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How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part I

This is Part I of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part II, Part III and Part IV for the full article


How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

There is plenty of advice available to couples planning their wedding about how to prepare a budget, choose the perfect venue, theme, dress, cake, color of table linens etc. However there is very little information available to couples who are organizing a wedding which deals specifically with arrangements for children throughout the wedding. I realize that this could be due to the growing trend of hosting “adult only” weddings.

This blog is essentially for people planning their wedding who have already made the decision to invite children to their wedding or who want to invite them but are unsure about how to plan the children’s entertainment and catering without creating more work for themselves or breaking their budget!

Through the information contained in this blog I want to show you that inviting children to a wedding is not the potential minefield you might think. I have assisted several couples with making plans for children at weddings and I’ve attended a lot of child-friendly and not so child-friendly weddings. I’ve attended weddings where children are made to feel like a major part of the wedding day and I’ve been to weddings where there were practically bouncers on the door to the evening reception barring children from entering the dance floor.

Hosting a family oriented wedding does not mean that you have to give up on the hope of an adult theme to the reception entertainment without worrying about little ones being squished underfoot on the dance floor! There is nothing wrong with harboring a selfish desire to have a grown up evening reception.

If you are reading this blog as someone in the midst of trying to organize a more adult style wedding I want to show you that there is a way to have children at your wedding that might satisfy all involved. Whilst I am a firm believer in weddings being a family event, I can see how a lot of parents would enjoy the wedding day more if they could sit through a few courses of the meal and the first dance without worrying about the responsibilities of childcare. I have witnessed at weddings how stressful it is for parents when their child decides to throw a screaming fit at an inopportune moment and they then have to deal with it to the best of their ability, all the while knowing that their parenting skills are being assessed by a possibly hostile and frustrated throng of wedding guests. Consider too that your other wedding guests without children might also appreciate a break from the children.

I want to show you that you can have the best of both worlds. You can invite children to your wedding, you can take pleasure in seeing how cute they look in their pretty party dresses, smart trousers and bow ties and you can also enjoy some adult time with your friends and family whilst the children are being entertained and supervised.

Some of the ideas which I give within this blog are suitable for situations where the children share the function room with the adult wedding guests, some are aimed at situations where only a guest bedroom is available, other activities and suggestions I’ve made require a separate room for the children or maybe a large outdoor space or a small tent and some good weather!

You might think that the first decision you need to make after deciding that you want children to be included in your wedding day is whether you can afford it. However, I have helped many friends organize child-friendly weddings both with and without separate rooms for the children, separate parties for the children and child care supervision, and all were on moderate budgets. Even if you are on a really tight budget, with some thought and planning you can organize a child-friendly wedding which your young guests and adults are sure to enjoy.

If you want to make your wedding a fun family affair and ensure that the children are as happy as you are on your wedding day, here are some tips to get you started.


Space For The Children At Your Wedding

The first deciding factor in whether or not you are able to include children at your wedding is whether you are able to accommodate them at your wedding venue.


Initial Things To Consider

♥ Is there a function room or bedroom available for the children’s sole use at your venue?

♥ Does your venue have useable outdoor space?

♥ How much of your wedding budget can you afford to spend on children’s entertainment and catering?

♥ How many children are you actually inviting (so that you can work out on what scale to organize the entertainment – e.g. is it worth hiring a bouncy castle for two 4 year olds and a 6 month old baby)?

Top Tip: If it is really important to you that children invited to your wedding are well catered for then I suggest at the outset of your wedding planning you choose a venue which is able and willing to accommodate your younger guests. For example, a stately home filled with precious antiques might not be the most child-friendly choice of venue.

So, firstly check with your ceremony venue and reception venue whether they have practical areas nearby for use by the children during your wedding. Then assess whether the spaces which are available at the venue are going to be suitable for setting up a children’s zone.

If you are planning your wedding at a Church: Ask your officiant or Church Warden for suggestions as to a suitable space for entertaining restless children during the ceremony. Most religious institutions have school rooms, a crèche, vestry or an anteroom.

If you are planning your wedding at a Hotel: Ask if you can reserve a small function or conference room which is not only very near to the main function room in which your wedding is being held, but also close to the bathroom facilities?

If not, can you reserve a bedroom or a suite that includes a sitting room?

Whenever possible it is best to have the children in a room on the same premises (if you have to transport them by car to a different location this causes extra organization, as well as hassle) but removed from where the main wedding activity is taking place. An adjacent room would be perfect, so that:

♥ the children can come and go from the main function room (whilst they might find the wedding speeches boring they do love to join in with the dancing!); and

♥ anxious parents don’t have far to go to check on their children.

If you are planning your wedding at other wedding venues including Country Clubs, Castles, Town Halls, Recreational Center’s, Museums, Restaurants, Private Homes: Ask the manager or owner of your wedding venue if they have an additional smaller room which you can reserve as a children's zone for the duration of your wedding.

Personally I think that if you are inviting children to your wedding, whether you intend on them joining in with the whole day’s festivities or part of them, a good host and hostess should make arrangements for the children of guests in an adjacent room at your venue or a nearby hotel.


Organizing Child Care Supervision For The Wedding

For a wedding with children attending I totally recommend hiring child carers or babysitters, preferably those with professional child care experience. What better way to ensure your wedding guests are relaxed, happy and enjoy your wedding than to take the pressure off of them to entertain and supervise their own children. I have attended weddings both with and without child care and in my opinion the wedding experience seemed more enjoyable for the children, parents and other wedding guests when the children were provided with professional supervision.

If you have minimal funds to spend on your wedding my advice is to skip the forgettable favors and organize child care so that your guests and their children can each enjoy the fun of your wedding day. After all, which one will your wedding guests remember longer and appreciate the most.


How To Find Suitable Child Care

If you are hiring a wedding planner they will be able to locate local child carers for you and assess their suitability for your wedding needs and requirements too.

Hotel Recommendation - The first thing to do is ask your wedding venue if they have a preferred list of licensed child carers or babysitters they offer to guests/customers.

Top Tip: Don’t depend on the hotel doing background checks on child carers who they recommend. If children under the age of 4 are being left with this person, unless they work for a reputable agency, you should ask to see their references, qualifications, CPR certificates etc.

Nanny or Babysitter Agency - If your venue are unable to recommend anyone perhaps try a local nanny agency who will be able to provide you with costs and availability for child carers on your chosen date.

Most nanny agencies or sitter services ask brides to fill out an application form providing them with a rundown of how many children will need watching, their ages (the children, not you!), where the wedding venue is and what duties you expect to need from them (e.g. supervising meal time, putting children down for naps, organizing games and entertainment).

Usually agencies screen their child care workers to ascertain their suitability for working with children and ensure that they have at least one year of childcare experience, as well a relevant first aid qualification. In the UK child care agencies carry out a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check against potential child carers (this is a government run service which investigates whether they hold any criminal convictions). In the USA there are numerous private companies who carry out similar criminal background checks. Remember to check with the agency or child carer you use if they have undergone this check.

Parent's Recommendations - Parents from the locality in which your wedding is taking place can probably help you out too by providing you with the number of their babysitter or child minder.

Mobile Crèche - If money is not an object and you want total peace of mind that the children are being fully supervised, if you are hosting a more grown up reception, hire a mobile crèche service such as that offered by The Wedding Crèche Service. Experienced staff will come to your venue, set up a children’s activity zone and keep the children entertained leaving your adult guests free to enjoy your wedding.

DIY Child Care - If you decide to go it alone and book independent child carers or sitters yourself be sure to ask to interview this person and ask to see their references and evidence of their qualifications. When calling their references be sure to ask:

♥ How many times has he/she babysat for them?

♥ What are the ages of their children?

♥ Were there any problems while their children were in her/his care?

♥ Would they recommend you hiring her/him for your wedding day?

When you interview potential child carers ask them how they plan to give the children a fun time while their parents are at your wedding. If you feel uncomfortable with them trust your instincts and move on to another candidate.

The onus is on you to make sure that their previous child care experience is satisfactory. This might seem like an extra bit of work for you, when you already have a lot of wedding organization on your plate, but if you are expecting your wedding guests to entrust their children to this person it really is your responsibility. If you are unable to commit to being thorough when choosing child carers for your wedding, pass on the responsibility to someone who is able to.

If you are getting married out-of-town, or if you simply have enough on your plate with the rest of your wedding planning, enlist the help of a friend who has children and who lives in the locality of your wedding venue. They are sure to be happy to help interview potential child carers and will certainly be more knowledgeable about questions to ask as a parent themselves. Also bear in mind that they know it is in the interests of their own children for them to hire a fun friendly and efficient child carer for your wedding reception!

Handy Hint: If it is essential to your own enjoyment of your wedding day that your own child attends the wedding, I suggest at the outset of your planning you look for a wedding venue which is able to provide an insured and bonded babysitting service.


How Many Child Carers Do You Need

You will be able to decide how many child carers you need once you have confirmation of how many children will be attending the wedding. Build in some leeway by adding a couple of extra spaces just in case some unexpected children make on appearance on the day.

Key factors when deciding how many child carers you will need are as follows:

♥ Age of children

♥ How many children

♥ Additional supervision/support needs of some participants (e.g. due to disability)

♥ Nature of activity (for example bouncy castle or trampolining sessions may require higher levels of supervision than cookie decorating)

♥ Nature of venue (whether it is closed and exclusive, or open and accessible to non-wedding party members)

Of course it would be impossible for the child carers to maintain the same one-to-one watchfulness that most parents attempt, but by maintaining specific staff to children ratios you will increase the likelihood of safe play and attentive care for the children at your wedding. The appropriate child care staff to child ratio should be:

1:3 for children under the age of 2 years;

1:5 for children aged 2 to 3 years;

1:8 for children aged 3 to 8 years;

1:10 for children aged over 8 years.

Therefore you can calculate that if you have 3 babies under the age of 14 months, 2 toddlers aged between 3-4, 2 children aged 7 and a couple of 11 year olds, you should arrange a minimum of 2 child carers.


At What Age Do Children Need Supervision?

Having spoken to several crèche supervisors I know that there is a large amount of debate (usually amongst parents) as to the age where a minor is considered to be in need of supervision. Whilst there is no law that states the minimum age that a child can be left alone, it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts him or her at risk. I recommend that if you have wedding guests attending with children of ages 11 upwards, discuss with them whether their child will need supervision by the child carers you are arranging for the younger children.


Alternatives To Professional Child Carers

Other Adult - If it is not within your budget to hire a professional child carer then a suitable alternative is to find a very capable and caring adult (or adults, depending on how many children are expected to attend the wedding) who are willing and able to supervise and entertain the children during the wedding. Your best choice would be someone who is a parent themselves (possibly an acquaintance or friend of a friend who is not invited to your wedding!), a teacher or a children’s playgroup or girl scout troop leader.

Teenage Sitters - As a qualified nanny myself (and having a lot of supervisory experience at hotel crèches) I would not recommend asking a couple of teenagers to take care of the children at your wedding. If you know of a teenage babysitter who comes highly recommended then by all means use them. I’m afraid my experience of unsupervised teenagers who are minding children is that they simply plunk the young ones in front of a DVD and leave them to it.

I think that you need to be able to assure your guests that their children will not just be babysat but will be entertained and will have a good time at the wedding too. The childcare facilities you are offering could influence whether a parent will or will not bring their child to your wedding. Therefore it is important that you provide them with as much information as possible prior to the wedding (the sooner the better) about what will be on offer for their children (see How To Keep Parents Informed in Part 4 for further details on this). By giving the parents some upfront information you will help them make an informed decision about their child care plans - remember it could affect whether they:

♥ attend your wedding at all,

♥ bring their children to your wedding, or

♥ arrange their own childcare so that they can attend your wedding on their own.

If the majority of parents invited to your wedding respond by saying that sitters are an unnecessary expense (even though you are paying!) and that they will supervise their children themselves, I recommend that you hire at least one sitter to supervise the play room (if you are having one). Even if parents say they will supervise their own children there are always going to be situations where the children are left alone or when a parent is distracted by some relative they have not seen for years and wander off to catch up, leaving their little one playing on her own unsupervised.


Cost Of Child Care

With regard to how much to pay the child carers the best thing to do is ask them what they usually charge and see if you are comfortable paying that. It is likely to be based on how many children they are expected to be caring for on your wedding day – their hourly rate should be something in the region of:

• 0-2 children $10/hr.

• 2-5 children $12/hr.

• 5-8 children $15/hr.

• 8 or more children $20/hr.


Things To Discuss With Your Child Carer

♥ Once you have a note of the names, ages and special requirements of all children, provide this information to the child carers so that they can prepare accordingly.

♥ Discuss activities for the children with your child carer. As mentioned, they might well have their own suggestions to make and they could have equipment of their own too, which they can supply for use during your wedding.

♥ Once you have decided on activities discuss a schedule of events and proposed timeline with the child carer so that you are both aware of the key times when child care is being provided for the guests’ children.

♥ Remember to leave parent’s phone numbers for the child carers in case they need to contact the parents and can’t leave the room to come and find them at the wedding party.

♥ Give your sitters a couple of worst-case scenarios and some contingency plans, (e.g. if they run out of soda for the children give them permission to order more from room service at your venue, if a child who has not eaten their dinner is hungry at 7pm allow them to order him a sandwich from room service) – you don’t want the child carers having to run to the children’s parents or you with every small problem which occurs. Of course experienced child carers will know not to bother you and the children’s parents with the minutiae of what goes on in the children’s room but on the other hand you want them to know how to handle certain situations which might arise. If you are setting up a children’s room yourself remember to kit it out with a first aid kit for minor injuries, wet wipes and hankies for clean ups and runny noses.

♥ Tell the child carer in advance if you don’t want children leaving the children’s room to run in and out of the reception and dance floor all evening. The more information you can provide the child carers with in advance of your wedding the better.

♥ Remind the child carer (because you won’t be by their side on the day of the wedding) to have some questions for parents to answer prior to leaving their children with them (e.g. contact phone numbers, is their child on any medication, does their child have any specific requirements, can their child eat the candy/popcorn which will be provided, is their child allowed to watch any TV/movies etc.).

♥ Remember that if the child carers are working a long shift looking after the children you will need to provide a meal for them. You could have a plate from your reception catering sent for them to the children’s room or up to the bedroom they are in. A better idea is to either allow them to order a meal on room service or give them some money and the number of a local pizzeria so they can order pizza for themselves (and perhaps for the children too depending on your catering arrangements for them during the wedding reception).


