One of my favorite movie weddings is the fictional Mafia marriage of Connie Corleone to Carlo Rizzi. The Wedding is an elaborate backyard event with thousands of twinkling lights, traditional Italian music, children playing and dancing everywhere and the bride’s mother offering a rendition of C’e’ La Luna Mezzo Mare. Despite the whole ‘family business’ thing, the movie shows a closeness of family that not only allows children at the wedding, but encourages them to dance, sing and enjoy the fun as much as the adults. Make no mistake about it: this is a family wedding. In reality, it is also a movie and the children were paid actors and sometimes children just don’t really fit into the grand scheme of certain weddings.
So when should children be invited and when should they be politely excluded? Unfortunately there is no simple answer. For some couples, inviting the young offspring of their closest friends and family is a must. The whole family comes to the wedding and everyone enjoys as much fun as they can pack into the time they have together. It is a celebration and they use this time to sing, dance and bond with everyone.
For some couples the thought of inviting children to their wedding is about as welcome as inviting ants to a picnic. Usually couples who don’t have a lot of smaller children in their immediate family, couples hosting formal black tie events and those who just think children do not belong at weddings. This is your wedding and you are allowed to invite whomever you want and plan the affair however you see fit. Don’t apologize if you want to omit children, it is perfectly acceptable and there are many ways to avoid conflict if you have chosen this path.
If it becomes a hot topic and there is contention among your family, offer a solution before it hits the boiling point. If you are having your reception at a hotel, you can book a room for the kids and plan a children’s event at the same time with games, food and paid adult supervision.
If the wedding venue is not a hotel, speak to some of the parents who have children that are close to one another in age or relationship and find out if they would be interested in helping you organize a social event for the children off-site.
Honesty is the best policy to avoid disaster and hurt feelings. Talking to your invited guests about the no-children policy will help to open up the dialogue and give you a chance to work things out if they are having problems with the idea of leaving the little ones at home.
Being a parent is hard work and bringing them to a wedding is equivalent to an Olympic event. The parents may be glad you decided on an adults only evening.
If you have decided that children are welcome, include them in the fun. Make sure there are some kid-friendly activities like a magician, balloon animal artist and one or two adults designated to ‘entertain’ the children and wrangle them if they become out of control. Face painting sounds good but can be messy.
Instead of seating children at one table, seat them with their parents. Everyone knows that a group of ten kids can spiral out of control easily, not so much when they are wedged between their parents. Ask about a children’s menu- many caterers will oblige with special requests and it is often less expensive than having children eat the gourmet meal prepared for your adult guests.
Encourage the DJ to play some songs the the children will recognize and enjoy. If they are dancing, they are happy and not disturbing the cake! There is nothing sweeter than to watch little ones dancing together in their wedding attire, or little girls dancing on their father’s feet. It will make for a great photo opportunity that can later be included in your wedding album.
At the end of the day you have to decide what fits your budget, your style of wedding and your personal preference. Make your decision early, stick to it and don’t offer any excuses. This is your wedding and you deserve to plan it however you see fit.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago