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How To Have A Parent-Friendly Wedding


Kids generally take care of their own entertainment

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

How To Have A Parent Friendly Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Q: When you’re having children attend your wedding, at what point should you consider hiring babysitters? How exactly does that work? Is this a bigger consideration for the ceremony or the reception? Do they go off in a side room somewhere? Do they sit at a kid’s table? Would parents even be comfortable handing their kids off like that? What do parents appreciate for their kids at weddings?

A: Back when we were planning our wedding, my mom had an enthusiastic day, and called me telling me she’d bought a bunch of plastic bubble dispensers for kids at the wedding. I distinctly remember that was the same afternoon that I’d just found out that my $300 hair and makeup quote had turned into an $800 hair and makeup quote, and I was not in a good place. “Ugh,” I said, “Thank you, that was really thoughtful. But I feel like the idea that kids need special things at weddings is just some kind of WIC nonsense. I’m pretty sure that kids at our wedding can just do what we always did as kids at weddings—run around and play in the flowerbeds, make friends, and get into trouble.” I was right. The kids at our wedding ran around, and got muddy, and cut in on dances, and made best friends, and sat on my lap for most of the toasts, and made me hold them while I danced. They were happy, but even better their parents—our friends—had a fantastic time.

There are a million articles online that tell you how to have a kid-friendly wedding. Some of them are helpful, some of them are way overboard. But today, in light of an APW commenter’s really smart question, I’m going to flip the tables, and talk about parent-friendly weddings.

It’s not that hard to have a kid-friendly wedding. Kids, bless ’em, are pretty oblivious. They’re going to have too much punch, and possibly barf, and team up in packs to “explore” the “wilderness” behind the off limits to wedding guests sign. Unless they’re being yelled at, they’re going to do their thing, without thinking too much about if it’s the right thing to do. But as a mom, like the other parents around me, I spend a lot of time jumpy that my kid is going to offend you by doing something… childlike. We live in a culture that’s increasingly divided into kid-approved spaces and adult spaces. And it’s trickier and trickier to navigate being a parent in a space not designated for families only. That means that at your wedding, I worry he’s going to touch something special, or run when he should walk, or cry when you want silence. So today’s article is about how to put your parent friends at ease at your wedding, which automatically is going to improve things for their kids. (We’ll cover making a childfree wedding manageable for your parent friends next week.)

On our wedding day, our littlest girl guest whispered to me, “You’re the prettiest one here.” That? Made having her there (and making her parents comfortable) worth every second. So here are the basics to making parents—and their adorable offspring—feel welcome at your wedding.

1. You don’t have to provide anything special. But you can. I was right, back when I was planning my wedding. As much as wedding magazines like to produce spreads of all the cute and crafty things you can supply to keep kids entertained at your wedding, you don’t actually have to provide anything. Kids past a certain age tend to be pretty resourceful when it comes to keeping themselves entertained (particularly if there are other kids to get to know, run around, and drink punch with). Below that age, parents usually know what their kids need, and come with a bag full of books or cars or snacks. If you provide things for kids to play with, they will be appreciated. But they’ll fundamentally be appreciated as a goodwill gesture. When I sit down at a restaurant and they bring my toddler crayons, I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not actually about the crayons (which, frankly, he’s probably just going to try to throw), but it’s a gesture that lets me know that in an often child-unfriendly world, my kid is welcomed here. Think of any toys you provide at your wedding that way—fun, but mostly welcoming. And don’t worry about overthinking it. Kids could care less if the coloring book you provide them was hand designed to fit your wedding theme.

2.

Babysitting, or not. Let me preface this by saying that babysitters are not an expected part of a normal wedding. If kids are guests at your wedding, you probably don’t want babysitters for the ceremony, because hey! You invited the kids to be there as part of your wiggly, wild community. For receptions however, it’s possible for babysitters to be helpful (depending on the situation), or just a really nice treat (depending on your crowd).

If you’re having a daytime wedding, or an evening wedding where everyone lives close by and has access to good childcare and/or the option to bring their kid, I wouldn’t even bother considering a babysitter. Likewise, if you only have a few kids coming to the wedding, and you know their parents are the hands-on types and will want to keep them close, don’t even think about it. However! While babysitters are never expected, there are times they might be helpful. If you’re having one of the following scenarios, it might be worth considering hiring a sitter:

  • A late night party, where you’d like the parents to be able to stay on after bedtime. If you want your wedding to go on well into the night, and you’d like people with kids to be able to stay past that seven or eight o’clock bedtime, you can consider an onsite babysitter who can put sleepy kids down for the night. Know your crowd, and talk to the parents in question to see if this is something they’d be into. For many of us though, being able to bring your kid, AND stay to have another drink? That’s the dream.
  • A childfree wedding, with parents traveling from out of town. We’ll discuss how to have a childfree wedding (while maximizing parent attendance) next week. But for now, suffice to say: if you don’t want kids at the wedding itself, but you do want your far-flung friends with kids to be able to show up, consider having an onsite babysitter, ideally watching the kids physically close to the wedding reception. That way, they don’t have to find childcare in an unfamiliar town (not fun), and can go help with or comfort their wee ones as needed without leaving the wedding.
  • If you just have a passel of small kiddos (and want to do something nice). Parents bringing kids to a wedding really generally don’t expect much, other then general toleration of their children (and maybe even enjoyment of them). But if you know you’re going to have twenty kids, and you want the parents to be able to party without worry, having a kids table and a baby wrangler might not be the worst idea you’ve ever had. It’s an unnecessary special treat, but sometimes doing nice things is… nice. If that’s something you’re considering, talk to the parents and see if they’d be into it. If they are, go for it.

3.  Welcome the kids as they are. While bubbles are nice, and a free babysitter can be a treat never even dreamt of, what parents mostly hope for is that your wedding will be actually child friendly. Real child friendly-ness has nothing to do with the toys you might or might not provide, or the decor, or the theme. Formal black tie cocktail weddings can be child friendly, and picnic weddings can be child unfriendly. What parents hope is that the hosts will realize that kids are kids, and even well behaved ones need to run around to let off steam, and might have a meltdown if they get tired, and might break something (God forbid). If the hosts have made it clear that they want your kids there, and love them for who they are (tiny people who don’t totally understand the rules yet), it makes the wedding so much more pleasant for parents and kids alike. Plus, it will make the wedding even more awesome for you, if you’re the type who likes baby hugs, and whispers about how pretty you look.

And now to you APW! What did you do for kids at your wedding that worked (or didn’t)? Parents in the house, what do you appreciate as a wedding guest with wee ones in tow?

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • Michigan Sara

    I hired a babysitter for our wedding, mainly for my friends/family with kids that were coming from out-of-town, but also local friends who might not have the funds to hire one themselves. The babysitter was a college student that worked with me and often babysat for a co-worker, and I paid her $20/hr. I included a card with the invite for those with kids saying that kids were welcome, please let us know if you might use the babysitter, and included a short bio and references so that parents would know that our gal didn’t just come from wherever. We borrowed a portable DVD player and a Disney movie from a friend, and I went to the dollar store and got some plastic dinosaurs, coloring books, etc. We were able to use the “library” at the B&B for the room for the kids to hang out. I think most parents sent their kids to the babysitter for at least a bit, so they could have a grown-up time during the reception.

    • Meg Keene

      I think I speak for all parents when I say, I LOVE YOU. <3

  • Jessica

    We aren’t in a child-filled community yet, but we ended up having about 4 kids when we had originally only planned on one. We had told the parents that there wouldn’t be many children around so they should do what they felt was best, and 3 had hired babysitters who backed out at the last minute. We had to make sure the restaurant made 3 extra plates of mac’n’cheese, but that was the only extra effort made on our part. Our friends left a little earlier than they probably would have otherwise, but honestly it was great to see them even for a short time and we have cute pictures of kids dancing (which, if we’re being honest, is right up there with baby sloth pictures in terms of adorableness).

  • SarahG

    Having grown up in a huge family where kids were part of every equation, it never occurred to me to not have them at our wedding; it also never occurred to me to have babysitting or activities for them either. Mostly because as a kid I just remember LOVING weddings so much, in part because I got to sort of act like a grownup (in my head) and see all this grown up stuff that seemed so big and magical. I would have been hugely bummed to be sidelined to kid activities (though this is like 6 year old me; maybe 3 year old me would have been jazzed about coloring, but as you say, Meg, the parents usually have a bag). And nobody ever did anything special “for the kids” at these events. So we are having kids at the wedding and not having special stuff for them. But one thing we are doing differently is only allowing out of town folks to bring kids, because we have literally run out of room (like, fire marshal says no). I have yet to bring this up with local parents and am a little nervous, but I feel like they will understand… I hope.

  • Alex

    Just reading this made me cringe because I cannot stand children (even your good examples of cute things kids did/can do made me shudder.) Looking forward to good advice on how to make sure they’re politely kept away.

    • Meg

      it must have been hard for you when you were one!

    • Meg Keene

      The key tip for keeping them away is taking care of their parents (assuming you want their parents there). If you just say “no kids” and offer no help for out of towners, you’ll end up with no parents in many cases too. Less because they’re offended, and more because they can’t manage it. Which is ok if you’re ok with it! But you need to decide what you’re ok with.

      But in general, I’d try to make sure you don’t communicate “I can’t stand kids” to the parents in question. Because it’s less about the fact that kids do things that can be considered cute, and more that they’re… just small humans. And in the parents cases, small humans they love a lot. I think parents don’t generally mind nights out without them (wheeeee!) but when people communicate, “I can’t stand these small humans you love,” it feels hurtful. So! Feel it, but don’t communicate it that way. (Not that you would!)

      More next week!

    • Becca

      I thought I was the only one! I guess it’s not so much that I can’t stand children, but they definitely make me uncomfortable. As Meg writes, we might end up with a few cases of parents who can’t show up, but I’m okay with it. Whew. Feel it!

      • Meg Keene

        My advice is just make sure you take care of your parent friends. It sucks (I mean really sucks) to realize that you are suddenly second class citizens with friends, because you’re parents now. We have plenty of friends that are not super comfortable with kids, and don’t mind (we love them for who they are). But there are friends who are not super comfortable with kids, know we have them, and want to work with us so we are still included. Love those guys. Then there are the friends who have put us in second class because we have kids, so if we can’t come OH WELL. It sucks. It might feel ok for you, but it can be crushing for the friends in question, particularly as new parents. Just… crushing. And like you’re being cut off from your life because people can’t disentangle their idea of you from the fact that you have a kid.

