click to enlarge Kids and weddings
Bride Dawn Woodward at Island Bay Yacht Club with Chloe, 10, Cailyn, 8, and Caroline, 6.

Deciding whether or not to invite children to a wedding can be a big question mark for many couples. Some guests may consider children to be a nuisance, while others may think that not inviting children is rude. A couple planning a wedding will be hard-pressed to make every guest happy, and so ultimately, the decision should come down to the couple. Read on for tips and advice if you are considering putting kids on your guest list.

During the planning phase

Think about the overall vibe of your ceremony. Are you opting for a more formal, black-tie affair that will run into the wee hours of the morning? Or is your wedding during the daytime, more casual and/or family-focused? What about your venue? Is it somewhat child-friendly, or would multiple staircases or open water features be unsafe for little guests?

If you are having a destination wedding, know that any parents invited will have a difficult time finding child care at your destination. On the flip side, if your wedding is close to home for most of your invitees, it may be more reasonable to leave children off of the guest list, since parents will be able to use their regular child care.

Once you've made a choice about whether you'll invite children or not, make your decision clear to your guests from the beginning. Include children's names on invitations, or address cards to the entire family. If you aren't including children, just put the grown-ups' names on the invites. Either way, consider following up with a phone call to any family or friends who are parents. Simply check in over the phone to see if they have any questions about the guest list, and if you are including children, be prepared to explain what accommodations for kids you might be planning.

Kids and ceremonies

Lots of couples opt to include children as a special part of their ceremonies, and there are plenty of ways to do so. Whether you are including a child as a flower girl, ring bearer or a junior bridesmaid, be sure to give children involved in the ceremony ample time to practice during your wedding rehearsal. Consider that younger children, particularly those under three years of age, may have a hard time making it down the aisle alone and designate a grown-up to help.

Outside of the traditional child roles mentioned above, think about other ways to involve kids in your big day. Older children may be able to do a reading during the ceremony. Responsible kids can also serve as ushers, pass out programs or distribute materials for your "wedding exit" – things like bubbles, sparklers, streamers or confetti.

About the reception

If you have included children in your ceremony, it is considered polite to also invite them along to your reception. That said, you'll want to have some accommodations in place.

During the dining portion of the reception, babies and toddlers will need to eat near their parents and will require booster seats or high chairs. This saves parents from having to balance youngsters on their laps while everyone is in their fine dress. Slightly older kids might be ready for a kid's table. No matter if you are seating children with their parents or at their own table, include table-top activities such as coloring sheets, crafts, small games or puzzles, and definitely consider kid-friendly food options.

Lastly, if your budget and venue allow, think about finding some exciting and reliable child care or entertainment for the kiddos. A magician, face-painter or a balloon artist are super-fun additions that kids of all ages enjoy. If you are going this route, set a firm end-time on child care, so that parents know they'll need to make their own arrangements for the bedtime routine if they want to stay at your reception.

When it comes to kids and weddings, there are no wrong opinions. You and your partner should feel comfortable inviting whoever you feel is best. Happy planning!

Pamela Savage is a writer in Springfield whose wedding was almost 14 years ago. Kids were invited.

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