Deciding whether or not to have children at your wedding can be tricky.

Unless you already have children, of course - in which case I'm sure they'll be a big, beautiful part of your day!

The Complete Guide To Having Children At Your Wedding

Children or No Children?

Dreams of a glamourous, adults only affair in a ballroom or a raucous wedding weekend in a chalet can be thwarted by family expectations. However, this is your wedding and your choice so do what suits you and your partner.

If you decide not to have children at your wedding let friends and family know well in advance so that they can arrange a baby-sitter. Hopefully they'll look forward to a 'night off' celebrating your nuptials with you!

Either way, it's important to be clear on the save the date and/or invitation whether children are actually invited or not. First of all, when addressing your wedding stationery be very specific - is it simply Mr & Mrs Jones or The Jones Family that you're inviting?  On the invite itself a simple 'children welcome' or 'no children under the age of 10 please' (or whatever your cut off age is) should suffice. But you could also include a little message popped inside the envelopes with something along the lines of:

As much as we love your little ones, our wedding/wedding venue won't be suitable for children under 10 and there are no crèche facilities onsite so we kindly request that you leave them at home with a babysitter.

'Children Welcome'

The rest of this rather epic post is aimed at those of you who are planning on inviting children - expect lots of helpful tips and ideas for keeping children entertained and happy at your wedding!

(Please bear in mind that I'm not a parent myself but speaking as an early years teacher / bride who had 10 children at her wedding.)

Flory Photo via 100 Layer Cake

Children can be a LOT of fun at weddings (especially busting their cute little moves on the dancefloor!) but long periods of sitting still and being quiet can be difficult for young children who naturally have very short attention spans. Boredom kicks in, they may become restless, hungry and overtired which can lead to tantrums, tears and frazzled parents.

If you are having a lot of young children at your wedding, you might want to consider hiring crèche facilities run by qualified nannies who can supervise the children throughout the day or during specific parts of the day. They can set up an activity center in a separate room and keep the children entertained and content.

If your budget doesn't stretch to a crèche, you could ask your venue if  there is a room which parent's can use. This is a quiet place in a separate room or area where parents can take their children if they need a bit of time away from all the excitement or if they need changing. Our venue had the option of a TV and DVD player in a 'quiet room' which I thought was a great idea.

Popping a Disney cartoon on is a sure fire way to get children of all ages to calm down and sit still for a bit!

flower crown bridesmaids

via Basketmakr on Etsy

The two parts of a wedding day that are the trickiest for children are:

- The Ceremony

- The Speeches

I'll address each one in turn (as well as some other key wedding moments) and suggest a few ideas to keep children entertained and happy.

The Ceremony

You can feel safe in the knowledge that parents will be watching their children carefully throughout the ceremony and may even provide their favourite snacks/toy/comforter to keep them happy and entertained. No parent wants all eyes on them as their child kicks off during the bride and groom's sacred marriage vows!

But a gentle reminder at the beginning of the ceremony that it's ok to leave the room if needs be, may encourage parents to escort any screaming babies/children having full on temper tantrums away from earshot.

Stig Albansson via Moment Junkie (how awesome is this photo?!)

Children in your Bridal Party

If you have a few adorable little bridesmaids and cherubic page boys leading your way up the aisle be sure to explain to them exactly what they have to do and demonstrate it for them (their understanding of throwing petals may be very different to yours!).

Practice the walk a couple of times before the day of the ceremony (to the music you're using and in the ceremony venue, if possible) so that they know what to expect. Most children love having a special job to do so tell them how happy you are that they're helping with your wedding.

Bear in mind that no matter how confident they seem the day before, on the wedding day, surrounded by emotional adults and a sea of cameras, the youngest members of your bridal party may feel a little shy/worried. It is best to have someone, preferably a parent, that can help keep them calm and occupied with toys or stories prior to the ceremony.

If you can pair up your little ones that's great, otherwise have a bridesmaid or usher on hand to step in and walk up the aisle with them. I'd also suggest ensuring that any young toddlers' or especially shy children's parents are nearby  so that they can 'walk' down the aisle in their parents arms if needs be.

(Yes, I realise they may not be in your wedding party or wearing the perfect shade of blush pink but better that than having a screaming/bawling child at the end of the aisle just before you're about to walk down/say your vows. Am I right?)

 Kamee June Photography via Bridal Musings ~ see the rest of this oh so chic wedding

You May Now Be Seated

Also, remember that children find it difficult to stand for long periods of time without fidgeting so I suggest their parents reserve seats next to them as near to the front rows as possible.

Oh and consider how comfy your choice of flower girl / bridesmaids / ring bearer outfits are - nothing too hot or itchy or you run the risk of this face...

Christa Elyce via Bridal Musings - see the rest of this pretty orange, peach and mint green wedding

Confetti

The confetti toss is a lot of fun for adults and children alike - it's actually most fun for the bride and groom!

If your venue doesn't allow confetti, there are two fantastic alternatives that double up as another form of entertainment for children:

- ribbon wands

- bubbles

The only issue with bubbles is that children under 5 tend to swallow more bubbles than they blow, so they're best supervised. Ribbon wands are perfect for sunny/windy days - children are sure to enjoy running around with them flying in the wind (for a little while at least).