Questions To Ask Parents Before You Book Child Carers Or Start Planning Specific Wedding Activities For The Children

♥ The most important thing to ask parents is if they plan to bring their children to your wedding (don't assume all parents will want to bring their children with them to your wedding - some might enjoy a night off whether you intend on providing child care or not) and if so how many, what ages and what gender (hopefully you know the children’s gender from addressing the invites but if you are in any doubt ask!).

♥ Would they make use of child carers if you hired them?

Handy Hint: Even if parents say that they will supervise their children themselves beware as their definition of supervising might be to let them stick their fingers in the wedding cake, interrupt adult conversations and generally run amok. Use your own judgment to decide whether their little one should be included, for the sake of numbers, in the list of children you will provide child care for.

♥ Do their children have any specific dietary requirements? (This is so that you can choose suitable catering for them, in the same way you would ask your other guests if they are vegetarians etc.).

♥ Will they need their children to eat prior to the 3pm service of the wedding meal? (This will give the parents, and you, advance warning if you are going to need to buy a snack for their child to keep them going until your wedding meal is served).

♥ Ask them if they require booster seats on the chairs or highchairs for their children so that you can let the reception venue know in advance. (This is especially important if you are inviting lots of children under 2 years old as the reception venue might only have a couple of booster seats available – its best to give them some advance notice on this).

♥ Ask if they have any specific instructions for their child’s care or any rules so that you can give the child carer advance notice and you can provide activities taking the children’s needs into account (e.g. can they have sugar, are they allowed to watch TV, can they have their face painted etc.)

♥ Are their children likely to require a nap during the day? If so, do they require a travel cot to be set up?

♥ If you are block booking hotel rooms for your wedding guests in advance ay your venue (so that you can guarantee discounted room rates for them) find out how many rooms/beds in rooms they will require.

♥ Are they likely to require additional evening sitters at the wedding venue (e.g. are they planning to party all night once their children are tucked up in bed)?

♥ If they require you to help book evening sitters for them, are the children staying the night at the wedding venue (e.g. if it is being held in a hotel or other venue with accommodation)? If not, then where will the children be staying?


Booking Child Care

Preferably you should book your child carers as soon as you have decided on a venue and wedding date.


Timing Of Your Wedding

Here are some helpful tips and things for you to consider with regard to planning the timing of your wedding:

♥ Evening ceremonies are unsuitable for small children - they will tire easily, won’t enjoy the ceremony, won’t make it through the reception party afterwards and their hysterics will spoil their parents enjoyment of it too. You definitely run a far greater risk of having screaming children during your ceremony if it begins at 7pm, which is bedtime for most young children. If you know you intend on inviting lots of young children to your wedding, it’s best to plan a morning or early afternoon ceremony.

♥ Some parties are not appropriate for young children and this includes a wedding party which is planned to go on until after 10pm. If children are cranky and fussy it will spoil their parent’s enjoyment of the evening reception and also other wedding guests. You don’t want the party to be ended prematurely by a bawling 4 year old lying horizontal in the center of the dance floor do you!

♥ My experience of wedding receptions has been that as adult wedding guests get into the swing of the reception party in the evening the music is generally too loud, and the dance floor too crowded, for young children’s safety. If you want the children to be able to share in the dancing at your wedding then organize the wedding ceremony for late morning so that you can enjoy the wedding meal at a leisurely pace and still have time for the music entertainment to kick off before the children’s bedtimes.

♥ There is a huge trend towards having children attend the wedding ceremony and meal but making the evening reception adults only. See below for details on how to strike a compromise between having the children join in with the wedding fun and enjoying an adult zone at your evening reception.

♥ If you are arranging child care for your wedding reception you should point out to parents that their children are not being sequestered in another room under lock and key to keep them from joining in with the wedding fun. If parents want their children to join in with dancing early on in the evening then tell them there is no problem with this but make them aware that adult time starts at 8pm when the child carers are putting the movie on in the children’s room, giving the children a chance to wind down for the night. When presented with the choice of hanging out with the grown ups or watching a movie and munching popcorn I think I know which one most flagging children would prefer!


Timing Of Child Care At Your Wedding

Once you have made the decision to organize child care for your wedding you should then decide whether it is going to be available all day (can you afford this?) or just for the evening reception.

If there are key times during the day when it would be beneficial for the children to be supervised then factor these into your plans (e.g. for the cocktail hour when parents and other guests enjoy mingling and chatting, during the toasts and speeches etc).

Your options when organizing child care are:

♥ During the evening reception provide supervised activities in a separate children’s room at the wedding venue - this would allow parents to strike a compromise as they will be able to enjoy the first part of the wedding with their children (i.e. the ceremony and first part of the reception) whilst being able to enjoy the latter part of the reception child-free!

♥ Provide all day child care from the moment your ceremony begins to late at night when the children are ready for bed.

♥ Arrange babysitters in the evening - once your evening reception gets into full swing you could assist guests with children (in advance of your wedding) in organizing babysitters to come to the reception venue (if it is a hotel) and take the children staying there up to their bedrooms. Once the children are happily settled in bed with their sitters watching them, their parents can return to the wedding party. At my wedding I asked for one bedroom to be put aside for us with a couple of travel cots for flagging children (see Organising Nap Time For Your Younger Wedding Guests in Part III for further details on this).

♥ Organize a supervised children’s party in another location (see Give The Children Their Own Party in Part IV for more details on this).

♥ Provide parents with local child carer contact details and leave them to it.
Remember that even if your guests are local to the wedding venue they are sure to appreciate your gracious and thoughtful efforts in including their children in your wedding plans.


Rehearsal Dinner

If you are hosting a Rehearsal dinner, many rehearsal dinners can go on as late as 10pm which is totally inappropriate for young children to attend. Think about whether you should help your rehearsal dinner guests with children (particularly out-of-town guests) to organize child care in advance.


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This is Part I of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part II, Part III and Part IV for the full article

Related Posts :
CLICK HERE & GRAB WITH BOTH HANDS Your 273 Page Book To Planning The Perfect Wedding - No Catch - No Hassle - Simply Click For Your Secret To A Perfect Wedding
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part II
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part III
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part IV



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78 Free Wedding Tips And Book

As you plan your wedding you will receive advice from just about everyone. Friends and family have a million and one tips to pass on, in fact here at Wedaholic I have been offering tips galore. For example tips on wedding djs, getting guests to mingle, giving a great speech and tipping wedding suppliers to name just a few!

To give you a flavour of what to expect I have copied the types of wedding tips you will receive below:

Sample Tip 1 :

At the reception hall, fill baskets in the bathroom with miniature hand lotions, breath mints, hair sprays, and hair gels for emergency touch-ups. You may also want to put out a basket with a few inexpensive pairs of pantyhose and
some clear nail polish.

"Thanks for all the tips..and for making them genuinely "free".... the tips I found most helpful of your's were about etiquette ... it helps to remind brides of other people's feelings when they are getting caught up in their own! And that idea about giving framed pictures to the parents is one I will definately do! Blessings!" - Suzanne, US

Sample Tip 2 :

Don’t forget grandparents and other relatives who may feel “left out” during the preparations before the wedding. Take a camera along when you are shopping for your dress or looking at flowers.

Send pictures with a quick note that says, “Here’s me rubbing my feet after trying on shoes that were murder!” Or “Aunt Joan, the flowers were beautiful, but I wish you could have been there.”

"Just wanted to thank you for all of the wonderful tips! I enjoy reading them every week!! I will use you're advice throughout the planning of my wedding and on the big day! Thanks again" - Dan

Sample Tip 3 :

For bridesmaids' dresses, consider separates, especially if you have attendants whose sizes and shapes vary widely. Skip the bridal stores and check out department stores for evening skirts and separate tops that are made of luxurious fabrics and trimmed with beading or embroidered details.

"Dear Emily your tips have been very helpful to me in planning for my wedding thank you for all of your help, looking forward to receiving other tips from you. Best Regards" - Cornelia, US


How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part II
Date: January 23, 2008 • Author: Emily • Filed Under: Attendants & Budgeting & Cameras & Ceremonies & Children & Etiquette & Flower & Decorations & Guests & Music & Dance & Planning & Reception & Unique Ideas & Venues

This is Part II of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part I, Part III and Part IV for the full article


How To Entertain Children During Your Wedding

So, now you have hopefully found a perfect venue and qualified child carers for your guests' children. Your next step is how to transform it into a children’s wonderland so that the children can enjoy your wedding every bit as much as the adults do.


How To Entertain Children During The Wedding Ceremony

Children are, by nature, unpredictable. There is no guarantee for parents that having been in a joyful mood all morning their little one’s temper will not erupt just as your wedding ceremony is starting. Whilst a few sniffles, coughs or whispers from the amassed guests is acceptable during a wedding ceremony, no bride wants to exchange her vows against a backdrop of screaming children. I’ve experienced many weddings myself where the vows have been drowned out by children crying or whining. I also know first hand that the last thing a bride, groom or wedding guest wants to worry about is dealing with a cranky child.

Have a think about the ages of the children who are invited to your wedding and ask yourself if they are capable of sitting quietly through your ceremony. As an experienced nanny myself I would say that any child under the age of 7 is likely at some stage to become impatient, restless or fidgety - more so if it is a religious service rather than a Disney movie which they are being made to sit through!


Tips For Preventing Meltdown During The Ceremony

♥ If it is within your budget and if a small room is available at your ceremony venue perhaps organizing for a child carer or sitter to be on standby for this part of your wedding would prove invaluable. You have to bear in mind that a church, or other religious service, is not exactly designed as children's entertainment. The child carer could entertain the children in a school room, crèche, vestry or anteroom (in a Church wedding) or a function room (for a wedding at a hotel or similar venue) whilst the parents enjoy the ceremony without interruptions from the children.

♥ Be warned some parents will opt not to place their child with your child carer but instead insist on having them sit with them through your ceremony. This is their choice (and sometimes the child’s choice too – believe it or not some children love wedding ceremonies!) so give them both options, but remember you can’t force them. If you only want children to attend the wedding reception and not the ceremony then remember to make this clear on the invitation.

♥ If you are organizing activities or child care during the ceremony make sure parents are aware of this in advance. Also ensure that the children’s room and toilets are well signposted.

♥ Think about asking the officiant to say a few diplomatic words prior to the ceremony beginning to reassure parents not to feel uncomfortable about leaving during the ceremony to take their fractious children outside.

♥ Ask ushers to seat parents with babies or very small children, where appropriate (e.g. not the groom’s sister), towards the back of the ceremony room or church or at least at the end of aisles, so they can make a swift exit and leave with a minimum of fuss if awkward moments arise during the wedding ceremony (taking their little one with them of course!).

♥ Put together a paper bag or box for each child to be handed out prior to the ceremony beginning containing a toy, juice box and snack (such as individual bags of crackers, lightly sweetened cookies or small boxes of raisins) to keep them fed and entertained. To avoid conflict, make sure there are enough bags to go around!


How To Entertain Children During The Wedding Photos

Here are some ideas for entertaining the children whilst the photos are being taken after the ceremony:

♥ If you have children in your wedding party who need to be included in the wedding photos organize with the photographer that these are the first photos they take so that the children can relax and roam free.

♥ Children love to feel included so ask your photographer to take a picture of you both with all of the children.

♥ A great way of entertaining the children is to provide them with:

o Bottles of bubbles - children love blowing and chasing bubbles and the bubbles look great in the photos too! (A word of warning though, beware of unsupervised wobbly toddlers approaching you or your wedding party, bubbles in hand - the last thing you want is a bubble spillage ruining your outfit before you even make it to the reception!).

o A confetti cannon pouch - these are inexpensive palm-sized pouches which inflate via a straw and then pop up to release a shower of colorful tissue paper pieces (remember to check first that your ceremony venue allows this type of confetti before investing in these for the children though).

o Goody bags - As mentioned above, you could put together a bag for each child with a snack and a simple toy to keep them entertained (refer to Children’s Favors in Part III for unique ideas and recommendations for goody bag contents).

o Treasure hunt - If you have outdoor space available to you this would be a great time to organize a treasure hunt. I attended a wedding reception a few years ago where the groom-to-be arrived at the reception venue early and with the aide of a couple of his groomsmen planted small well wrapped toys and candy prizes in and around the venue gardens. During the cocktail hour, whilst us adults enjoyed champagne and nibbles, the children ran themselves ragged trying to find the treasure which was marked on the maps they had been given after the wedding ceremony. It was great fun to watch them and very inexpensive to organize. (NB: At this wedding there was no child care required because the adults were in the same enclosed (safe) gardens watching the children.)

If you intend on organizing a treasure hunt or even an Easter egg hunt remember to discuss this with your reception venue and check:

• that they will allow it (some venues are a bit finicky about children rooting through their shrubs!)

• whether they can help organize the treasure hunt if necessary

• whether you will need child care to supervise the children or are the adults likely to be in the same area and therefore be able to keep an eye on them

• is the outdoor space safe for the children to run around in – are there any danger areas (e.g. water features, ramshackle walls, expensive unstable statues)?


How To Entertain Children During The Wedding Reception

For every sweet, charming, well-behaved child who you invite to your wedding be aware that there is also going to be another who is an uncontrollable monster! Even children who are absolute angels, when hungry, bored and tired, are liable to tantrums. Be prepared for this and minimize the chances of meltdowns during your reception by having plenty of entertaining and fun activities planned in advance for the children to divert their attention away from the fact that during the reception they are not the center of their parent’s attention. You cannot expect young children to sit still and quiet throughout the entire wedding reception.

With just a few tips and ideas you can have the wedding reception you have always dreamt of whilst keeping your pint-sized guests and their parents happy too.


Children’s Seating

Deciding place settings for your wedding reception can be one of the most challenging parts of planning your wedding reception. Keep it simple when it comes to seating children – decide at the outset whether you want a designated children’s table or not.


How To Decide Whether To Have A Separate Children's Table

♥ Firstly, look at your guest list and take note of the invited children’s ages. Children’s tables at weddings only really work with children over the age of 5 upwards. Therefore for under 5’s you might want to seat them on their parent’s table as some of them will need help with their food (e.g. having it cut up and fed to them, being encouraged to eat etc).

♥ Secondly, think about whether the children will be able to mix easily. If you have a lot of children attending the wedding who know each other (i.e. they are cousins/friends/schoolmates) then seating them on their own would be a great idea – they will be really excited to have their own table and will have great fun amusing each other and catching up during the wedding meal.

Handy Tip: Whilst you want the children to have a great time remember that if they are sitting together they are likely to be quiet boisterous. Have someone remind them that they should keep quiet during the speeches – whilst some heckling is expected during wedding speeches, unruly children screaming at one another is not!

