Yes, there will be children at the wedding

Guest post by Tamu
how'd ya like them apples? :)

Deciding to have kids underfoot or not is really up to you, your personality and the event you are designing. As people criticize an event in which there are no children, I received quite a bit of blowback from people who thought I should not invite children or considered them extraneous.

There is a lot of emphasis on child-free weddings, and I think if you go that route, it opens up a lot of choices. But if you want to have children at your wedding you don't necessarily have to feel constrained either.

We had a total of 150 guests for ceremony and reception, and approximately twenty-five guests were under eighteen.

How did it turned out?

Short answer: Just great!

Long answer:

  • The people who wanted to enjoy the day without their kids secured babysitting and came alone.
  • We ended up getting a babysitter to watch tired children in the evening. I slept at the venue the night before, and after my bridesmaids and I got ready, we put our items (including reachable bathroom items like medication and vitamins) in the closet, and gave the key to the babysitter so she could get in later. (Only three children used it – I was expecting more, but tons of little kids stayed up to party!)
  • We had one child go home. I thought this might happen. My ten-year-old nephew is autistic, and we started eating late, so he ended up being overstimulated by the excitement and hungry to boot. It was unfortunate, but we all knew this was always a possibility.
  • Many small children and teens knew each other and the teens are used to having a good time, playing with younger kids, and keeping an eye on them along with the other adults. This in no way meant I was relying on them as babysitters.
  • My photographer had a tickle trunk, and my hubby and I bought props for our photo booth, which some children ended up liking.
  • The kids had the most fun just playing amongst themselves. Many of the youngest children never met each other before and all got along.
  • The teens and a few older children sat together.
  • We seated one teen apart. She was family and we had a language split. This girl was unilingual English and the other teens were tight friends and French. It was more of a space issue as well, as there were not enough seats at the teen table, and she was sitting with her cousins at the “cousin table.”
  • Some children sat with their parents. When possible, if there were multiple children at the same table, I tried to place them together.
  • Only one 6-year-old changed her seat and sat in her mom's lap. Mom didn't mind.

What I would have done differently:

Almost nothing! Except that I should have prepared for babysitting that began during the last half of dinner hour, for the youngest, just in case. The evening babysitting began at 8:30. But because schedules can run behind, we had not finished eating and children were already getting sleepy.

Tips and what I want you to take away from this:

  • You don't need to seat all children together or all children with their parents. Just like your other guests, take kid's personalities into account and seat accordingly.
  • Take into account: children with siblings. If an older child is seated with other children, chances are the younger will not want to sit with parents. Again you know the child's personality better than I do, but you can also ask a parent in advance.
  • If you want and can afford kids that matter to you, don't worry too much about other people's desires for what they would do.
  • If needed, on a case-by-case basis, ask your parent-guests about their child's habits if you are not sure if they should sit with their parents or other children, sleep habits, etc.
  • If you send a wedding update to guests as you near the wedding, remind parents of young children to bring a pair of pyjamas or comfortable clothes if they expect to use babysitting in the evening.
  • If you do not have a babysitter during the day, let parents know they will be expected to keep an eye on their child. Many will simply be happy their children are invited.
  • You can casually let parents know in advance which other guests know their child already, and which children you have also invited that you think they will get along with.

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Comments on Yes, there will be children at the wedding

  1. Thank you for writing this article, a lot of my fiance’s friends and family have kids while none of mine do. I keep getting pushed out of the kid zone by my bridesmaids and I really want to make the stand to have kids at the wedding. Yet at the same time, I didn’t want to see some of the issues at a kid invited wedding I was at recently where the parents weren’t parenting and there were kids literally running up and down the aisle during the ceremony screaming and hiding under the bride’s dress. You proposed a really nice happy medium and I’m thinking a babysitter would be awesome to have along!

  2. Thank you for the post!! We’re having a semi-kid friendly wedding, kids at the private ceremony and dinner, no kids under 12 at the dessert reception. We have two of our own and our 7 year old son is the best man, so he’ll be at the reception and have a date, and our daughter, whom a lot of guests haven’t actually met, will be at the reception for a short period. The only drama so far is with my sister in law who wouldn’t look for a babysitter herself and expects my step sister to baby sit her son all day (causing her to miss the ceremony and dinner) To make matters worse her wedding was totally kid free and out of town so my son had to spend 24 hrs with a complete stranger (I’m still quite angry about the whole thing!!) I’m finding all the other parents who will be there are quite excited about a kid free evening!

    • Can’t you tell you’re sister in law to find another sitter because your step sister is coming to the ceremony and dinner? Or if you have to, find another sitter for her?