        That isn’t to say having a child free wedding isn’t totally possible. But I’d just encourage you to really think carefully about how you treat your parent friends, even if the kids aren’t coming. Because they want to be treated with the same kind of love as everyone else.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Some posts on accommodating parents of young children in our everyday social lives would be great. I’ve struggled with substituting new activities for how I usually socialize. (I can’t offer symphony tickets because it’s too long to be away from baby/pumping. I had to stop inviting children over to my home after one too many put their shoes on my antique sofa.) I try to be gung-ho when parents suggest anything, but reciprocating is hard.

          • http://mnnjcooks.blogspot.com/ Jessica Nelson

            Depends on your schedule/their schedule of course, but…
            – anything outdoors! picnic in the park, outdoor concert, walking around at a zoo, anywhere where kids don’t have to be quiet and contained. You’re more likely to get the parents’ full attention if they don’t have to be policing their kids’ actions *quite* so hard as they would in a restaurant.
            – wine and cheese (or dessert) at their house, after the baby has gone to bed. (invite yourself over like this: “I’d really love to hang out with you, but I don’t want to make you pay for a babysitter or anything…can I bring a bottle of wine over to your place sometime next week? And don’t worry about cleaning up for me!”) Actually, this works for any time of day – just ask when naptime is and schedule your coffee/lunch/wine date around that. I think a lot of new moms can get a little bored/isolated because leaving the house is hard.

          • Kara E

            I love this! And as someone with an older baby with a super case of separation anxiety (like, she will cry for hours and we pay for an evening out for days), I feel like I haven’t done anything for “me” in months. An after bedtime date night with a friend sounds lovely.

          • Lauren from NH

            We have gone over to a friends house with a new baby to make them dinner. Burgers and beer, you know the crowd pleasers. While it wouldn’t work for everyone, bringing “the party” to them was magic. It was nice for them not to have to leave home, get a semi “night off”, on the other side, we got to see them and get some baby love (and drool). Win-win all around.

        • Becca

          Thanks, Meg! Appreciating your insight. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m realizing the reason I don’t feel comfortable around children might be because I’ve never had occasion to be around them. I’m an only child who never had any cousins, and I don’t have any friends who have children. In fact, looking at our 40ish person guest list, there’s no one with children– so, this should work out just fine.

          I’ll be mindful though, moving forward. As my friends start having children, I’ll be careful not to treat them as second class friends. Maybe my attitude (and fear!) toward children will change as I have to interact with them more? Sigh.

          • lady brett

            that was definitely a thing for me – not knowing how to be around kids because i had never done it (kind of related to my peeve about calling good parenting an “instinct” – keeping your baby safe may well be an instinct, but the vast majority of parenting is learned behavior, something that’s a bit harder to learn if you’ve never seen it done).

            i also realized at some point that kids really set off my social anxiety. partly because kids don’t know/follow social “rules”, and partly because little kids are often fairly unintelligible. both of those things make the interactions awkward, and i was so accustomed to awkward interactions meaning that *i’m doing something wrong*, socially, that it kind of made me panic. this particular form of crazy may not be relevant to you, but it was helpful to me to be able to name it.

          • Alex

            This is definitely it – kids make me anxious. I could work really hard on that anxiety, but, honestly? It doesn’t seem super worth it to me. I’m glad there are people who love and cherish children. I happen to love and cherish the elderly, so I’m a geriatric social worker. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses.

          • Meg Keene

            True! It may get worth it to you though, if people you love have kids. Because their kids are a big part of them. And you don’t have to be the new kindergarden teacher, but doing the work to try to get a little less anxious, with people who are willing to help you out on that, is so meaningful to those people that you love.

            Kids aren’t that scary, once you get familiar with them. VERY hard to break.

          • Becca

            Thanks, lady brett! Super helpful and so true for me too.

          • Bets

            Kids make me anxious too for the same reasons.

            But that’s okay, because there’s no rule that says that adults have to interact with kids. When I was a kid I tagged along to whatever my mom was doing – lunch with friends, sometimes went to work (retail) with her, and I just hung out while my mom and her friends had grown up conversations or went about their workday. Sure, I got bored, but that was just part of being a kid. Sure, I liked the adults who actually tried to play with me more than the adults who didn’t, but at the end of the day it wasn’t a big deal.

            Basically, I see no reason to avoid friends with kids just because I’m not a kid person, as long as the friend is okay with me not giving all my attention to her kid. (If your friend is the type of person who only wants to talk about the kid and do kid-friendly things that’s a different story.)

          • Caroline

            Oh man, that is SO helpful to me. I love kids, but I often feel sort of anxious around them. If we’re one-on-one, I’m great with them, but in groups, I’m shy around kiddos. =

            Because I like them so much, and want to be their best friend, but I feel like I’m doing something wrong. But I think it’s just the whole kids being unintelligible kids and not following social “rules” making it slightly awkward, which makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong socially, when I’m not. Thank you!

        • lottie

          I think this goes both ways. I’m not a huge little kid person (I mean, I’m pretty good at hanging out with toddlers on up for a few hours, but there’s a real time limit on how well I can maintain my kid-friendly persona, and I’m not interested in infants/babies. But teenagers, send ‘em my way) but almost all my friends have kids. I bring meals, come over and hang out with the kids around or asleep, go on kid-friendly excursions to zoos and parks, and even baby-sit when I know my friends really need it.

          But this works–or rather when it works–it’s because those friends are awesome about carving out non-kid time too. That means no-kid dinners, a post-work drink, coming to non-kid-friendly get-togethers, etc. My sense from reading APW is that Meg gets this, but I want to make it explicit: maintaining parent/non-parent friendships with requires work and accommodation by both parties.

          Frankly, for me, it’s not all that much different from maintaining friendships between couples and single people (that is, work with, not against, one another). The most hurtful friendship break-up for me was not over kids but when a friend and former roommate moved in with his then-gf, later-wife, and they stopped inviting single people to join them. Coupledom was the price of admission and that sucked, big time. So I apply the lesson from that to parents: keep inviting them, try to make some things kid-friendly (and make others adult-only because every parent I know also needs adult friend time), and work with everyone’s needs.

          • A.

            The opposite to the single/couple thing applies too! I’m fairly routinely left out of group activities because my single friends assume I’m not interested in going away with them for a weekend (because I can never leave my fiance or something?) or, frankly, don’t really seem to want a coupled up friend joining them for bar hopping. I’m used to it now and recognize that it doesn’t come from a place of loving me less, especially when they go out of their way for me at other times, but it stings a little each time.

            So yes, agreed that working with and not against each other helps, as well as understanding and patience from all sides.

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah. Agreed. For us it’s always a balance. We go to stuff after he’s in bed, but on weekend days we tend to stick with him, because… it’s one of our working parent times of the week we get with him. But for sure, in general.

    • laddibugg

      I am ok with certain children. There would be some kids there–partner’s daughter, godson and his brother–but I don’t want a ‘kid-friendly’ wedding and I don’t want people to feel it’s ok to bring their entire brood.

    • phdiva

      We also did not want children, mostly because of serious space constraints, but also because we wanted an adult vibe with a raging dance party and un-bleeped music. We thought we were clear on the invitations by writing “Jen and John Smith, __ of 2 accept with pleasure”, but we still had people that were confused and wrote in their children’s names! We ended up having to make phone calls, politely telling people that this is an adult-only wedding, and we understand if that means they can’t make it. Even that was met with resistance, and we actually had to persistently follow up, telling one particular couple that no, we could not make an exception for their child without offending other parents we invited. It did get a bit awkward, unfortunately, but I think if you’re consistent and polite about it, guests just have to accept it. It’s your wedding after all… if you don’t want kids there, you really don’t need to give anyone a reason. Just say it’s adult-only.

      • Becca

        I’m surprised this isn’t considered more acceptable– the not wanting children at your wedding bit. As you say, it’s your wedding!

      • Lawyerette510

        The way I’ve seen it handles successfully is when the communication is super clear from the get-go that is an adult-only event. And by super clear I mean on the save the date, rsvp card or enclosures in the invitation and on the wedding website. If you want to make parents who are traveling feel cared for, giving them resource suggestions as an enclosure or on the website related to onsite child care is a great way to do it.

        I’ve also seen parents feel more positively about no-kid events when they receive really advanced notice (like on a save-the-date or a separate personalize note to parents about it being adults only).

        • Meg Keene

          I think really advance notice is key, but I think letting people know personally is the way to go. There is nothing worse than knowing you are one of 10 parents invited to an event of 100, and the Save The Date says NO KIDS PLEASE. It’s like being called out in front of the class, in a “you couldn’t have just… emailed me?” way.

          • Lawyerette510

            I think it’s a really good point about it being personally directed. While I don’t have kids, I imagine how I would feel if I was invited to a wedding but my husband wasn’t, and it would feel crappy because he’s part of my life. I can only imagine if it was a child I was raising that it would feel even worse and even more so if it was just on the invitations.

            Once a friend pointed out to me that she had chosen to have kids welcome at her wedding because they are part of the parents and she wanted the parents to be able to come as their fullest selves on their own terms, I knew I would never be ok with excluding kids from my own wedding. Fast-forward to our having our wedding the Monday after mother’s day which was also our nephew’s second birthday and in addition to the philosophical approach, we’d be the biggest narcissists in the world to have had it be kid-less

          • Meg Keene

            I actually totally don’t mind if I can’t bring the kid (provided you’re willing to be flexible with me if I’m traveling or… whatever. I’m a broke single mom, you name it.) But putting NO KIDS (particularly if I know damn well I’m one of the few parents) is like putting NO DAVID’S on the invite. Like, “If you don’t want me to bring David, just call me! Don’t put it in bold font for everyone to see, now I’m very embarrassed.”

