attending a wedding with a special needs child

Wedding season is fast approaching! This reminded me of a story a parent told me, about a time they took their child to a wedding and it was a bit of a disaster. I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some wedding pointers with you.

The Challenge

Generally speaking, weddings are tough events for our sensory kids or our kids with special needs, just because you cannot control the environment. It’s an environment that you’re subject to, and you have to accept it the way it is. Some weddings are indoors in a church, where kids are expected to be quiet. Other weddings are outdoors, where there can be allergies and outdoor distractions.

Do You Need to Attend?

One important thing to remember is that a wedding is a special day for other people. We wouldn’t tell you not to take your kids to a wedding because sometimes the person getting married really wants your whole family there. But unless it’s really important that your child be there you may want to consider keeping them at home. A wedding can be a very stressful environment with food issues, environmental issues, and noise issues. It’s often a better idea to avoid taking them until they are old enough to do well with transition or generalization of environments.

Keeping Your Child Entertained During The Wedding Ceremony

If you do take them, think about those things you can do to keep your child entertained. Just as if you were going to travel, bring a coloring book or activity book, or an iPad with headphones so that they can be engaged and entertained quietly during that time. If they’re engaged, loud noises and sitting for long periods won’t bother them. Consider sitting near the back, towards the end of an aisle, so that if you need to step outside you’re not drawing attention to yourself or your child.

Tips For The Wedding Reception

In terms of receptions, it really depends on the climate of the reception and how things are being handled. Again, some of those are outdoor, some are indoors, some are at hotels—all kinds of different environments. Make sure that if there are food issues, you’re prepared. You can let your hosts know that you stopped by McDonald’s first to pick up chicken nuggets because that’s what will make the reception a lot more pleasant for everyone.

Also, remember that kids get tired. It’s better to leave before they get tired so they don’t get cranky. Plan for that as well.

Overall Planning

In general, think about your specific child and their specific needs. If they need a visual schedule write one out for them beforehand. Write down what you’re going to do, and give some idea of when you’ll be leaving. You can even offer an incentive at the end.

If you think through these issues and plan beforehand, that will make the wedding a lot more pleasant for you and your child, and for the bride and groom!

Kate Lundgren

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