  3. Where did the babysitter and kids go? And if they were tired where did they sleep?
    Since our babysitter’s homes aren’t nearby I’m not sure what will be appropriate: a hotel room, a large conference room…?

    • I’m not sure what they did in the above, but we had a tent outside with a few toys and a table and chairs. We also had a big table inside with coloring books in case of rain. The kids weren’t assigned a special table, they were just drawn in by the toys. The cheapest toys did the best. Hands down most popular toys were large bouncy balls, $1 each at Target. We had no rooms for sleeps, which is hard, but I did have a cab parked outside in case grandma and grandpa wanted to take the car they all came in early and mom and dad want to stay. We did have kids seated with their parents for dinner, because not all the kids knew each other well. But, we had a kid’s buffet 15 minutes before the dinner service, with some choices for all ages. Mom and dad were able to serve kids first and sit down for their own meal. Plus, the chicken fingers, hot dogs, pb&j and fruit and veg choices were cheaper for us than serving more adult meals.

  4. We actually decided to do a separate pizza party for the kids! We struggled with this decision due to space and budget and in the end this was our only solution! The kids will join the dancing portion after the dinner. Our wedding is in September, so I’ll let you know how that works out!

  5. Great advice! We’re having a very kid-friendly wedding (I think the kids might end up equalling the adults). We’re planning plenty of activities and treats to keep them entertained: pinata, craft table, etc.

  6. Great post! We had a few kids at our wedding and it was great. ONe had a dance off against my brother’s friend- it was epic. They all danced and didn’t go home until 11pm!

  7. Our wedding was this past April and it was definitely kid-friendly. We kept the kids seated with their parents if they were under 12 and the older “cousins” were all seated together. We also had a “playroom”, which was just the coat closet with a rug and box of toys, for the kids to play in. We served food buffet style and my caterer didn’t charge us for the kids under the age of 5. Lots of people encouraged us to not have kids at the wedding but since I’ve got a son and there were two other kids who were IN the wedding, I decided to do like the Tamu and invite the kids. We found, like Tamu, that the parents who wished to be kid-free for the night found a sitter and others brought there kids. We even planned for the kids by having “goodie” boxes for them at each table. All in all, the kids didn’t distract from the wedding at all and everyone seemed to have a great time!

  8. I just wanted to say that I went to a billion weddings as a kid (well, not really, but I was a flower girl 8 times!) and the best one I remember as a kid was one where the bride and groom rented out a room next to the reception room and had pizza and chicken fingers, Land Before Time on VHS, and a babysitter, with all sorts of fun party favors – our parents just dropped us off there when they went to the reception. Because it was next door the older(ish) kids could run in and out of the reception to talk to their parents (and parents could check in) but we were out of the way and didn’t have to listen to all the boring speeches.

    Since I will end up having a huge wedding (not engaged or even thinking about marriage yet, just accepting of my fate as the oldest girl which makes my wedding a BFD in my culture — and to me) — probably 400 people or so and there’s no way to avoid kids with a group that size — I definitely plan on doing this.

  9. we handed out little bug magnifying boxes directly after the ceremony so the kids got caught up in running around catching bugs instead of being obnoxious lol. it worked!

  10. I bought a bunch of cheap little stuffed animals from an online party supply store to give as kids favors. We are putting them out at the beginning of the ceremony to help them be less bored

  11. I never imagined I’d have a child-free wedding but we are because we simply can’t afford all of our guests and their children. It makes me sad because I would love to have dancing, screaming, laughing kids around on that day because, for me (not saying for everyone), getting married is in large part about having children and so I think other people’s kids belong there. I just wish we had more funds.

    • How are you telling your aunts, uncles, friends with children that you cant afford their kids there too? We have a small venue that isnt quite suited for children but i dont know how to tell them that in the invitation without sounding harsh. We have a 2 year old so i know it’s contradictory but she wont be there for the whole reception. I need help!

      • My advice is: (a) obviously, don’t put the names of the kids on the invite, (b) tell your parents and siblings now so they can bring this up with your relatives, (c) if it seems plausible, tell them that due to alcohol being served/space restrictions, children under X age are not permitted by the venue. Blaming venue is always nice, and it makes it more likely that it will be observed. Ultimately, people are familiar with the idea of kid-free weddings. However, you need to be prepared that some people (a) don’t go places without their kids (my mom was one), or (b) can’t afford baby-sitting plus the expenses of a wedding, and may not come as a result. Both those options are acceptable, but complaining that your wedding is kid free is totally not.

