Inspired by the fabulous images from London wedding photographer Jordanna Marston
There’s a photo somewhere of a four-year-old me, hiding behind my mum’s leg (and clinging on for dear life while peeking around the side) at a wedding. It’s one of my favourites – who’d have such a cute (but terrified) little monkey would be a wedding blogger in later life? If you’d asked me way back then, I’d have said kids don’t want to go to your wedding. But that makes light of what’s actually a huge talking point all over the interweb: should you invite kids to weddings?
People have asked people – in official surveys – if big people should invite little people to weddings. The result is a surprising 50% split – this is contentious! Half of us (big people) want overexcited, small, messy, super fun people to celebrate with us. The other half would rather enjoy a sophisticated day (off) to relax and celebrate, and leave little ones at home. Which is fine!
I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should invite kids to your wedding. It’s a personal choice (and truly, don’t let the internet sway you on this one! Trust your instincts!) – and every couple has the right to decide for themselves. What I am here to do is give you some tips and ideas if you ARE having kids at your wedding. Because as amazing as those tiny / quite small / almost-big people are, they’re not going to enjoy a boring, grown up wedding unless you work a little at making it FUN for them!
What I can tell you – and what is evident from Jordanna Marston‘s brilliantly fun photos (scattered through this blog post) is that kids can MAKE a wedding. The (over)excitement, the sparkly / super cute / superhero outfits, the dance moves, the carnage when food is served… all make for exceptionally giggle-worthy wedding photos. And let’s face it, most kids go to more parties than the rest of us, so they know how these things go and can probably teach us all a few things!!
You can make it amazing for them too. Here’s how!
First things first – inviting children to your wedding
1. Make it CRYSTAL clear on the invite that kids are invited. There’s a lot of advice online about this, but it really couldn’t be more simple – you write the child’s NAME on an invitation. So “Jessica, Joe and Mollie” or “Mr & Mrs Smith and Mollie” or “Mollie Smith” – so there’s no confusion!
2. Oh, and write their name on the envelope too. It’s an etiquette thing (according to this article on Martha Stewart weddings) – but it’ll help clarify things!
3. While you’re at it, best make it clear on the phone as well. Because people don’t read wedding invitations. Or they lose them and forget the details (the exact time, ceremony venue, whether their kids are invited etc.) – so have a little follow up chat with your grown up guests!
4. There are details you’ll need to chat about too. Like, is there a dress code? And if you’re inviting children, is there a dress code for them too? Personally I’m a huge fan of little ones wearing their favourite superhero outfits to weddings… but if you’re worried about the embarrassment of not one but TWO spidermen turning up (and clashing with your blush pink floral arrangements) perhaps you’ll need to make it clear to their parents. Or vice versa: if you’re on team superhero with me, a quick phone chat to say the wilder the better as far as kiddie wedding outfits are concerned is a good idea!
On the day
5. Some little children love to have roles at weddings – and some don’t. For those who aren’t likely to be too shy, giving them a role on the day will help occupy and entertain them, and make them feel a part of things! Traditional roles include ring bearer / flower girl / page boy / bridesmaid – but you can be creative (kids aren’t aware of traditions or etiquette) and have a “mini usher” or “confetti crew” instead.
6. There are plenty of modern roles for kids at weddings. Consider what they might be used to at school – handing things out, or carrying stuff. Walking down the aisle with a little sign is a cute touch – or standing with mum to give out confetti cones if the aisle walk is too terrifying.
7. Practice! Don’t overwhelm little ones with complicated duties on the day – keep it fun and clear, and have a familiar grown up to (literally) hold their hands and help them out. A rehearsal can be a huge help if you’re able to do this at your venue. But if not, keep things simple for everyone – and be forgiving when things don’t quite go to plan!
8. Big brothers and sisters or cousins can make great ‘buddies’ on the day. Introduce the children coming to your wedding BEFORE the day itself, if you can – sometimes they’ll feel happier with kids they already know.
Dressing kids for weddings
9. Little suits are cute – but not necessarily comfortable for toddlers. And sparkly princess dresses are adorable – but don’t assume every little girl wants to look like a princess (they don’t!) Try to be FLEXIBLE with outfits for children at your wedding. “Smart” doesn’t have to mean a suit or a beautiful dress and sparkly shoes. Let kids be themselves and they’ll be happy. Allow them to run, play, roll around in and get food all over their wedding outfits and they’ll be grinning all day long!
10. For kids who have a role at your wedding, rather than coordinating matching outfits (the very thought makes me panic) think about coordinating colours and accessories. Perhaps they’ll all wear pastel colours, or dusky blue and white but in any combination. It takes the pressure off, it means parents don’t have to buy early and hope their kids will still fit / grow into outfits.
11. Consider fun accessories to ‘match’ the kids in your bridal party – cute hats, little pocket squares (home made and sewn on to any outfits), flowers, bow ties, things to carry…
12. Layers are key for children! Don’t forget cardigans (even in summer), waterproofs (even in summer), wellies (while we’re on the subject) – basically, remember an overheating kid will be unhappy, and a shivering one will be uncomfortable too. Make their layers fun – girls love to match with older bridesmaids, if that’s a possibility – cosy, fluffy and comforting.
13. Did I mention superheroes? Because personally I think dressing up outfits are fine. I’ll just throw that in there.
14. If you can make your wedding ceremony actual FUN for children, then I salute you. It’s the trickiest part of the day – but just needs a little flexibility and understanding to run smoothly when kids are present.
15. Explain (in advance) to any parents that it’s fine to accommodate a restless / noisy / crying / hungry child – an iPad on silent should be welcomed during the ceremony! And if they’d rather sneak out of the room you won’t be offended! (Don’t be!)
