Kids are great at celebrating. My three know how to turn any occasion into a party. However, kids sometimes find adults to be boring. Especially when they are expected to sit still, be quiet and eat food that is not necessarily their favorite.
So, how do you help these kids you love to enjoy your event rather than suffer through it?
Here are five tips for including children in your wedding...
1. Minimize the amount of time children in your wedding party will need to be at the venue.
Have your flower girl and ring bearer arrive as late as possible to the ceremony venue. It is hard enough for the wedding party to make it all day, let alone a darling 3 year old niece in perfect curls and a fluffy white dress.
For example, If your ceremony is at 4pm, I suggest having the kids arrive at 2:30pm to get dressed, have some pictures taken, and then have a snack before the ceremony. Choose non-messy food like carrots, apple slices, cheese sticks, and water with a curly-q straw. You can provide something as simple as a towel to go over their outfits or go all out with a monogrammed apron.
2. Communicate expectations clearly ahead of time.
Let parents know when kids will have free time and when they will need to be seated. Cocktail hour is a great time to provide games for the kids- and many adults. A soccer ball works great at an outdoor wedding. At an indoor venue, bring legos for the younger set and for the older, board games or a game like Jenga. Have the kids write their names or draw pictures on the blocks as their own guest book.
If you are having a plated or family style dinner, please make sure parents know to keep their children seated during the time of service. It is difficult for servers to maneuver with hot dishes or multiple plates when children are playing tag around the tables. Put a note at the kids’ seats telling them when they can get up “After you eat, you can get out of your seat.” and attach a Dollar Store activity book with crayons.
3. Kids table or not?
This is really up to your personal preference and the parents’ preference. In general, I find that kids 10 and up do great at their own table. The younger children feel privileged and independent, and the teenagers can socialize.
Look at your guest list and get a sense of the age range of children attending. If there is a group of 8-10 kids that you think would appreciate the freedom, give it a shot. Dinner is only one part of the evening. But, just in case, seat their parents close by.
4. Get the kids dancing!
Some of my favorite moments as a flower girl and as a wedding planner are when kids are on the dance floor. The mood changes to a light-hearted spontaneity and everyone feels more free to get on the floor.
You may have to sacrifice your taste in music to get the kids out there. Depending on the kids, you may need to include “Happy” or some T. Swift that the kids will recognize and want to dance to. Ask the kids ahead of time for their song choices.
5. Most importantly... treat them like you do adults- with love and respect.
Ask for their input, consider their perspective, and give them opportunities to get involved. Here are some ideas:
For the very young ring bearer (2-4 yrs), consider creative ways to lure him down the aisle. Have him collect or give out candy from people sitting on the aisle as he processes, station a family member at the start and end of the aisle, or, if 3-5 years old, give him a remote control car to drive down the aisle (my dear friend Erin did this at her wedding and it was wonderful!). Ask him to describe what his job is- it is so fun to hear it in their words. If he doesn’t know, take some time to talk to him about why he is important to you and what you want him to do. Even a three year old understands when they are given an important job.
For the very young flower girl, give her as much involvement with the bridesmaids as possible. You can include her in the bridesmaids’ luncheon if you are doing one and provide her with her own toasting flute filled with sparkling cider or Italian Soda. If she is older, arrange for her to get ready with the rest of you and have her hair done. She will feel much more comfortable going down the aisle if she sees lots of familiar smiling faces waiting ahead of her.
Having children at your wedding or event is an individual choice. Parents are frequently happy to have the night off from their kids (I am). But those events where children are thoughtfully included are some of my favorite moments.
Photographs by Limefish Studio, Labrozzi Studio, Two Ring Studio, and Rebecca Wilcher Photography.