Children or No Children?
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!
Dreams of a glamourous, adults only affair in a ballroom or a raucous wedding weekend in a chalet can be thwarted by family expectations and /or wedding traditions. 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. I’m sure they’ll look forward to a night off celebrating your nuptials with you!
Either way, it’s important to be clear on the invitation whether children are actually invited or not. A simple ‘children welcome’ or ‘no children under the age of 12′ (or whatever your cut off age is) should suffice. Also, when addressing your invites be very specific ~ is it simply Mr & Mrs Jones or The Jones Family that you’re inviting?
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.)
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 very difficult for young children with 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 creche 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 creche, 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!
The two parts of a wedding day that are the trickiest for young children are:
~ The Ceremony
~ The Sit Down Meal
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.
You can feel safe in the knowledge that the children’s 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!
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.
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 on hand to step in and walk up the aisle with them ~ just in case.
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…
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
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).
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.
The Wedding Breakfast & Speeches
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. Usually 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 are 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 present.
The pros of having a children’s table are that 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 of having a children’s table are that 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.
via Smooth Dude
Lots of children enjoying bopping away to lively music or simply weaving in and out of adults on the dancefloor. Although, little ears may be a little 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.
If there’s a photo booth, 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!
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?
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?