♥ For children who don’t know one another I would not recommend seating them on their own table. Young children and teenagers alike can be painfully shy so it is kinder to sit them with their parents rather than force them to mingle with children they have never met before.

♥ Remember to take your child-free guests into consideration when deciding where to seat families with children at your reception – will they be happy sitting next to a boisterous two year old for the duration of the meal?

♥ When making your decision take into consideration that whilst some parents will want to keep their young children nearby, some parents feel that having a separate children’s table frees them up and allows them to relax and enjoy the wedding meal, speeches etc.

♥ Of course if you decide early on in your planning to hire sitters or child carers for the children during the reception then you could sit the smaller children with them at a children’s table - they will be able to supervise and help with feeding, cutting up food etc.

Top Tip: Let the venue know in advance how many children will require booster seats on the chairs or highchairs for little wrigglers (ask parents on the note you put in with the invitation whether they will require either of these on the day).


Organizing A Children’s Table

Whether you intend on seating children at their own table or are seating them alongside their parents at adult tables here are some pointers for how to make them comfortable and keep them entertained during the wedding meal.


Child-Friendly Centerpieces For The Tables At Your Reception

There is no point in putting extravagant centerpieces on children’s tables – they will be totally unappreciative of your carefully chosen potted orchid centerpiece. If you are looking for creative child-friendly centerpieces for the children’s table here are some ideas:


Candy Centerpiece - You could place a small bowl of candy or a couple of jars of candy in the center of the table. If the children are sitting with adults make sure there is enough for everyone. I attended a wedding last year where we had Dolly Mixture candies on each table which the adults pounced on – the children did not get a look in!

Handy Hint: If the children are sitting at a table on their own unsupervised don’t set out bowls of candy, such as jelly beans or M&M’s, which they can easily throw around. A good alternative is to give them an individual candy bar or cookie.


Fruit Centerpiece – For a healthier alternative (and to prevent the children peaking too early with their sugar highs!) you could create a decorative edible centerpiece made up of pieces of fruit.


Balloons – Whilst balloons are a perfect inexpensive and colorful way to decorate the children’s table beware that unsupervised crafty children with cutlery in front of them might make their own entertainment during your speeches!


Goldfish Bowl – I attended a fantastic wedding where the organizers had placed a bowl with a couple of goldfish in it on the children’s table. It made a really unique living centerpiece and completely enthralled the children who were entertained watching the fish swimming back and forth. You can place the bowl on top of a circular mirror in the center of the table, add colored stones (to match your wedding color theme), some rocks and a couple goldfish. These items are all quite inexpensive to buy and the best bit is you can give the bowl and fish to one of your guests at the end of the night (someone that does not to make a plane journey to get home!). Here are some tips to consider if you decide to go down the goldfish bowl route for your table centerpiece:

♥ You should check with your reception venue to make sure that they are agreeable to having goldfish on the tables.

♥ If the bowl is uncovered make sure the children are supervised - the last thing you want is them terrorizing the poor goldfish by poking them with breadsticks or throwing bits of chicken nugget in on top of them!

♥ Goldfish do not typically have a long lifespan so ask a member of the venue staff to check that the fish are still alive and well prior to the reception beginning – children and adults alike do not want to see goldfish floating belly up before they sit down to eat at your wedding!

♥ To prevent arguments breaking out over who claims ownership of the fish and bowls at the end of the night (especially if you are having goldfish bowls on more than one table) you could put a tag on each bowl with the name of who it should go home with. Alternatively you could award it as a prize for the best drawing, best dancing, best cookie decorating etc (see Prizes below).


Candy Topiary - I think Candy Topiary would make a fantastic centerpiece for the tables with children on them. They are mini topiaries made up of mini candy bars which the children (and adults) can pick off the tree during the reception. They were created by Dylan Lauren of Dylan's Candy Bar for the Martha Stewart Show. Take a look at this video clip to see how easy they are to make yourself. You could even use candy bars in colors to match the theme of your wedding.


Themed Wedding Centerpiece – If you are planning a themed wedding or a beach wedding then carry this through to the child-friendly centerpiece which you choose. I love the idea for a seaside reception location of creating a pirate theme at the children’s table. You could have pirate flags, hats and eye patches decorating the table for the children to play with and in the center a pirate ship or a treasure chest filled with candies.


Children’s Tabletop Safety At Your Wedding Reception

♥ The decorations and centerpiece on the children’s table at your wedding reception not only has to look fun and enticing but also has to be child-friendly. To ensure the safety of the children do not place ornate towering candle holders or twinkling tea lights on their table.

♥ Avoid using crystal or glass drinking glasses for the children's table. To keep the children, the table and everyone else seated on it dry ask the venue to provide cups with lids for very small children. They might not add much to your beautiful table decorations but think of the alternative if a child spills their drink.

♥ Remember to tell your venue staff which table children are going to be seated on so that if you are having favors at your reception they do not give children adults favors by accident. This might sound obvious but I’ve attended a wedding before where expensive liqueur truffles and whisky miniatures were put on the children’s table!


Setting Up A Children’s Table

Discuss your preference for a children’s table with the manager at your wedding reception venue. They might be able to make helpful suggestions for creating child-friendly tables at your reception and they could possibly have a few games and toys on hand to keep the children entertained during the reception.

When planning the children’s seating and entertainment do remember to share your plans with your wedding reception venue staff. In particular, if you are intending on providing crayons, pencils and stickers for the children’s tables check that they allow them. Some venues (depending on how pernickety they are) might insist on using alternative table coverings for the children’s tables if there is any chance that they might get crayon or worse on them. Discuss your options with the venue manager and remember that having to switch to less expensive tablecloths for the children’s table is definitely preferable to losing your deposit because of a little one’s artistic efforts on the white damask tablecloth on your wedding day!


Activities To Entertain Children At The Table During The Wedding Meal

Whilst adults enjoy chatting and lingering over their meal at weddings (unless they are seated on the table with the bride’s mad uncle!) children need something fun to do otherwise they could get bored and create mayhem!

You can’t expect children, whether they are 4 months old or 14 years old, to sit quietly and happily at a table during a 4 course wedding meal followed by toasts and speeches. Be warned, bored children leads to screams of frustration during the speeches!

What you want is to plan age appropriate quiet activities to keep the children so busy that they will forget they are sitting at a table listening to boring speeches and waiting for (a) the food to be served and (b) the fun dancing to start!

Here are a few hints and tips for keeping a table full of young children entertained during the wedding meal:

♥ Coloring and Drawing - Washable crayons, pencils and paper are perfect – a lot of children will draw happily for hours. You could even arrange a children’s coloring competition - ask each child to draw a picture of the bride and groom and hand them in to a designated member of the bridal party when they have finished. You can judge the pictures, hand out prizes for the winner and runners up and you get to keep the pictures as a memento of your wedding day!

♥ Budget Option - If you are on a tight budget you could print off some pictures for coloring prior to your wedding and leave them on the table for the children with some washable crayons. Websites such as Free-coloring-pages.com offer a variety of free printable colorable pictures for children – your only cost will be some ink and printer paper!

♥ Tabletop Art - For instant tabletop entertainment cover the children’s table with white butcher paper and put out cartons of crayons. Let the children cover the table with their creative etchings - this should help to keep them occupied during the speeches and still protect the venue’s furniture.

Arts and crafts items are a great idea, but bear in mind that they will not hold the attention of all children for very long. Here are some further tips to help you entertain a table full of child wedding guests during your reception.

♥ Cameras - You could place a couple of disposable cameras on the table for the children to join in with the fun and take some snaps of the action at your wedding reception. If the children are unsupervised on their own table make sure you leave instructions for the older children on how to operate the camera.

♥ Goody Bag - On the table at each children’s place setting put a small box or bag containing toys and goodies appropriate to each child’s age. Alternatively, if you are on a tight budget or run out of time to organize goody bags you could simply place a small, age-appropriate, individual item in each child's place. Here are some ideas:

a puzzle book

sticker sets

small story book

mini activity books and washable crayons

coloring books

crayons, pencils and paper

sticker sets (younger children will definitely need to be supervised with these or you run the risk of having your wedding venue walls being jazzed up with Barbie stickers!)

assorted puzzles and tabletop games

a small box of Lego

stuffed finger puppets

masks and hats (these always provide a great party atmosphere for children)

a jewelry or bead set

Top Tip: For the sake of your other guests during the wedding meal I advise you to stay away from noisy items such as racing cars, books with noises, musical instruments, electronic games etc.

Make sure that the goody bags are clearly labeled with each child’s name and placed at their assigned seat so that there is no confusion (and no fists flying amongst the children) over which bag belongs to which child.

♥ Wedding Table Activity Sets - You could buy ready made wedding table activity sets. Search on the internet as there are lots of different varieties available for all age ranges and for both boys and girls. These sets cost $29.95 and come with enough fun activities to keep up to 6 children entertained.

For further unique gift ideas for the children at your wedding see Children's Favors in Part III.


How To Entertain Children After The Meal If You Have No Separate Room For Them At Your Wedding Venue

If your wedding venue has no separate room available for use by the children for the duration of your wedding reception then don’t panic – there are a couple of options available to you.

Activity Area – Set up a table in the corner of your function room (preferably as far away from the load music and bar area as possible) which is available throughout the evening for children to visit at their leisure. Even if you expect the children to be eating and then dancing all night, it doesn't hurt to have a table in the corner set up with crayons, pencils, paper, fun coloring and activity books and some board games and puzzles. As before, cover it with butcher block paper instead of a tablecloth. You could also set up an easel for the children to work at on their creative masterpieces.


Imaginative Play Area – Set up a children’s table with cuddly toys, mini-stuffed animals, feather boas, princess crowns, pirate hats and other fun costumes and toys for the children to play with. These are the type of items which you could ask to borrow from a local crèche or ask generous parents to lend them to you for your wedding reception.


Venue - Sometimes the actual venue itself can keep children amused (especially if it has a special child-friendly feature like a maze). Has your venue got lots of places to play games (e.g. hide and seek is a firm favorite) and run about? Remember to check whether your venue staff are happy for children to do this. Some venues will ask that children are supervised by an adult at all times during your wedding.

Even if you think children will be happy to sit with the adults during the wedding reception I recommend you have an area set up in a corner of the function room where they can leave the table and do some activities. Rather than sitting and listening to the wedding speeches (which, lets face it, must be boring for young children) they can move on to the activity table and entertain themselves.


Music And Dance For Children At Your Wedding Reception

We all know that children love to dance. I think for me that is the hardest part to understand of why couples don’t want children attending their wedding reception. There is nothing cuter than seeing children and adults dancing. You only have to look at some of the footage on You Tube to see how adorable children getting down on the wedding dance floor can be. This is part of the fun of having little ones at a wedding.


To Dance Or Not To Dance - If you are having musical entertainment at your wedding reception decide early on whether you want the children to join in with the adult guests on the dance floor. If you don’t want children sliding across the dance floor on their knees (I’ve seen adults do this too when they’ve had one too many drinks at weddings!) then there is no harm in making the evening entertainment an adult themed party. Simply make parents aware in advance of your wedding that the dance floor is strictly off-limits for children by putting a note in with their invitation (see How To Keep Parents Informed in Part IV).


Inflatable Fun On The Dance Floor - If you are including children in your evening dance entertainment, to add a bit of fun on the dance floor why not buy some blow up guitars, saxophones and microphones for the children (and the adults if they can get their hands on them!). They cost about $2 and are widely available on the internet from stores such as Noveltiesgalore.com. They are quite big when inflated so be aware that unsupervised children on the dance floor might end up using them as weapons against each other!


Dancing Competition - At my wedding there was no separate room available for the children so one of the things which I arranged was a disco dancing competition for the children which was judged, by my husband and I, and prizes handed out (we had runners up prizes for the less abled dancers too!).


Music For The Children - I recommend you get a good DJ for your wedding reception who is willing to include some fun songs at the beginning of the night for the children to dance to (they can save the schmaltzy stuff for later when the children go to bed!). By providing the children with music targeted at their age group you are allowing them to join in with the wedding fun which they (and their parents) are sure to appreciate.


How To Entertain Children During The Wedding Reception If You Have Only A Bedroom Available

Don’t panic if you only have a bedroom available at the wedding venue for your use. As a nanny I’ve hosted plenty of fantastic children’s parties in some of the smallest hotel rooms known to mankind! I’ve even organized a pitch and putt competition with a plastic golf set and mountains of cushions for the children (both boys and girls) at one wedding party in a hotel room. All you need is to be prepared.

♥ Find out in advance if the room has a TV and DVD/VCR player for the chill-out movie session for the children later in the day. A CD player would be great too so that if you have younger children you can play some nursery rhymes.

♥ Ensure that on the wedding day the room is stocked up with child-friendly snacks, drinks, and games and craft supplies as mentioned previously.

♥ Borrow movies and children’s CD’s from friends for the wedding reception or ask your child carer if they could provide these.

♥ Obviously there would be a bed in the room for children to take naps on, but find out if any of your guests are going to need a travel cot or space for strollers for their small ones to nap in (you could ask them about this in the notes to parents – see How To Keep Parents Informed in Part IV).


How To Entertain Children During The Wedding Reception If You Have A Separate Room Available

If your wedding venue is able to provide you with a function room at an affordable cost here are some tips for kitting it out and ideas for activities to keep the children entertained and out of mischief.


How To Set Up An Activity Room For Children Of All Ages


Furniture and Decoration

♥ The children’s room should be furnished like a traditional crèche or children’s nursery - table and chairs (small furniture would be better if you have children aged 1-4 attending), some floor cushions, bean bags or inflatable sofas (see details below).

♥ Depending on the ages of the children you are expecting to use the children’s room at your wedding reception, traditionally children prefer an arts and crafts table (or tables if you have a lot of children over the age of 4 years old), a comfy seated area for reading books and story telling, a television for movie time, a table set up for board games, puzzle play etc., and a table with some drinks and snacks set up on it. You can modify the room layout to suit the needs of the activities which you choose for the children on your wedding day.

♥ If your venue are unable to provide you with any furniture, or if you are getting married in an unfurnished venue, you could rent the pieces which you need. To hire or borrow furniture ask at a kindergarten, pre-school or church crèche close to the vicinity of your wedding venue. Alternatively, ask friends with children if they could lend you some of their children’s furniture. If you are unable to locate any furniture by these means hire companies offer children’s tables and chair, picnic tables and activity tables for daily rental.

♥ You could decorate the children’s room with balloons and soft furnishings matching your wedding color scheme.


