Saturday, September 10, 2011

Children at the Wedding

One of the (sometimes major) decisions that needs to be made when creating the guest list for the wedding is the debate over whether children will be invited to the wedding ceremony and reception. Children can be a lively and joyful addition to any party, but can also create problems for parents, guests, and staff. Individual details of the wedding, the family and friends invited, and the children in question can help determine if children should be invited to the wedding.

‘Children’ is a very broad term, covering any individuals from age 0-20. If you consider a ‘child’ to be any individual under the legal drinking age, then you may be making a broad generalization about underage guests that could cause complications.  Since a common way of ruling out any children from attending a wedding is to put “Adults Only Reception” on the invitations, then guests in the approximate 16-20 age range may be confused as to what constitutes an adult. The age cut-off may alienate friends, cousins, and other guests who are mature young adults, but are not of legal age. This is why, if you are debating whether or not to invite children to a wedding, take the time to evaluate who would bring children and the style and size of your wedding.

Think about the friends and family members that you plan on inviting to the wedding: How many of them have young children? Are any of your cousins underage? What are the ages of children that might be invited? Answering these questions early-on can help narrow down an invitation list and determine how specific you need to be when inviting or not inviting families with children. For instance, one small child at the wedding may not cause any distractions, and is actually a great opportunity to include a flower girl or ring bearer in your wedding party. On the other hand, if you anticipate that there will be a large number of small children attending, then you are risking spills, screams, and so much more.
If you invite a family from out-of-town and exclude one of the children based on their age, then there is a good chance that the entire group will decline the invitation since they probably wouldn’t want to travel a long distance and leave their child at home or in the hotel room. If you have a young cousin or family friend, consider their age and whether you really need to exclude them. Their absence could determine the attendance of the entire group.
The age of children attendees is very important. Although babies cry at any time of day and toddlers are constantly moving, most children at an elementary school age will able to sit quietly for a short period of time. Tweens and teenagers will be able to interact with adults and wedding guests and will understand and respect your wedding wishes. Specifying “Adults Only”, as previously mentioned, might rule out adolescents perfectly capable of acting respectful and ‘grown-up’, able to participate in each wedding activity (save for the champagne toast). Of course, deciding which children are mature and responsible enough to be able to participate in the wedding day activities is at the discretion of the bride and groom.

For our wedding, our youngest guest was age 14, but this was not because we excluded younger guests. Since we had a small wedding and we were the first of our friends to get married, there were not many children to be invited. Here are some pros and cons about inviting children to a wedding:

Pro: Flower girls - totally adorable.

Con: Crying children during the ceremony - not so adorable.

Pro: Kids can be pretty entertaining when they're in a good mood...

Con: ...but when they're in a bad mood, they can cause destruction and distraction.

Here are few more general pros and cons to inviting/excluding children at a wedding:

Pro: Parents without their children get to enjoy the wedding without being distracted by their kids…

Con: …if they even make it to the wedding. Inviting parents sans children means that the parent has to hire a babysitter or get someone to watch the children while they go away. If plans fall through or if they can’t find someone to watch the kids, then they won’t be able to make it to the event, either.

Pro: Without the distraction of children, adults can enjoy uninterrupted conversation, dancing, drinking, and general wedding activities…

Con: …as previously mentioned, kids can be very entertaining and can lighten the mood. If conversation lulls or no one dances to the music, a kid bouncing around can get everyone back to enjoying themselves.

Inviting children or not inviting them does not have to be so black-and-white. There are ways that the engaged couple can take the pressure off of parents while still maintaining a certain style of wedding. One idea for if you don’t want to rule out children entirely, but also don’t want to risk a large distraction, is to make a certain part of the wedding kid-friendly.
To save parents the hassle of finding a babysitter, but allow them to have grown-up time, create a space for children to play during the ceremony and reception. If your wedding is at a church, see if you can also use one of the Sunday School or nursery rooms for young children to play during the ceremony. At the reception, have a kids’ table for older children, or a playpen for the younger ones. Consider asking a friend(s) to serve as a babysitter for the kids while their parents enjoy the party, or even hire a paid babysitter to watch over the children in the nursery room or playpen. Fill the area with toys, crayons, or maybe even a television to keep the kids occupied.

If you create an age cut-off for your wedding, and decide to invite some parents without their children in tow, then you should be sure to format your invitations in order to clearly state who is invited and who is not, so there is no confusion on or immediately before the big day. On an invitation where the entire family is invited, you can simply write “The Smith Family” on the invitation. However, if only the parents are invited, then you should specify “John and Jackie Smith” so that it is clear that you have requested the presence of these two individuals alone. Be prepared for some parents to write-in the name of their child if you do not include it on the invitation. In this case, you should talk to the family personally and explain that it is an adult-only wedding. Hopefully the parents will understand, since it’s your big day, and they will have plenty of time to find someone to watch their children.

Bottom Line: Deciding whether or not to include children at your wedding depends on the style and size of the event, as well as the priorities of you and your fiancé. There are many ways that children can be present without causing too much of a distraction, but if you decide that it should be an adult-only event, be sure to tell parents early so they can make other arrangements. No matter your decision, you can still enjoy this cute video:

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