Almost two and half years ago, I kicked off the “Ask a Real Bride” series with the topic of kids and weddings, and I was blown away by the strong opinions and emotions on both sides of the issue.
You can read the full debate on kids and weddings here, and know this: no matter what you decide to do on your big day, you’re in good company. My Instagram polling reveals that while half the couples are including children, the other half are not!
The picture above was taken at my own wedding nine years ago, where, clearly, we did include children. While I invited kids and I remained neutral in the original “kids and weddings” post, I’m here to reveal my true stance on the issue, especially now that I’m a parent: and that is 100%, unequivocally, “no kids.”
You read that right: even though (or maybe because) I have three small children, there’s nothing I love more than bidding them “adieu” and enjoying a grown-ups only wedding! And lest you think I’m an exceptional kid-hater, let me assure you: I’m not alone!
The numbers don’t lie: parents would much rather leave their children with a babysitter than bring them to a wedding. There’s something about changing diapers and cutting up chicken nuggets that just doesn’t appeal to the parents dressed in formal wear and hoping to hit the dance floor.
That statistical landslide might be enough to convince you to cross every child’s name off your guest list–in fact, I toyed with the idea of stopping my advice on the topic of kids at weddings at, “just don’t invite them.”
And yet, you may find yourself still wanting to include a few special youngsters. Or perhaps you feel pressured to invite them due to family traditions or travel plans.
Whatever the reason, if you choose to include children in your wedding (like half of the couples we’ve surveyed)–here are a few tips for making those kids (and their parents) happy!
Five tips for keeping kids (and parents) happy at your wedding:
Tip #1: Give them “jobs”
Everyone loves seeing toddlers in tulle and tuxes, but think beyond the traditional flower girl and ring bearer roles: I’ve seen “ring security,” bell-ringers, and sign holders parade down the aisle to the delight of wedding guests. Beyond those official “jobs,” children can help pass out programs at the ceremony or distribute confetti or bubbles for your reception exit. These tasks will encourage them to participate in the festivities and (hopefully) discourage them from running wild.
Tip #2: Arrange childcare for the ceremony
“A lot of my brides provide childcare for young children during the ceremony.” –Jenny Dansby, Threefold Events wedding coordinator
“We offered childcare staffed by church nursery workers for small children” –Blaire R.
As meaningful and moving as your ceremony will surely be, a child’s attention will wander at the exact moment the bride enters and a reverent hush falls over the crowd. At this moment, any parents in the pews will now stop listening to the ceremony and frantically attempt to calm a wiggly and whiny child.
True story: I once officiated a wedding and during the vows, which the couple had written for one another, the bride paused to wipe a tear from her eye. At this very emotional, poignant and silent moment, a poor mom in the audience was overheard whisper-screaming to her small child, “You’re not going to get any jellybeans!” We all laughed, but it wasn’t exactly an ideal moment for anyone!
Do the parents a favor and arrange for a babysitter to watch small children during your ceremony. Most churches have a nursery you could use, and many venues have smaller meeting rooms that could function as a childcare area! The parents will be so grateful to drop them off and enjoy the ceremony fuss-free.
Tip #3: Provide coloring books and activities at the reception
“I had coloring books and candy bags for the kids!” –Olivia R.
“We put wedding-themed coloring books on the tables” –Camile L.
The ceremony is over, the kids have had a chance to socialize and stretch their legs during cocktail hour, and now they’ve been seated–but dinner hasn’t arrived and the dancing hasn’t yet begun. They might need to sit still during the first dance or a speech or two. How to keep them entertained–and keep their parents sane? Provide some coloring or game pages, crayons, puzzles, or other quiet activities they can complete in their seats–Etsy has tons of cute options!
Tip #4: Seat them close to their parents
Give careful consideration to where you put the kids’ table–make sure their parents have a clear line of vision and are close enough to swoop in if they’re needed.
P.S. Skip any towering flower arrangements or candelabras at the kids’ table: you want to avoid major spills and open flames!
Tip #5: Coordinate babysitting for the reception for parents who need a break (especially for out-of-town guests)
“My sister hired sitters and reserved a room at the reception for the kids. She ordered them pizza and had fun stuff for them to do.” –Caroline H.
“When I’ve traveled for weddings, the bride has helped coordinate babysitters at the hotel or a nanny for the day at the reception.” –Emma K.
If you have families traveling to your wedding, connect them to local babysitters that can either come to the hotel or reception site and watch the kids while the parents enjoy the evening! After a day of traveling, there is truly no greater gift than providing a trusted sitter or nanny so the parents can relax and enjoy knowing their children are in good hands!
One Final Word of Advice…
If you’ve been reading the “Ask a Real Bride” posts regularly, you know I like to share my opinion in addition to those of the brides I survey–I just can’t help myself! My final take on the issue of kids and weddings is this: the setting and your vision matter.
I love children, and their boisterous personalities can bring guests a lot of joy–but it seems like the more casual the wedding, the better fit kids will be (and I love a casual wedding!). I’ve been to several outdoor weddings with a more laid-back vibe and kids were a welcome addition.
However, if you have your heart set on an elegant dinner or a nightclub-type atmosphere on the dance floor, kids will detract from the vision you are trying to create. It’s your day: don’t feel guilty about crossing the kids off the guest list. If this post proves anything, it’s that 90% of parents would rather leave them at home anyway!
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Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! And as always, be sure to refer your guests to RegistryFinder.com, where they can conveniently locate all of your registries in one place!