Big Day – Little Ones?

For almost as long as there have been weddings, there have been guest list challenges. From unique family dynamics to differences of faith, deciding who will receive a wedding invitation isn’t always as black-and-white as you might think. And, few topics are as controversial as inviting children to wedding events. Passionate arguments can be made on both sides of the matter making it even harder to find common ground.

This article isn’t going to stake a claim for either choice, but here are some of the pros, cons, questions and considerations to help you and your fiancé decide what will make your wedding day celebration perfect for you.

Come One, Come All – Regular Size and Very Small

* Kids are cute! I mean who can see a two-year-old wearing pink tights and a fancy dress and not crack a smile? Seeing young children that are special to you all dressed up, dancing and sharing your day can be joyful and create memories that you will cherish.

* Children bring a certain lightness to a wedding, not to mention a lot of laughs. If you decide to invite children, it is imperative that you keep a sense of humor about their antics. If little Bella can’t keep her hands off the cake, don’t throw a fit. Instead, laugh and ask the photographer to catch it on film.

* Inviting adults with small children to bring their entire family can ensure that there are no hurt feelings, and it encourages a special, multi-generational feeling at the party. Also, in some cases, parents have an “if my child’s not welcome, I’m not welcome” philosophy. Whether you agree with that or not, by inviting kids, you’ll likely never have to know which of your family or friends would have been hurt by a “no children” event.

* If you welcome wee ones, offer accommodations. Yes, we all agree that it’s a parent’s responsibility to entertain their children and to supervise their behavior. But Mom and Dad would be grateful for small conveniences extended to young guests that make it easier for them to enjoy the day. For example, designate an area away from the reception that’s just for kids with a teenage babysitter in charge. A well-stocked supply of coloring books, puzzles and games can go a long way towards a peaceful celebration for parents and kids alike. Also, if you are assigning seats to your guests for dining, make the extra effort to seat families with small children together. After all, this gives the adults, who may or may not know each other, common ground for conversation, and the kids might even make new friends.

* Limitation of activities is OK! Just as guests under 21 are not invited to take part in the champagne toast or signature cocktail, it is within your rights to have the DJ or band announce that the bouquet and garter toss are for the 21 and older crowd. In advance, assign one of your most diplomatic bridesmaids the task of helping kids off the dance floor and back to Mom and Dad during “adult only” moments.

Must be 65” Tall to Enter

* Yes, they can be adorable in their tiny dresses and mini-tuxedos, but when it comes to proper wedding etiquette, young children don’t always play by the rules. Rare is the child that can sit quietly and calmly through a long wedding ceremony, followed by an even longer reception complete with receiving lines, toasts to the bride and groom and sometimes even formal pictures.

* It is absolutely acceptable for you to include children in your wedding party even if they are not invited as wedding guests. After all, you might plan to have your dog as ring bearer — it doesn’t mean ALL the guests can bring their dogs, too! And, this goes for immediate family also. You are allowed to enjoy the presence of your young nieces and nephews without pressure to invite your four-year-old twin 3rdcousins, twice removed.

* All or nothing! As tempted as you may be to find “middle ground” by inviting kids to the ceremony but not the reception, don’t. While you may feel like you’re doing the child (or his parents) a favor by including him in something, nothing’s worse to a child than seeing other children head off to a party while he has to head home. And, this could also cause complicated logistical challenges for the adults, especially for out-of-town guests.

* Communication is key. If you have decided to exclude children, be firm and be clear. In addition to addressing your save-the-dates and invitations with crystal clear language, a wedding website is a great place to make your choice clear, with no need to apologize for it. By saying something like, “We know you’re going to need to make alternate arrangements, so we’re telling you now so you can plan,” there is no ambiguity to your preference and guests have ample time to make their decisions about attending.

On your wedding day, as in life, you aren’t going to please everyone, and that’s okay! Having children or not having children at your wedding is a personal decision and one you and your partner will make together. Those that love you will respect your decision and be grateful to spend a joyous day with you, celebrating as you intended!