Way back in 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, when Justin Bieber was knee-high to a grasshopper, and the boom was surely going to last forever, my husband and I said “I do”, then danced the night away in Cabra Castle. For perhaps the first and last time in our lives, we were on the dance-floor for the whole night – there was even an impromptu Dirty Dancing style lift when the band played I’ve Had The Time of my Life.
Of course, back then we had the energy for such things, because we were a little younger than we are now, and we didn’t have three energetic kids to look after. We didn’t have kids at our wedding at all actually, because we had no nieces or nephews and most of our friends didn’t have children yet. And anyway, we told each other, weddings aren’t a place for kids.
Fourteen years later, I still think people shouldn’t invite kids to weddings if they don’t want to – with one big exception – if I’m on your guest-list, please can I bring my kids? I’m joking. Kind of. But it’s a rock and hard place – much as my husband and I want to go to the wedding and dance the night away without minding children, that is in fact the problem – there’s nobody to mind the children. As a result, invariably one of us stays at home, while one goes to the ball.
So when a close family member was organising her wedding this year and we discovered kids were invited, I was thrilled. No worrying about finding a babysitter, but more than that – there was the excitement of telling the kids they were going to their first ever wedding.
Would we enjoy it too? Sure, up to about nine o’clock I reckoned, when I’d have to head off to bed with the youngest. But that’s okay – it would be worth it to have them there, witnessing a gorgeous ceremony and being part of such a lovely family event.
Having said that, I was a little worried about the ceremony itself – how would I keep the small guy quiet? Moving and chatting are two of his favourite things to do, and if he needed to tell me something important, no solemn exchange of vows would stop him. So he and I decided to sit at the back of the room, meaning he could whisper away without disrupting proceedings. He ended up standing in the aisle to see the “you may kiss the bride” bit (his favourite bit) but every single guest was in front of us, so it didn’t matter at all.
The next concern was the dinner. My kids usually sit at the table for ten minutes max, and often get up to twirl around/ go to the bathroom/ tell a story that needs to be told standing up/ run around the kitchen/ disappear to play with Lego. How would we manage a three-hour-meal I wondered? So I brought a sketch book full of deliciously blank pages and a new pack of markers, and set them to work drawing and making fortune-tellers.
They visited our (adjoining) table 145 times during the meal, and the small guy danced (alone) on the dance-floor for much of the between-courses time, and apart from a small fire when a paper plane hit a candle (I wish I was joking), it all went off without a hitch (geddit?)
Nine o’clock came, and the music was starting, and I wondered if my smallest was getting tired. But no, he was out on the dance-floor, all alone, still throwing shapes, and no sign of needing a rest. He asked me to dance with him, and I said yes. Anyone who knows me in real life will certify that I am absolutely not a second-person-on-the-dance-floor-kind of girl – I’m the stereotype who needs a gin and tonic, Dancing Queen, and a friend to pull me by the hand.
But who can say no to a six-year-old asking you to dance? So dance we did, and bit by bit, more people joined us, until every cousin in the place and all of their grown-ups were on their feet.
I watched my kids play air guitar to Highway to Hell, learn the words to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and discover Kylie Minogue and the Backstreet Boys. Unlike the rest of us, they didn’t need a break to sit down every few songs – they kept going through the 80’s, the 90’s and into the 21st century. There was No Scrubs and No Diggity, Livin’ La Vida Loca. And thanks to the lovely guest in the blue dress and gold shoes who led the way, we all got to do the correct moves to the Macarena.
And suddenly, it was midnight. We didn’t quite turn into pumpkins, but something told me pushing it any later would be a mistake. I whispered the first round of it’s time for bed announcements, reluctantly, another forty-five minutes later, they trooped – or perhaps it was more of a stagger – off the dance-floor and agreed to go home to bed.
And me? I had the best fun I’ve had since my own wedding. I thought minding the kids would be hard – and at times it definitely was – but it was nowhere near as tough as I expected.
I didn’t think they’d make it to the dancing, but they didn’t just make it, they opened their arms and embraced it. And I thought if I danced with the kids, it would be a parental imperative – like waiting at the end of the slide or pushing a swing – I had no idea how enjoyable it would be. Maybe I’d forgotten that when you’re not busy checking homework and making lunches, kids are extraordinarily good fun.
Ten years into parenting, the milestones don’t come so thick and fast anymore. They’ve all long since taken first steps, started school and lost teeth. But this feels like one – a first wedding with the kids, and a first proper dance. I think we’re ready for our next nuptials. Anyone?