        I promise you: no one is going to think it’s contradictory of you to have your own child at your wedding. But be warned: some people just show up with their kids. Our family business is a venue where weddings are often held, and I can’t tell you the number of weddings where people assume their kids are invited. If you can’t have them, I recommend making that very clear, and then budgeting for the one person who brings their kids anyway.

        • For anyone reading this at a late date, I would sadly need to disagree with you. My friend had a no child wedding (simply put “adults only” on the invitation) but found out she was pregnant and due around her wedding date. It was her aunt (and thus her grandmother as well) who was angry about the no child deal because she didn’t want to get a baby sitter. She used them but she didn’t want to. Anyhow, when they found out she was due around the wedding date, they actually said that if she had the baby before the wedding, it better not be there. I am not kidding you. She was really pissed off at them for that.

          On a side note, I don’t know how eager I would be to attend a wedding where I’m not allowed to take my children but the bride and groom will have children there. I don’t use baby sitters and at the aforementioned wedding, I had to leave my children with my parents and cause them to miss the wedding. Now for that wedding, I could understand having the baby there and no other children. But when you have a toddler? That does feel hypocritical to me and I don’t know that you can really get away with it. But this is two years old so I’m assuming you did. How did it work out?

  12. This is great advice! For us, children were essential to our wedding. We loved having them. But it was also important to us that a) our friends and family with children CAME to the wedding and b) that they had the freedom to stay, dance, party and enjoy themselves.

    We didn’t go so far as to hire a babysitter but we did convert the ceremony room into a playroom for the reception. We brought games, toys, bouncing balls, coloring books, you name it! The set up worked well because the ceremony room was right off the reception area so parents could keep an eye on them but still have fun. It worked great!

    Of course, towards the very end of the evening as parents and kids headed home, many of the toys were appropriated for naughtiness on the dance floor. I do remember my husband using the hula hoops to wrangle pretty girls into dancing with him. LOL!

  13. I believe we’re going to be having around 8 kids of varying ages at ours in the fall. We’ve decided with our venue contact to give the kids the option of having a special kids meal for dinner instead of the full course one because of the picky eaters and smaller appetites. We’re also arming ourselves with a variety of toys and games to entertain the kids if they get bored.

  14. thank you so much for this post! I definitely intend on inviting children along. As a primary education student, part time babysitting and kid’s church helper, I LOVE children and couldn’t imagine my 2-8yr old friends not being there. This has been super helpful for catering for their needs during the wedding 😀

  15. My sister had quite a number of kids at her wedding, so they have a children’s story at one point during the wedding ceremony.

    My sister has her Masters of Divinity and her husband has his Doctorate in Philosophy, so they had a lot of symbolism around their wedding, and a bible verse as a theme (Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.). So at one point they called all the kids to the front and one of my sister’s friends talked to them about the arrangement on the altar (meant to evoke a river running through the desert) and the picture of a tree that was on their program. (I forget how the tree related).

    Just an idea that people might want to think about if they’re having a lot of kids at the wedding.

  16. I wanted to add something that many people who decide not to invite kids often haven’t thought about: some of those kids might remember, and care, that they were excluded from your wedding. It might sounds silly to some, but my parents had a good friend who didn’t invite my 6-year-old self to her wedding. At the time I felt really hurt (I normally did EVERYTHING with my parents) because I figured the only reason why someone wouldn’t invite children is because they assumed they would behave badly. So it’s like, “you can’t come to my wedding because you’re bad.”

    Obviously, this situation will vary broadly according to the children and the wedding and the other people involved. But if you have any children in your friends/family circle that you’re close to, and you’re not inviting them…it might be worth it to explain WHY.

    I couldn’t have dreamed about not having children at my wedding, just because we’re a big kid-oriented family. We didn’t make any special accommodations whatsoever for them, though. We told parents if their kids had special dietary needs, required booster seats, etc, that they needed to provide those. They all just ate what everyone else was eating. The kids amused themselves just fine, and were no trouble at all.

    I totally understand that there are some situations that are just not child-friendly, but I do think, particularly for children who personally know you, it’s nice to make some kind of gesture to acknowledge them, even if they’re not invited.

    • We got married in May and had a ton of kids at the wedding for just this reason. As a kid I went to many weddings because my dad is a minister and our whole family often got invited if it was a friend or family member. We also have a son and he was one of the groomsmen. He was four at the time of the wedding and we felt like it would be harsh to have him there by himself. Also, because of him, a lot of the people we invited also had kids, many of which my husband and I have some level of a relationship with aside from just knowing their parents. One friend’s daughter gave us a card and a dollar of her own money as a gift because she was so happy to be invited. Another friend’s son stayed to dance after his parents and younger brother went home (another friend offered to bring him home since he’s only 11). He had so much fun dancing and he danced with me twice!