Health And Safety In The Children’s Activity Room

No matter what the age range of children using the room is you must ensure that it provides them with a hazard-free and safe environment. Speak to your venue manager or person in charge of the children’s room and your child carer about your requirements. It should:

♥ be cleaned to a high standard (the flooring especially so if babies are likely to be crawling on it)

♥ have socket covers on unused electrical sockets

♥ have floor space which is clear of electrical cables (which children might trip on)

♥ have sufficient lighting for the children to carry out their arts activities, read books comfortably etc.

♥ be well ventilated with a source of heat/air conditioning

♥ have enough power sockets for CD players, electronic games etc.

♥ have lockable windows and doors and a well sign-posted fire exit (just in case)

♥ have a range of child-size aprons on hand to protect children’s smart clothes from glue, paint, frosting and any other messy decorative activities they might participate in – packs of 10 disposable children’s aprons are available for $3 from Kidzcraft.co.uk.

If you are employing a professional child carer they will have experience of how to maintain a comfortable environment in the children’s room for the children (e.g. comfortable room temperature, ventilation etc).


Activities For Children During The Wedding Reception

There are a wide range of entertainment choices suitable for every size and style of wedding venue which are sure to create a fun environment for the children.

To decide which activities to arrange, first find out what the age range of children attending your wedding will be. If you are setting up the children’s room yourself you will need to set out age appropriate games, e.g. children ages 5-11 really enjoy activities involving building and creating things and problem solving, whilst younger children prefer arts and crafts (the messier the better!) and imaginative play. Children aged 8 upwards like sports, board games, electronic games and activities based around hobbies (model making, beading, origami, chess etc). For more information on age appropriate activities for the children at your wedding check out Familytlc.net which has some great ideas.


Competitions

Competitions appeal to all children’s competitive streak and the chance of winning a prize, so why not organize one of the following:

♥ An art competition, with prizes for the best efforts, or for younger children have a coloring contest with prizes for the most colorful drawings

♥ A treasure hunt (see Part III for further details on this)

♥ An Easter egg hunt – I have organized this for a wedding before. We helped the children to make and decorate cardboard Easter egg baskets and then went into the grounds of the hotel to hunt for the pre-planted eggs. The winner who found the most plastic eggs was given a prize (no child went away empty handed though!)

♥ A disco dancing competition during the evening entertainment in the main function room or in the children’s room

♥ I’ve even attended a wedding where the child with the highest score on the Bopit toy won a prize.


Prizes For Children

If you are planning on organizing a few competitions to entertain the children at your wedding reception make sure that you buy some prizes to be handed out on the day. Leave them with your child carer (if you have one – otherwise ask venue staff to keep them hidden away from the children’s sight until you ask for them) so that she can hand them out to the children at the appropriate time. You can find small trophies at a party-supply store but more child-friendly prizes are candy and small toys. I supervised the children’s room at a very extravagant wedding once where MP3 players were given out as prizes to winners. This is fine if you have oodles of money in your wedding budget but really children are just as happy to receive a more typical prize of a coloring set, box of candy or sticker set. These are items that you can purchase in advance of your wedding (remember to check dollar stores for small inexpensive items too). For more ideas for prizes ask friends with children for suggestions, search on the internet or check out Smalltoys.com.

Make sure you buy enough to go around and have a few spare items put by just in case.

Top Tip: If you are having a treasure hunt, disco dancing or coloring competition make sure that everyone wins something – all of the children should be winners on your wedding day!


Art and Craft Activities

Children of all ages enjoy crafts so how about setting up an arts-and-crafts table in the children’s room. Provide some simple arts and crafts supplies such as coloring books, crayons, pencils, colored card, collage materials and glue sticks, sticker books with stickers and stencils.

Other craft activities which the children at your wedding might enjoy:

beading - supply beads for the children to make their own bracelets and necklaces which they can take home

pot painting

origami

handbag making and decorating

mask or crown making and decorating

T shirt painting – children could create a work of art which they can take away with them and wear. This is a very popular craft activity for children of all ages and abilities. Every child gets a new good quality T shirt to decorate using a range of fabric paints, marker pens and other decorative effects. You can hire companies such as Partypop.com who will come to your party and provide all the equipment including tables and stools and also supervising staff. Alternatively you could set this activity up yourself easily and ask your child carer to supervise the younger children. You can buy both t-shirts and the fabric paints, marker pens etc very inexpensively – try stores like Target and StencilWarehouse.com or alternatively they are available online at Kidzcraft.co.uk with prices starting at $4.


Other Activity Ideas

Toys such as miniature cars and a mat for them to play on, Bop It, Etch a Sketch, Battleships, card games like snap or Top Trumps

Comics and story books

Activity and puzzle books

Nail varnish painting (little girls love this!)

Jigsaw puzzles and board games – Organize popular games which can be played by children on tabletops or on the floor on their own or as a team, such as Operation, Connect 4, Pictionary, Monopoly, Mousetrap, Twister, Jenga, Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble, Buckaroo, Cludo, Chess, Ludo, jigsaw puzzles etc (you can hire packages of board games Kidsco.co.uk if you are unable to beg steal or borrow them for your wedding). Also, I think this chocolate Jenga game would be a big hit with the children.


Piñata - How about investing in a wedding-themed piñata for the children. For those of you not familiar with this children’s party essential, piñatas are large papier-mâché dolls or shapes which are filled with small toys and sweets, hung from the ceiling and then the children take turns to hit it with a bat in an attempt to get it to release the treats inside. You can buy ready-filled piñatas or you can fill it yourself. They can be bought from party stores or websites such as Partypop.com. The piñatas are available in a variety of designs and themes. I love this one which costs $26 and is shaped like a wedding cake – how perfect is that! If its likely to be predominantly young children at your wedding it might be safer and easier to use a pull-string piñata.


Traditional party games - You must remember fondly what fun you had at parties as a child before Playstation Dance Mats and Ninetendo Wii’s were invented. Party games such as musical statues, pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs are a great way of getting all the children at your wedding involved and having fun. For further party game ideas check out Littlekidsgamesonline.com.


Music – Have a CD player in the room so that the supervisor can play a choice of music depending on the age range of the children (ranging from nursery rhymes to disco music). You will also need music if the children are going to play games which require it, such as musical statues.


Cuddly toys, dolls and action figures – The children could bring their own doll or other toy to the wedding and dress them up, have a tea party or you could borrow a dolls house for them all to share.


Dressing-up clothes (especially wedding gowns, tiaras, top hats and kilts!) – Young children really enjoy imaginative role play and a chance to dress up in costume.

Movie making - If you are aware that you have some budding thespians amongst your younger guests you could ask them to put together a short movie. Ask your child carer in advance if they would be willing and able to operate a video camera and help with putting the show together with the children. Alternatively, ask your videographer to bring along an extra camera operator to work with the children in their room. Provide them with a trunk of old clothes, footwear, handbags, jewelry and any other child-friendly props you can lay your hands on. The supervising adult or eldest child within the group can help the children put together a simple story, allocate roles to each child (reluctant children could be given behind the scenes roles such as doing sound effects, background music, in charge of props etc. rather than acting parts), help them dress up, do their hair and make-up (just like real movie stars), rehearse their characters and then its lights, camera and action! The final video could be shown during the reception for the other wedding guests. It would make an excellent memento of your wedding day for the children and you. You could even award the stars of the movie chocolate Oscars!

Handy Hint: Dressing up clothes and accessories are definitely something that you could ask the children to bring in advance of the wedding in the note you put it with their invitation (see How To Keep Parents Informed in Part IV).


Puppets and a puppet theatre – Putting together a DIY puppet theatre is as simple as draping a large tablecloth over a table. Again, you could ask the children to bring their own puppets from home or even organize making puppets such as finger puppets or wooden spoon puppets as one of the craft activities available to them. They could then perform a puppet show together.


Building toys –Although it is predominantly boys who enjoy playing with Lego, Meccano and other construction toys, the girls do like to do some building work too. This is an activity which can be done on the table top or floor in the children’s room.


Ball Pool - How about setting up a ball pool or pit. The children will enjoy hours of fun together at your wedding diving around amongst the brightly colored balls. You can rent inflatable or pop up ball pits from companies such as Partyoutfitters.com for US customers or PJEntertainments.co.uk for UK customers, or you could borrow one from friends or buy a ball pool (with prices starting at $20 they shouldn’t break your wedding budget!).


Pop Up Play equipment - As with the ball pool idea, pop up play equipment is simple to set up in the children’s room (or outdoor space at your wedding venue) and is ideal for filling a large space quickly and cheaply. For venues where space is limited pop up castles and tunnels make a perfect soft play activity area for toddlers. Again, equipment like this is rentable (and reasonably cheap to buy) but I’m sure you know a parent who would be willing to share their pop up equipment with you.


Racing Cars - Whether you have boys or girls in the children’s room both will have fun playing with a 6 lane Scalectrix track. The track is available to rent complete with a choice of cars, grandstands, pitstops, bridges, control towers and experienced race marshals. Up to 6 children can compete against each other racing their Porsches and Formula 1 cars, amongst others. The only trouble I envisage for you with this idea is keeping the grown men away from it all night!


Sports Activities - Depending on how big a space you have to work with at your wedding venue you could transform the children’s room into a mini sports arena for the children - you won’t see them all evening! Rent or borrow ping-pong, air hockey and snooker tables, hula hoops, jump ropes, foam darts board and a mini golf putting machine or chipping net (with plastic golf balls obviously!).


Wii Consoles - Everyone knows how popular Ninetendo Wii’s are with children, so what better way to keep them happy at your wedding than to rent them for the children’s use. As well as Wii consoles companies such as this also have available for rental:

PS2 and Xbox machines, the latest state-of-the-art arcade video games, racing and flight simulators, Formula 1 and Rally Amusement Machines, Pac Man machines (very retro!).

♥ The machines are available with a good variety of age appropriate games, they can come with 2 or 4 controllers and they are all set on unlimited free play so the children do not need any money to play them (unless you want to cash in at your wedding!). You could even rent the dance mat and set up the dance games for the children – they are great fun. Typically the rental companies will bring the machines to your wedding venue, set them up and collect them at the end of the day. Prices start at $90 for one day rental of the Wii machine but you can book up packages of a couple of machines. Search on the internet for your local stockists or alternatively ask a friend with a machine if you can borrow it for your wedding.

Handy Hint: Hire companies do not usually include monitors for the machines which need them (although they are available to hire separately) so find out in advance if you can connect the machines to a TV or projector screen at your wedding venue. I supervised at a children’s party where the PS2 was connected up to the projector screen in the hotel’s conference room and the children had amazing fun competing against each other on such a huge screen with the spectating children cheering them on!


TV/DVD – Most wedding venues will be able to provide you with a TV and DVD player for the children to watch some cartoons or children's TV shows and/or use for connecting to PS2/Xbox machines (as mentioned above).

Handy Hint: Make sure an adult is supervising what the children are watching to ensure that it is age appropriate. I have experienced walking into an unsupervised Kids Club before and found the children (aged from 10 months up to 13 years old) all lined up on bean bags in front of the TV watching a particularly violent episode of South Park. It took me the rest of the day to convince my 3 year old nephew (who I had been collecting) not to repeat some of the inappropriate language and behavior he had seen!


Cinema – Ask your venue staff to have a TV (preferably a large plasma screen) set up with a DVD player in the children’s room and transform it into a movie theatre for them in the evening. Have the child carer ask the children for their movie preference from the selection you have available and go with the most popular choice or choices.

♥ If you want to be really organized let the children and parents know in advance (in the note you send them with the invitation (see How To Keep Parents Informed in Part IV)) the proposed movie start time and movie choices (ask friends with children for their top movie choices and ask to borrow the DVD if possible).

♥ Also, remember your reception venue (particularly if it is a hotel) might be able to provide you with a selection of up-to-date DVD’s for the children’s viewing pleasure.

♥ Organize for drinks, candy, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn or ice cream to be served during the movie or at the break halfway through the movie (for a toilet break). If chairs or sofas are unavailable use bean bags and cushions to make a comfy area for the children to sit. You could even purchase fun inflatable sofas for as little as $8 on eBay.com.

♥ At a local hotel where I used to supervise the children’s crèche they had an in-house movie theater which seated approximately 100 people. At 7.30pm on weekends, and when weddings and other functions were taking place at the hotel, they showed a just released movie (appropriate to the ages of the children attending) which ran with a short break halfway through (for hotdogs, fries, popcorn and a trip to the toilet). This was so popular with the children, the adults and the supervisors who got to sit down and have a breather! The reason I mention this is that you should check with your reception venue whether they themselves have an in-house movie theater or auditorium with large screen which could be used by the children attending your wedding. It really makes the day special for the children, gives them something to look forward to and helps them to wind down towards the latter part of the evening after all the fun and frolics of their day.


Children's Karaoke – The children could host their own karaoke party. Regardless of their age and talent giving them 5 minutes in the spotlight with a microphone will make them feel like superstars. The supervising adult could give each child a slot on the karaoke machine to perform their own rendition of their favorite song! Karaoke machines are inexpensive to hire (if you don’t already have one or know someone who is willing to lend you theirs). For hire in the USA check out Partymachines.com or for UK karaoke machine hire try Rock-box.co.uk.


Music and Dancing - As mentioned previously, children love to join in with the adults on the dance floor. However you might decide that it would be more enjoyable for both the children and adult guests if they had their own dance space.

♥ If you have a lot of space available to you at your wedding venue and a flexible budget you could hire a lively DJ solely for the children in a separate room. This is a fantastic way to entertain them. As mentioned previously you could ask the DJ or supervising adult to organize a disco dancing competition and award prizes for the best (and worst!) efforts.

♥ To add a unique and exciting element to your wedding, and to get the children using up some energy, you could organize dance instructors to teach them some disco dancing routines to the latest pop hits! This is suitable for children aged 7 upwards but I know that younger children would love to have a try and join in too (you try stopping them!). Once the instructors have taught the children some dance routines you could let the children put on a performance for your wedding guests.

♥ Be prepared though, you could go to the trouble and expense of organizing all of the above for the children but some enthusiastic youngsters might still surface on the dance floor in amongst their parents and the other boogying adult guests.


Holiday Themed Activities For The Children

Halloween – How about some pumpkin carving (no sharp knives though for the younger children), bobbing for apples or toffee apple decorating.

Easter – As mentioned, you could organize an Easter egg hunt or, at the art table in your children’s room, set up materials for decorating Easter egg baskets, bonnets or simply have Easter- themed coloring pictures for the children.


