How to incorporate children into your celebration with out going crazy
How many people have you ever spoken to who have been on the fence about inviting kids to their wedding? In the end, it really depends on who the kids are and if you want them to be a part of your special day.
But there is a right and a wrong way to include kids in weddings. Some couples decide to include children as part of the entire event while others choose to limit them to only certain parts, like the ceremony (everybody loves a cute flower girl and a ring bearer). Still others include kids during the ceremony, photographs, and just the cocktail hour. What you decide to do is up to you and the child’s parents. And you will need to decide this before the wedding.
I had my four nieces and nephews at my wedding, and my daughter’s best friend. By all accounts, they had a blast. My nephew, GWD, was the youngest at 5-years-old. The rest of the gaggle was all 9 to 11-year-olds. But even at 11, they needed to be considered carefully. I knew they would not be a problem during our ceremony. We were determined to keep it under 15 minutes. But even so, we gave them each a job. The kids at our ceremony were the only ones with confetti canons, and they were told the night before exactly when to shoot them off. By giving them a job and reserved aisle seats, Richie and I made sure to keep them focused on the ceremony and gave them seats that ensured they would be able to see everything. It also resulted in one of my favorite candid wedding shots. When my niece’s canon misfired, and she caught us by surprise a few seconds after the others had already gone off.
For most people, the biggest concern is keeping kids “in line” both during your ceremony and at your wedding reception. But a lot of people forget just a few small steps to ensure that your wedding is a fun memorable experience, and one that they remember for the rest of their lives.* (*The memory part works for kids over the age of 5. Any younger, and you could have clowns, acrobats, fireworks, and Mickey Mouse and they probably still won’t remember.)
Other ways to keep kids happy during your ceremony:
- Let your flower girl and ring-bearer sit with their parents or grand-parents. It’s hard for a kid to stand through a ceremony, especially if it’s a long one.
- Reserve them their seat on the aisle so they can see. Nothing is worse then hearing a kid, in the middle of your vows, loudly stating that they can’t see. Or, having to be held the entire ceremony by a guest. Or, standing on a chair/bench/church pew. But there are also kids that might need to be “sandwiched” in. So ask their parents what they think would be best.
- Place a goody bag under their chair. Give them a coloring book or a quiet toy. A small lego set, a doll, an etch-a-sketch are all great ideas and can keep a kid occupied for 10-15 minutes if you’re lucky. Consider the flooring in your ceremony space. Legos and toy cars are great until they are rolling and clattering all over the place.
- Feed them, discreetly. Double check with their parents before including any snacks (you don’t want to throw peanuts in the bag if they are sensitive or allergic). But feeding them is probably not a bad idea, just choose quiet foods that will not risk staining their cloths! What kid doesn’t like a bottle of water and gold-fish crackers. Plus the crumbs brush off easily and don’t stain lips, skin, or fabric. This would not be the right time to give them cheese doodles!
At the Reception
Whether you choose to seat them with their parents or put them at a “kids’ table” you will want to consider who these “little guests” will spend their time with and what they will be doing. Will they be ripping it up on the dance floor or coloring on the table tops? Consider their comfort and take the worry out of it.
I kept my young guests happy by:
- Giving them their own table. This made them feel a little more adult and allowed their parents to get a break.
- Spill proof mugs. Nothing spells disaster like spills. I took all the worry out of it for both my young guests, their parents, and the staff at my venue by getting them each a plastic spill-proof cup. Do not refer to it as a “sippy cup” in front of any guest over the age of 7. I learned the hard way that they find this very offensive. I got plastic mason-jar style mugs at Target for $5 a piece.
- An activity book. Each young guest had an activity book on their plate with a connect-the-dots, a maze, trivia, scavenger hunt, and mad libs. They had a blast.
- Consider the venue’s table top. I spoke with my venue about the kids’ table at my walk through. And they had a great idea. They used an older set of linens on just that table, and covered it with butcher block paper. This way, the kids got to use crayons and markers and doodle the table top. Some of their doodles are our favorite take-aways from our wedding.
- Create a special wedding favor just for the kids. We chose to make tie-dye silk-screened t-shirts. But you don’t have to go nuts. Just think about what the kids might want. It may not be the favor you’re giving all the adults.
I kept my adult guests happy by:
- We let the DJ know ahead of time what kid-songs we would be ok with and which ones we would not be. We then told the kids by writing them a note in their activity book. No funky chicken. No Nicki Minaj. No One Direction. (I’m sure you understand.)
- Consider hiring a baby sitter and/or getting a room for them at the hotel. Someplace they can go when they are too tired to go on or need to take a break. My reception was over by 7pm, but if that’s when your reception starts, decide ahead of time if it’s age-appropriate to expect kids (and their parents) to have fun if they are there at that hour. Maybe they leave after the introductions? Maybe they stay for dinner. Maybe not. But have options and plans in place.
- Check out My Fair Nanny, with rates that range from $10-$25 per child/per hour it’s a viable option. Their nannies serve the NY/NJ area and are CPR and First Aid certified!
Things I would not do if I were going to do it again:
- The candy bar. OMG. They were at it like a pack of vultures the second it opened. I could have probably preempted this full-scale attack on the beautiful candy bar, by giving them a small one at their table. But the sugar-induced dance moves may have been worth it.
- I would reconsider the scavenger hunt in the activity book. It seemed like a great idea. But in the end it meant the kids were running all over the place trying to win. We are a very competitive family. I didn’t even offer a prize! The one good thing the scavenger hunt produced…this picture: a kid-table selfie with our venue coordinator at the Rams Head Inn, Jamie (She was awesome!)
Wanna know more about including kids at your wedding or event? Follow my blog and look for future posts about “Kids and Wedding Photography” and “Wedding Etiquette: How to (or How Not to) Invite Children.”