      Only one couple left their kids at home. We put some kids with their families and some at a kid table, since there was a group of kids who all knew each other from our church. The rest were my husband’s cousins and they sat with each other and their parents.

      All in all, we were really glad to have the kids their. There was a really good balance between giving kids an amount of freedom and making sure they had adequate supervision. Although, I will add that our church community is pretty tight and there’s a high level of people from the church stepping in to catch a kid before they do something bad or dangerous. This is true of people whether they have kids of their own or not, and regardless of who the kid belongs to.

  17. I read this when it was first posted on OBT and thought it was a breath of fresh air. It kind of makes me sad the anti-kid sentiment that crops up on some other wedding message boards.

    I can’t even imagine the firestorm that would begin if I told my family they couldn’t bring their kids. We also have friends coming in from overseas and they simply wouldn’t come if their children weren’t allowed to the reception.

  18. Good advice… My best friend babysat during my sister’s wedding & I have to say that very few people used the babysitting service. That was just one example and her wedding was huge and elaborate but she didn’t have a website or explain that childcare would be available.

    We are definitely planning on having a kid-friendly wedding. My future sister-in-law has three kids under the age of 4 and my sister has a 1 1/2 year old. Many of our friends have kids as well. My beau and I have been thinking of ways to include them in the ceremony. Afterwards they will be able to use the photobooth we have planned. Hadn’t thought of passing out something like bug magnifiers- that is a great idea.

  19. Great post! When Hubs and I finally get around to getting hitched, there are definitely going to be kids there. We’ve one ourselves so far and my sister will also have one by then. In fact, my youngest half-sister will still be a little kid (lol 18 year age difference)! They are just as important to us as anyone else we’d invite. And I did get a few ideas from this I hadn’t thought of myself.
    From personal experience, we’ve been to two weddings since our son was born (with another in a few weeks), and luckily none were/are no-kid weddings. The first one we went to was a month after he was born and the groom was escorted down the aisle by a whole gaggle of children. Talk about cute!

  20. We had 90 adults and 30 kids at our wedding. My husband and I both have a lot of kids we’re close to (we had four adults in our wedding party and five children). The kids were fine. My mom set up a kids’ area with Rock Band for older kids, play mats and cars, and a bunch of other toys and games. A lot of adults hung out playing Rock Band, which was awesome. The ceremony and reception were both at a county park so there was a lot of open space for people to run around.

    Every couple is different, though. Having kids at our wedding really worked for us, but it certainly doesn’t work for everyone.

  21. Good article – I am planning for a game/activities table at my wedding. I know the kids will play with each other, but I thought a treasure hunt, or a game of cards, or coloring might help to get the ball rolling for the kids who don’t know each other.

  22. We had a kid friendly wedding with around 40 little ones. There simply was no option for us, because we have four of our own, so they needed others to play with! We were lucky with our venue that we had a big outdoor area linked up, and we stayed the whole weekend so hired an overnight jumping castle for the kids (and a couple of adults). Plus, we’re a bit childish ourselves and had rented a whole play package of classic arcade games, pool table, pinball, air hockey etc etc, and with the photobooth as well, everyone had a blast. Our friends were amazed they were ‘allowed’ to bring their kids and we had to convince some of them that we really did want them there. My ‘aisle’ was made from pinwheels and ribbon wands that the kids all played with after as well. Great experience.

  23. Including children in your wedding is such a sweet sentiment if there is already an established relationship. Going to “auntie’s” wedding has meaning but dragging a kid to a wedding of someone the kid doesn’t know, is boring and generally pointless for the kid so at that point, the invitee needs to get a sitter.

    I love the idea of creating a coloring/activity book of what to expect in the ceremony for the little kids as a favor. You can even have the “story of you” in the beginning. Given to the kids at the beginning of the ceremony with a little pack of crayons means that even the easily distracted kiddos have something to do that isn’t going to be loud or distracting.

    For those of you thinking about excluding kids for whatever reason, cost or behavior, think of taking it on a case by case basis. Don’t punish a 12 year old who loves you and would want to attend your wedding by excluding them because another 12 year old that you know is likely to be a disrupting little jerk. Just don’t invite the disrupting little jerk. I hold that rule for all the events that I plan. You aren’t required to invite all the kids because you invite one.

  24. We had 12 children + 2 babies at our wedding. I just asked my husband if he noticed any misbehaviour at the wedding – nope. As far as we know, all the children were fine and had a great time!

    I think it comes back to responsible parenting. We didn’t have any specific games or favours for the kids but they played with each other and danced. I’m so glad they were there. 🙂

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