Weddings for us used to follow a pretty standard pattern – show up the night before, see all our friends who we’ve not seen for a while, get drunk catching up, be hungover the following morning but pull it together just in time for the start of the wedding. Weddings with babies on the other hand are a very different affair and I thought I’d share our experience. Our son is coming up to 3 and this was his first wedding, and our daughter is 5 months so def her first foray in to enjoying nuptials. The wedding was at The Grove near Watford, and I’ve included a little review of it here, as it was so good for the kids, and I’d highly recommend it (it’s not and ad, and we weren’t gifted or hosted). I’m not sure if some of the sweet little touches are standard or were included because the whole wedding was on site but even without them it’s worth a trip. Disclaimer- it’s expensive, and we were treated as part of the wedding, but they do do 3 for 2 nights offers and things in the school holidays.
The wedding itself was lovely and the kids were luckily very well behaved. It was a very small affair with just 40 odd people though so it often felt like they (and our skills as parents) were on show. That and running around after and active 2 year old and taking care of a breastfeeding baby meant it was a pretty stressful couple of days. I know you shouldn’t care about people judging your parenting but there’s something uniquely challenging about being a central part of a wedding (it was my mother in law getting married, and our boy was the ring bearer) and being surrounded by extended family who all have a point of view, whether or not they share it, about your kids/ parenting. Luckily the kids did us proud, though having a baby on a pretty strict bedtime schedule meant a very shouty baby at the wedding breakfast. I ended up missing out on dessert and the speeches to take her for a bath and feed and bed. Again I would never usually leave a wedding part way through but being absent for a bit was I think preferable to a screaming baby at the table.
We had a babysitter for both nights which was provided by the hotel through a third party company. I was a little uncomfortable leaving the kids with a stranger at first, but as with all things I believe in balance, and whilst having them be part of the wedding was important, messing up their routines and sleep completely by keeping them up just didn’t seem fair, and us leaving really early didn’t seem on given it was close family getting married. There were a couple of things which made me feel more comfortable with it. Firstly the company the hotel uses hires experienced childcare professionals. She also came on the first night before the kids bedtime. That meant they knew who she was and if they had woken up would’ve been comfortable she wasn’t a complete stranger. Meeting her before also meant we had the option to call time on the whole thing if we weren’t comfortable once we’d met her. The truth was she was a very caring lovely lady who essentially just had to sit in an adjoining room and watch a baby monitor. We were just downstairs and could’ve gone back at any time if we were needed. It was the perfect balance to give us back a couple of hours of grown-up time to engage in a full conversation, and pretend we were at a wedding carefree again. Though without taking full advantage of the champagne as I’m never sure when I’ll be called on to feed the baby – again a very different approach to weddings than before children.
The Grove was a great location for a weekend away with two children. It might be a fancy hotel, but it was truly welcoming to children, and at no point did they feel out of place. I’ve given a bit of a rundown on why it was so great here…
The facilities are amazing – we were lucky with the weather and took full advantage of the outdoor pool. In the room were buckets and spades for the makeshift beach, as well as beach balls for the pool for the kids to use. There was also an indoor pool for kids (and a separate adult one if you’re looking for some child-free time), and a fully kitted out supervised play room. All that on top of a kids club which ours are too young for but if you’re looking for a safe space for the kids to be kids while you get some freedom too then it’d be perfect.
The staff were incredibly friendly towards the children in all the settings. The restaurant staff brought activity packs every time we sat down for a meal, and the staff round the pool and in the play room interacted so nicely with our toddler.
The room also had a little kids toiletries set. This was such a lovely touch, and made our toddler feel very grown up and special. There was also a box of toys in the room with cuddly toys and games for them to use while we were there. This was such a lovely touch and kept him entertained for ages while we got ready or dealt with luggage.
The grounds were incredible. Well kept, so clean and safe, the toddler loved running around and around. He spotted ducks, and the various sculptures kept him entertained, especially the walnuts round a tree which he decided were dinosaur eggs and set him up for an Andy Day style dinosaur adventure. Anywhere that inspires his imagination like that gets top marks from me.
The food for kids was more diverse than chicken nuggets and chips. Don’t get me wrong, I love a chicken nugget but when faced with a weekend away, it’s not all I want my children eating if possible. It was nice that there was more of variety and we could add a vegetable in to the mix here and there.
Spending the day after the wedding in glorious sunshine round an outdoor pool made it feel like we’d been abroad. In reality it was a 30 minute drive home. All in all we discovered weddings with babies involved more chasing (both toddlers and sleep for the baby) than we were used to back in the day but I couldn’t think of a better setting to take on our first one than The Grove, and I’d gladly take the family back for a long weekend (will start saving now 😜).