Hello! I hope you all had an amazing summer of fun in the (surprisingly good) English weather. If you missed me last month, I’m Jenna Hewitt and I plan and style weddings. Each month I’ll be writing a kind of ‘wedding planning diary’ of help and tips that follows the planning journey of real life couple, Hannah and Ben (very lovely clients of mine). This month I’m writing some thoughts, musings and general advice on children (and what to do with them) at weddings!
Hannah and Ben have a fair number of children on the guest list – 27 at last count (and 5 of those are their own) so having a plan that included the children was a must. They were also really clear that both the children and adults should have an amazing time – a tricky balance to achieve (as anyone with children can vouch for).
1.DO I NEED TO INVITE CHILDREN TO MY WEDDING?
Before I start I wanted to tackle the ‘do I invite children to my wedding’ question. I get asked it a lot. My opinion is that you should do what you feel is right for you and your style of wedding celebration. If you want a fizz fuelled mega knees up until the early hours, the chances are that your wedding wouldn’t be the type of thing a child would want to attend (over-refreshed adults can actually be quite scary…). It will also depend on factors like your life stage and those of your guests as well as your family set up. If you do decide that a child friendly wedding is for you, here are my top tips for avoiding meltdown (adults and children alike) and making it an unforgettable party all round.
2. EASY ON THE LOGISTICS
Kids require parents to bring along stuff and, generally, the younger they are the more stuff and admin involved. If you are planning on a wedding with lots of little ones, keep things simple. Think about things like: a venue where the ceremony and reception take place in one location; where there is no travel time needed in between; where there is accommodation on site; where there is plenty of outdoor space to run around in.
3. HIRE IN THE PROFESSIONALS
There are plenty of DIY top tips on how to childproof your wedding (and I will come on to mention some) but I would strongly advise employing the help of the professionals. Stickers, puzzles, colouring packs as well as garden games and bubbles are all fantastic ways of keeping children entertained but it still requires adult supervision. I am very much in Hannah and Ben’s camp on this one – if you are having a lot of children at your wedding both they AND the adults should be able to relax. This is really hard to do if you are still ‘on duty.’ As soon as Hannah and Ben mentioned the child contingent I recommended we use Susie and her team at the fabulous “The Little Top.” Not only are they all experienced in childcare and adhere to Ofsted ratios, but they ‘get’ kids, make it fun and their tents and décor are oh so pretty! Hannah and I are super excited about the plans we’ve been working with Susie and her team for next year (if only to be young again…).
4. THE LITTLE TOP
To make the point, I am going to paint a picture and disclose a little bit of Hannah and Ben’s plans. Imagine… a child filled ceremony after which a warm, experienced, amazing, energy packed team of spirited professionals swoop the children off to a magical wonderland of bell tents, bubbles, inflatables, biscuit making and other fun filled activities. Older children can dip in and out of what they fancy and younger children will be fully occupied as long as their parents wish to leave them (and as long as they are all having fun).
Come the evening the tents become sleepover dens with popcorn and films for the older ones and quiet story time corners for the little ones. Partied out children all curl up together (and hopefully fall asleep by the time their parents come to collect them and carry them to bed). Yes, it is an additional cost but you should really check it out. In the grand scheme of your wedding budget I think you would be pleasantly surprised (and happy children = happy adult guests and who can place a value on that?)
5. DISCLOSE THE DETAILS
If you decide not to bring in some help but you still plan on a child filled wedding, I would suggest being really clear on your invites so that parents know what to expect. Revealing the running order or plan of the day is an idea that is super helpful to parents – letting them know what will happen when and what entertainment/facilities are available will help them plan better.
FOOD – HOW, WHAT AND WHEN?
6. THE HOW?
The wedding breakfast is a big part of the enjoyment of the wedding event for us adults but who knows of a child willing to sit still and ‘behave’ for up to 2.5 hours? A tip Susie once told me was ‘think of 8 years old as your cut off.’ Typically children under 8 get super bored easily at a dinner table whereas over 8s are more likely to sit and enjoy a meal for a longer period. If children eat quickly then leave the table, this can upset a table plan and leave lone parents shouting across the table (or running about trying to locate their children). If you have lots of smaller guests consider a separate supervised child’s eating area.
7. THE WHAT?
Then there is also the question of what to feed the children. Most (smaller) children will not appreciate a smaller version of an adult meal. A lunch box themed with your wedding day along with little activities (Lego is a great one advises Susie) will go down much better.
8. THE WHEN
Children, in my experience, need to eat frequently to keep energy levels up and keep grumps at bay. They also tend not to want to eat if it gets too late (and they get too tired). Think about this when planning your wedding day timings. Perhaps plan for kids snacks outside of adult food or, even, an early tea for children before the main wedding breakfast.
9. GAMES AND ACTIVITIES
Children love to be entertained and what will entertain us (a good catch up over a glass or 3 and some ambient background music) will not necessarily cut it for them. I’d map out your wedding day and think about what the children can be doing at each point then plan activities to fill their downtime. The two obvious ones are the reception drinks and the speeches. During the reception drinks think about games to amuse and about your audience. ‘Younger children love anything playful’ says Susie, ‘Provide a fancy dress box with loads of balloons and space hoppers. Older children love anything competitive so set up a beach ball volleyball contest.’ During the speeches is an ideal moment for some downtime. Ideal is if your venue has a separate room that becomes your ‘children chill out zone.’ During the day this can act as a quiet space parents can take children for downtime (or naps) and, whilst the adults are listening to the speeches, it can become the cinema room by dusk.
Children and weddings! For some, the cry of “mum I’ve done a wee” mid ceremony is a worst nightmare. For others children add that fun and spontaneity at a wedding (in fact I was recently chatting to wedding photographer Nick Tucker, and he told me he prefers photographing weddings with children for this very reason). Whatever you decide, there’s no right and wrong and I’m really looking forward to the fun, mayhem and frolics provided by the 27 mini guests next summer!
Contact & Bookings: Weddings by Jenna Hewitt