There's just no avoiding them.
In most families and friendship circles someone is either:
- thinking about having a baby,
- has just had a baby,
- or had a baby that grew up into (gasp!) a child.
Like it or not, working out what you (and/or your wedding guests) are going to do with the littlies on the big day is a planning necessity.
In the past, parents would choose to either arrange an off-site babysitter or wrestle/bribe/beg their kids to behave like adults so they can enjoy at least a few hours as a wedding guest.
But there are new, inclusive options which mean that children can be looked after and/or entertained in a safe and nurturing environment at the same venue so everyone can have fun.
Win win, yes?
Unbridely spoke with Event Coordinator, Hannah of Adelaide-based Nurturing Nannies, about the things you need to consider when planning a kid-friendly wedding.
DON'T MISS YOUR FREE PERSONALISED KIDS WEDDING ACTIVITY BOOKLET PDF!
(just click the button at the end of the post)
First up, pull together your kids guest list with some extra details
Before you even begin, you will need to know how many children will be attending your wedding, whether they will be coming for the ceremony and reception (or just the ceremony), their ages and any special needs (learning difficulties, allergies etc).
It is worth keeping this list separate from the rest of your guest list to help with kids meals and seating arrangements too.
Assess the location/venue space you have available
Thinking about these kids, their ages and needs, look at your venue/s and work out if you have room to create a dedicated space for them away from where the ceremony/speeches are held.
Keeping in mind that children behave up to 800% worse when their parents are in sight, this separation between adults and children can have big advantages for the peace of all your guests and the general smooth running of your wedding.
You are looking for a safe and quiet space as far away from the from the entry/exit access points as possible (see: Amazing Houdini Children). Some venues have dedicated green rooms that would be ideal for this.
If your venue doesn't have a separate room, having a kids table can provide similar benefits.
Determine your goals
So now, knowing the season your wedding will be in (the hellish heat of summer, the chilly depths of winter, or somewhere in between), the time of your ceremony and reception, the number of children attending and their ages, do you need to provide an active or creative space?
An active space might include lawn games, a bouncy castle or age-appropriate dancing while a creative space may include a Lego station, craft table or a group portrait painting of the happy couple.
Generally, a reception around lunchtime would have an active kids area, a late afternoon start would favour a more creative space and a reception commencing in the early evening would need a quieter, more calming and nurturing environment for the kids.
When it comes to working with children and animals, it's fair to say that there are no guarantees, but here are some extra tips to inspire you to create a wedding celebration for all ages:
1. Have a lunchtime wedding or invite children to the ceremony only.
Kids behave better and listen to their parents more earlier in the day. This means that your guests will have a better time and love you for it too.
2. Provide age-appropriate seating for an outdoor ceremony.
As a general guide 0-1 years old will be held by parent/guardian on their laps or in a pram. Ensure that there is space out of the aisle for strollers/prams.
1-4 years old on a rug strategically placed away from the altar/front of ceremony so as not to distract from the main event. It is worth asking the parents to supply some favourite (quiet, non battery powered) toys, a book or two and some finger food that doesn't stain clothes too.
Children 5 years old and up can usually be coaxed/bribed to sit on regular chairs beside their parents/guardians.
3. Offer child-friendly and age appropriate food
While most venues will offer kids meals at a reduced price, they are usually individually plated and suitable for children 4-5 years old and above. Toddlers are better served a platter or two of finger food in the kids area so they can graze and play at the same time.
With platters of shared food, there is also the bonus of children being influenced by their peers. If the only thing on offer is a fruit platter and one kid is hungry enough to eat a piece, then others might feel like it's the thing to do as well.
Your parent guests will reap the rewards of peer pressure eating and will thank you.
4. Create an activity pack/booklet
An easy and inexpensive way to keep the kids busy is to print some activity books and (depending on your setup) some shared pencils and/or crayons (textas can stain table linen and clothes) or a mini pack for each child.
Unbridely have created this FREE gender-neutral wedding activity book which can be personalised with the couple's names for you to download, print out and put together (1 or 2 staples should do it).
Wedding Activity Booklet Instructions
- Open pdf by clicking on the picture or "free personalised wedding activity booklet pdf" button below these instructions.
- Download pdf by clicking the arrow button on the top right hand side of the screen
Open the pdf in Adobe Acrobat.
- Change the names of the couple getting married, being sure to add "'s" to the second name i.e. Krista & Nick's Wedding Activity Booklet.
- Save pdf and print double-sided.
- Staple collated pages together with two staples placed approx 5mm inside the left fold.
5. Hire a baby sitter or nanny service
If you have more than a few children on the guest list, especially if some of them are coming from interstate or overseas, it might be time to call in the pros.
A dedicated nanny service like Nurturing Nannies can be the perfect solution. A typical wedding package to accommodate children from 3 months old in a safe, fun and engaging environment includes:
- on-site professional, experienced and trustworthy nannies to look after the little ones
- a range of premium quality, child-friendly craft activities, books and games
- outdoor games and activities (subject to your wedding venue)
- a calm and comfortable area for children to relax and wind down
- beautiful take home bags with little gifts.
Nurturing Nannies wedding packages can be tailored to suit your individual needs and wishes and they also offer the additional options of:
- helping your flower girls and/or page boys get ready for their duties and caring for them
- caring for your children during your ceremony to ensure they are calm and engaged during the important parts
- helping to care for children and bring them forward at the appropriate times during bridal party and family photographs
6. Get some kid-friendly tunes going early
Wear them out with a set of kids-only dance floor time in the early evening.
Have a chat with your band or DJ about what would best suit your style of wedding reception, but generally a little "Can’t Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake, "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, "Cheap Thrills" by Sia or "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga is going to help the kids burn off some nervous energy and provide ample entertainment for your guests too.
7. Don't forget wedding favours for the children
Any decent kids party has lolly bags to take home.
While your adult guests might be receiving little bottles of personalised extra-virgin olive oil, artisan tea or Belgian chocolates, the children might appreciate something more fun and age appropriate.
Think classic sweets, a cupcake, temporary tattoos etc.
8. Sometimes you just have to channel your inner child
And if all else fails, you can't go wrong with glow sticks, a bouncy castle, teepee, dress ups, a pinata, milk and cookies for the speeches/toasts, bubble machine, some kids-only photo booth time, a Lego station, face painting or a mini pamper/beauty salon set-up.
Let your imagination wander and good luck!