To invite or not to invite children? That is the question many wedding couples face when planning their special day. For some, the inclusion of children only further adds to the charm of such a wonderful, love-infused day. For others, the unpredictability or added financial burden that children can bring may be enough for them to declare it a child free affair!
So what should you do? Our wedding connoisseurs at Dine have created the ultimate guide on children’s wedding etiquette, from helping you to decide what to do, to how to have a stress-free wedding with little ones included.
Children At Weddings: Everything You Need To Consider
Before we dive into how to keep young guests entertained and tantrum-free at weddings, let’s consider whether inviting them is best for you.
What are the benefits to having children at weddings?
There are many wonderful benefits to including children in your special day. Our favourites include:
The joyful atmosphere young people bring
Think of those big grins, giggles and happy faces – children can add to the joyful family atmosphere in a way that child-free weddings often cannot.
Less invitation declines from loved ones
When you include children on your guestlist, you’re much more likely to have everyone you want there attend. Many parents struggle finding childcare, or may not feel comfortable leaving their little ones – so giving them the option to include their kids may mean the difference between your best friend sharing your big day, or not.
Children generally love weddings
It’s likely you can remember weddings you attended as a child because of just how fun you found them. Getting dressed up, sliding on the dancefloor, being surrounded by all your closest family members – weddings are a time of great joy for children and can create lifelong memories they’ll cherish!
Have you seen anything more adorable than mini suits and sparkly dresses? Your wedding photos will look extra charming with your small but stylish wedding guests included.
Why do people choose not to have children at weddings?
What about the downside to inviting little people to your nuptials? Some couples choose not to include children on their guestlist due to a host of different reasons, these include:
Limitations with the venue
Maybe you’ve opted to say your vows in front of a large lake, or at a venue that’s ultimately not considered child friendly. Maybe there isn’t onsite accommodation which would make it difficult for parents, or maybe your venue has a no child policy. If you’ve got your heart set on a venue that isn’t going to work for little ones, then it’s fair that you’ll have to keep children off the cards.
Of course with children, there is always an element of unpredictability. And sadly, not every parent is wise enough to leave the church during your vows, even when their little one is having a moment.
From tantrums to mess, from noise to arguments – children can bring a level of unpredictability that some couples may find too stressful to risk.
Not getting your guests undivided attention
Children need lots of attention. Parents who bring their little ones will likely not be able to fully relax as they’ll need to see to their needs regularly.
Some couples choose child-free weddings in order to give parents time to fully relax and enjoy the day, without any distractions.
Adding children into the mix can also add some serious numbers onto your budget. From increasing the catering options to booking child-friendly entertainment – some couples decide they can’t afford the additional spend that inviting children would bring.
Should I have children at my wedding?
Ultimately the choice is down to you and your preferences. If you have some close family members who you can’t imagine not sharing your special day with, you may opt to invite those children only.
However if you love kids and want to give your guests more options, extending your invitation to children may be your best bet.
How to invite (or not invite) children
Once you’ve decided whether to go child-free or not, it’s important to follow proper invite etiquette to ensure you make it crystal clear to guests what your preference is.
How to invite children
With weddings costing per head, it’s crucial you’re not vague on your wedding invites. Some couples are tempted to write their invites as Mr X & Mrs X + Family, but this leaves it up to interpretation which can mean some unexpected guests turning up on the day (you didn’t specify which family members after all!).
Proper wedding invitation etiquette means inviting children by name, on the same invitation as their parents.
The invitation is also a great opportunity to get your requests in, with some gentle reminders on what you can expect from small guests. Make it clear you won’t be offended if their child has to watch an ipad (on mute!) during the ceremony or if parents have to take their children out during any part – explain you appreciate their attendance and this will only help you make it an extra special day.
Some couples even go as far as to set a bedtime for children on the invite, to save them seeing uncle Henry laid out in front of the champagne fountain later in the evening!
How to not invite children
Again, clarity is key. Make sure all guests are invited by name, but also add a kindly worded message explaining that your wedding will be child-free, and thank them for their understanding.
You should ideally also follow this up with a call to any parents, since many people don’t fully read wedding invites (shocking after all the effort you’ve put in, we know!). Some parents also choose to ignore the requests which can cause some added headaches on the day when you have no where for the children to sit – so if you really don’t want little ones there it’s crucial you take additional steps to make it clear.
A call is also an opportunity to explain your reasoning for opting for child-free, such as costs, venue, location – just don’t say it’s because you don’t like kids!