          • Brooks

            I find this point a bit of a stretch. To me, saying ‘adults only’ seems informational not accusational. Adults only, no guests, no cell phones, no social media posts, no gifts, no booze, no dinner… Obviously cell phones and children are two different things but there are so many different equations when it comes to putting together a wedding – as you often point out. Do you expect couples to reach out to people personally to explain other wedding choices? I’m not trying to be bitchy – just saying maybe you are a little close to this one. We aren’t having kids at our wedding due to financial and space constraints. It’s not because we don’t love kids or our friends with kids. We are sad that this means some of them may not be able to come or only one half of the couple may be able to come but we understand and respect that they have to make whatever decision works best for their family/resources/time/etc – just like every childless person invited has their own reasons for being able to attend or not. Also, reaching out to fifty people personally to say, your kids are not invited, seems like a logistical nightmare. We wish we could include everyone and every kid and every plus one but that is not possible for us. It seems like there is a lot of judgement in this string about people choosing not to include kids – for whatever reason. Hey – if you don’t like kids then yeah, probably a good idea not invite them! That’s your choice, just be respectful and do what you do.

          • Brooks

            Also – I totally get having a sore spot. My squeeze and I have been together for seven years, living together for four years. There have been a handful of weddings that either he or I were not invited to because only married couples were included. Of course, it always stung a bit but we always tried not to take it too personally. People have to draw the line somewhere.

          • Meg Keene

            No, this isn’t me being close to this one. I just think that this is one you reach out to one on one (they’re your wedding guests, they should be people you’re up for emailing, or calling, or your mom calling, or whoever emailing). I actually DON’T have judgement about people not including kids (though obviously other people do), but I don’t think saying NO KIDS on your invite is the way to go. NO KIDS is talking about the humans under a care of a small group of guests, NO CELL PHONES is talking about an object. But to be honest, I don’t think you should say NO CELL PHONES, NO SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS, NO BOOZE, NO DINNER any of it on an invite. It’s not the place for it. It’s an invite, not a place for your guests to feel bossed around, particularly when the intent is not to boss your guests around. I think if you want no cell phones or no booze, you have a nice sign at the wedding, or again, you have your mama (or you) talk to people. The invite is a place to make people feel welcome, just like when you’re hosting any event. And you wouldn’t invite people to a party at your house and say No SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS on the invite, you’d maybe have sign, and get the word out. (Something we’ve done before, a nice note on the door “We’re private people, please don’t post about this shower on social media, we’d really appreciate it, we’re so glad you’re here. Love, Meg and David)

            If you have specific requests, you talk to people, or handle it in other low key ways, in my book. If your invite reads like a list of demands, as a guest, it’s off putting. And that’s NOT how you mean it as the couple, so it’s just not the best way to do it. Start making people feel welcomed, then chat with them about your needs.

            If you really want to go subtle, don’t include the kids name on the invite (and follow up with a mass email to parents, or a note on the website, or just a call to people that RSVP for their kids too, explaining.) But please don’t lead with NO KIDS or ADULTS ONLY.

          • brooks

            To each there own of course. We just got an invite to a wedding that said, ‘We will have snacks but you might want to eat beforehand because we saved all our money for drinks! Adults only please.’ I though it was funny and good information. I guess my point of view is exactly that they are your close friends/family, so why not just be straight forward and give them the info about the event so they can decide if it works for them instead of asking them to keep track of the invite with a little info, the email with a little more, the call with something else etc. But yes, of course, you wouldn’t want to be yelling at them with a huge list of no no no. I was just pointing out that there are lots of requests that people make at weddings but who is invited, be that your kids or your partner does seem to make sense on the invite. We thought just including the parents names but not mentioning the kids one way or the other seemed kind of confusing. I guess you can’t please everyone no matter what you do.

      • Meg Keene

        I’m covering this next week, but I think it really helps to start with phone calls or emails, and suss out issues too. People might want to come, but it’s not always that easy (particularly if people are long distance).

        Though, for the record, I fully disagree that parties with kids need non-bleeped music. Just like I don’t expect adults to not curse around children. My job is a parent is to make sure my kid knows he can’t say things, it’s not your job.

        • phdiva

          “My job as a parent is to make sure my kid knows he can’t say things, it’s not your job.”
          And THAT makes you way awesomer (yes, awesomer) than, like, 99% of parents. I wish more parents saw it this way!

    • Annie

      My husband and I aren’t especially close to many children (we don’t have nieces/nephews, didn’t have a lot of friends with kids, etc.). That and budget/size constraints made us decide not to include any children. Our respective parents helped spread the word, and most people were happy to have the night out without their kids.

      The one exception–breastfeeding moms. We had a couple of guests who had babies around the date of our wedding. We let them know that we’d still love to have them join and bring their babies, and understood if it wouldn’t work. They didn’t end up being able to make it, but I wanted to make sure they felt included, especially since hiring a babysitter is less feasible when you have an infant.

      • msditz

        I just want to say THANK YOU for doing this! My husband was a groomsman in a wedding two months after our son was born in a wedding that was an hour and a half drive from our house and I was still breastfeeding. We had assumed we would be able to bring our child until about a month before the wedding when we got the phone call, “Sorry, no kids. Not even your infant.” Honestly, even if our son had been invited we probably wouldn’t have been able to make it work, but it was the harshness and seeming lack of understanding that really upset me. And especially since my husband was a groomsman was obviously HAD to go, it really put the spotlight on me and made me super uncomfortable and sad (especially with all the new mom hormones going on). So yeah, thank you for your understanding on behalf of all breastfeeding mamas.

  • Kelly

    Our wedding will have about 20 kids. I love them dearly, but I also know that other people don’t love them as much as I do. (3 in particular are extremely wild and noisy.) So I’m torn over whether or not to offer a babysitter: I know they will definitely stress out the other guests and get into everything. They’ll probably knock over the cake. But they’re my nephews/nieces so I want them there!

    • SarahG

      I think this article does a great job highlighting the idea of “parent friendly” — if you feel like a babysitter would help the parents feel more at ease, then it seems like an OK option. But for other guests — honestly, it’s your wedding. You want kids there. You get to make that choice! Like all wedding choices, there will be some people who might think it’s too raucous (or “why was it all vegetarian?” or “really, no booze?” or Insert Other Choice Here) but that’s why it’s your wedding and not theirs. I say do what you want, and don’t stress unless you really feel that a babysitter would help the parents have a much better time. Good luck!

      • Meg Keene

        And honestly, if the worst someone can come up with about your wedding is, “Can you believe she let her nieces and nephews come and they RAN AROUND?” Yeah, you won.

      • Meg

        There are family members who might be looking forward to seeing the kids they don’t get to see very often too!

    • Jessica

      When I plan community events moms have told me to just throw “Frozen” into a DVD player in another room. Apparently that hypnotizes them into a calm, singing dronelike state.

    • Meg Keene

      You know what? This is one case where it actually about you (and the kids). If you want them there, and they want to be there, HAVE THEM THERE. The other guests will deal with it. That’s what adults do ;)

      You’ll remember the kids being there for always, and kids actually tend to remember weddings for always too. If they’ll be in your life for forever, don’t feel like you have to stick them in front of frozen, to keep other guests (who hell, you might not even know forever!) in their comfort zone. Weddings drag people out of their single generation comfort zones sometimes, and that’s a great thing.

  • HannahESmith

    We made little goodie bags for the kids. Not only did it help them keep occupied during the ceremony, I think it helped the parents feel welcome. I received an incredibly kind note from my husband’s Grandmother about the kits. It meant a lot to her that her great grandchildren were welcome.

  • Amanda

    I have wonderful and distinct childhood memories of going to the weddings of my older cousins and younger aunts and uncles and having a BLAST. Literally, some of my most favorite memories as a kid under 10 are of getting all dressed up and spending the day and night dancing and running around somewhere beautiful with my siblings and cousins (no special toys necessary!). However, as an adult I’ve almost never been to a kid-friendly wedding, which made me really hesitant to have one myself. Among my peers, I felt like somehow the idea of kid-friendly weddings had come to mean no fun and no epic dance party, which stopped all of my crazy, fun-loving friends from having them. My husband and I decided to forge ahead with a kid-friendly wedding anyhow (we have too many nieces and nephews and younger cousins that we just couldn’t imagine not inviting) and, honestly, I think it was the best wedding decision we made. Kids and babies just naturally bring so much joy and love and happiness to the day. They flood the dance floor when the adults are still a little hesitant, they serve as great reasons for people who don’t know each other to talk and mingle and no one at the wedding can make a bride feel quite as special as a bunch of younger cousins who think she is a princess or a little nephew who wants to dance with her all night long. In my experience, kids just warm the whole place up and make it feel like a giant family gathering, which is a wonderful feeling, especially when you have a more formal, black-tie affair.

    • Meg Keene

      I just think it’s so strange that most of us remember weddings as kids as SUPER FUN DAYS RUNNING AROUND AND DANCING, but now there is this idea that you have to do “something” to make your wedding kid-friendly, and then you can’t have your epic dance party. It’s not a wedding shift so much as it’s a cultural shift, and it’s a BULLSHIT one.

      As a parent, I want to attend your epic dance party wedding, and I’d love for my kid to come have an epic dance party with his new BFFs (the older kids) at your wedding. I just want to know it’s… OK. Like, you’re not going to be mad when he does a kid thing. That’s really all it takes to make a wedding kid friendly, making it clear that you like kids as they are (aka, they’re just little unruly people).

      • Sarah

        I remember my aunts’ weddings being AWESOME as a 7/8 year old. I got all of the shirley temples from the bar all night long so I was hopped up on sugar, and I got to dance and hide under tables and stuff. I remember dancing with my new uncle, and my mom’s cousin and having an effing blast.

      • lady brett

        so funny…my childhood memories of weddings are kind of awful (as a super-shy tomboy, big parties where you wear dresses…pretty bad).

        • KC

          AND ITCHY TIGHTS.

          (signed, another kid who hated weddings. The receptions were okay, though, due to the ability to hide under the tables.)

          • JSwen

            AND TORN TIGHTS WITH BLOODY KNEES!

            (signed, a kid who obviously enjoyed weddings a bit too much.)

      • Amanda

        I think the thing that people (at least those outside of the APW community) often forget is that weddings aren’t a production. They are not a show where everyone has to act in a very specific way at a very specific time, so if kids are off running around and doing kid things, I think that only adds to the color of the day. Weddings are a celebration of love and family and kids are a big part of the foundation of love and family. So weddings should absolutely be places where people can bring their kids and not only feel “accepted” but feel happy as human beings that get to do something great with their whole family. I understand that some people are not “kid-people” and may not want to have kids at their own weddings and that is ABSOLUTELY OK! but weddings, in general, by their very premise, should absolutely be kid-loving zones.

