Tips For a Kid-Friendly Wedding

When our own delightful and wise NtB posted on the question of children at weddings the other day, it got a lot of response. Some people were pro-kids-at-weddings-no-matter-what. Some came across as definitely not caring for kiddies at the shindig. Most seemed firmly agreed (as are NtB and I) that it’s entirely up to the happy couple to make that decision based on their preferences and circumstances.

But as NtB pointed out in her article, part of the decision should be based on how kid-friendly a wedding you plan on having. There may, indeed, be those paragons of childish virtue who can sit still through a twelve-course formal dinner happily chowing down on fois gras and fanciful eggplant dishes while wearing perfectly unwrinkled tafetta gowns directly after a full nuptual mass and three hours of formal photographs…but let’s not kid ourselves that this is standard. I was a remarkably patient little one with an adventurous palate and a real fascination with weddings blessed with parents who would punish the hell out of me without hesitation if I misbehaved badly in public, and I couldn’t have done anything like that. Heck, it would still take some serious mental preparation for that and I haven’t been a child in a painfully long time.

If you do plan on inviting the little ones, you need to keep their needs in mind. Here are a couple thoughts on how to do that:

The smaller the child, the shorter the attention span. This is a good rule of thumb, though hardly foolproof. Once in a while you’ll meet a toddler who can concentrate on one thing for a surprisingly long time, and there are certainly teens who can’t keep a thought in their heads two seconds in a row. In general, though, older children will have more patience, younger ones will have less. If you intend to have a very long ceremony, it might be wise to have a quiet place where parents can take tiny children who just can’t hold still any longer. In that case, it’s also smart either to leave children out of your wedding party, or have them march up the aisle and then head to a designated parent or guardian in the front row. If you have a pretty short ceremony (less than, say, twenty minutes), chances are most kids can make it through without disaster, but it might not be a bad idea to have a quiet area, anyway, in case of Sudden Toddler Meltdown Syndrome.

Be flexible with small children in the wedding party. Children under a certain age can have difficulty following a script. They suddenly balk at wearing the pretty dresses and tiny formal suits at the last minute. They have panic attacks when faced with a crowded church full of dressed-up people. It happens. If it happens to you, don’t try to force the issue. Let them go sit with their parents (or a trusted friend or relative, if you are the parents). Flower girls and ring bearers are cute and they can add a lot to a wedding…but they are not required. If one just can’t handle it at the last minute, do without.

Try to minimize the time children have to be in photo sessions. Standing still is not easy for very little ones. If you need kids in the formal photos, try to get those pics taken first so they can go stretch their legs and relax a little before the next formal thing is expected of them.

Keep kid tastes in mind when picking a menu. Some kids do just fine when introduced to new foods. Others don’t…just as some adults do and some don’t. I’m not saying don’t serve anything fancy or don’t have something because no child will enjoy it. Heck, I’m the one who always requested fish and spinach for her birthday dinner as a child! What I am saying is that having a generally popular kid option like mac and cheese or a simple chicken dish available for the kids who aren’t ready to try saffron-infused mahi-mahi might not be a bad idea.

Have something for kids to do…preferably with someone to supervise the activity. If you can, it’s a nice thought to have a separate room or a corner of the reception room set up with a selection of simple toys, coloring books, and a few soft things for tired tinies to crash on or snuggle up to. Hire someone to keep the kids directed and put out potential emotional fires. Or hire someone to do face painting, story telling, or some other activity that is pure kid. Children who are having fun at the main party can still party with the grown-ups, but there will be someplace safe and fun for smalls who just aren’t as interested in the dance floor.

Go out of your way at some point to talk to the kids and thank them for coming. Actually, you should be doing this for all your guests. There are, however, few thrills for little ones that compare to being treated with real consideration by adults. Not only will they love it, they will get a valuable lesson in manners that will stick with them for a long, long time whether or not it’s reinforced at home.

As with all your guests, a little thought can go a long way to ensuring a good time is had by children at your wedding…and by everyone around them.

10 Responses to “Tips For a Kid-Friendly Wedding”

  1. Melissa B. says:

    Great advice, Twistie! I may have mentioned it here before, but when I was a kid I hated going to weddings. I was generally very well-behaved and patient, but I was not a big fan of church, and once the bride came down the aisle the ceremony was basically another church service. Also, my brother and I were almost always the only kids there (our parents had us relatively late in life, we were generally 10-15 years younger than most of their friends’ kids), so there was no kids’ table, no crayons and no mac and cheese option.

