up for dancing.
Finding THE DRESS is an interesting concept. I tried on about 15 dresses in total at 3 different boutique days. The dress I eventually loved was by Martina Liana picked out for me by my mum and I hadn’t been very excited by it on the hanger, anymore than any of the other 14 beautiful dresses I had tried on before. Wedding dresses are beautiful, I wondered how I would know if I found ‘the one’. In the end when I put my dress on I just felt comfortable, I could move and I felt like the best version on myself. Naturally it was also the most expensive dress I tried on, hence the creative purchase option!

My adapted Chi Chi London Dress from Asos

Back of Wedding Dress by Martina Liana 628 

Set the Vibe

Once you have children, life is different, that is just a fact and it felt important to us to having a wedding that reflected the reality and stage of life we were actually at as a couple - with children.

This really dawned on us when we visited a venue that Scott had always had in his mind as his ideal wedding venue. A wedding venue that often features in movies and magazines - a stately house in the Home Counties with beautiful rooms and stunning scenery. It was magical. When we left and talked about the venue we realised it was no longer us. We couldn't imagine our children being safe in some of the areas and the atmosphere didn't suit our unruly little crew, as we now were. A venue like that would have been perfect for us 5 years ago but felt pretentious for us in our current position.

We then made the decision that we wanted a venue where we could relax, know that the safe was contained and safe for kids and where everyone could feel easy and free about being where they were in their stage of life. 

We extended this to our preparations, getting our children to make some decorations and help out with setting up, so that they were part of our day and the busy run-up to it. I like crafting, so the children and I made painted recycled jam jars and used them as glass lanterns around the venue, they also helped me pain DIY palette chalk boards and make lavender bags as favours.

We had a dear friend who is a celebrant lead a ceremony for us that included the children, our legal ceremony was a couple of weeks before as an adult only a handful of people.

Our eldest son spent the last half term at school telling everyone how we were all preparing for 'Our Wedding' and still refers to the day as that, which for us is perfect.

Set The Rule on Children

This sounds a little contradictory as this is about MAC and it wasn't apparent to us until further down our planning journey but getting married at a stage in life when you have children means that a lot of your friends may also have children. How we viewed our family life, as being one that is close and connected is how many of our friends viewed theirs, they also want their children to be part of life experiences, which is entirely understandable. 

What we noticed though was this potentially had a big implication on our budget and venue choices. When we did a head count, children made up over one third of our entire guest list and when there is a limit on numbers at venues and then logistics of catering for so many children, (Hiring babysitters, Children's Seating, Food,Entertainment etc) we found we had to make the call to say family children only and discuss exceptions.

For most of our friends it was logistically possible to come as adults only and we were happy to accommodate those who could only come with children.  Many of our friends also really enjoyed having the opportunity to spend time as adults and couples without their primary responsibility on the day being parenting.

What this did raise though was one of the bigger aspects of being MAC, which is where are the boundaries between your roles as parents and celebrating a couple on a wedding day.

Be A Bride & Groom For The Day

This really follows the last point but being a parent is full-time responsibility and even a wedding day doesn't change that.

We made the decision to ask for family support with childcare on the day, so that for this one day we could be a couple first before being parents. We were only planning to do this once and being a Bride and Groom was going to be the primary role for us that day, we wanted to get most from the experience, a once in a lifetime event at the moment it happened.

My main learning from this is be really clear and assertive, as well as deciding how you will support each other as a couple / team / parents in achieving that goal. Having open, decisive communications about practical childcare jobs with each other and family prior to the day, really leaves you free to enjoy the moments of the wedding without guilt, compromise or frustration.

Before planning our wedding I didn’t have images of my wedding day set in my mind but that didn't mean I didn't want to enjoy fully the experience of being a Bride for the day. In all honesty, the role of Bride and Groom are created for you by the fact that it is your wedding, it is something that is inescapable about the day, no matter how low-key or grand your wedding day is - so embrace it!

This also extends to after the wedding day and your decisions for a honeymoon. We didn't feel we could take a 2 week holiday without the children so instead opted for a couple of child-free nights directly after our day. These were great for us as it gave us time to talk and to ground the journey we had just been through as a couple. It also gave us two days to rest after the busy couple of weeks directly before the wedding day, without being woken at 6am! 
We then spent a week at home as a family to allow the events to settle for the children to and to reconnect us to our daily lives and routines before going away together for 10 days in the South of France. For us this was perfectly relaxing, without being too demanding in  terms of preparation for travel, which felt doubly important after the busy-ness of the previous month.

Our wedding day was very much our own, as each wedding is for each couple.
Whatever choices you make, I wish you a day of love, happiness and joy for you and yours.

Sakina is a trained actress, Birth Practitioner and Founder of Tranquil Birth & South London Mum of 2 boys.


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