Mumsnet (as you’d expect) give some brilliantly down to earth advice to pass on to parents – https://www.mumsnet.com/relationships/children-at-weddings “If you do bring a baby or small child and it kicks off during the ceremony, remove it at once.”
16. Parents bringing little ones to a wedding will be prepared to look after their children, so there’s no need to provide any alternative entertainment for this part of the day.
The bits in-between!
17. Mingling isn’t something kids are trained to do. Imagine you’re 6: the ceremony is all done, everyone walks out of the room, and then… you expect there to be a ‘thing’ happening next. And if everyone’s just stood around, you’re going to get bored within about 3 minutes or so. So there needs to be something to divert kiddies’ attention from early on!
18. Having the ceremony at your venue is a bit of a lifesaver to be honest. Church weddings do require a bit of mingling – and playing in a graveyard isn’t most kids’ idea of fun! So think seriously about giving guests of all ages something to do immediately after the ceremony. Outdoor games are brilliant, or a play area indoors…
19. …which brings me to the genius idea of a crèche. (You were wondering when I’d get around to it, weren’t you?!) Literally – genius. Wedding crèches are a big thing these days, and there are some brilliant providers with tons of experience of making your wedding the party of a lifetime even for little ones! We’ve heard great things about Pitch Up and Play, The Wedding Crècherz, All Events Childcare and The Little Top.
20. Choosing your wedding crèche should be a careful and thoughtful process. Look for experienced childcare providers who have worked at weddings before – they’ll know the run of the day, the venue itself, and the excitement of a wedding and how to handle it all! The UKAWP have a great article on choosing your wedding crèche here.
21. Perhaps as well as a crèche (if it’s within your budget) are a few indoor and outdoor entertainments. Giant outdoor games are a winner – jenga, connect 4, and old school fairground games can be tons of fun for all ages – you can’t really go wrong.
22. Dressing up is always fun for kids, indoors and out! Why not allow them early access to your photo booth? They can play up and giggle at the photos to their hearts’ content before it gets taken over by tipsy and boisterous grown ups!
23. For quieter and older kids, a room with a DVD player / Disney movies on a loop is a lovely place to hang out when it all gets a little too much. Even teens will choose to chill here – and mums will probably love it as much as they do!
24. I’d like to quickly mention teens – because it’s a tricky age to go to a wedding. Check with parents before sitting anyone over 10 on a kids’ table – they might not appreciate the gesture of being stuck with a bunch of toddlers! Appreciate that this is an age where we all like a bit of peace and quiet sometimes, remind parents to bring chargers and make sure there’s somewhere they can go to charge their devices – and they’ll love you forever.
Kids meals at weddings
24.5 (I forgot to put this in, but it’s important!) – children aren’t fans of canapés. But they really won’t enjoy watching everyone else eat little balls of weird pastry with leaves on, while they’re craving snacks. Remember to have something especially for them – and drinks too!
25. It’s nowhere near enough to simply provide chicken nuggets as an option for the main course. Children eat differently – and bless their little souls, can cause havoc when mealtimes don’t go their way! So do what you can to make their mealtime go smoothly, and yours will too!
26. The kids’ table – yes or no?
Many websites recommend a separate table for the children at your wedding, but I’m not sure it’s such a great idea. My advice would be to have family tables where you can group four or five children with familiar adults – the perfect balance of fun with a measure of noise control!
26.5 Oh, and don’t forget high chairs!
27. Serving kids’ food at weddings
A flexible caterer and a brilliant venue will do you proud. Ask and see if they can bring out the kids food all at once: because young children aren’t used to waiting for 20 minutes between courses and won’t enjoy sitting still for an hour or more! If your venue can’t offer flexibility, think of alternatives: perhaps the kiddies just get the main course, and their parents can have a treat to give them as soon as they’re finished?
28. A wedding crèche will often provide kids’ meals as part of the service. I told you they were genius.
29. Sitting through the speeches – it’s just a no. If a child doesn’t understand the jokes AND isn’t allowed to talk or play, it’s not really fair to keep them in the room. It really can be the toughest time of the whole wedding! So offer an alternative: that TV room we mentioned, or the crèche, a goody bag / activity pack or let them play on their fully charged iPad on silent(!)
30. If you are having to keep children in the room during the speeches, perhaps have a little word with the speechwriters beforehand. A long-winded father-in-law might need a time limit setting; a best man might appreciate the heads-up to rein in his stories of the stag do and groom’s shocking past!
The dance floor
31. That chequered floor with the disco lights is where we all know kids at weddings come into their own. Every five year old can move and power slide better than the rest of us, and they’re far more entertaining to watch! Definitely have a glitter ball and flashing lights, and every child will find their second wind and enjoy the party!
Other things to think about
32. Book child-friendly wedding suppliers – basically, anyone who’ll interact with your children needs to be lovely and friendly and fun – from hair & makeup people if little ones will be around while that’s being done, to your photographer and venue staff.
33. It’s a bit of an obvious one, but a venue with lakes and ponds and high walls that look fun to climb and candles everywhere… isn’t the best for a child-friendly wedding. Choose carefully!
… and as daylight fades…
34. Think about having a cosy den or room where kids can flake out on cushions or in front of the telly. If there’s on site accommodation this can be super helpful for mums & dads who might want to retire early or take turns keeping an eye on an exhausted child while the other hits the dance floor!
35. And consider adding a ‘little ones bedtime’ to your wedding timeline, so there’s one ‘rule’ for all and the grown ups can let their hair down after say 9pm. Because kids are famous for being bedtime-resistant and will fight it harder the more tired they are! If they’re warned in advance that bedtime will be at 9, they’ll go more quietly…
I’ll finish with another no-messing quote from Mumsnet: “Remove offspring at a suitable stage. Do not lose consciousness beside the wine fountain.”