By Katie Haas
One of the ultimate joys of working with college students is watching them fall in love, counseling them while dating and watching them commit to marriage. In a world of broken sexuality where our students are bombarded with mixed messages it’s a privilege to joyously uphold God’s design for marriage, embracing it as one of God’s best gifts. I love to do what I can to lavishly celebrate the gift of marriage whether throwing a student bridal shower, buying a nice gift or attending the wedding and celebrating in person.
I’m sure many of us have been blessed to be involved in student weddings and count it as a tremendous privilege. I’ve found that Nav Staff are the only people I know who go to more weddings AFTER having kids than before. After attending plenty of weddings with kids I’ve learned it’s a whole different experience.
We joked when our oldest daughter was a baby that the number of weddings she had attended equaled how many months old she was. Last summer we were invited to 3 student/former student weddings and 2 rehearsal dinners over a 5 week span. The third one was out of town on the same day that freshman move-in on campus. And, not only was it out of town, but Noah was officiating.
I went into that busy season of life with weddings and ministry events on every weekend determined to walk away with our kids saying “I love weddings” even when the ceremony is in the middle of nap time and the dinner isn’t served until practically bedtime. ☺ Just as I want our students to be eager to celebrate the joy of marriage, I want my kids to also see weddings as a great thing. I want them to feel privileged when they are invited to attend and eager to celebrate the marriage of students they know and love. I don’t want them to grow up dreading another summer of weddings and wishing we could instead just stay home. As they grow older they will understand why weddings are so important but, at this point, I just want them to love joining in the celebration of a student wedding.
The first decision to make is whether or not to bring your children along. We try really really hard to include the kids, but it does require creativity. Sometimes we enlist the help of grandparents or a student friend to help watch the kids either at home or at the wedding with us. Often we splurge and get a hotel so that we can take a nap between the ceremony and the reception. With my health it’s simply a requirement but it often helps the kids to stay rested. It also makes it more doable to keep them up late enough to eat dinner and enjoy the first few dances. Not to mention, what kid doesn’t love going to a hotel? Not having to travel far after the reception, and waking up to continental breakfast and an indoor pool seems to make weddings more like a little family vacation for everyone in the family.
Regardless of where you decide to stay and how many kids you plan to ng with you, let me share with you a few tips for packing your ‘wedding day bag’ to bring as you look ahead to your next ministry wedding ☺
- Lemon Drops – As a kid it’s hard to fully appreciate the wedding ceremony, and let’s be honest, it’s hard to even sit still that long. We have found that packing a bag of quiet activities for each kid (Water Wow markers and lift the flap books were my favorite for my toddler ;a mini notebook and pencil, and paperback books were hits with my preschool age girls). But the key to the ceremony for my kids was lemon drops, or some other “special” candy. My girls thought it was the best that they had practically unlimited access to mom’s lemon drops during the ceremony. (And yes, during one wedding, we went to give my one-year-old her pacifier and we found she had somehow snuck a lemon drop in her mouth too! YIKES!)
- Uno – As an adult I never realized how painstakingly long the wait was between the “start” of the reception and the real “start” of the reception. I grew up thinking a wedding was nothing but a party with a great dance. We have had a few weddings where we were pulling our hair out and digging through the van trying to find something to keep the kids busy and pass another few minutes as we waited for another toast. In the summer, I have just made it a rule that my purse ALWAYS has Uno cards in it. My older girls are old enough to play the game and it’s a great way to pull in some students and ask them to join you at your table while you wait. For my younger daughter, I was just happy to have something she could play with other than her steak knife and my glass water goblet. Whether it be Uno, Spot-it or matchbox cars, just do not forget to plan ahead for the reception time as it usually includes a lot of waiting.
- Applesauce Pouches – After all the waiting for a meal far too many times my kids have gotten to the buffet line and all they want is the dinner roll. Somehow I’ve failed to raise a child who appreciates potatoes in any form (not even French fries!) Unfortunately, the typical wedding fare isn’t what my kids get excited about. At home we have rules about trying new foods and finishing their plates but at weddings I’ve decided to put that rule aside and just pack them food they like. It takes a little more work, but packing applesauce pouches, string cheese, and other simple snacks seems to help as they can start eating when the first table is excused to get their food. They can fill up their tummies rather than waiting so long for a meal they don’t even like.
- PJS – Usually, by the time the dance starts the kids are exhausted but all they want to do is dance. They LOVE all the time with students and this seems to be the time where the students are all vying for a chance to play with the kids. We always end up staying later than we planned and the kids are always more tired than we realize. If we can change into PJS before we go (and if their special blankies and stuffed animals are awaiting them in the van) the night usually ends far more smoothly.
Attending a wedding with kids is a whole new adventure. I want my kids to grow up thinking that all the weddings were one of the best parts of being a Nav Staff Kid, just like I think attending weddings is one of the best parts of being a Nav Staff. ☺
Katie Haas has been on staff since 2007 when she married Noah Haas. Both graduates of UW-Eau Claire and Wisconsin natives, they joined staff at UWEC and then did their staff training at The University of Illinois under Norm and Katie Hubbard. They’ve been the campus directors at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater since 2013 but are moving to Colorado Springs in July. Noah will be stepping into a role as associate director of operations in the collegiate office, and Katie will be adjusting to life with four kids at home enjoying mountain views and a whole new chapter of life. She is a mom to Ellie (7), Josie (5), Annie (2), and she’s pregnant with her fourth, a boy! She loves hosting, playing games, crafting, reading to her kids, creating Shutterfly albums and cheering for the Green Bay Packers.