How To Set Up A Toddlers Area

If the children attending the wedding are predominantly toddlers you might want to set up an Under 5's Activity Area for them. To do this add a good selection of colorful, appealing soft toys and age appropriate equipment including activity gyms, small slides, rockers, ride on cars, mini bouncers, mini see saws, pop up castles etc.

With play equipment for toddlers it is best that the children are not left unsupervised. For their safety arrange to have this area manned by a qualified child carer or at the very least a parent who is willing to take responsibility for supervising the area.

When hiring children’s play equipment from companies (as mentioned above) check that they comply with health and safety regulations and ask someone (a venue staff member or a friend whose children are attending your wedding) to check that the room looks safe, clean and properly set up for the children.

With all of the suggestions which I have made above simply choose from them a selection of pieces to suit your space and location.


How To Set Up A Baby Play Area

Similarly, if a lot of parents are bringing babies to the wedding you could set up a Baby Play Area for them to enjoy. You will need to make sure that floor coverings are suitable for crawling infants. I suggest that you arrange to put down a baby-friendly soft floor covering and add bean bags (for child carers and parents to lounge on) as well as some colorful, clean and fun baby play equipment. Babies love interactive toys especially those with lights, sound and music.

If your guests include mums with young babies remember to ensure that there is an adequate area at the wedding venue for them to be changed and fed. For Mums who are still breastfeeding they will need somewhere comfortable, quiet and private (not a bathroom) to feed their babies. Although it will be difficult for you to judge how many babies will be present at your wedding, particularly if you are planning your wedding more than 9 months in advance, it is best to be prepared and organize somewhere for them just in case.


How To Set Up A Children’s Chill Out Zone

Whilst some teenagers will be quite happy to join the “grown ups” on the dance floor, the majority of them will not get into the festivities as much as the adults. Teenagers do love being treated like adults though so if you are expecting teenage wedding guests why not set up a separate room for them – their own chill-out room to relax and watch TV, listen to music, watch a show or just hang out with friends. You could create a lounge atmosphere with a few tables, chairs, inflatable furniture, bean bags, comfy cushions and funky furniture (all of which can be rented). Provide them with a stereo system to listen to their own choice of music, supply sodas, magazines and a selection of board games. If your budget extends to it you could even arrange for them to enjoy their own karaoke machine, computer with games or rent a games machines (as mentioned above). I guarantee your teenage guests won't want to leave!


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This is Part II of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part I, Part III and Part IV for the full article

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How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part I
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part III
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part IV


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How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part III
Date: January 23, 2008 • Author: Emily • Filed Under: Budgeting & Catering & Children & Etiquette & Family & Guests & Planning & Reception & Unique Ideas & Venues

This is Part III of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part I, Part II and Part IV for the full article


Hire A Professional To Entertain The Children During The Wedding Reception

If you are planning on inviting lots of children, and if your wedding budget can stretch to it, you might want to consider hiring a professional entertainer to keep the children amused.

I’ve organized entertainers for a few children’s parties in the past and I have to say that there are a wide variety of options available to suit most budgets and locations. Depending on how much you can afford to spend, the wedding venue location and the age range of children who need entertaining, you could choose from the following performers:


Clowns – Clowns are very popular with children and adults alike. Most clowns will provide you with a bit of energetic clowning, juggling and stilt walking. For further information have a look at Fun Factory Parties For Kids.


Magicians - Typically magicians put on a magic show for the children but they can also mingle at the wedding reception and perform a few tricks for the adults too. Costs are in the region of $180 an hour for a professional magician but you can book them for less than an hour. For more information check out Gigmasters.com.


Face painters – Children love having their face painted, it makes them feel very special. To hire someone to come to your party and paint the children’s faces will cost in the region of $95 an hour. I am not a professional face painter but I have tried my hand at painting children’s faces and it is far easier than you might think to do a few simple designs. I recommend that you ask your child carers if they are willing to have a go and provide them with face paints, crayons, brushes, a book giving some face decorating ideas and some wet wipes (for mistakes!). Face paint kits are inexpensive too. Prices start at $9 such as this kit which is available from Amazon.com.

Top Tip: If you are considering having face painting as an activity at your wedding remember to ask parents if they mind their children getting their face painted beforehand.


Balloon modelers – Children can have hours of fun watching balloon modelers and learning hands-on how to make funny shapes. You could hire one such as BillyBanana.com or think about purchasing a balloon modeling starter kit for $11 and ask your child carers or more mature children at the wedding to get creative with the balloons!

Top Tip: If you are considering leaving the children alone with the entertainers make sure that they have police checks done etc for peace of mind.


Caricature Artist - Caricature Artists could entertain both children and adults alike by doing cartoon portraits which resemble your wedding guests in a humorous fashion. The added bonus for your guests is that they get to take the picture home - a unique reminder of your wedding day! The average cost is approximately $100-$200 per hour per artist. Search on TheKnot.com for artists in the vicinity of your wedding venue.


Impersonator – Impersonators such as Batman, Cinderella, Dora The Explorer, Mickey Mouse, Captain Jack Sparrow, etc could mingle amongst the children and entertain them with jokes, singing, and dancing. Partypop.com have a selection of characters available for hire by the hour. You could even hire seasonal favorites for a winter or Easter wedding by having Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny drop by to say hello to the children and hand out some treats!


Pirates of the Caribbean – If you are planning a wedding with a pirate theme (unlikely I know!) or if you just want to organize some fun entertainment for the children then how about a pirate adventure with games or a real Treasure Hunt. Captain Jack and his crew provide the children with maps, teach them the art of treasure hunting and help them find a real wooden chest filled with pirate’s loot! Prices start at $75 for 30 minutes of entertainment. For more details click here.


A Storyteller - A Storyteller will come to your chosen venue, tell one story (using visual props such as finger-puppets, flannel-board shapes etc) and play games in character for between 30 minutes to 1 hour. They can adapt it to suit the ages of the children in your audience the approximate cost is $50 upwards including travel, costume and materials. For more information search for mobile storytellers on the internet or check out Pepperspollywogs.com or Glutch.co.uk.


Circus Skills Workshop – If you are hosting an outdoor wedding reception you could hire circus entertainers who will teach children some basic circus skills such as juggling, plate spinning and unicycle riding. Companies such as CircusUnlimited.com offer circus skills workshops where hire includes a basic costumed entertainer plus the relevant equipment.


Mime artist – Mime artists perform short acts, acted out without words. Although not a traditional children’s party favorite they can cater to a younger audience. For more details check out WeddingPartyHelp.com.


Ventriloquist – I’ve been to a children’s party before and they loved the ventriloquist (he made animal puppets talk without moving his own mouth). The show I watched lasted 1 hour but you can ask for it to be shortened if you have young children with a short attention span. Ventriloquists cost in the region of $50 - $190 per hour. For more details take a look at Gigmasters.com.


Make a Bear Workshop – This idea is best suited for children at your wedding between 4 to 11 years of age. A costumed character comes along to your venue to host a party for up to 10 children where they each build their own bear to take home. The mobile party entertainment company provide the materials for making the bears, prizes, stickers and balloons too for $150. For more details contact the mobile workshop at CaliforniaClownSchool.com or try Traveling Stuff-N-Fluff Noah's Ark Animal Workshops. Alternatively you can order your own Make-Your-Own Stuffed Animal Kits and ask your child carers to supervise and help the children make their own bears. I think this is a lovely idea and it also provides the children with a unique memento of your wedding day!


For further details and unique ideas search in Google for children’s party entertainers or in your Yellow Pages. Alternatively TheKnot.com have a list of local entertainment vendors and party-planning companies on their website.


Tips For Hiring Children’s Entertainers For Your Wedding

♥ Do bear in mind that if you are already planning on having entertainers at your wedding reception for the adults, such as caricaturists, magicians or (if you are planning a medieval themed wedding) jugglers, jesters or stilt walkers, they can double up as entertainers for younger guests too at no extra cost.

Handy Hint: You might have to pay travel fees on top for entertainers you hire – make sure you ask them about this.

♥ Whether you end up hiring a clown, magician, pirate, face painter or storyteller do make sure that they have had previous experience entertaining large groups of children in a similar environment. Prices given above are just to give you an idea of what you are likely to pay. I recommend shopping around for comparable rates amongst the children’s entertainers.

♥ Remember also that they not only have to be affordable but also professional. I have witnessed a magician at a children’s party whose language deteriorated rapidly during his 30 minute show, shocking both adults and children! Check the entertainer’s previous customer’s testimonials to help you find the right entertainer for your young audience. You want someone who is skilled at entertaining children, reliable when it comes to timekeeping and can be trusted around them. If you are not booking them through a reliable agency I recommend you ask them to provide you with evidence of criminal background checks etc. (especially if they are being left alone with the children at any stage).


Activities For Children If You Have Outdoor Space Available At Your Wedding Venue

I know from first hand experience that if going outside is an option at a wedding reception children want to do it – they love running around, playing games and generally having fun and letting off steam.

Handy Hint: If you are planning a summer wedding look for a venue with outdoor space for the children.

If your wedding venue has outside space you could organize the following:


Outdoor Play Area – Set up outdoor games which are inexpensive to buy (even cheaper if you can arrange to borrow them from friends!), including children’s bowls, boules, croquet, cricket, Swingball and skittles.


Garden Games – Games which work well in small outdoor spaces are extra large outdoor versions of classic party games, such as Giant Connect 4, Horseshoe Toss, Noughts and Crosses, Draughts and Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Twister and Jenga. Companies such as this allow you to book these giant games either individually or as part of a larger package of activities and games - costs start from $15 for 1 day hire. Games can be supplied with hard-wearing mats for the game boards to sit on outdoors. These games are perfect for being played on the grass, decked area or concrete surface, so long as you anticipate good weather. If rain (or worse) is forecast for your wedding day then prepare a back-up plan for where the garden games can be set up. All of these games can also be used indoors.


Traditional Sports Games - If you are planning an outdoor afternoon, barbeque or picnic-style wedding you could organize sports games for the children under the supervision of child carers (as mentioned above). Games which children of all ages (and adults!) find fun to participate in are:

three-legged race

a one-footed hop

a pass-the-egg-on-the-spoon or baton relay race

races (great for encouraging the children to mingle and get to know one another as team-mates)


Chalk Pavement Games - If there are pavements or a concrete outdoor area at your wedding venue the children could do some chalk art work on them or even chalk out a game of hopscotch to play on. You must remember to ask permission from your venue staff first. They might ask that at the end of the children’s play session with the chalk your child carer washes it away (it washes off very easily). All you have to do is supply the children with huge sticks of colored chalk and let them show off their artistic flair. If you are hosting a wedding reception which is taking place largely outdoors this is a lovely idea as the children’s chalk artwork will be on display for your guests to appreciate.


Treasure Hunt - As mentioned previously, organizing a treasure hunt can be really fun for children and for adult spectators too. If you are not hiring a child carer for your wedding reception you could ask one of your attendants or another willing volunteer to take charge of the treasure hunt. You could make up clues or provide the children with a map in advance to lead them to the treasure, which could be a treasure trove filled with candies or toys. How difficult you make the treasure to find is dependent on the age range of children who will be taking part in the treasure hunt. Don’t make it too hard as they will lose interest. See “Treasure Hunt” in Part II for further tips on how to organize this activity.


Mini Crazy Golf - Renting a miniature crazy golf course will provide hours of entertainment for children at your wedding reception. The moveable golf courses are ideal for use both indoors or outdoor, so they are perfect if you are unsure of what sort of weather you can expect on your wedding day. Typically the 9 hole mini golf course is delivered to your wedding venue with a selection of scorecards, pencils, balls and putters for the children's use. For more details click here or search on the internet for a local mini golf hire company close to your wedding venue.


Inflatable Fun - If your wedding venue has space outdoors, if the weather is likely to be good and if it is within your budget, you could consider renting an inflatable - they are fantastic fun for children at weddings. Bouncing for a couple of hours on a bouncy castle is a great way for children on a sugar rush to burn off energy! Inflatables available for hire include bouncy castles, giant Twister, inflatable board games, galleons, inflatable obstacle courses and lots more - the choice is huge. Inflatables can be rented from $120 upwards. The rental company will come to your wedding venue and set up the inflatable for you. They will probably offer you advice on where it should be set up at your specific location. I recommend that you set it up well away from the main reception area and make sure that it’s supervised by a responsible adult at all times (some companies can provide an operator for the inflatable if you prefer). Check out your local inflatable rental company on the internet or click here.


Bubble Machines - Younger children love outdoor bubble machines. These are simple to set up and can mystify little ones for hours trying to catch the bubbles! They cost from $7 upwards to buy or you can rent the machines and jumbo bubble wands for the children to make their own make giant bubbles from companies such as this.


Nature Trail Walk - Whilst children don’t always appreciate the beauty of their natural surroundings if you are having a daytime wedding in beautiful surroundings, they might find it fun to go on a nature trek through the grounds of the venue. Perhaps you could ask the venue staff about hiring a professional child carer with local knowledge who could take the children for a walk and point out native plants and animals. To engage the children you could ask the child carer to supply lists of the flowers, birds, and insects they are likely to see and they can check them off as they spot them on the walk. Alternatively the trek could end with the children drawing a picture of their favorite thing they spotted along the way and offer prizes for their efforts. NB: If your budget can stretch to it you could provide each child with a disposable camera so that they can snap away at the wonders of Mother Nature (or of each other!).


Sandbox – Children love digging, burying, sifting, pouring, shaping and shoveling sand so why not set them up with their very own sandbox. You could fit a sandbox into even the smallest outdoor space at your venue. In good weather the children will get a lot of hours of enjoyment out of a sandbox. Prices start at $20 for a pop-up sandbox which is easy to assemble or you could ask a friend with children to borrow theirs. Remember to ask your wedding venue’s permission to set this up in their grounds and also organize who will empty out and remove the sandbox at the end of the wedding.


Beach Play - If you are planning a beach wedding then the best form of entertainment for children comes courtesy of Mother Nature - playing in the sand! Make sure their play is supervised by an adult though as even the most child-friendly beaches are not without their own dangers.


Kite Flying - If the weather forecast for your wedding day is likely to be warm and windy then that would make perfect kite flying conditions. It would be a nice touch to provide a few ready-made kites or ask the children prior to the wedding to bring their own kites for flying. Alternatively you could provide the materials and instructions and make the kite-making part of the activity. After the wedding, children get to take their kites home. Prices for kite kits start at $5.