        • Bets

          THIS.

          “I’m pretty sure that kids at our wedding can just do what we always did as kids at weddings—run around and play in the flowerbeds, make friends, and get into trouble.”

          and THIS.

          “Weddings are a celebration of love and family and kids are a big part of the foundation of love and family…I understand that some people are not “kid-people” and may not want to have kids at their own weddings and that is ABSOLUTELY OK! but weddings, in general, by their very premise, should absolutely be kid-loving zones.”

          I went to lots of weddings with my parents when I was a wee one. I can’t actually remember them, but from all accounts I was as much a guest of honour as my parents were. My baby self made it into all the formal portraits because everyone wanted a picture with the baby and the bride! I got to hold flowers and balloons for the cute factor, and stuff my face in cupcakes, though if I made a mess my mom cleaned up after me.

          I can’t imagine not having kids at my wedding, because kids are kind of the centre of attention for grandparents, you know? It would not make sense not to have them there, just like how Christmas without children just isn’t as fun. But I also wouldn’t go out of my way to do anything special for them; I figure that kids can take care of themselves, and trust that my friends and relatives are responsible enough to keep their kids from getting into too much trouble.

      • phdiva

        Are kids and epic dance parties mutually exclusive today? Certainly not. But kids and certain types of music may be. My husband and I like to dance, as in GET DOWN, as do our friends. And we like to do this to not-so-kid-friendly music, which was a deterrent for inviting kids for us. We were very particular about our wedding playlist, as was our friend who donated his pro-DJ skills to our reception, and we felt it would be irresponsible to invite kids knowing that was the kind of music that was going to be played.

        Also, it’s important to know your crowd – I’ve been to a wedding where kids were invited, and they were running around amidst INSANELY drunk and disorderly adults who were literally taking off their clothes, exposing themselves, and grinding in a way I would not want my small child to see…

        Back in the day, were people listening to music with offensive words and dancing like this? Perhaps not. Perhaps that has contributed to feeling that we need to specifically designate a wedding as kid-friendly now.

        • Lawyerette510

          I also think it’s about the parents’ comfort and their knowing what the plan for the evening is. For instance, letting parents know that music including adult themes and profanity will be played throughout the evening etc and then letting them make the decision gives them the ability to make a judgement call, instead of automatically excluding kids.

          • Meg Keene

            Yes. For the parents who are fine with that (and think about it, outside upper middle class culture, say, LOTSA kids grow up listening to hip hop) they’re going to want to be able to make their own judgement call.

        • Meg Keene

          I…. have many feelings about this comment. Mostly: people were exposing themselves at a wedding?! I… I feel like that might well be kid unfriendly, but that is also, like, granny unfriendly too, no!? But then also, I guess, back in the day, it depends where you grew up? Where I grew up people were for sure freaking and dancing to hip-hop, AHHHHH childhood. So I suppose it depends.

          But beyond that, it just depends. I think communicating clearly to parents and letting them make choices is probably the best thing. Any kid of mine can attend a party with any kind of music (I’m going to have to scale back slightly on his old school hip hop obsession when he’s talking more because right now he listens to stuff on the satellite radio where the lyrics actually make me gasp…). But at a party? Whatever, man. No kid is listening that carefully to the blow job lyrics at a party, and if they are, we’ll chat about “adult things.” But in general, I expect any child of mine to be fully functional and polite around adults cursing or drinking, because adults are allowed to do and say things kids cannot.

          NOW. If people were exposing themselves, I might firmly explain to my kid that adult’s only things were now happening and it was time to go. But then again *I* might leave. Unless we’re talking about like, boobs, in which case, whatever. Babies KNOW from boobs. Boobs flashing is something I’m fine with, and would explain for my kids. Penis exposure at a wedding though, that is FOR SURE another thing…. all… together?

          • Meg Keene

            I feel like I have to clarify. I would for sure take my kid to a nude wedding (HE WOULD BE SO EXCITED, HE LOVES DIAPER ONLY). But like, men taking out their penises on the dance floor to grind on people IS THIS WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT I do draw the line there. And I feel like quite reasonably so.

            I mean, by all means, please make any flashing penis grinding wedding child free. That seems all as it should be.

            This comment thread is blowing my mind a little. I like it. But whoa.

          • Lawyerette510

            The idea of penis-flashing at a wedding really blows my mind! Nudist/ clothing optional no big deal, but the mental image of some guy in a suit whippin it out on the dance floor is really not something I can fully wrap my head around.

          • Meg Keene

            I… we can’t be talking about that right? (Though, I’m oddly excited about this new facet of weddings I’ve never thought of, if we are. NEW ARTICLES TO WRITE.) When the penis’s come out on the dance floor though, I do generally figure it’s time to pack up, and that’s without kids. I love me some serious dancing, but I like the keep-it-in-your-pants-till-later kind at a wedding. I might be really old fashioned?!?! WHO KNEW?

          • Lawyerette510

            “Penises on the dance floor, urban myth v. wedding reality” is certainly something I would read!

            But really, I spent some serious time partying in my 20s and the only place I can think of where there were penises out on the dance floor was Burning Man, but then again that’s a nudity thing, not a it-wasn’t-out-and-now-it-is thing.

          • Bets

            This comment thread had made my day.

            I would say it’s time for me to leave my wedding when the penises come out on the dance floor. I would only be interested in one particular penis on my wedding day, and I imagine many heterosexual brides will feel the same way?

            But totally open to different opinions.

          • Kara E

            Oh my goodness, I would say that it probably should be ME free, not just childfree. I would be so so so uncomfortable. As one of my friends has said, I was born with my clothes on…

          • phdiva

            Goodness yes, all I could think was, “there are grandmothers and children here!!” But to clarify, people were not exposing themselves on purpose. Things turned ugly from the
            combination of low tops, very short skirts, thongs, LOTS of booze, and dancing (think
            Lil Jon: bend over to the front, touch ya toes…). With the dancing, lady parts were just… out. They just were, and I’m not talking about an isolated incident. I really did not expect to see a vagina at the reception, but I did. It was not offensive enough for me to leave, but had I had my child there, I probably would have.

            Regarding the lyrics, damn Meg, you are a cool mom. I share your feelings that little ones aren’t listening THAT intently, but some people are not as accepting of racy lyrics being played in their little ones’ presence. So I think people’s feelings on that issue can vary widely. At my own wedding, honestly I just didn’t want to be responsible for kids hearing or seeing our chosen music and dance styles. Sure, they’ll hear/see all of that at some point, but I’m not going to be the one that introduces them to it. (Plus we had other reasons for not including kids…major space limit and cousins with 6+ kids each… so we did not invite them.)

            I think you’re totally right that you CAN have a rockin’ dance party with kids, and people do it all the time. And I am the first to acknowledge that my friend’s racy reception was exceptional. But I feel like it’s a real-life hyperbole illustrating my concerns: 1) that people have different levels of comfort regarding what’s acceptable around their little ones, 2) that we don’t always plan for things to get out of control, but sometimes they do, and 3) that things are probably more likely to get crazy (aka not so kid-friendly) when we’ve chosen music and booze that are intended to create a certain vibe. It could be hard to communicate that you’re planning a potentially crazy party to your guests (how would you even word that??), and since weddings often require quite a few unavoidable battles, it’s possible that explaining or justifying one’s music choices is not something a couple wants to spend energy on. In my friend’s case, they did set up the reception to
            be a huge, huge party, but it went well beyond what I think they could have imagined. They rolled with it and had a blast though, and just laughed off everyone’s antics.

            Anyway, part of my original point was that our culture – not just weddings, but society in general – has become less kid-friendly. We’re more profane, we’re less community-oriented, we celebrate youthful misbehaviors and brand them entertainment. And I’m not saying these things are terrible or that we should reject them (hell, my husband and I welcomed the craziness at our own wedding). I’m just saying that maybe things are more extreme now, so the desire to protect little ones’ innocence may be relevant even when planning something at seemingly pure as a wedding.

          • Meg Keene

            THIS IS MY FAVORITE COMMENT THREAD EVER. But phew. Unintentional vajajay is… just better then the whipping out of a dong in a social setting, no? I mean, I have no earthly clue what I would have done…. but none of my concern is around my kid. Though, if I had a 12 year old boy, we might have TALKED about it later.

            But yeah. I think that communicating with parents and letting them know, “It’s gonna be a Vag heavy party” (CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT CALL) or “Lotsa hip hop” and letting them choose is wise, if you don’t want to say no kids.

          • Kelsey

            Now I’m going to throw a party that I can somehow call ‘Vag-heavy’

      • Lawyerette510

        Do you think that also as the WIC has grown and permeated more weddings, that more weddings have become no-kids in the effort to achieve wedding-magazine perfection? My memories of weddings as kids were big family events with lots of kids running around, bbq, iced tea, bands playing, us kids crashing on chairs/ the floor as the night wore on and parents continued to dance and drink beer. This all took place in people’s backyards and community halls etc. I wonder if those same people were married today if they would have been focused on the delicate details and something photo-shoot perfect that would make it seem like a place kids wouldn’t fit into the vision.

        • Meg Keene

          I think they are related. Mostly in that, when we were kids, weddings were more “church social hall” kind of things, with nothing to mess up in the first place. But I also think as wedding culture has gotten more intense, parenting culture has gotten more intense, and we’ve become less multi-generational as a society, and more divided into kid/ no kid spaces. So now, you do worry that if you invite kids, you have to have radio safe songs only or parents will be mad. Or you’re going to have to make sure it’s “kid-friendly” whatever that means. You can’t just, throw a party at which there will be people of various ages.

        • Glen

          For us, our mostly child-free wedding was due to cost rather than “photo-shoot perfect”. I do blame WIC for that – one, there was a parental expectation that we have a sit-down dinner on a Saturday night, and two, there’s the upcharge for the event being a wedding. We ran the numbers, and having kids there would have been another $5k.

    • Meg

      also hiding under tables!

      • Amanda

        YES!

    • emilyg25

      Our wedding was an epic dance party BECAUSE of the kids. It ain’t a party till a five-year-old starts breakdancing. Also, this: “Kids and babies just naturally bring so much joy and love and happiness to the day.”

