Children at Weddings: 

What's Right for You?

  • Children are cute and spontaneous, both of which have the potential to add lots of unexpected sweet moments to the day.

  • You avoid the risk of upsetting your guests by asking them to attend without their pride and joy.

    Cons for Having Children at Weddings:

  • Children's unpredictable behavior may cause distractions during the ceremony or chaos during the reception.

  • Inviting children may mean additional expenses (hiring a sitter, a larger head count for the caterer, etc.).

  • Adult guests tending to their children usually can't socialize to the extent of their non-parenting peers and typically have to leave the event earlier.

  • It might be a logistical nightmare to invite all of your guests' children. Mediating which children are and aren't invited and explaining why to their parents could open a headache of a Pandora's Box.

    Once you've considered all the factors, it's time to make a decision. There's no right or wrong choice here — it's simply a matter of what works best for you.

    Adult Only Soirees

    Once you've made your decision, you'll need to plan accordingly. If your wedding is going to be an adults-only event, then try to let your guests know as soon (and as nicely!) as possible that children are unfortunately not invited. It's helpful to identify the reason (you wish you could invite everyone's children, but if all the great kids you know attend, the adults would be dangerously outnumbered and your budget would explode; it's going to be such a late night, etc.) and then ask your trusted inner circle of family and friends to assist you with tactfully getting the news out.

    When you send the invitations, be specific by addressing them to your intended guests (Mr. and Mrs. Joe Guest versus The Guest Family). Avoid the temptation to write "no children" on the invitation, as that is a major faux pas. However, if you feel the need to spell it out, try something softer like, "It is with great regret that we are unable to invite babies and children to our wedding." (Better yet, call your guests and gently explain your decision in person.) To soften the blow for these guests, consider providing some babysitting sitting options (i.e. the names and numbers of trusted sitters or information about a babysitting service that will watch out-of-town children at a local hotel) on a separate sheet in the invitation.

    Should any determined guests' RSVPs include their children, calmly call them and explain nicely why you're not in a position to change your plans. It's important to stick to your decision, as making exceptions to this rule will be hard to explain to all of the other parents who show up childless at your wedding.

    And last but not least, brace yourself for the fact that despite all of your well-laid plans, a child or two might still make an appearance at your wedding. Greet them gracefully and with the knowledge that it's certainly not worth getting upset about on your big day. To show what a sport you are, it's a good idea to have an emergency kid box (chock full of crayons, coloring books, stickers, small puzzles, etc.) on hand to help keep your last minute guests entertained.

    Kid-Friendly Fetes

    If you decide to include children at your wedding, there are lots of creative ways you can make it a safe, kid-friendly event without detracting from the importance of your wedding. First and foremost, it's still important to get the right head count so when mailing invitations, be sure to address the inner envelop to everyone at the household (children and babies too) who you are inviting. This way when parents RSVP, you'll be able to determine how many young guests to expect and any special arrangements (meals, changing/nursing room, goodie bags, play area, etc.) you need to make for them.

    Other special ways to incorporate

    young guests in your wedding include:

  • Designating seats that are close to exits for guests with infants and small children as they may need to make a quick getaway to the restroom or to subdue an unexpected outburst.

  • Hiring a professional sitter to watch and entertain your young guests (preferably in an adjacent room or nearby facility) during the ceremony and/or reception.

  • Offering less expensive, kid-friendly fare to your smaller guests, who usually aren't too excited about fancy catered dishes. Stagger the serving time so the children eat first. This allows their parents time to savor their own delicious food without as many interruptions from hungry or fidgety youngsters.

  • Hanging a large piece of paper on a wall or cover a table with it and ask each child to draw a special picture on it as a memento for the bride and groom.

  • Designating a festive table or nearby room for the children that's full of puzzles, board games, crafts, bubbles, etc. to help keep them entertained.

  • Creating a hip area for teenagers with age-appropriate activities (karaoke machine, DJ, computer/video games, DVDs, magazines, disposable cameras, etc.) to keep them from getting bored.

  • Asking the band or DJ to incorporate children's songs and popular radio tunes into the set list.

  • Hiring a professional children's entertainer (i.e. magician, DJ, clown) or setting up a supervised outdoor play area complete with bouncy castle, sand box, jump ropes, hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, etc.

  • Dedicating a nearby room for quiet naps, diaper changes, nursing, etc.

  • Making goodie bags (in lieu of the grown up favors) to send home with your young guests.

    Tips for Parents Who Bring Children to Weddings

  • Be sure your child is invited to the wedding. If your child's name isn't included anywhere in the invitation, check with the bride and groom to see if it's okay to bring him/her to the wedding.

  • If the wedding is an adult-only event, please respect the bride and groom's wishes and leave your child at home. If babysitting is an issue, see if you can pool resources and share a babysitter with other guests who have children.

  • Remember that your child is still your responsibility at the wedding, regardless of how many other adults are present.

  • Be prepared. Before the wedding, find out where the restroom and exits are, in case you and your child need to make a hasty retreat. Decide beforehand if you or your partner will be the designated dasher.

  • Sit near a door so you can exit as quickly as possible. If your child becomes fidgety or disruptive, don't become embarrassed or upset, just leave calmly and quietly. Consider taking a brief walk with your child to help settle him/her down.

  • Let your child bring a few small, quiet toys, coloring books or mess-free snacks with him/her to help bide some time.

  • If you child is a picky eater, you might want to pack a favorite meal or few snacks to tide him/her over at the reception.

  • If a nap is in order, find a safe, quiet spot for your child to rest.

  • Know when it's time to make an exit. If your child is showing signs of exhaustion or is misbehaving, then it's time to thank your hosts and call it a day.
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