One of the most potentially awkward wedding decisions some couples face is whether to invite children. Some couples worry that the kids will be bored. Others fear that they'll be too disruptive. If you want to include children at your event, consider these guidelines on how to accommodate your lively little guests.
If you're inviting a wee one to walk down the aisle, be sure he or she really wants to.
Children younger than five are likely to be confused by the attention and may end up forfeiting their role at the last minute. If your niece indicates that she's uncomfortable being your flower girl, believe her—don't tell yourself that when the time comes, she'll be excited to do it.
Asking a ten-year-old to be your ring bearer could end up insulting him.
Kids between the ages of 10 and 13 have graduated to the role of junior groomsmen and bridesmaids. These attendants don't have the responsibilities of a bridesmaid or groomsman, but they'll still feel important when they walk down the aisle. If that approach doesn't appeal to you, ask them to take on other key roles, such as handing out the programs at the ceremony or passing around the guest book at the reception.
Kids and preteens will be more likely to hit the dance floor if they hear songs they know.
So ask the DJ to play a few popular—if overplayed—hits from the radio or MTV, such as "Walk Away" by Kelly Clarkson. (P.S.: Go right to the source for playlist suggestions.)
Save the fancy food for the adults and give the kids something familiar to sink their teeth into.
Ask your caterer if he can create a children's menu. Name dishes after kids' favorite characters (Harry Potter's Hot Dog Platter) or even after your little guests themselves (Maya's Mini Pizzas).
If there are enough young ones attending, designate a corner of the reception as the kids' area.
Hire a sitter to watch over the spot, and make it fun by decorating it with youthful touches. Top tables with crayon centerpieces and give out coloring books as favors. For really tiny tots, have bibs embroidered with wording like Kelly & Dan's Wedding or My First Wedding.
Be careful who you seat where.
If your nine-year-old nephew is mature enough to sit with the grown-ups, let him. There is no bigger bummer for a child at a wedding than being stuck at the kids' table against his will. At the same time, very young children (five and under) may be more comfortable sitting with their parents than with other kids.
If you'd like kids to attend the ceremony but not the reception, consider arranging for a sitter.
This is by no means necessary, but it's a thoughtful gesture your guests are sure to appreciate. Maybe your sister has a responsible friend who isn't attending the wedding but would be willing to watch a small group of children. If that's the case, let parents know that they've got the option.
If it turns out that you do have to nix some kids, be consistent.
You can draw the line however you choose (one safe rule: immediate family and first cousins only). No matter which guidelines you set, it helps to personally call those parents whose children won't be invited, and to do it as soon as you can. Your honesty should be well-received, as long as you're fair and you give enough advance notice.