Kids and Weddings

To invite or not to invite?

For some couples, inviting kids to the wedding is not even a question -- the children simply must be present. Just imagine how cute the little boys will be in their tuxes and the girls in tiny ballgowns! They'll be perfect for tossing rose petals as the couple exits the church and they'll brighten up every one of the wedding photos. For other couples, they'll shudder at the idea of 30 wild children running amok through the dance floor, knocking over the wedding cake, bumping into things, destroying the centerpieces, not to mention their screaming and crying.

Deciding not to have kids at the wedding might be due to financial restrictions too. It's not unlikely that the happy couple could be dreading the cost of feeding an extra 30 guests when most of them won't even eat the food. Remember, no matter how small the guest, there is still a charge per head. Limited finances are one of the major reasons why couples decide to have an 18 and over wedding, but another factor is the formality. A classy black-tie event that will last until midnight or later isn't the right environment for a tot. However, casual morning and afternoon weddings are instances where children are welcomed to partake. Also remember that parents without kids tagging along are more apt to stay longer and let loose at the wedding.

Just remember that you want to get the word out if you are having an adults only party and telling friends and family by word of mouth is a good starting point. Don't write, "no kids allowed" or "adults only" in the invitations. Simply say it discreetly. if you are only inviting the parents, the invite should specifically request the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Wedding Goer. If kids are allowed, the invitation should be addressed to the Wedding Goer Family. Don't be swayed by angry or upset guests if they are unhappy about not being able to bring their kids. It is the bride and grooms choice and theirs alone. If they want to have a flower girl and ring bearer part, or if they only want kids aged 13 and up, that's fine too. Just stick to your plan and do what you feel will be best for you.

How to have a kid-friendly ceremony and reception.


The Ceremony

One of the best things you can do to keep children busy during a ceremony is to give them something to do. Little tasks such as handing out programs, reading a passage, singing a song, or even being a flower girl or ring bearer are all perfect roles for children to play. Keep in mind that flower girls and ring bearers should be between the ages of four and eight. Kids from eight to 14 years are better off being junior bridesmaids or groomsmen. Kids can even help out by throwing birdseed or rose petals as the bride and groom leave the ceremony.

During the ceremony, once the children have sat down with their parents, books, quiet toys, or puzzles are perfect distractions that will keep a child in his or her seat. Sometimes parents might overlook this necessity so it's a good idea to warn guests if you are planning a long ceremony so that they can come armed with a child's favorite plaything or blankie. You might also consider keeping some snacks on hand should the kids get fidgety.

One of the keys though to making children perform their tasks well is to make sure that they come to the wedding well-rested, well-fed, and comfortable. If the children are young enough to nap, they should slip one in before the ceremony. For older children, make sure that they have had a good night's rest. Regardless of age, all kids involved in the ceremony should have eaten beforehand -- taking care to avoid sugary foods and snacks! Lastly, despite wanting to make the little boys and girls look fabulous in tiny tuxes and teeny tea dresses, make sure that the clothes and shoes are comfortable.

When it comes to flower girls and ring bearers, practice is also helpful. It will tame the jitters and make you feel more confident that they can handle the task. To prep a child to perform a wedding duty, perhaps you'd like to buy them a book that explains their role in the wedding such as The Little Flower Girl or The Ring Bearer's Big Day. You may also want to give these attendants a gift of some sort. It may act as an incentive to walk down the aisle or simply a token of thanks.

The Reception

Once the ceremony is over, the reception is where kids start to have fun -- and get more rambunctious. Of course, kids will be kids, so it's a good idea to have some fun activities planned for them to participate in. But first, where will you have the kids sit? This is a common concern when it comes to planning a kid-friendly reception. Will they sit with their parents and pretend like they are grown-up? Or should you designate another area specially designated for them? Usually very small children who need adult supervision stay with their parents. However, more mature kids might be best seated at their own table. These tables should be set with a kid in mind -- smaller plates, fewer utensils, and smaller, simpler glasses (or even heavy duty plastic). Also be sure to include fun stuff to keep them busy: crayons, coloring books, toys, bubbles, or small games. You may also want to swap the table linens for butcher paper so the kids can draw right on the table

Another option is to rent an extra room in the reception site (if available) and hire a babysitter to supervise the kids while the adults have fun in the main room. This is not always feasible once you consider the extra cost, but if you have the means, it could be a very attractive setup. You can make the room into just about anything, depending on the children's ages. Sports, arts and crafts, dress up, and karaoke are all fun things to do for young kids.

Other things to consider to spice up the kid's party:
* Hire an entertainer, such as a clown, musician, face painter, or impersonator.
* Play some kid-friendly tunes on the dance floor, such as Disney songs.
* Send them outside to run relay races (with supervision if needed).
* Give them sidewalk chalk. They can draw or make hopscotch court.
* Let them pretend to be photographers with disposable cameras.
* Set up a movie for them.
* Give them a place where they can take a nap if needed.
* Assign tiny jobs to the tots, from passing out favors to making sure that everyone signs the guest book.
* String up a piƱata in the kid's play room.

One final thing that you need to think about when planning a reception around young guests is their tastes. A five-year-old is probably not going to enjoy the gourmet dinner as much as you and your guests so you should talk to your caterer in advance to discuss your options. One possibility is to make the dinner more child-friendly by keeping sauces on the side. If you are expecting many children, you may want to create a children's menu with fun items such as peanut butter and jelly, cheese sandwiches, chicken strips, fish fingers, french fries, mini pizzas, or pasta. You can even simplify things by giving each young guest a packet of snacks, such as goldfish, crackers, string cheese, and trail mix.