Kid Week: Keeping Small Guests Happy

Welcome to day four of Kid Week at Manolo for the Brides! Enjoy your stay.

(Illustration via Yuba City Wedding Photography)

There’s an art to keeping wedding guests happy, but it’s really not that difficult once you know the trick: think like a guest. Think about what has made you feel welcomed and happy, and then do those sorts of things. Think about what made you feel bored, confused, or unwelcome and avoid those things. It isn’t 100% foolproof, of course, since where one person finds something charming and inviting… another finds it hokey or off-putting. Still, thinking of the comfort of other people puts you well ahead of the game. A much higher percentage of people will come away having enjoyed themselves if you’ve made their happiness a priority.

The thing is, that goes double with children.

They’re smaller, so their physical needs may be more demanding. They have less patience and stamina, so one needs to consider pacing and opportunities for rest. They’re less experienced, so their concerns about things that are too unfamiliar need to be addressed.

But don’t panic. A few simple choices can help you make sure even your youngest guests feel welcome and special.

When choosing your venue, think about whether or not it’s kid friendly. Sometimes simply choosing the right place to hold the shindig is enough to keep small fry contented. When Mr. Twistie and I chose our wedding spot, it was ideal for making kids happy. It was an outdoor spot in the woods that was contained enough and kept up well enough to be safe, but had plenty of nature to entertain kids. A couple of the older boys took off their shoes and went wading in the little stream, and the rest of the kids played outdoor games merrily. I’d already been to three other weddings in that same spot, and the young guests always enjoyed it.

If you’re choosing a more traditional venue like a church or a hotel ballroom, make sure there are amenities for the little ones. Does the church have a crying room where fussy toddlers can be taken to calm down, or where a mother can do an impromptu feeding for an infant? Are there booster chairs available for very small children to use during the meal? Would it be possible to bring in a couple shorter tables with matching-sized chairs for the reception so kids can sit comfortably without boosters?

A couple kid-sized items can make the difference between comfort and meltdown. Knowing that there’s someplace to take an unhappy child to calm down can make the difference between parents deciding to bring their kids along or hire a sitter.

Speaking of sitters, if your budget permits or you have a teenager you can really trust who loves to babysit, consider hiring someone to keep an eye on kids for parents who are looking forward to more adult time. Then Mom and Dad can relax knowing their offspring are safe while they talk to actual adults. Just make sure people know the sitter is an optional extra, because some parents will turn on anyone who tries to separate them from their young, even for an hour in the same room.

When working with the caterer, work out an option for a kid’s meal. Before you order it, taste it to make sure it’s as good as the adult food. The majority of children won’t have quite such adventurous palates as the adults, but that doesn’t mean their food shouldn’t taste good, too.

Well-entertained children are less likely to cause trouble purely out of boredom. Consider having an area with a few toys and popular games available. At the last wedding I attended, several children amused themselves for quite a long time having a fencing match with two plastic light sabers vs an inflatable saxophone. Oh, and the sax won! They were happy in a corner away from anything breakable, and the rest of us got some great laughs watching them.

Be especially sure to talk to your smallest guests and thank them for coming. It’s easy to get missed in the shuffle when you’re only three feet tall. But kids like to be spoken to and taken seriously just as much as anyone else does. In fact, since it is all too common for them to be missed or ignored, it means a little bit more. A simple ‘thanks for coming to our wedding’ could make a kid’s day.

One Response to “Kid Week: Keeping Small Guests Happy”

  1. Lisa says:

    I can say from experience that this is really good advice! Not having any kids myself, I would never have thought of most of these before my wedding. We totally missed the boat on the booster seats, for example. But while we were generally unprepared for the army of kids at our wedding, luckily we had chosen a venue (a refurbished dairy barn in the fields of Nebraska) that had a lot of space for kids to run around and play outside — that really saved us! We also had just enough foresight to get a tray of mac and cheese for the kids (especially because we served Indian food); we just should have gotten way more of that than we did.