How to make children part of your wedding
If you do decide to include little ones in your wedding, then there are a number of charming ways you can get children involved, especially those you’re closest to.
The key is not to overwhelm them with too many things to remember, and of course practice before the big day, so things are more likely to go to plan.
Ideas for including children in your wedding include:
Flower girl or ring bearer
The typical age for such duties is around 3-10 years old, with anyone younger most likely needing support from a parent or family member.
Let the little men in your bridal party direct guests into the venue, they’ll be cooing over the mini suits!
Children love making a mess, so give them the perfect excuse by giving them confetti boxes both to hand out to guests but also throw themselves!
If you have some musically talented children on your guest list, ask them to perform a short song for guests – such as a hymn or a piece of music close to your heart.
Poem recital or reading
Again, this could be of a religious nature or just a heart-warming poem to capture the magic of the day.
What food to serve children at your wedding
When it comes to catering options, children tend to be fussier, so it’s likely your adult canapes or sit down dinner won’t go down as well.
A child-friendly buffet is often the most budget conscious and easiest way to serve small guests, whilst ensuring all food preferences are taken care of to avoid an all-out mealtime tantrum. Fill your mini buffet with a range of children favourites – just try to keep it as mess free as possible!
If you want to stick to the canape style, then we suggest tailoring the menu for children – think chips in cones and mini hot dogs rather than goats cheese salmon sliders!
Milkshakes for cocktail hour
The little ones needn’t miss out on the big toast – provide them with some adorable mini milkshakes so they can join in and enjoy the moment too.
Where to seat children at your wedding
When it comes to seating arrangements, it’s usually dependent on your guests’ ages.
For example some couples choose to seat the children at a separate table all together, which can be great fun and allows the adults to enjoy themselves and mingle freely.
However this option can also lead to headaches – think falling outs, children running back and forth to see their parents (and narrowly dodging waiters!).
You therefore may want to mix children up with the adults, seating groups of children together so they can still enjoy each other’s company, but close enough that the parents can step in before any mayhem lets loose!
How to keep kids entertained
Finding suitable children’s entertainment during your wedding is crucial to keeping things running smoothly (and ideally not interrupting those all-important speeches!). We’ve seen this done spectacularly well over the years, both on large budgets and small – here are some of our favourites.
Children’s goody bags
Creating fun-filled goody bags for little ones to enjoy throughout the day is a great way to keep them occupied – think colouring books, puzzles, even some child-friendly snacks to tide them over between mealtimes.
Create picture-perfect craft stations for young attendees to keep busy, especially during speeches and mealtimes. Some firm favourites include floral crown making and design your own superhero badges.
Oversized family games
Think classics such as Jenga or Connect Five – an activity for big kids and small kids alike!
Mini sack racing
If you’re opting for a rustic, outdoor wedding theme, then mini sack racing is the perfect touch and a fun way to let the kids get competitive (and hopefully wear themselves out!).
The dance floor
This is what most kids look forward to at weddings, the dance floor can often be the best part of the evening and keep kids (and the rest of the family) entertained for hours. Extra points for light up dancefloors and disco balls which add even more excitement into the mix.
Mini photo booth
Whilst the adults have their fun in the main photobooth, why not create your own DIY mini booth with the kids, complete with fun dressing up items and disposable cameras or polaroids to take some hilarious snaps with!
Create a space at your wedding for those more introverted children, or even those who’ve got tired from all the dancing, to relax in. Make it comfy with bean bags and twinkly lights, and set up a mini projector to have a children’s classic playing.
A children’s party staple, and something even the adults are likely to get involved in (until they realise how much effort is involved in all that bouncing!).
Create your own kids club!
If you have the budget, then there are dedicated wedding services for childcare – they’ll take care of all the little one’s needs, from food to entertainment, so the adults can focus on enjoying the big day.
Nanny for the night
An alternative childcare option is to hire a babysitter or two for the evening, to help oversee the pre-planned entertainment and see to their every needs.
Consider all options
Finally, if you do opt to have children at your wedding then you should tailor the activities, food and childcare options to your attendees’ ages – remember, ten year olds will have completely different needs and interests to four year olds. Moreover, a group of three children will require a lot less planning than a group of ten, so weigh up all your options carefully before jumping into any decisions.
This post was written by Dine on their website here. They are exhibitors on the WeddingShow247 Country Houses floor of the Venue Hall. You can visit their WeddingShow247 exhibition stands here: Howsham Hall, The Mansion, and Rise Hall.