A lot of couples find the topic of children at weddings a really tricky one….. To start with it can be quite a big decision whether or not you would actually like to have children there on the day at all (more on that in a moment!). If you decide you do, because either you or your guests have children you would like to invite, how do you get through an entire wedding day keeping them entertained while trying to enjoy the day yourself?
As a Mum of two myself I have been to a number of family and friends’ weddings with my own kids (with varying levels of success/stress!). I have also photographed hundreds of different types of wedding in all sorts of locations, many of which have involved children of different ages. There are a few key things I thought I would share which might be helpful for you if you are planning a wedding but are not sure how you feel about inviting children………….
So let’s break it down. How do you make your decision and communicate that to your guests? If you are going to have children at your wedding what are some practical things you can do to make a real difference and help the day go well?
1.To have or not to have……
Is your wedding day going to be an adults only event or a family friendly wedding or somewhere in between? This is definitely one of the biggest guest list issues for most couples and can be quite stressful. It is also something you have to decide fairly early on so that you can be clear in invitations and so you know your guest count for other aspects of planning the day.
There are a few things I really think it helps to consider:
- Whether you or your nearest and dearest have children;
- The type of day you are having and how easy it would it be to accommodate children at your venue/s;
- Whether you have guests travelling long distances;
- Your overall headcount for the day and budget;
- Your own personal feelings about how you want the day to flow and feel.
Ultimately, all you can do is sit down as a couple, give this some serious thought and talk it through. Taking everything into consideration what feels like the right decision for the two of you? You might be keen to have a really relaxed, family orientated wedding with games and entertainment for your or your guests’ children. On the other hand, you may not be able to imagine children being there because the venue or type of wedding isn’t suitable or you don’t want to risk your ceremony being spoiled by babies and toddlers making a lot of noise. Sometimes it can just be a simple numbers game. My Sister got married last year and worked out that if she invited her friends’ children she would effectively be doubling the guest list which pretty much made the decision for her not to include them.
There isn’t a right or a wrong answer to this as every couple and every wedding is unique. The other thing to bear in mind is that, depending on the day you are having, it may not have to be a ‘children are welcome’ kind of wedding or an ‘adult only’ wedding. There could be a number of options in between, for example, inviting the children of immediate family only or babes in arms only (which doesn’t affect your numbers for seating or food but makes it easier for those parents to feed babies and look after them).
Some couples also split the day into sections, for example by having a child free ceremony, but a more informal garden party reception afterwards, or perhaps the other way around where children are invited to the ceremony and drinks but not to the formal dinner or evening reception. Of course having all or part of the day child free is much easier if parents are local and Grandparents or familiar babysitters can be involved.
If you are both able to discuss all of this early on and make a decision that is right for you and your respective families, the rest of your wedding planning will be much easier to manage. Ultimately, If you do decide you don’t want to include children in your invitations you may have to accept that some of the guests you want to invite won’t be able to come.
If you decide that inviting some or all your guests’ children is right for you then read on for a few ideas of how to make everyone have a really good time. If you decide not to invite children then it really becomes about how you let your guests know this without causing any upset or offence.
2. Be Honest
Once you have thought it through, I really believe that honesty is the best policy. If you are upfront about your decision (and may be your reasoning) from the start it helps to avoid confusion or hurt feelings further down the line so be clear when you are writing the names in your invitations. The last thing anyone wants is for families not to realise children aren’t invited because the wording on the invitation isn’t clear. I have been at weddings when parents have assumed the whole family is invited, so they arrive with their children in tow… There is also a real practical angle in telling people early on. If you aren’t inviting children, parents will have to make arrangements for childcare in advance so it really does help if everyone knows the score from the outset.
If you aren’t inviting children and are worried that particular family members or friends might not take this too well or be offended, it can help to have a conversation with them before you send out the invites and explain your reasoning. Most people appreciate you taking the time to talk to them about it, so they will understand where you are coming from and respect what you say.
If you are struggling with how to word your invitations or other wedding information you are giving guests, there are lots of examples of clear but friendly wording on sites like Pinterest and Hitched which couples have told me they found helpful. Examples include:
“Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to invite all our friends’ children, sheer numbers mean we can only accommodate the children of close family. We hope that you will understand this decision and we very much hope you will still be able to join us on our special day.”
or for a lighter more humorous tone:
“Although we do love all of your children, we have decided to keep our wedding day adults only. We hope you’re able to book a babysitter and dust off those dancing shoes!”
