When considering whether to invite little ones to your wedding, many couples can feel very torn.
Perhaps you are open to children from within your family - nieces, nephews, cousins - but not so much children of friends, perhaps you are open to them attending the wedding breakfast and reception, but not the ceremony, perhaps you'd rather not have children there at all, but are feeling family pressure to allow them.
The first thing to remember is that it is YOUR day, so you must do what feels right for you. If however, that does involve having children as part of your day, I wanted to share five ideas for successful inclusion of children on your big day...see if any of them can persuade you to make space for the young ones at your wedding breakfast table!
One of the major moments that cause you to question whether you want children at your wedding, is the ceremony itself. There are moments of quiet, moments where important words need to be heard, moments of concentration, and of course moments where ALL attention should be on those tying the knot!
Remember, occupied children tend to be quiet children. You may be considering putting place cards on chairs near the front of the ceremony room - to ensure your Gran gets a good view, your Dad doesn't need to do crazy manoeuvres to get to his chair after he has given you away, and to make sure the lady who your Mum invited and neither of you are quite sure who she is doesn't end up on the front row! Why not, at the same time, put some consideration into something for the children. Something as simple as a picture card, or a flower, or a ribbon - or all three together! - provides something to hold, fiddle with, fold or chew; enough to get them through a half hour ceremony and provide them with some comfort and relief in what could be an unfamiliar and potentially anxious situation.
Wedding Breakfast Club.
So you are thinking, under two's need a high chair, probably easier to have them all in one spot out of the main walkway, and away from the action. You may also be thinking 'hmmm 6/7 year olds...keep them with their parents, spread them out so everyone can parent'.
In my experience, babies relish adult company, where young children love to socialise with other children. I challenge you to spread parents with babies around the table or room, and group at least pairs of slightly older children together. Babies will enjoy the buzz, action and safety of being in the thick of it, along with all the attention that will bring! While slightly older children will appreciate being able to play, plot and discuss the occasion without the prying eyes and ears of 'the grown-ups'!
There are some key moments of the day that, spending just fifteen minutes putting yourself in their shoes, will allow you to accommodate them with ease.
Sleep. Eat. Repeat.
Providing for a range of ages can be a challenge (as any parent with children in many different camps will know!) But one thing all children have in common - especially at a time of celebration and large gatherings - is they have energy which they love to use; so they get tired and hungry. Providing intentionally for those two things will create a recipe for success!
Whether they are having regular naps, breast-feeding, bottle-feeding, snacking, or just need somewhere safe to grab some downtime and a breather, a well-fed, well-rested child will ALWAYS be better behaved and more fun than a child who...well, isn't!
For our wedding at the beautiful Nuthurst Grange in Hockley Heath, we were fortunate to have a small mezzanine floor, overlooking the main wedding breakfast space. We were able to set up a nappy changing station, put some comfy armchairs there for baby feeding, and a nice sofa for toddlers to nap on. Blankets, snacks and juices, all there to provide a welcome respite for children and parents alike. The parents were happy to have somewhere private and quiet-ish to step off the wedding merry-go-round, and the children were all a joy to be around...either we were lucky, or our preparations paid off!
Roles & Responsibilities.
There is nothing more serious and poised than a child with a job. When I say job I don't mean hard labour! I mean a wedding responsibility. Sprinkling petals along the aisle, escorting elderly relatives to their seats before the ceremony, holding the skirts of the bridal gown, handing out handmade, beautifully wrapped cones of confetti, keeping the rings safe, getting the adults up out of their seats by kicking off the dancing first - these are all important roles.
Some of these responsibilities involve special outfits, others involve weeks of practice (if you've ever seen a flower-girl practising petal sprinkling at home you'll know what I mean!) - and all help to calm and focus a child during the most important parts of the day.
Have a think how you can include your younger guests in the planning and delivery of your wedding - rather than it being a huge risk, it could add something really special to your day.
Relax & enjoy.
Weddings are a time for family and friends to come together to support and celebrate your marriage, union, happiness. Weddings are a milestone in the circle of life (Mufasa!) and children are a key part of that circle. Whether they are yours, your sister's, your cousin's or your best friend's children; the magical memories they will take away from your day, the energy and comedy they will provide on the day itself, and the improvisation and smiles they will bring out of all the grown ups around them, is all worth its weight in gold. So relax, walk through your day in your mind, think about the little ones in your life and let them bring that something extra to your big day!