Ranch Fun - If you are planning a western themed wedding at a ranch, like Hollywood stars Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O'Connell, set up an area in the ranch grounds with hay bales for the children to have fun on, or organize wagon, hayrides or tractor rides for them. Local horse stables or nearby farms might be able to offer help with organizing this type of entertainment for the children. Along the same theme in the winter, if the weather permits, you could entertain the children with a sleigh ride.

Top Tip: If you are planning outdoor activities for the children in good weather it’s a good idea to make sure that you have some child-friendly sun block available for the child carers to use (frantic parents dressing their child and getting them out of the door to your wedding might well forget this essential).


Fireworks – Fireworks make a spectacular finale to a wedding reception for children and adults alike. I attended a wedding where the bride and groom organized a fireworks display in the evening before the children were packed off either home or up to their hotel bedrooms with sitters. It was a lovely way to round off the evening for the children. We bundled them all up in coats (it was November in Scotland so it was predictably freezing outside!) and took them out to watch the stunning explosions of color above our heads. I loved seeing the looks of pure delight on the children’s faces. The fireworks were definitely the talking point of the wedding.

If you are thinking of having fireworks at your wedding I recommend you purchase a display that is prepared and fired by professionals (otherwise you will have to think about insurance and Health and Safety). It’s definitely recommended to use firework experts as there are a lot of rules and regulations for handling fireworks near children. Speak to your wedding venue staff who are sure to be able to help you locate a reputable local firework display specialist.


Tent - If you are hosting your wedding in a tent or marquee then you could consider giving the children their own tent and setting up the children’s fun zone in there. You could rent a smaller tent for the children and kit it out with fun activities to entertain them, as set out above.


The above are just a selection of ideas to help keep the children occupied during your wedding ceremony and reception. You can choose any of these activities you think will be age appropriate for the children who are likely to attend your wedding and tailor them to meet your own space and budget limitations.


Children’s Activity Equipment Costs

If you are organizing the children’s activity area at your wedding venue yourself, rather than hiring a mobile crèche team, then you needn’t worry that you will have to make a huge financial outlay to get your hands on the activity materials, toys etc. Whilst it will be inexpensive for you to pay out for some crayons, paper and a few small toys, no parent at your wedding would expect you to go to the expense of buying lots of sports equipment, different board games or PS2 games! With all of the equipment which you don’t want to purchase yourself (e.g. large items such as ball pools and expensive items like air hockey tables), your options are to either:

♥ search on the internet for local companies which rent them out on a daily basis

♥ if your wedding reception is being held in a hotel or country-club you might find all of the equipment you need is available within the grounds – it’s worth checking with your venue staff

♥ contact your local kindergarten, pre-school or crèche facility and ask if you can borrow theirs

♥ ask friends and family with children if they, or anyone they know, have the relevant equipment and ask to borrow them

♥ don't overlook the dollar stores and clearance racks for bargains which you can use to amuse the children at your wedding

♥ if all else fails try eBay where your sure to find some good deals.

Handy Hint: Check with child carers, sitters and the staff at your wedding venue as to what will be provided for the children. Sometimes child carers bring toys and games with them, and your venue might be able to provide a TV, DVD player and possibly other furniture, equipment and toys for use by the children. It’s worth asking as it could well save you time and money if they intend on providing entertainment materials – you have other things to organize I’m sure!


Organising Nap Time For Your Younger Wedding Guests

It goes without saying that you should not have to worry about the individual routines of children attending your wedding. However, if you are arranging an all-day wedding event which goes on late into the night then you can be sure that children under the age of 5 will wilt at some stage (even the adults will flag!). Unless parents have rented rooms in the venue where you are holding your wedding reception they are going to have difficulties in keeping to their little one’s routines and be able to put them down for a nap during the day. It would be in their best interests, and your own, for you to provide somewhere for younger children to take a nap – you don’t want bad-tempered sleep-deprived children at your wedding!

♥ Why not set up a quiet room where they can have an afternoon nap or chill-out to keep them going until bedtime. Parents will be sure to appreciate this as it will mean that they will not have to leave your wedding reception early and this will help to prevent cranky children when they miss their nap-time.

♥ You don’t have to do this on a major scale. You can opt for setting up a corner of the reception room with a few toys or some soft cushions for little ones to crash on (if they are able to settle in noisy rooms). Alternatively, if you have a separate room available away from all the noise and excitement of the reception you could set up a quiet nap room with some mats, comfy blankets and a CD player for nursery rhymes or soft music where they can rest comfortably.

♥ You could also ask the venue staff to provide a least one travel cot for any babies and perhaps a few rollaway beds etc. Ask parents in advance if they are intending on using this facility, to get an idea of how many sleepyheads you are catering for.


Important Points To Remember When Organizing Children’s Activities

♥ Whatever activities you decide upon for your reception, choose items that are age appropriate for the children that will be attending your wedding.

♥ I recommend that you avoid encouraging the children to play games such as football or rugby which are going to encourage the little ones to get their party clothes dirty – you won’t endear yourself to their parents when they return from their outdoor play session covered in grass stains and dirt!

♥ Try to give every child their own activities. Whilst we like to think that all children learn from a tender age to share toys, we know that the reality is some children find it very hard to share (especially the 2 year olds!) and some children are used to getting their own way. The last thing you want at your wedding is children fighting over games and activities. The same goes for snacks and treats – make sure there are enough for each child. To a certain extent if you have a child care supervisor they will be able to deal with any clashes between the children over sharing toys or waiting for turns on activities.

♥ Whatever activities you choose for the children make sure you plan them well in advance, e.g. find out which art and craft materials you need to supply for a certain activity, buy them in advance, have them packed and ready to deliver to your wedding venue and then arrange for them to be delivered to and set up at your wedding venue on the day. How smoothly the children’s activities come together on your wedding day depends heavily on the advance preparation by either you or your nominated children’s activity planning helper.


Children's Favors

Children attending your wedding are not going to care about whether the color of your napkins matches your table lines or whether your wedding flowers are silk or fresh. If you provide entertainment and feed and water them they are going to have a good time regardless of all the other efforts you have gone to with your wedding planning. The same can be said of wedding favors for the children. If you give them some candy or a goody bag they will be happy.

The modern trend at weddings is for children to be presented with a goody bag (similar to the type children are given at parties) as they arrive at the wedding reception. Your young guests will be delighted with your thoughtfulness and your effort to make them feel welcome at your wedding (and so will their parents).
In the goody bag is usually a mixture of items including:

a coloring book with a small box of crayons

small inexpensive toys and games

candy (a tube of Love Hearts would be very appropriate!)

If you are putting in items which are gender or age-related make sure you identify which goody bag is for which child by labeling them. You don’t want a 4 year old girl ending up with a DIY airplane modeling kit and your 8 year old nephew opening his bag to find a glitter nail varnish kit! Try to choose items to suit each child's individual tastes (age and gender). If you are unsure of what to put in the bags ask friends and family with children as they will know better than anyone what amuses children.

If you have a look on the internet you will see lots of child-friendly unique products for wedding party gifts. Paperposie.com offer a Wedding Day Kit which is packed with activities including postcards for the children to color, crayons and stickers. For inspiring age-appropriate gifts take a look at Elc.co.uk which has a fantastic website which allows you to select the age and gender of the child you are choosing a gift for. Also check out the selection of children's wedding party bags by Frog in the Field featured at Bridalwave.tv which are sure to keep your younger guests entertained.


CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE

This is Part III of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part I, Part II and Part IV for the full article

Related Posts :
CLICK HERE & GRAB WITH BOTH HANDS Your 273 Page Book To Planning The Perfect Wedding - No Catch - No Hassle - Simply Click For Your Secret To A Perfect Wedding
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part I
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part II
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part IV


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How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part IV
Date: January 19, 2008 • Author: Emily • Filed Under: Attendants & Catering & Ceremonies & Children & Etiquette & Family & Guests & Invitations & Announcements & Music & Dance & Pets & Planning & Reception & Unique Ideas

This is Part IV of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part I, Part II and Part III for the full article


Feeding Children During Your Wedding


Snacks

Be aware that whilst adults are able to sustain themselves with the a canape and a glass of champagne until your wedding meal begins, children get cranky and fussy if they are made to wait too long between meals. Not all parents will be organized enough on your wedding day to remember to bring a snack for their little ones. Here are a couple of ideas to help avoid children’s hunger pangs turning them from cute cherubs into raucous rebels whilst they wait for the food to be served at your wedding reception:

♥ Think about organizing individual bags of crackers, lightly sweetened cookies or small boxes of raisins to hand out to the children

♥ Put together a paper bag or box for each child to be handed out before the ceremony containing a toy, juice box and snack to keep them fed and entertained

♥ When choosing snacks to give to the children to keep them going, whilst I would advise you to avoid artificial sugary varieties (which will turn the children into devil worshippers) let’s be honest – the really fun looking great tasting snacks have sugar in them!

Top Tip: Wherever possible with the snacks and other catering for children on your wedding day try to avoid nuts as some children are allergic to them.

♥ The same goes for drinks - children will become agitated if they are dehydrated (especially at an outdoor wedding) so make sure there will be plenty of natural fruit juice and water available for them both prior to and during the reception.

So the children will be fed, watered and refreshed, their parents will be very grateful for your thoughtfulness and you will definitely appreciate the absence of whining children at your wedding!


Wedding Meal

When you start planning the menu for your wedding reception you need to consider what food you will provide for the children who will be attending. When it comes to feeding children at weddings you can’t expect them to be as enthusiastic about your menu choices of filet mignon and rare grilled tuna as the adult guests will be. Of course you can put these dishes in front of the children but are they really likely to eat it?

Whilst some children are more than happy to eat adult food this can:

♥ end up costing a fortune if your price per head for the wedding meal is $100; and

♥ does not cater for the picky eaters amongst the children.


Things To Consider When Choosing Wedding Food For Children

♥ A lot of hotels and other wedding reception sites charge per head for the wedding catering, whether the head is 4 or 40 years old. When you consider that many children prefer familiar child-friendly foods over expensive gourmet ones their meal may even go to waste. With the average price per head being in the region of $100 this can really add to your wedding expenses.

♥ A more sensible, not to mention, affordable option is to ask your caterer or reception venue whether they have a separate children’s menu available for your wedding. You should note that many caterers will not inform you of this unless you specifically ask about it.

♥ Most caterers or reception sites have children's menus which they will serve to children under 12 years of age and usually this is at a lower cost than the adult meals. This is great as the children will be thrilled to fill their tummies with familiar foods and you will be thrilled at the extra dollars left in your wedding budget!

♥ If the children’s meals they offer are extortionately priced and unsuitable discuss this with the catering manager. Whilst some rip-off venues might think that they are justified in charging you $100 per child for chicken nuggets and fries most venues will provide you with an affordable option if you are willing to negotiate. They are not going to want to lose the business you are bringing them, with your 100 wedding guests at $100 a head, over 10 children’s meals.


Child-friendly Meal Options

If the caterers or reception venue do not typically cater for children again discuss this with them. Ask them to provide a separate children’s menu featuring a couple of choices of child-friendly food. You want to ensure that the children are going to enjoy the wedding festivities without rumbling tummies. The best way to guarantee that they will not only eat the food which you put in front of them but also get excited about it is to stimulate them with some fun and tasty choices such as:

Chicken Tenders or Fingers

Mini hamburgers on fresh-baked rolls

Cheese Pizza

Macaroni and Cheese

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Garnishes such as carrots and zucchini cut into cute smiley faces, cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks served with a dip

Cheese Quesadillas

Fish goujons

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches or Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters

Vegetable Crisps

Potato Wedges and dip

As with your adult guests, you will need to tally up the number of children that are likely to attend your reception and list their ages (as well as any special dietary requirements – e.g. coeliac, vegetarian, lactose intolerant) too so that the catering staff are able to calculate how many mouths they will be feeding with the children’s food.

Top Tip: Remember that unless you are sure that there are no nut allergies amongst your younger guests don’t include nuts in your menu choices.


Further Ideas To Make Life Easier When Catering For The Children At Your Wedding Reception


Buffet

If are planning a buffet style wedding for your guests you could organize children’s meals to be hand-delivered to tables so that parents do not have to navigate the lengthy buffet lines with small ones in tow.


Children’s Food Station

If you have a large number of children on your guest list, another option for a buffet style wedding reception is to set up a children's food station. You could create a design for the food station which compliments the overall look of your wedding reception and also clearly identifies it as a children's food station. Discuss the child-friendly food options with your catering manager. Children won’t expect a huge variety of buffet choices but a few different dishes from the list set out above should suffice. If you opt for this my advice is that you order slightly more food than you anticipate you will need – I guarantee that your older guests will be munching on the children’s food too!

If you have decided to seat the children at a table on their own and if you are deciding on their menu yourself, it might be easier to have their table set up with picnic food and hot items from the list set out above. All children will love this idea and if there are little ones being seated at the table arrange for a child carer to sit with them and supervise.


Picnic

If you having an outdoor BBQ for your wedding then you could arrange for children’s individual picnic boxes to be made up. To add to the picnic theme you could ask for some blankets to be set out on the grass where the children can eat together. Be aware though that the younger children might prefer to eat with their parents.


Sweet Treats

Whilst fruit and yogurt are great ways for children to finish everyday meals sometimes a special dessert is in order. Let’s be honest – how many children do you know who think of Fruit Cocktail Cups as the perfect party dessert?
To make your wedding an unforgettable mouth-watering experience for guests both young and old alike here are some delicious and fun ideas:


Cotton Candy

Consider renting a Cotton Candy or Candy Floss machine. The machines are supplied with all materials including sticks, tables and you even get a choice of candy colors (you could match up the color of the candy to your wedding theme – lilac, blue, yellow, green and the more popular pink!). The machines can be delivered to you, set up and operated on the day by an experienced maker or your can collect the machine, follow the instructions and set it up yourself (alternatively ask your venue staff very nicely if they could do it for you on the day, or ask if a member of the catering staff within your reception venue would operate it for a certain period or ask the babysitters if they would be willing to take on this role!). Rental prices start at $75 but you can actually buy your own machine from stores such as Target for $30 upwards.


Popcorn Machine

Another option is to rent a Popcorn machine. Included in the rental will be a heat lamp and heated cabinet to keep the popcorn hot and fresh, a popcorn scoop, cones for serving and of course the corn for popping. The popcorn can be supplied already popped in tubs or bags but popcorn freshly popped at your wedding reception will definitely taste a lot better. You can even order personalized popcorn cones with your initials or in a color to match your wedding theme etc.


