Inviting them: Yes or No?

On one hand, you want your entire family at your wedding – and that means your nieces, nephews and young cousins.  On the other, there goes the budget – and your sophisticated ambiance.  “Whatever you do, be consistent and stick to your guns,” says wedding consultant Marcy Blum.  “You can’t say ‘All the kids have to be over ten years old except for my sister’s three children because I’m so close to them.’  No one will understand.  To be ultraclear, write the names of those invited on each invitation (Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pearson and Laura Pearson).  Avoid printing a catch-all phrased like “Adults Only” which can look offensive and sound x-rated.

Yours, Mine and Ours
Got kids?  Here’s how to include them in the ceremony:

  • Depending on age, allow them to light candles or do readings.
  • Offer them a ring or other symbolic piece of jewelry.
  • Mention them in your toast; if they’re old enough, encourage them to give their own.
  • Let them share a special dance with you and the groom.
  • Table Talk
  • Creating a separate kid’s area at your reception is the key to maintaining happy campers – and allowing parents a few joyful hours of their own. Here is a fool-proof strategy.
  • Set aside a room or a section in the corner of the reception hall, so that they have a truly comfortable place to play.
  • Have a separate child’s menu that appeals to children.  Pigs-in-a-blanket, mini-burgers, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, and anything with ranch dressing are always good choices.  For dessert, have a make-it-yourself ice cream sundae bar with candy toppings.
  • Hire an adult or experienced teens (don’t appoint a guest) to supervise.  If it’s a large group, contract a couple of bonded nannie or trusted camp counselors – your 14-year-old-next-door-neighbor might not be equipped to handle screaming toddlers and sassy 8-year olds.
  • To eliminate squabbling, have prefilled, age-appropriate bags for each child stocked with treats (i.e. crayons, coloring books, inexpensive plastic toys) and snacks like raisins and pretzels.
  • Group kids by age.  A fourth-grader doesn’t want to be put at the “kiddie table” with a preschooler, and will be mopey (or worse!) all evening.  Have a table for older kids, another for younger ones.

It’s Kid Stuff! (May, 2006)

During the Middle Ages, girls carried wheat to symbolize fertility. In Victorian times, child attendants were invited to entertain the guests, adding humor and levity to the special occasion. Today, children have become a bigger and bigger part of the wedding party, with Brides opting to have multiple young attendants to make their day more personal.

The flower girl and the ring bearer no doubt are the little darlings of a wedding party. In some cultures, the flower girl’s main duty is to carry the train; however boys also can perform this task. A flower girl can carry a nosegay (small bouquet), a floral wreath, or the traditional basket full of petals. Boys became part of the Bridal party to add symmetry. The ring bearer’s primary role is to bring the wedding rings to the altar. He generally precedes the flower girl in the processional, carrying the symbolic rings with the Best Man holding on to the real jewelry.

If you’re including children at your event, here are guidelines on how to accommodate your lively little guests.

If you want a wee one to walk down the aisle, be sure s/he really wants to. If your niece indicates she’s uncomfortable being your flower girl, believe her. Don’t tell yourself that when the time comes she’ll be fine. The appropriate age for child attendants is between 3 and 8, but some Brides also have younger children, even infants, in their wedding parties. But beware. Though absolutely precious, small children can be wild cards. If they’re younger than 5, they’re more likely to be confused or frightened by all the attention. There’s been more than one small tot who, at the last moment, refused to go down the aisle during the processional. Enlist adults at both ends of the aisle to help direct the children and seat them or escort them out of the ceremony.

Asking a 10-year-old to be your ring bearer could end up insulting him. Kids between the ages of 10 and 13 have graduated to the roles of junior groomsmen and bridesmaids. Though they don’t have the responsibilities of a bridesmaid or groomsman, they’ll still feel important when they walk down the aisle. If that approach doesn’t appeal to you, consider asking them to take on other key roles, such as handing out the programs at the ceremony or being the guest book attendant at the reception.

Kids don’t eat the same things as adults. Ask the caterer if a special children’s menu can be created. Name the dishes after the kid’s favorite characters (Harry Potter’s Hot Dog Platter) or even after your little guests themselves (Amanda’s Mini Pizzas). In terms of seating, consider a children’s table decorated with youthful touches. Just be careful who you seat where. If your 9-year old nephew is mature enough to sit with the grown-ups, let him. There is no bigger bummer for a child at a reception than being stuck at a kid’s table against his will. At the same time, very young children (5 and under) may be more comfortable sitting with their parents than with other kids.

Designate a corner of the reception as the kid’s area. When it comes to the wedding reception, the under-13 set can be among one of the most potentially challenging group of guests at your wedding. An activity table with playing cards, board games, toys, stickers, or coloring books is ideal in keeping young ones entertained. For different ages, have individualized bags of fun things to do. Also, kids and preteens will be more likely to hit the dance floor if they hear songs they know, so ask the DJ to play a few popular hits from the radio or MTV. That way, best of all, you’ll know your guests – of all ages – are having a great time.