    • Caroline

      Yeah, it’s interesting. Some of the most fun weddings from when I was a kid were absolutely not “super kid friendly”. My best wedding memories? Definitely the wedding which had a RAGING drunk party. I mean, people freakdancing (do they still call it that? Is that still a thing? Shows how not-hip I am), throwing up in the bathrooms kind of wild dance party. But we were having the time of our lives running around with the new cousins, dancing, and living it up, kid style.

  • sheismle

    We had about 160 people at our wedding & that included 20 or so kids, mostly in the 4-10 age range, and nearly all from out of town. We didn’t do anything “special” for them at the ceremony or reception, other than offering kids’ meals (which was noted on our RSVP cards to help get the point across that kids were welcome). Unbeknownst to me, however, our wedding band came equipped with shakers/maracas. They handed these out to a bunch of the kids, who joined the band on stage for several songs. The kids had an absolute blast and the parents got a kick out of it. So– I don’t know if “band-as-babysitter” is a legit strategy, but it was a hit with our crowd.

    • Meg Keene

      OMG.

    • Lindsey d.

      Hee… Our band had shakers and maracas, but all the adults stole them :)

      • sheismle

        We had a bit of that too! Lots of aspiring percussionists!

    • River

      This is INCREDIBLE. Also, your numbers look eerily like ours…which gives me great hope ;-)

      • sheismle

        Thanks! Since you are looking at similar numbers I will mention to you– we did table assignments for the reception and also for our rehearsal dinner, which also had a high proportion of kids. We had a “kids’ table” for the older ones at the rehearsal dinner, but put them all with their parents at the reception. If you are doing table assignments/no babysitter, I definitely recommend seating the kids with their parents. They behave a lot better during dinner that way! (I know, duh, right? Hindsight!)

        • River

          Thanks for the tip! I had not thought of the rehearsal dinner/kids thing at all yet!!

        • Kara E

          Yes yes yes. And split up the kids during dinner a bit (seriously). They can have tons of fun before/after the dinner.

      • MDBethann

        We invited around 160 people to our wedding, about 20-30 were kids, and pretty much all of the kids showed up (except a couple of babies) and we had nearly 150 people attend total. Since we had kids of friends & family (and some families were odd numbers making even tables difficult), we decided to do 2 kid tables – 1 for the 5-teen set and another for the teenager/college set (most of those were related anyway). We covered the 5-teen table in art paper and gave them crayons & maracas (our wedding was on Cinco de Mayo). The toddlers sat with their parents, since they probably needed help eating. We had a kid meal for them too, which we noted on the RSVP cards (the only glitch was here – they brought out the kid meals after sending the adults to the buffet, which I felt was backwards – serve the kids first so they don’t get fidgety). The kid table was a HIT (teen table, maybe not so much). It made it easier for them to make new friends and hang out with them instead of with their parents. The maracas were a cheap Party City find and were a huge hit during “Hot, Hot, Hot.”

        The kids totally dominated the dance floor (in a good way) and 2 of my favorite memories involve my one friend’s 3 year old daughter. She LOVES Disney princesses, and thought I was one, because she followed me around awe struck for most of the evening. The next day at brunch, she asked her mom where the “pretty princess” was. I was sitting next to her, but she didn’t recognize me in street clothes & glasses instead of my wedding dress.

        Oh, and the art paper from the table? The kids ate so carefully to preserve their art work that I was able to save the table cover and put it in my memory book – there were some cute bride and groom pictures.

  • Lawyerette510

    I had never thought much about kids at weddings, then I attended one with a whole big kids’ table (all 10 kids there were cousins, so knew each other before hand and the parents were good with jumping in with all the kids as needed). A month or so later I commented to the bride that I thought it was so great how they were so inclusive of the kids, and she said “well I wanted everyone to be able to come as they are, and they are parents.” That really got through to me and a few years later when it was time for our wedding (which was in the middle of nowhere and required 2 hours travel to get there and an overnight stay) I knew I wanted the parents to be able to be there and be comfortable. We gave parents-of-kids first choice on if they wanted to stay onsite, we asked them about dietary needs/ preferences of the kids (the meal was family style, but with the option for kid-specific cheesy pasta that was brought out first thing to the kids). The venue (Boonville Hotel) is very kid friendly and had lots of fun things for kids to play with an no really off-limits areas (other than the working kitchen).

    For the ceremony we had everyone stand around us in a circle, and had a kid-sized picnic table there too. Originally the picnic table was towards the front, but some of the parents made the decision before the ceremony to bump it back to the grass, so the kids could play there with a tea set and crayons. We also heard from the moms of the very littles that the circle relieved stress because they felt they could slip back if the baby started fussing.

    The other kid-friendly thing we did at the reception in addition to the food was have the tables with families with kids all close together, so parents sat with their kids but with other parents, and there was plenty space for kids to run around but yet they weren’t away from everyone else. We also cut the cake earlier than normal (right after the first few dances) so that the kids and the parents who were putting kids to bed and not coming back down to the party could have some cake.

    Added unexpected bonus, the 5 year old girl who was there was the one who really got the dance party started.

  • Meg

    We had a few kids at the wedding age 14 months – 14 years old. We didn’t have any sitters or anything. People watched their own kids or the old kids hung out with the younger kids. My 16 year old cousin who looks like a Disney princess somehow ended up dancing with my 5 year old niece all night. At one point we had my parents and older sister and her husband’s first dance song play. The 3 year old niece was passed out. I grabbed her and let her parents dance. (Of course there were some get pics of me with my adorable flower girl niece conked out on my lap from the photographer).

  • lady brett

    we invited the kids in our circle by name on the invitations. i think the formal thing to do is write “and family,” but we wanted to ensure that the kids were in fact invited guests, not accessories that come with their parents. frankly, we didn’t give it much thought at the time – it just seemed obvious, because the very few kids we know are kids we’re pretty close to (in some cases, honestly, closer than to their parents).

    in retrospect as a parent now, i think this would fall heavily under meg’s first point about making it clear to your friends that their kids are welcome.

    • emilyg25

      We did that too, because omigosh, remember how much fun it was getting mail when you were a kid??

      • lady brett

        oh, i hadn’t even *thought* about that part – so true!

    • enfp

      We also did this, for the same reasons you did. We collected our rsvp’s online (through Glo) and we had all the children listed too, just to make it very clear.

    • Mezza

      Ha, my mom convinced me that it was improper to write “and family” and made me find out things like the names of my cousin’s fiancee’s two kids I’d never met. (Shh don’t tell her I wrote “and family” on that one anyway. But I put the kids’ names on the ones where I knew the kids.)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        There were people we had to ask multiple times for their children’s names so we could address invitations. People weren’t used to children being invited to weddings – They misunderstood the question.

  • Sarah

    Question for ya’ll!! One of my bridesmaids is newly pregnant and will have a 3 or 4 month old when my wedding rolls around next year. What kinds of accommodations do you think would be good for her?

    Her whole family will be there: parents, husband, brother, sister-in-law, their baby, sister-in-law’s mom and her two brothers. (My family has been friends with them for 15 years) but I want her and all of them to be able to enjoy themselves. She herself has no idea what it will be like for her being a new mom, so what do you all think we can expect? And how can I help? For what its worth, there will only be one other kid there, which is my bridesmaid’s nephew, and I think he’ll be about 20 months at that point. What can I do for the both of them?

    Oh and they will all be coming in from out of town.

    • SarahG

      I think the best thing you can do is be flexible in your expectations of her ability to be involved in wedding-related activities, since it’s really hard to know 1. what type of pregnancy you will have 2. what your childbirth experience will be like and 3. what kind of kid you will end up with! For myself, feeling like my friend understood this would be the most important thing, so I wouldn’t worry about letting her down. Other than that, it sounds like she has a million people who can help, so I’d let her manage the child and decisions related to that, and just be open. By asking you are already being helpful :)

      • Sarah

        I can totally do that! Lady needs more support from me than I need from her for the wedding.

        • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com/ stephanie3

          And that is the absolute most perfect and thoughtful response. You are an awesome friend!

          • Sarah

            I just know she’s going through a bit of a rough time with the pregnancy at the moment. My problems are small potatoes :)

      • Brooke

        I second this question! There are 7 babies due among our guests within the 6 months leading up to the wedding, including 4 among the wedding party! Of course, we’ll understand if they simply can’t make it (one groomsman’s wife has already told us she’s going to be staying home with her 1-month-old, which we completely understand), but we want to make sure we do everything we can to make it as comfortable as possible if they do come.

    • Lindsey d.

      I think a room or somewhere she can slip for breastfeeding at the ceremony and reception sites (if she is not cool with just whipping them out — I can’t imagine that a bridesmaid dress is that conducive to BFing). Maybe have her not quite as involved in the immediately pre/post-ceremony stuff so she can attend to kiddo. I assume her SO can handle the baby during the ceremony.

      I say this thinking about what I will want. I’m a bridesmaid in a wedding next March, three weeks after my due date. I haven’t even told the bride yet (only 8 weeks along).

    • Meg Keene

      Mostly just make sure she can stay with the baby as needed, and run away to nurse as needed. We traveled and went to weddings with a baby this age, it wasn’t very hard (toddlers… are actually harder). And tell her to bring a change of clothes in case she leaks through her dress. (How I ended up wearing shorts to a reception.)

      And yes, flexibility and a lot of help are good.

      • Lindsey d.

        Ooh, spare dress is a good idea!

      • Sarah

        Really great ideas, thanks! There are a lot of different rooms in our venue, and I think the space where we’ll be getting ready will be good for nursing (more private).

    • Eileen

      I was just a bridesmaid in my brother’s out of town wedding and I have an almost 4 month old. We had tons of family support too, but it was really great to know a lot about the schedule as soon as we could so we could plan if we could bring the baby along or not (answer was mostly yes, which was also super helpful).

    • Kathleen

      I was just a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding when my baby was 9 weeks old or so. One thing I can say is be mindful of what you’re asking her to wear! The first potential bridesmaid dress my sister suggested was midriff-baring. I was *9 weeks* postpartum. I nixed that pretty quickly. The dress she ended up choosing was not particularly BFing-friendly, but I was pretty easily able to alter it so the straps could be unhooked, which helped a lot. If it were a different style of dress, I might have had to head to a bathroom and strip to the waist every time I needed to feed the baby, which would have been pretty aggravating.