Sno Cone Machine

If you are planning an outdoor wedding in a sunny climate then how about renting a Sno Cone or shaved ice machine. These are actually very easy to operate (I’ve done it myself so I assure you it is not too technical). You simply fill it up with ice and hey presto! The rental company will supply you with various sno cone flavors (again, you can choose syrup colors to incorporate the sno cones into your wedding color scheme!), and the cups/cones and spoons for serving.

Any of these machines would provide your younger guests with a tasty treat to keep them going either during the reception or beforehand when everyone is milling around outside before the reception starts.

Top Tip: Don’t forget to seek permission from your wedding reception venue staff that they are agreeable to you renting these machines and using them on their premises. They might even offer staff to oversee their usage.


Children’s Cocktail Bar

If you are planning on serving cocktails at your wedding reception to the adults make sure that the children don’t miss out on the fun by organizing for children’s cocktails to be served. The cocktails should be non-alcoholic (obviously!) and can be made using the same base drinks that you find in standard cocktails, such as coconut cream, lemon barley, peppermint cordial, grenadine and ginger ale as well as using the healthier option of freshly squeezed juices. The drinks can be served in light-up cocktail glasses (these cost approximately $3 each) or other perspex cocktail glasses (these can be bought very inexpensively if your venue cannot provide them) and jazzed up with pieces of fruit and outlandish decorations such as glowing ice cubes, animal shaped stirrers, foil parasols and glitter sticks. Speak to the bar staff at your wedding venue about whether they are able to create these drinks for the children or, even better, if your budget and venue allow it ask them to set up a glitzy children’s cocktail bar for your wedding reception. What better way to make children feel grown up and welcome at your wedding reception!


Chocolate Fountain

As I mentioned in my previous blog chocolate fountains are an extremely popular fun feature at weddings. They are also a great way of keeping the children (and adults) entertained and get them mingling whilst they wait at the venue for the photos to be taken and/or the festivities to begin.

Top Tip: If you are renting a chocolate fountain make sure that it is placed somewhere sturdy, secure and child-friendly. I recommend if children are being allowed to help themselves to the fountain that you have it attended by an adult (the rental company can provide a professional attendant if your catering staff are unable to take on this role). This is not only to ensure the fountain’s smooth operation and for the children’s safety but most importantly because left to their own devices the children are likely to transform your visually stunning fountain into an unsightly chocolaty mess in a very short period of time.


Dessert Buffet Table

Another way to give children a sweet treat is to set up a wedding dessert buffet table. You could fill it with every imaginable child-friendly dessert from profiteroles to cupcakes and cookies.

Alternatively why not set up a simple cookie table – children love cookies! Cookie tables are a long-standing wedding tradition in the USA originating from Ohio. A large table is covered with different cookies (usually cookies which have been baked using secret family recipes by family members in advance of the reception) and presented to guests at the wedding reception. If you are on a tight budget then, by arranging an assortment of mouthwatering home-made or even shop-bought cookies, you can make your wedding stand out whilst you are still managing to shave money off of your wedding costs.


Ice Cream Stand

It’s a well-known fact that ice-cream is rated as one of children’s favorite sweet treats, so how about setting up an ice cream stand for dessert. You could either rent a soft serve ice cream machine for $180 or ask your caterers to set up a refrigerated stand with tubs of ice cream favorites like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or butter pecan. For the complete ice-cream extravaganza remember you will also need to set out bowls of toppings such as:

Nuts (whole, chopped or flaked)

Fresh and dried fruit

Chocolate (strands, flakes, buttons and chocolate chips)

Fudge pieces

Shredded coconut

Mini marshmallows

Multi-colored sprinkles

Whipped cream

Chocolate dipped fruit

Sauces including favorites chocolate, maple syrup, caramel, strawberry, hot fudge and butterscotch


Self-Service Candy Bar

We’ve all heard the saying “like a kid in a candy shop” which means to be happy and excited about the things around you and to react to them in a way which is silly and not controlled. That is precisely the reaction you are likely to get if you set up a candy bar at your wedding reception from the children and their older counterparts alike! Self-service candy bars are a sweet and stylish way to celebrate your nuptials.


Tips For Setting Up A Candy Bar

♥ When selecting candies for the candy bar make sure that you choose a few popular children’s and adult’s varieties. Ideally you should include a selection of candies, from inexpensive popular items such as jelly beans and fudge, to the more expensive name brands such as Fannie May Pixies, Dylan’s Vanilla Clodhoppers and Godiva Truffles.

♥ Remember that if it is the children you are looking to enthrall with the candy buffet you don’t have to buy expensive chocolates and stylish candies – they love jelly sweets, lollipops, liquorice wheels and toffees as well as the ubiquitous candy bars such as 3 Musketeers, Baby Ruth etc.

♥ Other choices for the candy bar could include:

milk, white and dark chocolates and truffles

M & Ms

yogurt or chocolate covered pretzels

mints

gummy bears and worms

sugared almonds

liquorice and candy sticks

toffees

bon bons

lovehearts

yogurt or chocolate covered raisins

various Jelly Belly flavors

♥ A cute idea is to incorporate your wedding color theme into the candies you choose for the table, e.g. you could use all white candies or all pink. The children won’t appreciate the trouble you have gone to but the adults will!

♥ Filling jars of candy for the candy buffer takes a lot of candy which can be expensive. You will probably be better off buying candy by the bag in bulk at Costco, other wholesalers or any large grocery store. Also, try Economycandy.com who sell both traditional and vintage candy, as well as high end chocolates. Items can be purchased from their website in bulk or by the pound. This is a great place to get you started - take a look at their website to get an idea of the cost and availability of candies.

♥ How much your candy spread will cost depends greatly on how big a selection you want to offer and also what types of candy you intend on buying. Obviously a jar of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate candy squares is going to be more expensive than a jar of malt balls or M & M’s.

♥ To give the impression that you have more candy than you really do, use smaller bowls and jars but create platforms and place the bowls and jars at varying heights.

♥ To buy the display jars, candy bowls and scoops check out stores such as Target who sell them inexpensively.

♥ If you wanted to purchase ready-made buckets of candy rather than putting your own selection together Dylan's Candy Bar have them available in varying sizes, but be warned they are a bit pricey, with prices starting at $79.

♥ For inspiration and ideas on how to set up your candy bar take a look at these images of other brides’ candy buffets from TheKnot.com.

♥ Stack cellophane bags, (these can be purchased in florist supply shops) paper bags, clear Chinese take-out boxes, small boxes or paper cones (very inexpensive and easy to make yourself) alongside the candy treats so that the children can help themselves.

Top Tip: Whilst children will not be too bothered about whether or not the candy receptacle bears a custom label or printed tag with your names, wedding date or logo on it perhaps your older guests will appreciate this cute touch.

♥ Don’t forget to place metal or plastic scoops so that the children and other guests can scoop up their favorite candies and not be tempted to stick their hands in the jars (for hygiene reasons obviously!)


Advantages Of Having A Candy Bar

♥ Even if you spend $300 on setting up the candy buffet it will still work out much less expensive than a dessert buffet catered by the venue would have cost you.

♥ Not only is a candy bar fun for the children at your wedding to help themselves to and nibble on but it can also serve as both dessert and party favors so you don’t need to go to any further trouble or expense to organize wedding favors – the children and guests can choose their own tasty favors!


Sweet Treats Which Get The Children Involved

Here are some more tasty and entertaining ideas which are sure to add a fun element for children at your wedding reception:


Toffee Apple Decorating

If you are throwing an autumn wedding ask your caterers to set up a table with freshly made caramel apples. Invite children to decorate them by dipping them into chopped nuts, sprinkles, mini M&M's and other fun toppings.


Cookie or Cupcake Decorating

Another option for an activity is to have your younger wedding guests decorate their own cookies or cupcakes.

How To Set This Up


Remember that the key to making any activity involving children a success is in the advance preparation, so here are some tips on how to set this up at your wedding reception:

♥ Purchase pre-baked sugar cookies, plain biscuits or cupcakes, make them yourself (check out cupcake recipes here) or arrange to have them made in advance of your wedding day.

♥ You could choose traditional round cookies or go for a more wedding-themed shape such as hearts, flower shapes etc.

♥ If you are buying the cookies or cupcakes yourself I suggest you check out your local grocery store, Costco, or other wholesale store where you can buy the items in bulk very inexpensively.

♥ Allow for a couple of cookies or cupcakes per child, plus some extras for mishaps and taste testing by your adult guests!


Decorating Area Set Up

♥ If your venue have no separate children’s room available for your wedding day you could ask them to set up a table in an unobtrusive position in the main function room for the children to decorate their cookies and cupcakes on.

Top Tip: Enlist the help of a child carer or sitters to supervise this activity.

♥ If you do have a children’s room for use during your wedding at your venue, again ask the venue staff to set up a table with chairs suitable for the children.

♥ Ensure that the table is going to be covered with a washable or disposable tablecloth.


Decorating Essentials

♥ Your local grocery store or craft store will have a variety of items that you can purchase for the children to use for decorating. Set out an assortment of items for the children to decorate the cookies or cupcakes with. Encourage their creativity by including items from the selection below:

sprinkles

M&Ms

chopped nuts

chocolate chips

licorice whips

mini-marshmallows

peppermint candies

colored sugar and sanding sugar

jelly beans

chopped or shaved (with a vegetable peeler) light, dark or white chocolate

cookie or graham cracker crumbs

crushed peanut brittle

gumdrops

gummy bears and gummy worms

sifted cocoa powder

fresh fruits

edible fresh flowers

candied flower petals

colored dots

sugar strands

melted chocolate

nonpareils and silver balls

coconut flakes

Plastic stencils with small designs can also be used (sift powdered sugar or cocoa powder over stencil openings and remove stencil carefully).

FooDoodler Food Coloring Markers – These fun pens are filled with non-toxic, edible food inks and are perfect for adding decorative details.

♥ Don’t forget the frosting – this is crucial for cupcakes! Offer the children frosting in bright colors (to match your wedding color theme perhaps) such as hot pink, blue or purple. Children love the outrageousness of bright, boisterous and fanciful colors.

♥ You could offer them bowls of icing (icing sugar and water) with different food coloring added to it.

♥ An alternative way to offer the icing sugar or frosting to the children for decorating their cookies and cupcakes is to use zip-sealed plastic bags with a corner cut out like a pastry bag for piping. You won’t need pastry bag tips as cutting a tiny corner off the bag itself lets just enough icing and frosting flow - simply fill the bag with frosting, seal the top of it and let the children get creative with the frosting!

Handy Hint: Depending on the ages of your junior wedding guests it might be a good idea to have a sample cookie or cupcake already made so that they can see the end product.


Tips For Ensuring Cookie Decorating Activity Goes Smoothly

If you want to organize this entertainment for the children yourself in advance then you could prepare the toppings, put them into separate Tupperware bowls and organize for someone to set them up at the children’s table at your venue on the wedding day. Just remember that for children the fun is in the decorating, not the preparation, so have it all ready for them on the day if you are laying on this activity.

Handy Hint: Don’t expect this to entertain the children at your wedding for the whole event - whilst decorating a cupcake or cookie is sure to be a fun and tasty way to entertain them, the younger children’s attention span will last just long enough to decorate and eat their cookie or cupcake.

Once the children have decorated their cookie or cupcake if they want to wait for it to dry, place it on a napkin and write the child’s name on it so that there are no arguments later over which sweet treat belongs to which child.

You might want to also organize an area for drying the cookies on (if they last that long!). A great idea is to also provide:

napkins (matching your wedding colors)

wet wipes (for inevitable accidents)

waxed paper to sit the cookies on

take home boxes or bags for your guests for leftovers (if there are any left!)

There you go, it’s as easy as that - simply provide cupcakes, cookies, materials for decoration and let the children get creative!

For further tips on setting up a children’s cookie decorating table check out ehow.com.

Handy Hint: As with all ideas for entertaining children don’t forget to mention your plans to your caterer and staff at your venue so that they are aware of the proposed activity.


Give The Children Their Own Party

If you have your heart set on an amazing wedding venue which is totally impractical and unsuitable for children an alternative could be to throw a children’s party at a separate location (as close as possible to your wedding venue). Whilst some couples planning their wedding might think that this is an unnecessary cost and that, if this is the case, the parents should arrange their own child care, you should bear in mind:

♥ Do you really want your guests to attend your wedding? Chances are if they have any problems arranging child care they might not be able to attend.

♥ Decide whether you think it’s worth spending a few hundred dollars on child care and children’s activities to have happy relaxed guests at your wedding.

♥ If you are inviting out-of-town wedding guests is it really fair to ask them to go to the expense and trouble of traveling to your wedding and then have to organize their own child care?

Top Tip: Venues impose a limit on the number of guests you can invite due to fire regulations etc. Therefore your venue will count children as people as far as fire regulations go. If it is the case that your chosen venue has a small capacity limit then for every child you invite this means it is one less adult can be invited to attend your wedding. This is all the more reason to try and organize a separate children’s room or throw them a separate children’s party.

I have personal experience of organizing a children’s wedding party. A few years ago I helped a good friend of mine, who had a 5 year old son at the time that she was making her wedding arrangements, to organize a children’s wedding party hosted by her son.


Timing

The logistics of the day worked out perfectly. He, along with the other young guests, attended the wedding ceremony and posed for photos outside the reception venue. Once the meal was about to begin parents took their children to a function room which was on the next floor up at the hotel.


Entertainment

We equipped the room like a crèche with a bean bag area with some cuddly toys and books, a table and chairs with craft materials and board games, a half-size snooker table, velcro darts board, a plasma TV for DVD watching with cushions laid out in front of it and a smaller TV on one of the tables in the room with a Playstation games console set up on it. We decorated the room simply with some colored balloons and used snazzy plastic tablecloths on the tables which were designated for crafts and for meal time.


Catering

The catering arrangements my friend made were to order pizzas to be delivered to the room, she provided sodas and candies (bought in bulk from Costco) and when the main movie of the evening “Shrek 2” began at 8pm the hotel delivered bowls of fresh popcorn to the room for them to enjoy.


Child Care

My friend used two teenage babysitters (who she had used as sitters for her son on many previous occasions) to supervise the 9 children.


Room

Luckily the function room the hotel provided was actually an empty double bedroom so there were 2 bathrooms which was perfect – it meant that the sitters did not have to leave each other alone in the room with the children whilst the other attended to toilet duties with the children.


Invitations

My friend and her son sent wedding party invites to the children of the people who had been invited to the wedding. She mailed them on the same day as her wedding invitations and addressed them by name to the children of the families. She put a note in with the invitation for the parents with an explanation of the timeline for the day (the “Party Zone” (as her son named it) was available from 2pm (this was 30 minutes before the cocktail hour started so that parents could settle the young children before leaving for their own party) until 11pm.) When the movie ended just after 9.30pm parents with young children had pre-arranged for sitters to arrive and take their children to their rooms and put them down for the night.