    90% of the time, we sucked it up and behaved ourselves, and ate lots of cake at the end. But the one and only public temper tantrum I ever had was at my uncle’s wedding at age 5 — I was bored stiff and frustrated and when my parents said I couldn’t have the cake topper, I lost it and started bawling. My parents hauled my butt out of there super-quick and let me cool down in the bathroom.

    Hmm, after thinking about my own experiences, I have another suggestion, this one for guests: if your kids are attending a wedding where there will be very few other children, bring some books or crayons and snacks for them. If your kid suddenly won’t touch salmon, having some string cheese and crackers along could be a lifesaver! And nothing combats boredom like a new coloring book.

  2. Twistie says:

    Thanks, Melissa! And thanks for the great added advice to parents, as well. That’s a great tip I didn’t think of.

  3. Toni says:

    Yeah, we invited lots of little cousins, and included a “kids corner” in the reception hall, which included a TV showing cartoons, and games. Of course, some of the big kids had fun with the toys too.

  4. Twistie says:

    Hee! What a great pic, Toni! Sounds like you had a really fun reception.

  5. Lynn says:

    I am a big supporter of having the kids walk the aisle and then sit with a family member during the service. I also suggest you have kid snacks around for before the wedding for your small attendants. There is nothing worse than a flower girl with low blood sugar.
    As a mom, this might sound bad, but if my child doesn’t have a task at the wedding I would rather not bring them. Without the kids a wedding is a romantic and fun date for me and my husband. With the kids, I end up sitting with my daughter as my husband walks around outside with our son who can’t seem to stop wiggling or feels the need to whisper a thousand questions. I have well behaved kids for the most part, but there is no way I would trust my 4 year old to be on his own at a kids table. Without the kids I can talk my husband into dancing with me, but with the kids I’m lucky to get one dance without one of the children cutting in, that is if we make it to the recpetion at all. I choose not to take my children to a reception where alcohol is served, or stay any later than about 9 at night. Unless the kids are just really close to the bride or groom (like an uncle or something) I see no reason to make them attend the wedding.

  6. Carol says:

    It’s very annoying when you plan an adult wedding, don’t invite children, and your husband’s cousins decide to bring eight children anyway (including one newborn that wailed through the whole ceremony – the parents never took the poor tot outside – I could hardly hear the priest though standing right in front of him) .

  7. La BellaDonna says:

    And Carol’s unfortunate, unpleasant experience explains why some folks are putting the socially-inappropriate legend, “Adults Only,” on their wedding invitations – because it is apparently not enough to issue an invitation specifying the people invited; one must also specify the people NOT invited, because otherwise, the ill-mannered will drag along anyone else along they, and not the people hosting the event, deem appropriate.

    Carol, I’m sorry you had to deal with that, it shouldn’t have happened. As far as the folks who are now appending “Adults Only” to invitations in an effort to keep that from happening – no, it’s not appropriate, but they shouldn’t HAVE to do that. I understand the impulse that drives them to it, though, and I’m willing to cut them more slack than I am the people who bring along eight uninvited children to a wedding. They are, of course, the same people who do NOT removing a howling infant from a church (or restaurant, or movie, etc.).

  8. Twistie says:

    Carol, I absolutely agree that bringing uninvited guests of any age to a wedding is terribly improper, and I’m sorry you had to go through that, but these tips were meant for people who specifically wish to invite children.

  9. Tizzy says:

    At my cousin’s wedding last summer the bride and groom ordered an assortment of toys from http://www.orientaltrading.com/ I have fabulous pictures of my cousins and their children playing with a set of mini beach balls on the lawn outside the reception venue.

    At my FSIL’s wedding last summer her cousin’s parents brought board games and plunked them in a corner in the back of the reception hall where they could see them from their table but still talk to the grown ups. Of course, most people can’t trust their elementary schoolers to play that nicely together.

    One thing I’m considering is seating each child with their parents but also setting aside a kids table with toys, coloring books and a stash of picky kid foods like juice boxes and string cheese. That way kids can sit down and play (or eat together) with out worrying about place settings or annoying the grown ups.

  10. Debbie says:

    Just remember that asking teenage guests last-minute to provide childcare at the reception can be very rude, depending on the teen. I was an agreeable young lady in my day, but I remember at least one wedding where I was taken out of the reception party to baby-sit in an adjacent room – not my idea of fun!