Kids at weddings? How to cope either way

Published date: 30th May 2019

Not everything about weddings is simple. Ha! The kids question – include or exclude – is one of the biggies. The sooner you address it the better.

Some couples want a kids-and-all family wedding. Others opt for adults only, fearful of toddler tantrums during the vows, or bad behaviour ruining the reception. Excluding kids risks upsetting potential guests; including them risks complications. But you have to decide.

Some parents actually welcome the excuse to leave offspring with grandma for a weekend of wild passionate sleep. More ‘no kids’ events are taking place – we’re getting less tolerant, or some say weddings are more like theatrical events nowadays. But you may have your own kids to worry about. Or what if say a sister has a newborn? – you can’t expect to separate them at that stage.

When you send your invitations they need to be clear if you’re not having kids present. We’d strongly suggest a wording like ‘Adults only’ rather than say ‘No Kids’. There’s an etiquette to the wording that if only parents’ names appear on the envelope and the invite then no kids are expected, but a back-up call to explain is useful. By the way, though you may think of cousin Fred aged 18 as still a kid, he doesn’t, and nor does custom – over-18s get their own invitation. So – if anyone has them and you are ok with the extra head – does a nanny.

If you have a ring bearer, page, or child-bridesmaids then it’s wrong to bar them from the reception. So if you have barred other kids you need to explain that – in advance – to those leaving theirs behind.

A few calls saves problems. If it’s no kids ring guests affected. If you’re having kids it’s equally smart to ring with timing pointers – how long the reception goes on, and any special arrangements made for kids. You can also check on dietary needs – veggie teens? allergies? And you can tactfully try to suggest kids come with favourite toys, be told it’s earphones for video games, and not be put in stiff gear they’ll resent (make it sound like their comfort is your first concern!).

Conversations with the venue are in order too: do they have a quiet room available? High-chairs? Can they arrange a DVD and big-screen TV with a Disney film or two? Can they sort out an entertainer? Some may even have staff trained to look after the kids.

You don’t want the ceremony ruined with crying kids, and some parents are oblivious to the noise, so it’s good to ask the officiant to have a word in advance like ‘It’s ok to take upset kids outside in the middle of proceedings.’ Hint.

Giving kids roles either formal or informal – handing out confetti or bubble blowers if confetti’s not allowed, giving orders-of-ceremony out – can help occupy them.

A treasure-hunt-cum-quiz is another way to engage attention – tick off/count things they see in the church/registry office/venue. If the weather holds and the venue is suitable then lawn games – hoopla is generally safe – are engaging. Inside you can arrange hook-a-duck and so on. But the nuclear option is a room with games, TV, clean craft supplies and supervision.

Kids need feeding sooner than adults, who are content to chat and sip fizz pre-troughing. So make sure they get an early snack. Some caterers charge less for kids’ meals, chicken nuggets being cheaper than caviar, but not all think that way – check when you book.

A kids’ table is another way of handling things – with regular adult visits. Deciding on the cut-off age for this is tricky – 14-year-olds don’t see themselves as similar to their toddler cousins.

Bribery is a useful technique. How about a prize for all kids who produce a nice piece of wedding artwork on the day? Payment up front helps too – a small toy-car, a puzzle, a cowboy hat… And after the meal a lucky bag of sweets can help, or with organisation a table where they can fill their own (adults will mop up any leftovers).

A word of serious caution: as someone who had his first hangover at a wedding aged about six – a sneaked glass of bubbly – be careful with kiddies around drink. That applies to the underage and over-confident too.

If it all sounds daunting then one genius idea we came across recently to bypass the problem was having the reception on a boat – so no parents wanted to bring their children! Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

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