Even though all children were invited to the whole day wedding event, a few parents had made arrangements to come to the ceremony on their own and have their children dropped off at the children’s party later on so that they could relax and enjoy the wedding ceremony and reception without having to watch out for their children.

Top Tip: As the hotel where my friend was hosting her wedding had other functions happening on the same day, for added security we made a log sheet so that parents had to sign their children in and out (even the 12 year old!) so that the sitters and parents knew where the children were at all times.


Costs

My friend’s costs for hosting the children’s wedding party were:

Invitations: Free (printed by my friend’s husband using BlueMountain.com

Room hire: (heavily discounted by the hotel because they were already paying a small fortune for their reception room hire and catering) $100

Catering costs: (including pizzas, candy, sodas – the popcorn was thrown in by the hotel for free!) $85

Child care: (two babysitters for 9 hours) $200

Snooker table, board games, Playstation, DVD’s: Free (all borrowed from generous friends)

Craft equipment: $35

Decorations: $20

Furniture: Free (Tables, chairs, televisions and DVD player were all loaned by the hotel free of charge, the bean bags were borrowed from another generous friend)

My friend’s thoughts after her wedding were that it was worth every single penny of the $440 the children’s party cost them, as she, her husband and their friends and family had all enjoyed the wedding day just as much as the children did. Comments from her guests with children were also very complimentary too. One guest said that when her two children received their own special invitation it made their day. At one stage during the wedding reception when my friend’s new husband had gone missing we guessed (correctly) that he was upstairs challenging his son to a ninja fight on the Playstation!!

The children’s party idea my friend came up with was born out of a selfish desire to have the wedding which she and her husband wanted, in the venue they had their hearts set on, whilst still caring that their own child did not miss out on any fun as well as the children of their wedding guests.


Out-Of-Town Guests With Children


Child Care

Whilst I know you are not obligated to cover child care costs for your guests, in my opinion if your out-of-town wedding guests have the expense of traveling to your wedding the least you can do is to provide them with some child care and organize fun activities for their children.

Even if you are not inviting children to your wedding, for out-of-towners whose children will travel with them (like a new baby who can't be left behind) at a minimum do try to arrange babysitting, even if you don't pay for it. They will feel much more comfortable with a child carer you know and trust than a stranger they themselves have chosen from a phone book.

If you are inviting children to your wedding but are planning on organizing an evening ceremony then, for out-of-town guests who want to make a holiday out of your wedding with their children, you should offer babysitter details to them.


Welcome Goody Bags For Out-Of-Town Children

For children traveling to your out-of-town wedding it’s a much appreciated gesture to treat them to a welcome gift bag for their arrival at their hotel room. This can be put together by you at a minimal cost. Ideas for items to fill their welcome goody bag are:

♥ Games (puzzles, magnetic games like battleships, checkers, a deck of UNO cards, game books, Top Trumps or a miniature Etch-a-Sketch)

♥ Stuffed animals (perfect for younger children)

♥ Coloring book, crayons or construction paper

♥ Travel Journal – This is a particularly cute idea if the children have traveled quite a distance to get to your wedding and it’s their first visit to the area. Provide a colorful notebook and pen to encourage older children to create their own travel diary or journal. This activity will not only keep the children busy in the hotel but it will also preserve their memories of your wedding for a lifetime – what a simple and fun idea.

♥ Disposable camera to take pictures to remind them of their trip and your wedding day

♥ Candy and sweet treats (preferably from a local company or something which is a local specialty (I included Scottish fudge in mine) but to be honest young children are not really bothered about the origins of their candy)

♥ Include essential snacks so that your guests don't have to pay the outrageous amounts the hotel charges every time their child wants a soda or snack from the mini bar. Add mini packets of chips, crackers, popcorn, trail mix, granola bars, candy, etc and bottled water, juice cartons and soda.

♥ For destination weddings in a sunny climate or a beach location you could customize the welcome bags for the children with some suntan lotion, inexpensive sunglasses, a bucket or pail and shovel, rake and mold set (you could even use the beach pails instead of bags for the welcome package).

If your out-of-town guests are staying on for a few days with their children then you could also include:

♥ Gift certificates to tasty local restaurants that are child-friendly.

♥ Area maps and entertainment guides – mark on the maps places of interest for children such as local parks, zoos, indoor activity centers (for wet days).

♥ Ask at your favorite local restaurant for some discount vouchers or 2-for-1 entree coupons.

♥ Ask at either your local Tourist Information Office or Chamber of Commerce if they have any brochures and discount coupons for local child-friendly attractions. Staff at the out-of-town guest’s hotel might be able to help you with this also.

♥ Even if you have already provided your guests with the details, it might be an idea to include an itinerary for the wedding day and a run-down of the children’s activities with times so that parents and their children are fully aware of the upcoming schedule for your wedding. Also, ensure they have detailed direction sheets on how to get to each relevant place (and transport details if necessary).


Rehearsal Dinner

Depending on how accommodating you want to be towards your out-of-town guests, and also whether it is within your budget, you could extend an invitation to them to attend your rehearsal dinner. I did this with my out-of-town wedding guests – it’s a really lovely gesture and I know that it was much appreciated by my guests with children. We also hosted a brunch the day after our wedding to catch up with them because we wanted to show our out-of-town guests how much we appreciated them having made the effort to travel hundreds (or in some cases thousands) of miles for our wedding. By including the out-of-town guests amongst other friends and family too at these extra events it meant that my husband and I got to spend a bit of extra time with them as our wedding reception literally flew by.


Organizing An Adult Only Wedding Without Arranging Child Care Yourself

This blog is not only relevant to couples who want to include children in their wedding plans, it is also useful for those of you who are organizing an adults only wedding. The practical ideas which I have presented in this blog can be used by you in assisting your wedding guests in organizing their own child care whilst your wedding takes place.

If you like the idea of hosting a strictly “adults only” evening wedding reception but don’t want the bother or cost of organizing child care or entertainment for the children of your guests then here are a couple of solutions:

♥ The simple solution is to provide your wedding guests with the contact details of a child carer or sitter local to the wedding venue and leave the arrangements up to them. If you are on a really tight budget don’t feel obligated to pay for child care on behalf of your wedding guests.

♥ You could suggest to wedding guests that a few of them group together and arrange for a hotel bedroom to be used as a children’s room for their children (this is assuming that your wedding reception is being held in or near a hotel or venue with accommodation). They could book a couple of qualified babysitters (depending on how many children there are), the hotel could arrange to have a TV and DVD player put in the room (if there is not one there already) and the children could be entertained at their own mini party! If you are aware of guests with children arranging their own sitters at the reception venue be sure to make it clear to them (remind them in the note you put in with the invitation - see How To Keep Parents Informed below) that even if their children are being entertained on the same premises as your reception, the same rules apply – no children during the evening entertainment!

♥ Another option which is sure to be appreciated by guests with children is to ask a friend with children who is local to the wedding venue if they would mind throwing a children’s party at their home. I’ve attended a wedding where the children came to the afternoon ceremony and afterwards those aged under 12 years old were taken by their parents and dropped off at the bride’s sister’s home where the children had a couple of babysitters and a fantastic fun pool party, rounded off with some pizza, games and a movie (the costs of which were shared by the parents of children attending the party). The reports I heard back from friends was that their children had a blast at the party and it meant that they were able to relax and enjoy the wedding reception without worrying about rushing back to check if the children were ok.

♥ Out-of-town wedding guests who are bringing their children with them to the ceremony, or who simply want their children to travel with them, will definitely appreciate any help that you can offer them with their childcare arrangements.


Wedding Invitations For Children

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

If you want to go the extra mile you could address a separate children’s wedding invitation. They, and their parents, will really appreciate your thoughtfulness

If you only want children to attend the wedding reception and not the ceremony then remember to make this clear on the invitation and vice versa for invites to the ceremony only and not the reception.


How To Keep Parents Informed

When you send out the wedding invitations I suggest you pop in an additional note for guests with children about what you are planning for the children at your wedding. In the same way you might provide wedding guests with a sheet with directions to your wedding venue, provide them with an itinerary of events which you have, or are intending to organize for the children. You could also add a note to your wedding website (if you are setting one up). Parents will really appreciate this effort.


Information To Put In The Note

I recommend you put in your note to parents anything which you think they should be made aware of prior to your wedding, such as:

♥ Make it clear in your note to parents that their children will be supervised and entertained in another location and give them details of where this is (e.g. function room at the reception venue, a nearby hotel etc).

♥ Let them know that their children will be cared for by a qualified adult.

Top Tip: Some parents might be hesitant about leaving their beloved child with someone who, to them, is effectively a stranger. Once you have finalized your child care arrangements include this information in the note and if parents want to contact the child carer, to either meet with them personally beforehand or simply check them out for themselves, provide this information.

♥ Let parents know if there are any dangers at, or near to, your wedding venue (such as a lake, trees which are off limits to little climbers or a busy road) so that they are aware of these in advance.

♥ If you are having pets attend your wedding let them know in advance (just in case some children are scared of, or allergic to, animals). This includes having your pet dog in the wedding party (it happens!), or if there will be animals at the wedding venue, or if you have arranged for doves or butterflies to be released at your wedding. I attended a wedding where one of the children (and an adult guest too!) totally freaked out when the butterflies were released and started flying and flapping around the guest's heads. Avoid your guests surprised screams by giving them advance warning of this so they can be prepared!

♥ If you are arranging any special events on your wedding day which require the children to bring something with them be sure to forewarn their parents, such as:

o bring their own teddy bears or cuddly toys for a tea party or picnic

o bring their own kites for flying

o bring casual clothes for bouncy castle play, trampolining etc. (sometimes children’s posh party clothes are not appropriate attire for doing star jumps on a trampoline!)

o bring their own choice of DVD, Xbox game, CD’s, board games etc. (if you are on a tight budget this also saves you having to buy these items)

Handy Hint: Younger children will settle easier in the crèche if they have their favorite toy with them (parents should be well aware of this but it does not hurt to remind them to bring a familiar toy for their little one)

♥ So that you can get the children’s entertainment organized as early as possible add a deadline to the note for parents so that they are aware that you need to know to book the requisite amount of supervisors, a big enough bouncy castle or organize enough craft materials etc.

♥ Just like adults children like to have something to look forward to. Rather than having them possibly dread yet another boring adult party why not keep them in the loop and let them know, via the note in with the invitation, which activities you have planned for them.

♥ Avoid being too specific about the children’s activities until you have made firm decisions and booked it up – simply state party games etc. to save disappointment in case Billy The Clown is unavailable on your choice of date.

♥ If you have arranged outdoor play activities where the children will be exposed to sunshine ask parents if their child is going to need to wear a protective hat or clothing. This would a good opportunity too to remind them to provide sunscreen for their child (some children with sensitive skin require a certain type of sunscreen).

♥ Do the children have any special requirements or anything which the child carers and caterers need to be aware of?

♥ If you are unable (or unwilling) to have a separate children’s menu you might want to mention to parents that the food for their children will be adult cuisine. This gives them the opportunity to make alternative arrangements if their child is a picky eater who might not appreciate fancy wedding food.

♥ Ask parents if they can provide you with any helpful hints for entertaining their little one. They know them best and will probably be able to offer you some great ideas for activities for the children that you might not have thought of yourself.

♥ If you would prefer the dance floor at your reception to be child free after a certain time then let parents know this in advance, rather than just announcing it on your wedding day (some children might be disappointed to be hauled off the dance floor on the night, whereas if they have had prior warning it should soften the blow!). In the same vain, if children are welcome on the dance floor at your wedding reception for the whole evening do let parents know.

♥ Let parents know if you are booking child carers and organizing entertainment for the children at your wedding ceremony and/or reception as this will help them make the decision of whether or not to bring their child to your wedding. Some parents have probably experienced a non-child friendly wedding where their child had a temper tantrum because they were so bored. Whilst I’m not saying you should convince every parent invited to your wedding to bring their child with them, I am saying at least provide them with enough information so that they can make an informed decision.


Timing Of Wedding Day Events

The more information you can provide parents invited to your wedding with, the more they can plan in advance for your wedding day and the more relaxed they will be on the day.

♥ Be sure to make them aware of your wedding day schedule once it is planned. The most important questions any parent at a wedding wants an answer to (apart from will there be a free bar!) are:

o what time will they and their children be fed?

o what are the timings of the wedding day, e.g. what is the ceremony start time, after the ceremony are photos being taken, if so, where?

o if you are having a band or DJ in the evening, what time is the music scheduled to start?

o what time will the children’s activities or entertainment be happening and what is the start and finish time that you anticipate child care will be provided for their child?

♥ By informing them in advance of the wedding day’s timings they will be able to work out if they have free time during the day, a break between festivities, to spend with their child (this is particularly helpful for breastfeeding mothers).

Your guests will really appreciate that even in the midst of planning your wedding you have gone to the effort of organizing activities and care for their children. Also they will take this as a clear indication of your desire to have them attend your wedding (which is what you want after all!).


As I’m sure you can gather from this blog I love it when couples welcome children to their wedding. I think it is one of the biggest family-oriented events, so it seems a shame to dismiss them from such a joyous occasion. Dealing with the unpredictability of children at weddings is simple - provide them with activities to keep them stimulated, entertained and happy.

If you were wavering about whether or not to invite children to your wedding before reading this blog I hope that my suggestions and tips have helped you reach a decision.

How far you take any of the ideas I have given in this blog is completely up to you. You can opt for setting up a corner of the reception room with a couple of cuddly toys and coloring materials or you can set up a whole children’s haven! Remember that planning a fun wedding for all age groups can be accomplished, even on a tight budget.

When planning a child-friendly wedding the same principles apply as those for any party planning - you want to make sure each and every one of your guests has a great time, regardless of their age!

For more information about planning a child-friendly wedding check out this article at TheKnot.com.

Good luck with your child-friendly wedding!


This is Part IV of a 4 part series on How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children

Please refer to Part I, Part II and Part III for the full article

Related Posts :
CLICK HERE & GRAB WITH BOTH HANDS Your 273 Page Book To Planning The Perfect Wedding - No Catch - No Hassle - Simply Click For Your Secret To A Perfect Wedding
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part I
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children Part II
How To Organise The Perfect Wedding Including Children - Part III


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As you plan your wedding you will receive advice from just about everyone. Friends and family have a million and one tips to pass on, in fact here at Wedaholic I have been offering tips galore.
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