One of the important things to sort out when you begin to plan your wedding is whether or not you will include children in the festivities. Now, I love children, but I’d say about 20% of the couples I work with opt not to invite the younger set. It’s all up to your vision of your perfect day, of course. But for the majority of you who do want to include children, I have a few suggestions.
First of all, in my experience, as long as kids aren’t bored and hungry they tend to be great guests. The key is to know your audience — preteens and teens have very different interests and behaviors than kids 10 and under. And babies of course come with their own set of challenges.
For babies, we suggest that you have a dialogue with the parents about what kind of assistance they want and need. At French’s Point we can provide childcare from local sitters, but most parents don’t feel comfortable passing a baby off to an unknown babysitter and will keep them throughout the wedding. A private space for nursing moms is a very popular offering right now to accommodate guests who probably wouldn’t attend if they couldn’t bring their baby. Sometimes nannies accompany parents staying for a whole weekend, so make sure your facility is ready to accommodate those extra guests. Speaking of advance notice, if certain guests will need baby food make sure to alert your wedding caterer. At French’s Point, for example, we make fresh baby food but we have to know ahead of time in order to have it ready.
For children 3-10 years old, French’s Point recommends local babysitters that come to our site and look after the children. Because kids at this age have a lot of energy, we also help couples offer activities during the cocktail hour like bubble rooms and bouncy castles on the lawn. The key with this cohort is to make sure the kids are not only occupied but also fed with food that they like. That’s why, after activities during the first half of the cocktail hour, we recommend feeding children during the second half. In our experience, delay a child’s regular mealtime at your peril — a hungry child can cause plenty of disruption during a celebration. Finally, after the kids have played and eaten, it’s important for them to have a place to crash. We often organize a monitored “nap area” for kids. This allows them to enjoy the wedding and stick to their regular routine without pushing their limits.
And what to do about the tweens and teens? This set is the easiest to manage because they usually want to be a part of the day with the grown-ups. For the tweens (11-13), we set up a movie screen on the lawn or offer “mocktails” at the bar. But, in general, you can bet the tweens and teens will be on board for the grown-up activities.
When all is said and done, whether or not to include children in your wedding is a matter of personal preference. My clients often tell me that some of their most cherished memories from their wedding came from impromptu things children did. This rings true to me: One of my favorite moments during my own wedding was when my five year-old niece went up to the professional band leader, asked for the microphone, and sang the “Bubble Gum Song” during dinner. It was absolutely adorable.
Expert Advice from Jessika Brooks Brewer of French’s Point