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Should You Invite Children?

It is a privilege, not a right, for guests to bring their children to a friend or family member's wedding. You and your groom are free to decide whether or not to include children among your invited guests. Before making your decision, consider the feelings of your big and little guests, and then weigh some of the information and options listed here.

Weddings, as seen through the eyes of small children, are stuffy, formal affairs that are excruciatingly long. How many times have you seen yawning or napping little ones at friends' weddings?

Picture yourself as a six-year-old. You're dressed in your best clothes, forced to sit quietly in one place while the bride and groom say things to each other you don't understand, and then made to sit again during a long meal in a big room with a bunch of adults. There are all sorts of enticing opportunities to play tag, hide-and-seek, or I Spy, but your parents won't let you.

What's a kid to do? Play with the food on her plate. Eat whatever candy he can find in the wedding favors. Lean on the back of her mother's chair while sucking on her fingers, still sticky from cake frosting. Jump up and down on the chairs when his parents aren't paying attention to him. Mostly, what a kid does is come up with great ideas to relieve the boredom and have fun, (by running, yelling and bumping into people), and listen to their parents tell them that they cannot do them.

Parents may or may not be relieved when they discover that their children aren't invited. Most will understand and welcome the chance for an adult night out. Other parents are going to be offended. They view weddings as family affairs and resent having to find and pay a sitter. You can't please everyone, so make whatever decision is comfortable for you and stick to it.

Pros of inviting children:

  • Parents will appreciate not having to find and pay a sitter.
  • No ill will is created among families because children aren't invited.
  • The party will be a family affair, and most grandparents enjoy this tradition.
  • When other children are present, it provides a social outing for them too.

Cons of including children:

  • If they are bored they may misbehave and upset the good time of others.
  • Kids need a special menu.
  • You may need to hire a sitter or two to entertain the kids, so the adults can mingle and dance.
  • Short activities for kids should be planned to keep them occupied and out of mischief.

You may choose to invite only those children of a certain age, for instance, aged 12 and older. Or, you may want to invite children of family members only. Whatever you decide, make certain that you have a personal conversation with each family invited about the parameters of your invitation. Don't let the invitation speak for itself or wait until the wedding day to try to explain why some children are present, when others weren't invited.

If you do include children, when possible, seat all the parents and their children together at one table or at tables close to each other. The quickest way to ruin a single guest's time is to stick them at a table with lots of kids. While it might seem like a good idea to put all the children at a table alone, an unsupervised group of kids is the fastest way to go from elegant reception to kindergarten madness.

For those who want to seat the children together, arrange for a couple of teenagers to keep an eye on the children at the reception. One chaperone/sitter should be recruited for every four or five children. Seat them, when possible, in one corner of the reception hall. If they make noise, it won't matter as much to your other guests. They may enjoy the chance to talk and play and form friendships with other kids.

Ask your caterer about meals for children. Kids under 12 adore hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken strips. Keep it simple...it will keep them happy and be easier on your budget. Kids enjoy dancing, so be sure to request that your DJ play a song or two in their honor.

If you don't want to include children, most etiquette mavens will tell you that it is inappropriate to write "No Children, please" on your invitations. It might be possible to communicate this idea by only writing parents' names on the inner envelope and/or including "Adult Reception" on the invite, but don't count on it. Again, speak to each invited family and tell them what your wishes are. There's no need for explanations, but they do need to understand who is invited and who is not.

Above all, make a decision you are comfortable with, communicate it and stick to it!

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