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