    • moonlitfractal

      My oldest nephew was two months old at the time of the wedding (both his parents were in the wedding party). My sister-in-law’s parents were in attendance, and we reserved them seats in the front row. The baby was our ‘ring bearer’…though he ended up being a human ring pillow. During the ceremony he sat with his grandparents. Though I don’t remember it at all, I’m told that he got a little fussy during the ceremony and my sister-in-law’s mother took him aside until he calmed down. During the reception he sat with his parents and, as far as I know, everything was fine. I can’t remember how they handled feedings. He even made it to the dance floor.

  • Lena

    If you do go the sitter route. things to think about based on my awful experience of being a babysitter at a wedding:
    – Ratio of children to supervision (You should not be leaving 13 children with one 14 year old sitter, looking back on it I don’t even think that is legal)
    – What the sitter should do if a child starts acting out ( I had an older kid jump out a window and run away from me leaving me holding a baby and watching 11 other kids and debating what to do)
    – Make sure your sitter has a way of getting a hold of you or the parents (Note the child who ran away and me with no way to get a hold of anyone)
    – Let parents know to make their expectations clear (is the child allowed to leave and find them? Nothing like getting yelled at by the parents for chasing down the wayward child that just ran into the woods)
    – Give your sitter a realistic description of the job (I was told I would be one of three sitters and they were expecting max 10 kids and the wedding would be done by 10…that wasn’t even close to it and come one in the morning I was a bit miffed at how the night had gone)
    – Pay your sitter like any other wedding vendor, on time and at the agreed amount (Just ugghh)
    This was for family friends that I loved, but I felt so taken advantage of by the end of it that it changed the whole dynamic of our interactions from then on.

    • Kayjayoh

      Word! We also made sure to have a list of the names and ages of the children, and contact phone numbers for the parents, so that they could be summoned if needed.

      And feed the sitters!

      • Lena

        You sound amazing! That simple list would have made that night much easier. I also forgot about the whole not being fed thing, luckly I always used to pack granola bars. That night was long and frustrating to say the least

        • Kayjayoh

          I can imagine! Ugh.

      • Kara E

        We forgot to do phone numbers, but we had 2 sitters and they had the parents table numbers at least. I think some of the parents gave the sitters their info.

  • morningglory

    We had about 120 guests at our wedding, 20 of them were kiddos ranging in age from 6 weeks to 12 years. We provided kid-sitters for the toddlers thru tweens. They were a pair of brothers who are local, but have years of experience as summer camp counselors. We had an outdoor wedding and there was plenty of space for the kids to run around and the brothers were way into it. Reviews from both parents and kids were positive. And once the dancing got started, some of the kiddos preferred to be on the dance floor, which was great.

    When I polled the parents before the wedding, all of the ones with babies said that they’d prefer to keep the babies close to them, so it worked out perfectly that these brothers were not super-comfortable with babies (ie – changing diapers). For the parents of babies, we provided a changing table and a room to stow their diaper bags that also included a couple of comfy chairs to nurse or snuggle in if they preferred to do that away from the party or if their babes just needed some quiet time. We also rented a few high chairs, after asking who would want one, and all of the kids ate dinner with their families (I think), but they did have the option of a kids meal.

    We knew from the get-go that kids would be welcome at our wedding because we have 6 nephews between us and plenty of friends with wonderful children who were traveling from afar. I couldn’t imagine our wedding without them there, and the accommodations we provided were appreciated by everyone involved.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I’d be curious about advice at looking at potential venues through a parent’s eyes. We tried to look for an out-of-the-way spot for breastfeeding and diaper changing, for outside areas for running around, etc. But a separate children’s room wasn’t in the cards at most venues we looked at.

    • SarahG

      Yes, we had this problem. Which also nixed the idea of having a babysitter at our house, because at least one parent said they weren’t comfortable not being able to easily check on their small kid and how they were doing with a stranger. So: no babysitting.

    • Meg Keene

      We didn’t look for venues with that in mind. Parents, honestly, are used to parenting everywhere, so it’s not the biggest deal.

      The separate room thing is only really an issue if you A) Want a late night wedding where parents stay, or B) If you have people coming from way far away and you don’t want kids at the wedding. Otherwise, not really an issue!

      • sleepwakehopeandthen

        I made sure to get a place with seperate small rooms, although not exclusively for children, since there will be very few of them. But there will be quite afew people there, so we all occasionally need breaks to stop and hide (and especially me). So small rooms or seperate spaces where it is quieter and ok to take a break were one of the priorities in my place choosing.

  • Eh

    My friend’s son cried during our whole ceremony. She was really worried that it was disturbing the mood, and then she realized that my nephew and my cousin’s son were also both crying, so she felt a bit better. She also realized that had invited all of these children (over a quarter of our guest list were children, however fewer than that came to our wedding) so I probably (hopefully) knew what I was getting myself into. (My husband didn’t even notice the screaming children – he was ignoring everyone other than me and the officiant.)

    This lead to one of the funniest moments of our ceremony. My friend’s son did not want her to hold him, he wanted his father. So my friend’s husband took their son to the side of the theatre (my SIL and my cousin were with their sons on the other side). Her husband was one of our witnesses. When we got to the point in the ceremony where our officiant called for our two witnesses and my friend had a delayed reaction and then realized that she was going to have to relieve her husband. She jumped out of her seat and ran down the stairs and everyone had a good laugh.

    During the rehearsal we also realized that it might be difficult for my SIL to hold my nephew (who was an infant at the time) and keep my niece who was toddler in her seat while my brother was doing a reading. For us it wasn’t a big deal if she came up on the stage with my brother so we told them to not worry about it (at the actual ceremony they managed to keep her wrangled while he was doing the reading so it all worked out).

    At the reception we had activity books and crayons for the kids – nothing too extravagant. And the centre pieces were board games with kid friendly ones (i.e., games that kids already know how to play and are age appropriate) at the tables with kids (one of my nieces really enjoyed playing Snakes and Ladders at her table). We also had a DJ even though my husband and I don’t really dance because I know that kids like to dance.

    • Eh

      Another friend played with toys at the back of the theatre with her one year old daughter and missed the whole ceremony. She didn’t mind because her husband was our sound guy so she was near him and she had a very important role in the ceremony, she straightened my train before I walked down the stairs.

  • Kayjayoh

    Our wedding was at a children’s museum, and we have a lot of friends and family with kids (about half of whom were coming from out of town) so not including children seemed unthinkable. We didn’t do anything particularly special for the kids (hello? Museum!) other than replacing the bouquet toss (which no one wanted) with a pinata (which everyone loved).

    For the parents, we hired three college students to mind the children during the reception. A good portion of the kids were under 5, and even more were under 2, so they would have required a lot of parent attention. So to let the parents (especially the moms, because who are we kidding) relax and enjoy, there were two child minders in the 5 and under area of the museum and one keeping an eye on the older kids’ climbing area on the second floor (they traded off throughout the night). It worked very well, and the parents were very grateful to have them there.

    We did also get/borrow a bunch of pack and plays, so that when the small ones started to crash in the late evening, there were places to put them that did not require returning to the hotel early.

    • Rachel

      pinata is an awesome replacement for a bouquet toss!!!

      • Kayjayoh

        In the end, I did have a tiny bouquet toss. I’d made a small spare bouquet when I made mine in the morning, and tossed it to two little girls who were interested. One got the bouquet and the other got a sprig of flowers that I’d pulled from my sister’s bouquet, which I pinned into her hair with one of my many, many bobby pins.

  • Ellen

    Things we did to actively make our wedding child-friendly included having a “kid parade” instead of a ring bearer and flower girl- all of the kids who were attending the wedding were welcome to take part (and they did) but this meant that we weren’t reliant on one four year old to walk down the aisle. Stage fright is real, y’all. (As an aside, I am pretty bummed out that as the bride I didn’t get to see this kid parade happen. I heard it was awesome.) We also made sure that the food we had was kid-friendly and had our caterer set aside extra celery and carrots for little kids to gnaw on. We bought bubbles and pinwheels for them to use, had a “kid corral” area in case they needed some time away, and had our ceremony and reception in a field where they could run amok and nobody would freak out.

    Our caterer went above and beyond to hang out with these little kids and I know they had an absolute BLAST as a result. The kids also danced their faces off but were also super respectful and (actually) helpful. One of them made all of the bouquets that the girls carried down the aisle as part of the kid parade and I know that once I get our pictures back, seeing those bouquets will make me smile.

    The best part though? The entire back cover of our guest book simply says “I LOVE YOUR DRESS” signed by one of the little girls. Another one wrote “YOU ROKE(sp: rock) ELLEN” elsewhere in the guest book. I love that not only were they present at the wedding, they felt like they were really part of it.

    • Kayjayoh

      We did the “yay parade” thing, too, although we limited it to our nephew, niece, and god children, for purposes of crowd control. I think they had fun with it. Our niece was shy and decided not to participate, and that was fine, too.

      • Ellen

        I think we had eight total? One of our adult guests got called into action as “kid-wrangler” (she works at a preschool, so she was totally good with this). Any more than that could’ve been unwieldy.

        • Kayjayoh

          We would have possibly had 20 if everyone took part which…no. :) And this way they got to go through it at the rehearsal, since they all had parents involved and were on the scene anyway.

          • Ellen

            Yeah, no way we would’ve gone this route with 20!

    • Rora

      I love the idea of a kid parade, but how exactly did you arrange it? Did you notify parents in advance, or ask kids to participate right before the ceremony?

      • Ellen

        We had a lot of information about it on our wedding website. We also did online-only RSVPs and made sure that there was a note on the RSVP page saying “please let us know if you have any kids who will be involved in the kid parade!”

        A couple of them were the children of people in our wedding party and so they actually took part in our rehearsal as well, and then the rest took the lead from them day of. One veered off course at one point but people found it adorable rather than annoying. Having awesome guests helped too.

    • Meg Keene

      AWWW. I love this. Kid parade.

      • sbc

        we did a kid parade too! we had a bunch of single flowers the kids could carry down the aisle. Some kids were carried by their parents, others walked by themselves or with sibs. We had them sit with their parents after they put their flowers in a vase at the front of the temple, and had my brother (a teacher who’s good with kids) and the wedding planner in charge of organizing them and sending them down the aisle. It worked out well!

        We had a crossword puzzle and coloring page in our program for kids to work on during the ceremony. It was a brunch wedding and it was a buffet, so lots of kid-friendly food (that they could choose themselves) at a kid-friendly time. And ice cream sundae bar and cupcakes for dessert. I don’t care what age you are that’s a good party.

