Kidding or No Kidding:
Children at Your Wedding
. . . Your Own and/or Your Guests'

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This is an issue which requires a great deal of thought and planning. If having children at a wedding is viewed and addressed as a problem, it will probably become one. It's up to the bride, the groom and their families to carefully think about the issue, discuss it and come to a conclusion that will make as many people as possible happy with the decision.

There are without doubt, certain wedding styles in which may not be appropriate, nor practical for children to attend. A very formal wedding will most likely be seriously boring for almost any age child, while a less formal, more relaxed wedding styles might accommodate children nicely. Should you decide that having children at your wedding is a priority, then that decision should play a role in your determining the kind of wedding you plan. It's not impossible to have even an ultra-formal wedding with children participating, but it requires a great deal of planning before the wedding and careful execution and assistance at the wedding.

The style of the wedding is not the major factor to be considered in making your decision. Most couples have a budget under which they are operating. The smaller the budget, generally means the shorter the guest list. As a result, selecting the guest list becomes more difficult. Only the bride, groom and their respective families can decide who "must" attend their wedding and who won't make the cut.

Yet another factor to consider is precedent. Have your children (or those of other couples) been at most of your families' and friends' weddings? Is it traditional in your circle or community to invite children? If children attended every wedding you have attended, not inviting them to your wedding is likely to cause lots of ill feelings.

Should you decide to have children on your guest list, you certainly can limit their numbers by "closing the circle." Invite only children of immediate family, or widen the circle to include nieces and nephews. Open the circle to include children only over a certain age . . . and so on until you're comfortable with the diameter of the circle you have drawn. Once you have determined what children will be on your guest list, make sure that your invitation wording makes your preferences absolutely clear. If the children of a couple are not being invited, address the invitation only to the adults.

If you have decided against having children at your wedding and are concerned that your invited guests may not "get it," you may add "Adult Reception" at the bottom of the reception card. You can try to nip hurt feelings in the bud by calling people who might be assuming that their children are included in the invitation, in advance of sending out your invitations. Be honest. Explain your feelings and just hope they'll understand your exclusion of their children.

Out-of-town guests who need to bring their children along, pose a special problem. You might consider providing them with a baby-sitter list or even of providing and paying for baby-sitting services.

If your decision is to have children present and/or participate in your wedding there are several ideas which will make things easier and run more smoothly.
Provide kid food for the youngsters. Hamburgers, french fries and pizza will suit their palates much better than filet mignon and will be far less expensive. Most caterers can arrange a special menu of food more suited to children. Those meals are almost always charged at a lower rate than adult meals.
Where possible include the children in the festivities. Where appropriate assign honors or tasks to keep them involved and out of harm's way. Here are several suggestions.

A. Enlist the children to distribute wedding favors to the guests
B. Enlist the children to distribute wedding programs
C. Enlist the children to distribute directions to the reception
D. Have the children serve as escorts and greet the guests
E. Enlist a child to be a page turner for the organist or other soloist
F. Enlist the children to hand out flowers to the guests
G. Enlist the children to hand out rice, birdseed, bubbles or confetti to the guests
H. Enlist the children to "man" the Guest Book and/or Gift Table
I. Enlist one or more children to take candid pictures of the family and bridal party.
   Encourage guests to use their table cameras. Carry a basket and collect the cameras.
J. Enlist one or more children to be the photographer/videographers "people pointer"
   and identify special guests.
K. Enlist one or more children to help guests find their seats at the ceremony and at the reception.
L. Enlist one or more children to help distribute the wedding cake
M. Have a child serve as flower girl (ideally between the ages of 4-7)
    and/or ring bearer, junior bridesmaids (ideally between the ages of 8-12) or ushers.
N. Have an older child serve as Best Man, Maid of Honor, or escort to the bride.
O. If one of the children is talented musically, include them in the festivities.
    Invite them to share their talent at the reception or present a reading during the ceremony.
P. Make the ceremony a family event by adding vows, after the wedding vows,
   that include you and your new spouse's commitment to the children and to your new family.
Q. At the reception, make the "first dance" one that includes not only the married couple,
   but also each of the extended family members . . . mom, step-dad, dad, step-mom, and all the kids.
R. After the reception, when the gifts are opened,
    allow the children in the family to open gifts and/or keep track (list) of who gave what.
   Give them some Scotch tape in order to fasten the cards to the gifts.
S. Let them help to decorate the ceremony and/or reception site.
T. Let them help with the set-up of the reception location
   (favors, place cards, guest book, toasting glasses, etc.)

If you can manage the added expense in your budget . . .
1. Consider hiring on-site sitters. The kids' parents will thank you for your consideration.
2. Provide toys and other "diversions" to keep the children busy.
3. Hire some form of child-oriented entertainment like a clown, balloon designer or magician.
4. Set up a play room at your church or chapel. Have one of the older teenagers in your family
   be in charge of the group, giving them instructions to keep the children
    quiet and inside the play area. Provide some age-appropriate books, toys and games.
5. Provide some cots, blankets and pillows for little ones who grow tired.

Children can add their own special touches to a wedding. It's up to the bride and groom to appropriately plan for the children who are invited and to integrate them properly into the wedding day. In that way the children, their parents, the couple, and the guests will remember the presence of children pleasantly.

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