If you are inviting children then the more information you give parents, the easier it will be for everyone. If you are making any arrangements for children during the day, why not say what you have organised so parents know what to expect and can plan accordingly. You might, for example, designate a room to put a few toys in for parents to use, have some garden games on the lawn, or have a childrens’ entertainer during the meal. A wedding venue I went to last year actually had a lovely farm park in the grounds with a playground and animals to feed. Most of your guests probably won’t know your venue so it’s really useful to highlight things like this in the information you give your guests.
3. How to make it work if you are having children at your wedding
I have been to quite a few family and friends’ weddings as a guest with my own children (from tiny babies who needed feeding, changing and all those other things to children who want to run around and make a lot of noise!). The experience we have had as a family has been very varied, both in terms of the children and also my husband and I trying to enjoy the day. I have also photographed hundreds of different types of wedding involving children of different ages and I have come up with a list of things I think can really help make the day go well:
- With your own children get them changed into their outfits as late as possible before the wedding (and keep snacks from that point on relatively ‘clean’ like plain biscuits, bars or raisins rather than anything goey or chocolatey!) ;
- Seat young children and their parents at the end of rows for the ceremony in case anyone needs to make a quick exit;
- Serve children’s meals with the starter rather than the main course so they don’t have to wait too long for food;
- Give them some bubbles to run around with at confetti time;
- Pop a gift bag on their seat including things like a colouring book, non messy craft activities, puzzles, crayons, stickers and may be a few snacks;
- Have a basket or box available for all guests with things like board games, a marble run to build, lego, dominos, animal snap cards etc;
- Put a film on (may be with some popcorn!) if there is a handy room where you can set up a tv or computer and a good all round film like Toy Story or Wallace and Gromit;
- Have a fancy dress box so kids can dress up and play;
- Think about whether a piñata might be a good activity for a group of children;
- Hire a few giant toys like Connect 4 or Jenga;
- Consider seating carefully. Some couples have a separate table for older children or teens. Young children will often need to sit with their parents but I have also seen weddings where it has worked well to have younger children seated separately at a kids table covered with craft paper to draw on and lots of games and activities. Bear in mind if you do this you may need to hire a babysitter or nanny to look after them during the meal (more on this in a moment!).
I have mulled this one over quite a bit as I don’t think you should feel you have to arrange professional entertainment or childcare at a wedding. Children’s entertainment may not suit your venue or the day you are having or your budget may not allow for it. Generally, children are usually pretty happy as long as they have something fun to do and this doesn’t have to involve professional entertainment, particularly if you have decided to give each child a gift bag or have some games and activities for them.
That said, I have seen families have lots of fun at weddings with balloon modellers, puppeteers, magicians and even bouncy castles. Things like this can be a great idea if you have a lot of children coming or a longer garden party style drinks reception and want to keep the children entertained. An hour or so’s entertainment can be a real highlight for everyone and doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
5. Time for guests away from the children
If you are inviting a number of children along, and you want to give their parents a break (or perhaps you just want to spend some time with the adults when they are not having to run around after the kids!) you could consider hiring a babysitter, childminder or nanny to help out with some or all of the day. This can be on an individual basis to look after one or two children or to help with a group of children and organise activities for them.
I have worked with a number of really good childcare companies and a lovely company locally to me is The Wedding Sitting Company, who provide professional childcare (and all sorts of kit) specifically for weddings. I asked owner Lauren for her thoughts on having children at weddings:
“When planning a wedding, the most important thing to remember is there’s enough things for the adults to do. However, if those couples have children, they’ll probably spend most of the day chasing after them and making sure they are entertained. Having enough activities for the children to do will help ease the stress from your guests. We provide a pop up creche at weddings aimed to help keep those little ones entertained and relieve the parents for a few hours in the day. If childcare isn’t for you then providing some of these activities will make lots of little faces smile – colouring books, dressing up, Lego/Duplo, cars, beads and thread (for older children!) , sticker books and bubbles.”
I hope if you are planning a wedding and have been considering this whole subject, you are able to make the right decision for you as a couple about children and also feel confident about how to make it work either way. Here’s to ticking off one more thing on that ‘to do list’ (I love doing that!) and moving on to something else……How about a cake or wine tasting……?!