  • Alison O

    This isn’t related to weddings exactly but might inspire folks who seek to make parents feel welcome!

    • Shotgun Shirley

      I want to attend this church.

      • Guest

        Me too!

    • Meg Keene

      This made me tear up. You know, growing up in the church really shaped how I approach kids in all spaces, because THIS. This is also the world I want to live in (and not just as a parent, at all).

    • Caroline

      Yup, I think this type of thing is so important. When my rabbi heard that someone at services had asked a parent to remove their somewhat noisy, fussy child-like child from the sanctuary, he was outraged.
      And now every week, this is printed in the announcements: “A Note from Rabbi Creditor: A Sanctuary for our Children – Our children are cherished parts of our spiritual life, not distractions from it. Jewish tradition teaches us that the Gates of Heaven are open only because of the cries of children. How can our prayers be acceptable if we exclude our most pure sound? We welcome children in our sanctuary, knowing that sometimes they make child-like sounds. We ask parents to be mindful that our spiritual life includes moments of solemnity, and to use good judgment regarding bringing children to shul. We also remind others that parents alone are responsible for their children in our shul, in the sanctuary, and in general. There is no place in our community for asking a parent to remove a child from the sanctuary. If you feel the urge to react to the sound a child makes, please know that you are welcome to walk out of the sanctuary until that feeling subsides. Our children will be the next generation of Jewish leaders – unless we inform them that their whole selves aren’t welcome in our sacred spaces. Please remember (and remind each other if the need arises): Our sanctuary is not a sanctuary from children. It is a sanctuary we’ve built for our children, and for their children after them.” -Rabbi Menachem Creditor

    • mackenzie

      Maybe I’m having a day, but reading that note made me cry. So loving!

  • macrain

    This issue is something I did not foresee being stressed about, but I am.
    We drew the line at kids in our family, so there will be 7 kids of varying ages in attendance. However, SO MANY of our groomsmen JUST had babies with their partners, and another baby will be here within weeks of our wedding. I do want to be accommodating of this, I’m just not sure how. Our plan right now is to just wait and see if they reach out to us about bringing the babies. One actually has, and we said of course.
    Do we need to be like, “hey, it’s ok to bring your baby if you need to?” We’ve been going back and forth about this.

    • Lawyerette510

      I think it’s a really kind thing to do for those new parents to reach out and say “We want you to be here and enjoy being here, and if bringing the baby is going to make it easier for you to do that, please know you’re welcome to.” or something like that. From what I’ve heard and read, being a new parent can be isolating and overwhelming and if they are married, they probably know how stressful weddings can be, so they don’t want to add to your stress by asking, but quite possibly they are sitting at home stressing out over what to do. And if they aren’t stressing out about it, it would probably make them feel good anyway.

    • Meg Keene

      YES, please say that. The thing about new babies and breast feeding moms is that often they can’t be separated. So, what might well happen is that the mom will get stuck at home alone AGAIN (possibly crying, TBH, hormones are a bitch) because they didn’t know it was ok to ask. So please, please, let them know it’s fine. They may still not be able to come, but you cry a lot less hard sitting at home nursing a baby that won’t sleep while your partner is at a wedding (BECAUSE FUCKING MEN MAN, BIOLOGY AND THE WORLD GIVES THEM A FUCKING PASS), if you know that you’re not being excluded, but that you opted out because it was too hard.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      For people who are OK with babies, but not older children for whatever reason:

      My Catholic college tries to be parent-friendly. Invitations to alumni events often say “Babes in arms welcome” or “Babes in arms only.” This means that babies – too young to need a plate or a seat – the ones that if they couldn’t come, a parent would likely have to stay home – can come, but not toddlers and older children.

      I think it works well, in that I meet couples at these events that are treating the events like a date, especially if they just have the baby and older children are with a sitter. And the college can have extra grown-up events and doesn’t have to always arrange for childcare. (The college also has barbeques and field days, even seminars, where children are invited and special activities arranged for them. Then there are black-tie events where even babies aren’t expected.)

  • Maria Bowman

    We had a piñata, bubbles, frisbees, glowstick bracelets, beanbag toss, dogs running around, and a tractor sitting out for kids to climb on. We got juice boxes of juice/chocolate milk which we tossed in with the “adult” beverages. They also seemed to love the bonfire and the band. Parents thanked us multiple times for making it a relaxed and fun vibe for the kids….it helped that we had a large property, and gave the kids free run of it.

    • Kayjayoh

      OMG, that little boy crawling up the bean toss board just killed me with cute!

    • Kayjayoh

      Also, pinatas are the best. Every party needs a pinata.

  • Rora

    I’m the original commenter who asked this question and I’m loving all the ideas and points for consideration that are coming in. And I appreciate the distinction between “kid-friendly” and “parent-friendly.” Turns out the latter was actually my main concern!

  • StevenPortland

    I really needed to read this article this week! less than 3 weeks before our reception where 20 of the 70 guests will be young kids (including our two sons). During cocktail hour there will be a balloon twister guy and so I imagine the rest of the evening there will be lots of balloon sword fights and really big balloon hats on the kids’ heads. For the past several weeks I’ve been obsessing about what to do for the kids for the 2 1/2 hours of the party after dinner is over. Now that I’ve read this article, I’m not going to worry about it. The kids will be fine — and hopefully/probably our kids will hang out with older cousins and we will have some much needed adult conversation with old friends. Thanks for the sane advice as always!

    • Rora

      Balloons! Now there’s an idea.

    • Meg Keene

      <3 The kids will be more than fine. Watch out flower beds!

      I can't wait to see pictures!!!

  • MN Sarah

    My husband and I didn’t do anything specifically to welcome kids at our wedding, but we had a small wedding and not that many of our guests had kids. So I’m sure we viewed it differently than we would have, say, if 50 kids were gonna be there. We had maybe five.

    One thing that we did entirely for other reasons (read: because we loved it) that proved kid-friendly was that we held our wedding outdoors at a park, a big grassy green space with plenty of trees.

    After our ceremony, a friend came up to me to apologize for the disturbance. Apparently his son had started to get fussy during the ceremony, so he moved the toddler away from the action to play. Guess what? I hadn’t noticed any of it: not the kid’s fussiness, not the discreet move away from the scene.

    Of course this was mostly due to the awesomeness of parents who *parent* when they decide to bring their children to events. I don’t expect a parent to hover over a child every second nor a child to behave like an adult. But I’m thankful that my friend honored a sacred moment for my husband and me by bringing an antsy kid away to play for a few minutes when it was needed.
    And having a wedding in a kid-friendly space made that easier.

    • sarah

      I think this is key: parents parenting. As a guest I don’t mind kids at weddings, but I do mind when they disrupt the ceremony and I can no longer hear or pay attention to it. This is actually why I’m wary of kids at ceremonies. Not because they’re not cute and not because multi-generational events aren’t important, but because I think wedding guests should be able to pay attention to the couple getting married.

      • Lauren from NH

        To be fair, I would agree. I can get a little annoyed at large gatherings where parents and adults are taking very little responsibility for the little ones and essentially dumping it on the young adults to watch them. I feel pressured to get all motherly when that’s not a role I am currently aspiring to and that’s definitely not how I like to party and let loose. Having a little care that your kid is not always the one rampaging around kicking soccer balls at people and sticking their fingers in everyone’s plate would be nice. If you really want a break from parenting, hire a sitter or at least have the courtesy to ask before unleashing your kid on me when I don’t really know you or the kid.

  • Gina

    We love kids and wanted them to feel welcome. Like Meg said, just knowing that their kids are a welcomed part of your day rather than a burden is all you need.

    We ended up doing a few baskets like this at the tables with kids, and I guarantee they weren’t more than $10 per basket (not including baskets, which I reused later). We just went to the dollar store and got a bunch of cheap toys. They were a HUGE hit. One of my favorite parts of the night was seeing all the kids jamming out on the dance floor with their glow stick bracelets on :)

    • Gina

      Whoops, here’s the pic.

    • Gina

      One more time.

      • Another Meg

        I don’t think the image thing works.

  • Inmara

    We had 2 teens and 3 kids from 4 to 12 in our 50 people wedding. Actually, the ones that are most non-entertainable are teens – they are too old to run around and act like children, but not yet adults, so sometimes I really feel for them.
    I provided some coloring books and games for kids, but they didn’t need any of them (except for photobooth props) – dancing and running around with each other was enough. I wouldn’t suggest separate kids table, though – one of biggest appeals for kids in such events is that it is ADULT event where they can be among adults, listen to their conversations and act like small grownups… until the moment when they get bored with parents and start running around with other kids. Also, it’s easier for parents to keep an eye on their offspring if seats are designated for all family together.
    One of most memorable moments from the reception dinner was when my 8 year old niece insisted that she will say a speech – it was about how other children whom she met first time are now her dearest friends… so cute!

  • Another Meg

    We lucked out on the kid front- we had 12 kids, age range 4-11, and a tiny playground set up next to our venue. Chance luck that turned into something fantastic. What we found helpful in terms of seating was to put the kids together at tables, and put those tables next to their parents’ tables. That way they all got to sit together but parents were close by to run interference if necessary.

  • sleepwakehopeandthen

    I am so sad we won’t have any young children at my wedding. Our youngest cousins are 10 (and there’s only 2 of them) and because we around the first of our friends to get married, no one has any kids yet in our family (and since we have large families, its going to be 150ish with just family and a few close friends). It is really disappointing. My best friend’s wedding had all her tiny cousins running around playing and it was so lovely. If only I could borrow her cousins for my wedding…

  • Sarah E

    Thanks for this discussion. We’re talking more about our ceremony this weekend, but our guest list is huge so far, and if we include all the kids, it’s about 50 of them, ranging from infant to 17 yrs. We have a huge amount of space at the venue for them to run around in, but I’m slightly concerned because my partner and I aren’t kids people. At this point, we plan on having them, because they’re family, so duh of course. I’m mostly concerned about my own attitude because I do get miffed when kids interrupt things. Our ceremony will be in the evening, with dessert and cocktails only, and pretty much all the kids will be traveling from 2 hours away or more. Maybe I’ll just put a disclaimer on the website saying something like “Please let me know if you have any questions about having the kids at the venue” or something. More thought required, obviously.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’m not good around kids. I never ask to hold babies. But I think I got along well with the kids at my own wedding because I was so happy. Kids can pick up on anxiety and fake smiles, but I didn’t have that at my wedding, so the kids and I became friends.