 Casper Hamlet Photography via Style Me Pretty

Of course, you could also have other forms of entertainment suitable for both children and adults such as lawn games, a magician or a caricaturist. Or, as my lovely cousin Amie is doing at her carnival themed wedding, you could have fairground style activities such as 'hook a duck'.

Inside or Outside?

If your venue has large open spaces, these are perfect for children to let off some steam after the ceremony. If your reception venue is inside or it's raining, you might like to provide a goody bag of quiet toys and activities for each child during the reception and / or during dinner. Or even set up a movie area in a quiet room (or even outside) with blankets and cushions.

Nibbles and Child Friendly Drinks

If you are providing canapes, you might want to consider child friendly options such as carrot sticks, cheese cubes/strings or apple slices. Receptions can last for a long time so it's worth bearing in mind that your littlest guests might not be so impressed with those smoked salmon blinis. Also, be sure to ask your caterers to provide juice/ soft drinks in child friendly cups (not champagne flutes) or cartons of juice.

 GPT Photography via Bridal Musings ~ see the rest of this rustic chic wedding

The Meal

When tackling your table plan and considering whether to have a children's table, talk to parents before you assign seating to avoid any potential problems. You'll also need to consider how many children's meals and high chairs you'll need for your youngest guests. Typically children's meals are mini versions of the adult's dish, a child friendly meal such as fish fingers and chips or a lunchbox type meal - they also cost much less than each adult's meal.

(This is something you wouldn't have to worry about with  an informal buffet or picnic style meal without assigned seating.)

The Children's Table Dilemma

To have a children's table or not? That is the question.

It all depends on the age of the children - I wouldn't recommend children under 5 sit at a table by themselves without older siblings or parents present.

The Pros

The children are all contained in one area so that you / the caterers can easily provide their mini meals / lunch boxes / activity packs / favours etc. and the children can chat away and be messy without parents constantly shhhing them. Also parents get a bit of a break and can relax with a glass of wine / champagne over dinner.

The Cons

Parents can't monitor how much their children are eating / what they're eating and that they could get a little rowdy without supervision. Also thrusting young or shy children onto a table with a group of children they may have never met before may be a little overwhelming.

Children's Activity Packs

Whether you're having a children's table or not, you could provide a children's activity pack for each child filled with entertaining bits and bobs to keep them occupied throughout the meal such as an activity book of puzzles finger puppets or stickers. Read this helpful post on what to include in a children's activity pack and a few suggestions of what not to include!

via Smooth Dude

The Speeches

Ever been to a wedding where the father of the bride's speech was over forty five minutes long? Remember how sweet you thought it was at first then how bored and fidgety you became after the first 20 minutes? Remember how you kept subtly looking at your watch/phone and wished he'd hurry it along so you could get back to chatting with your friends/eating dinner/dessert? Imagine that feeling times 100.

Children naturally have a much much shorter attention span than we do. And the majority of children under seven are not going to have a clue what the man at the front is talking about and why it's so important to sit still, be quiet and listen. This is where that crèche or quiet room comes in so handy!

I've tried my best to think of a solution to this one but all I can think of is making an announcement that the speeches will be starting in a few minutes and/or asking your planner/ushers/bridesmaids to tell the parents and gently suggest that they may want to head to the kids table to get/sit with their little ones in the hope that they'll keep them content with their own toys or a game/cartoon on their phones.

Remember what I said about children having short attention spans? Well, when it comes to CBeebies and computer games, the majority of children can actually sit perfectly still, transfixed for relatively periods of time. Result!

Photo Booths Are Fun For All Ages

If you're having a photo booth at your wedding, that's an added bonus - the children at our wedding loved rifling through the dressing up box and pulling silly faces in the photo booth. Their photos are some of the funniest of the night!

The Dancing

Lots of children enjoy bopping away to lively music, being twirled and swung around by adults or pretending to be airplanes, weaving in and out of guests on the dancefloor.

Although, bear in mind that little ears may be a sensitive to loud music and, after a long day filled with excitement, young children may be ready for bed by the time the dancing starts. So parents may have to leave the party a little earlier than anticipated. To ensure you get a dance or two (or lots more!) with your friends and family who have children, I suggest getting the party started as early as possible.

If you're anything like me, no matter how long you have planned for the dancing part of your day, you'll be one of the last on the dancefloor saying, "I wish we had more time!  One last song please Mr DJ!"

Anahi Navarro via Southern Weddings

A Final Important Note About Children At Weddings...

Ultimately, it's down to the children's parents or carers to keep their children happy and entertained so don't feel like you have to provide toys, games, activities and treats for them. I'm sure parents will come equipped with their child or children's favourite toy(s) and possibly an ipad/iphone for watching cartoons during the 'boring bits'!

Want even more ideas?

Check out Martha Stewart's children at weddings etiquette guide and my top tips on what to include in a children's goody bag at your wedding.

I'd really love to hear from all you parents and wedding industry professionals. Got any more tried and tested ideas for keeping children entertained at weddings?