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Children at a Wedding

As any bride or groom-to-be would agree, compiling the guest list is one of the most difficult parts of planning a wedding. One subject which often gets a bit sticky is the issue of whether or not have children at a Wedding

For and Against Children at a Wedding

'Children are the life and soul of a wedding,' says newly-wed Jo. 'Lots of my family and friends have little ones and it wouldn’t have been the same without them. Weddings are all part of the cycle of life, as are children, and I think it’s odd to exclude them.'

Others, however, take a very different view. 'I knew I didn’t want any children at our wedding,' says Clare, who married last July. 'I’d sat through dozens of ceremonies straining to hear the vows over the wails of a baby or the loud complaints of a restless three year old.'

Lara, who is getting married in two weeks, couldn’t agree more. 'At a wedding last summer, I spilt a glass of Champagne down my dress when a rampaging five year old cannoned straight into me. In my opinion, weddings are an adult occasion and children should be left at home!'

Making a decision on having children at a Wedding

If you don’t have strong feelings either way, deciding on whether or not to include children will probably depend on a number of different factors:

* the timing of the ceremony and reception
* the size of the ceremony venue
* the style of reception venue
* the length of your guest list
* your budget.

Once you have made your mind up, you'll need to consider how your decision impacts on all kinds of different aspects of your big day. Here's how to handle this delicate issue and still have the wedding of your dreams - with or without children!

Weddings WITHOUT children

Deciding not to have children at your wedding can be difficult, but not half as tough as informing their parents! You should let people know as early as possible that their children are not invited, to give them plenty of time to organise childcare.

In theory, if a child’s name is not included on an invitation, its parents should realize that it is not invited. But in practice, some people - particularly new parents - will just assume that they can bring their little darlings with them. So to avoid any misunderstandings, be clear from the outset.

There are two ways of letting people know that children are not invited. The first is to tactfully tell parents before the invitations go out. Enlist your own parents and close friends to help you spread the word, and have an explanation at hand. Perhaps you’ve decided not to invite any children because it will be a long day, culminating in a late evening, or because the wedding reception venue does not allow children, or because you know so many little ones that limited space or costs means you can't include them all - so it would be unfair only to include some.

If you're blushing at the thought of having to broach the subject in person, do it in writing. However, printing 'no children' on the invitations is not an option. It's not exactly courteous and will only put people’s backs up. Instead, try something along these lines – 'We regret that we are unable to cater/provide facilities for children.'

Top Tip

Alternatively, many brides and grooms include an information sheet with the invitations, providing travel directions and suggesting places to stay overnight. You could include a single sentence saying: 'We are sorry that we are unable to invite babies and children to the wedding'. Not only does this make the situation clear, but it also implies that your decision was due to circumstances beyond your control.

You will find that most people are understanding. Many guests will be quite happy to attend the wedding without their children, rather than having to spend the day trying to keep them under control. However, you are likely to receive a few pleading phone calls from parents who do not want to leave their children behind. All you can do here is repeat your reasons for not inviting them and point out that if you make an exception in their case, you will risk offending other friends who have been told they cannot bring their offspring.

Be warned, however, that if you refuse to invite children but are having an entourage of small bridesmaids and pageboys, guests are more likely to be upset and ask why their children were excluded. Perhaps these young attendants are family members, which is a perfectly good reason for including them on your guest list.

When friends won’t come without their children.

If you are put in the difficult situation of having to choose between your friends attending with their children or not coming at all, then you have a hard decision to make. Only you know whether you are prepared to compromise or to risk causing offence.

If your friends can be made to understand the difficulty of the situation they could be putting you in - perhaps via a third party - they are likely to respect your wishes without taking offence. But what if, after all, guests STILL turn up with their children in tow? All you can do is smile graciously and make the best of it. Worry about your post-wedding relationship later!

Children at a Wedding

If you’ve decided to invite children to your wedding, plan ahead and prepare for your small guests. Even the most sunny-tempered and well-behaved children will become whiny and irritable at a Wedding if they get hungry and bored, so here are a few suggestions for keeping them cheerful and out of mischief!

If you know you've got lots of children coming to the Wedding, it’s best to plan a morning or afternoon ceremony and reception. Late-night parties are not suitable for small children, who tire easily and won’t enjoy the event.

When you are choosing a venue for the reception, ask the management if they are child-friendly. A stately home crammed with priceless antiques may not be ideal from anyone's point of view. For summer weddings with children, look for a venue with outdoor space, so children can let off steam outside. If you are having a winter wedding with children, or if the chosen venue does not have any outside space, ask if there are any smaller rooms where children can take a nap or play quietly together.

On the invitations, make it quite clear to parents that their children are invited by including their names.

At the reception, seat children at a separate table, which can be decorated for their benefit. Masks and hats will provide plenty of party atmosphere. You could also leave out crayons and paper or buy a colouring book and leave a new picture at each place. Many children at a wedding will draw happily for hours. You could even ask each child to draw a picture of the bride and groom and keep them as a momento!

Don’t expect children to sit down to smoked salmon or other 'adult' delicacies. Ask your caterer to provide child-friendly food, eave out bowls of carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes and crisps on the children’s table and serve juice or fizzy drink. As well as being more popular with your younger guests, this will probably save you money on catering.

Where possible, set aside a quiet room where sleepyheads can have a nap, away from all the noise and excitement of the reception.

If you are planning to invite lots of children to your Wedding, consider hiring an entertainer to keep them amused. Alternatively, you could book a mobile crèche company, who will provide trained staff to look after little ones and free parents up to socialise. Outdoors reception? Why not hire a bouncy castle? Set it up well away from the main reception area and make sure that it’s supervised by a responsible adult at all times.

Top Tip

At the wedding ceremony, ask ushers to seat parents with babies or small children close to the door, so they can make a swift exit if necessary.