      An illustrating story: One little boy was sort of crowding the mother-son (groom) dance. It didn’t really bother us, but I worried that someone would whisper “Why doesn’t someone get that kid away from their special moment?” (The parents were immigrants and unfamiliar with American wedding customs, particularly about kids.) So I stepped in and started dancing with the boy, which is not something I would normally want to do or even be able to pull off without the kid getting creeped out. It was one of a few great “I’m the bride; I can’t be faulted today” moments from the wedding. I made a new friend. We had fun. The mother-son dance was saved. The pictures are great.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com/ Superfantastic

    Pretty much everyone had to travel to our wedding and everyone with little kids except my sister and brother decided to make it a kid-free vacation, so the only kids were my five nieces and nephews, ages 2-5. I made some coloring books using wedding clip art and put them out on their tables with crayons. They did color during dinner and toasts and then danced like crazy once the music started. Highlights of my wedding per my now six year-old niece, almost two years later: dancing, cake, cheese cubes during the cocktail hour.

    • Lawyerette510

      Your niece has great taste; dancing, cake and cheese cubes are often the highlight of weddings I attend.

  • z

    Well, I agree that it’s not truly about the decor. But please do think about the candles! I recently left a wedding reception with my 18-month-old after about 30 minutes because they had hundreds of tea lights all over the place, about knee high. Looked gorgeous, but kids that age don’t understand “no” and I just couldn’t deal with having her there.

  • JSwen

    Love number 3. Thank you for that. We made little activity bags out of $1 items from Target for them to play with during dinner. Other than that? Kids, do your thang! Screaming on the dance floor? Awesome! Sleeping under tables? Cool!

  • Heh

    A huge perk about the venue we chose is that it has a park next door, with a full play-area. You can see the swings and slides from the reception areas windows so my hope is that parents will feel ok letting their kids run in and out. We’re having a smaller wedding with only ten kids in attendance. My hope is that my niece gets along with my baby cousin, and that everyone has as good a time as I remember having at weddings! Some of my fondest memories range from romping around the garden with kids I’d met that morning to ripping up the dance floor with the adults. I think kids are built for fun, and they’ll find it no matter what. Big empty hall? No problem, let’s slide-race in our socks! Small intimate dinner? Let’s pretend that under this table is a cave! Not everyone is up for embracing the chaos, but I agree that it’s one of the nicest gifts you can give your parent-guests.

  • C R

    A bit late to the thread, but we had about 160 people with maybe 25 kids under 12, so here’s what worked for us:

    1. Ask your caterer about how they handle kids’ meals — sometimes they have different prices for kid’s meals, or can set you up with some different options for them. Kids under 12 ate for free at our buffet, so it was easy for us. Also, ask your venue about high chairs. We only had 2 at our venue, so we gave our guests with kids a heads up — one of the more local people just brought a traveling high chair so they’d have an easier time with dinner, and that freed up a chair for long-distance guests.

    2. Keep in mind that hotels near your venue can make it easier for families with kids — it’s not always an option, but we got a lot of positive feedback from our guests about how happy they were that the hotel was so close to the venue. I think it was just easier knowing that it would be simple to pop over to the hotel if a change of clothes or a nap was needed.

    3. We were going to do a small table with butcher block paper and a pile of crayons for kids to draw on, but we ran out of time to make that happen…still a fun idea though! What actually worked best was an impromptu table of Lego’s that cropped up — one of the family members brought a bucket of Lego’s, and it immediately became the most popular table in the place….lots of us adults were eyeing up the fun, too!!

    4. We did a kid’s “fun toss” before the bouquet and garter toss — we danced around a bit all together, then I tossed a tiny bouquet and the winner got a stuffed animal, and everyone got a piece of candy or small toy from a grab bag. That way they kids didn’t feel left out when the adults had their turn, and everyone got a little something as a treat. Adorable photos, too :)

    The kids were an awesome part of our wedding and made the day extra special!

  • Christina

    On a slightly different note, does anyone have thoughts about how to keep teenagers entertained at weddings? My first cousins are all high-school age, and while I’d hate to see them glued to their phones the whole time, I don’t want them to be bored out of their skulls or feeling SO AWKWARD about all the rowdy, drunk adults around them. (Though maybe the awkwardness just comes with the territory.)

  • Kara E

    I love the idea of reframing this as a PARENT-friendly wedding.

    I know this might be late, but we did a lot of those things for our wedding where most of the parents with kiddos were coming from out of town. We invited the (little) kids to join us for for cocktail hour, then had babysitters with homemade pizza and fruit in a separate room during the sit-down dinner (a part of the reception that was really important to my parents). We made it clear to parents that they were welcome to bring kids in whenever they wanted, but hopefully they could enjoy their dinners. Some of the little ones joined us for cake and dancing later, and some parents slipped out with their kids early. The bigger kids (1st grade and up) got to sit down with the adults for dinner and were amazingly well behaved. My dad (a long time public school administrator for years) encouraged us to do that, and my little cousins and husband’s nieces and nephew totally rose to the occasion. And the littlest kids were so sweet at the cocktail hour and on the dance floor. I’m glad we included them.

    We also just attended a wedding where the bride called to see whether she could/should rent a high chair for our one year old. Made us so much more comfortable that she actually WANTED her there. And she also danced with our (not yet walking and slightly sticky) daughter.

  • http://www.meanestlook.com/ Sara Downey Robinson

    This happened when I got to bring my kiddo to a wedding. #justsayin #GirlsLinedUp

  • Christy

    My brother got married last year on our two acre property. He invited about 300 people to the wedding, about 80 of whom where children. They didn’t want kids running too crazily all over the place, so what did they do? Hire a bounce house. It was amazing…especially after the kids went home and us slightly inebriated adults decided to relive our childhoods by bouncing around.

    While my wedding won’t support a bounce house, we’ll only have about 5 kids there…all of my nieces and nephews. To our two friends that do have kids, we told them that we’d rather have their kids there if it meant they could come. Since we’ll have less than 10 kids at the wedding, I’ll probably just have little coloring books handy and call it a day.

  • Jen

    We definitely wanted a kid-friendly wedding, and even though we only had five kids there, I think it was a success. We gave our ring bearer and confetti boy bubble guns and crayons, but other than that we didn’t have any kid activities. Right after my first dance, our three-year-old confetti boy begged me to dance with him. The guests had a blast dancing with the three boys who populated the dance floor for most of the night and we only had one minor mishap when a family member tried to kick my nephew out for being too rowdy.

  • Natalie

    I recently went to an outdoor Sunday afternoon/evening wedding where the kids were one of the best parts. It was in a big backyard, which had a little side yard with a sandbox. The bride provided sandbox toys and coloring books with stickers (my friend’s 4-yr-old wandered around during dinner to ensure that every guest was offered princess stickers). The kids had a blast! So what if their cute wedding clothes were all covered with sand by the end of the night – they were going to outgrow them before the next wedding they go to anyways. And watching the little kids getting down on the dance floor was so much fun! This wedding, due to said sandbox, was in an especially kid-friendly setting, but I’m pretty sure the kids would have had just as much fun in another setting, as long as they were free to run around and put stickers on wine glasses and break dance.

    I’m hoping that my wedding will be just as kid-friendly (sadly, we have no sandbox). I was thinking about buying Goldiblox (http://www.goldieblox.com/) sets for a kid toy table, mostly because I want to play with them. I’ve already got some books, washable crayons, and coloring books (I found a Disney princess brides coloring book. omg, so wedding themed that I feel a little dirty about it, but I would have loved it as a kid, so whatever). I’m going to buy some toy cars and dinosaur figures, too. I really like your comment that the toys will be appreciated more as a gesture that kids are welcome than as something the kids need. That will likely keep me from going overboard. But I like the idea of keeping my wedding toys to bring out whenever friends’ kids come to my house.

    • Ragnhild

      Wedding toys – what a great idea to save them!

  • http://uristmcdorf.tumblr.com Vic Mazonas

    Most of the parent-age adults – my aunts and uncles and a few cousins – are fairly enthusiastic music festival
    lovers and all-night partyers, so it’s important to us that they can
    have a good drink and not have to worry about driving or ending the
    night early. One thing that’s making me more excited for our upcoming wedding is that we’re looking at locations that have on-site camping the night of the wedding event. Everyone in my family loves camping, up to and including the various grandparenty types, and it’s an arrangement that will immediately make the kids situation easier for everyone.

    Most of the kids won’t be baby-age by the time the wedding rolls around, I think the youngest will be ten maybe, and in my family it’s fairly normal for ten year olds to stay up until around 11pm on special family occasions like parties and weddings. 11pm just happens to be exactly the time most of the venues we’ve looked at require the music to wind down. So we can shepherd the entire crowd to the campsite to gather around the firepit and play acoustic music and probably nibble and sip on whatever buffet leftovers and drinks are remaining while me and a few others tidy up the reception area. Kids then can settle down in their tents to sleep.

    And if any get tired earlier, I know several relatives who probably won’t be interested in partying all night long who’ll be looking for a good excuse to retire to a more peaceful area, and they’ve stated they’ll be happy to chaperone kids to the campsite and keep an eye on them there.

  • Ragnhild

    Due to budget and room restriction, we decided to invite only a few kids, and ended up with 5, including one infant. The only thing we planned was for a babysitter to take care of them during dinner in a separate room, but did not provide any games/toys etc. The parents brought some toys, and the 2-year-old boys became best friends, which it was the cutest thing!

    The 9 year old girl loved to help the babysitter, and it all worked out fine. One little girl would only stay with her mom, but thats alright too. When it was bedtime, we had a room (a sauna actually!) where he could sleep. The venue helped us get some high chairs which was very helpful.

    We loved having kids there, especially my nephew. Saying goodnight to him in his PJs was a very sweet moment, and added to the relaxed family feeling of the party. We had talked to all the parents in advance and tried to give as much info as possible, so I am pretty sure they felt it was parent-friendly. Also, after the wedding, my mom told me my nephew was talking a lot during the ceremony, and even though he was on the first row, I never noticed a thing!

  • notquitecece

    Small question: What age is the cutoff between babe-in-arms status (no place/meal required) and separate-seat-and-meal kid status? We’re hoping to welcome all, but trying to estimate correctly for venue size limits.