Should we make our wedding kid-friendly? If so, how?
October 6, 2014 12:56 AM   Subscribe

Most of our friends have kids under age five. We're considering whether and how to make our wedding a kid-friendly event. Have you seen this done? Have you tried it? As a parent, what would help? Or do you just want a night out? Would anything make you more likely to stay overnight for more fun the next day?

We expect about 75 adults will attend. If we're guessing our RSVPs correctly, these families also have 3 older kids, 3 babies, and 15-17 toddlers / preschoolers, spread across 12-14 couples. Those couples include the majority of our friends, so we are trying to make a plan that lets them really be part of the fun. I'd love to avoid a mass exodus of most of our friends halfway through the event. Plus, these are all super-cute kids, so it would be great if they could join in the celebration in some way.

I'm pretty sure that we'll say that babies are okay (and we can turn the bridal dressing room into the nursing room, especially as one of the babies belongs to a bridesmaid), and that older children (ages 8-12) are okay (especially as they're the ones coming from out of town). I'm not sure about the toddlers.

These friends mostly live in San Francisco, and the wedding is outside Santa Cruz, about 90 minutes away from their homes (or two hours if traffic is not good). A few are also (hopefully) driving in from further away.

Ideas I've had:
- Have babysitters on site... but where? We are renting one big (but not super-big) barn, and then an outdoor area. It's the rainy season. I suppose we could put up a tent and put down a tarp and some blankets?
- Have babysitters at the nearby hotel where we'll be staying?
- Have two to three tables be the "parents and toddlers" table and provide a bunch of coloring supplies and toys on and between those tables?
- Have more outdoor activity and game stations (cooking s'mores, yard games) and pray for good weather?
- Hold the wedding earlier in the day? Right now, it's envisioned for the typical 4 pm - 10 pm time slot, but we could start earlier.
- Or... should we just invite the parents to enjoy a night out, and leave the babysitter-finding up to them?

Part of the reason I'm thinking this through so much is that some of the long-distance travelers might want to do a fun activity the morning after the wedding (e.g., tidepooling on the beach), and it would be great if some of our kid-toting local friends wanted to stay in Santa Cruz and join in for that. I realize that the hotel cost might deter some, or it might just feel like too much to take on, which is fine, but I want to make it as welcoming for them to attend if they feel up for it.

A few details about the overnight accommodations -- the hotel with our room block does have a great pool area, so that might be fun with kids. Also, the wedding site itself actually does offer cabins that people could rent. We'd pretty much ruled them out (very rustic for the cost, and it introduces some logistical challenges), but maybe we could negotiate with the site manager to make it feasible.

As you can tell, I'm not a kid expert. Your suggestions, ideas, and feedback are very welcome, including comments about why this might be impossible or a bad idea. Thanks!
posted by slidell to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I wanted to ban children from my small destination wedding on Cape Cod and got considerable push-back from family that quickly changed my mind on the issue.

Do whatever you have to in order to make this work with children in the mix.

I was wrong in my former position on this issue.

Hope this helps.
posted by jbenben at 1:05 AM on October 6, 2014

Wow, you are awesome. Parent of a toddler: the most awesome thing would be babysitters doing some activities with the kids in a separate but adjoining area. Because it would keep the kids out of our hair, yet allow us to check on them. And some kids are not comfortable without mommy.

Tent sounds good.
Perhaps separate tiny buffet and eating area for the kids? But parent-kid tables sound great, too.

You won't be able to prevent a mass exodus as parents leave to put their kids to sleep. Just make it easy for them to return!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:08 AM on October 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh, and moving the time slot creates different issues, for instance toddler nap times! I wouldn't. Even parents want some late night partying at times!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:10 AM on October 6, 2014

Last comment, I swear: friends of ours had a quiet dark room for baby naps on hand at their wedding. By all accounts, it was a great success.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:12 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

A kids area is a great idea for older children/toddlers. Having the wedding earlier in the day would really help too, though that is a major accomodation for you. What is helpful for babies (what I have) is probably pretty different to what is helpful for older children...they tend to not be able to stay up later and only some of them will sleep in a pram/through noise. However I could leave her with a babysitter at a hotel once I had put her to sleep.
posted by jojobobo at 1:15 AM on October 6, 2014

I had an absolutely rockin' dessert buffet—chocolate fountains, myriad baked goods, bananas foster, an ice cream sundae bar, etc. I instructed the venue that when dessert was ready to be served, the children would be invited up first. People loved this, but also and more importantly, it made for some great photos.
posted by cribcage at 1:21 AM on October 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Supervised (by a baby sitter) activities on site would be great. This would keep the kids close but entertained. Many kids won't be happy with a new babysitter (nor will many parents) so sitters in the hotel likely won't work. Perhaps one of the rustic cabins could be a kid hangout.

There is nothing you can do that will prevent the 8:30/9:00 pm exodus of the parents of the 6 and under set. It is bed time. One or two kids will start whining or getting cranky around 8 pm which is already pretty late for toddlers/preschoolers and that will set the other ones off and the parents will haul them away for sleep.

My sisters wedding was 30% kids and almost every family attending had young kids. Knowing this, the wedding was earlier in the day (3 pm) and dinner was served promptly at 6. This kept hungry kids from being cranky. Also activity boxes were at each child's place that included bubbles, stickers, coloring books, and small toys like Hot Wheel cars, or Wiki Sticks. At exactly 8:30 pm the first child started fussing and all the families were cleared out by 9 pm.

With all the guests staying in the same hotel everyone met for breakfast the next day and a swim in the hotel pool. The kids had a lot of fun and the parents were pretty relaxed.
posted by saradarlin at 1:23 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

We invited kids to our wedding. Each kid got an activity bag at their assigned seat. One of my favourite memories of our wedding was that our first dance turned into the Hokey Pokey because all of the people between walking and age 5 were so excited by DANCING! they basically rushed us on the dance floor. What do you do when 6 toddlers want to dace? You do the hokey pokey!

Anyway we scheduled our wedding and reception at night like normal people. We fed guests in the traditional manner. Parents and kids stayed late, it was fine.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:40 AM on October 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

No offense but I don't get this latest trend of making weddings "non kid"arenas. If you have kids as part of your family/ friend circle, you include them. Pay some of the older teens 10 bucks an hour to watch the smaller ones..... Set apart a desinatiged area with play doh, crayons and kid snacks and don't over think. Tell the parents to check on their kids as they see fit. Enjoy your wedding. Done.
posted by pearlybob at 2:10 AM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

One thing- if the kids are coming near the wedding, let them all enter the reception room then be escorted out by the babysitters do they know where there parents are in their imaginations. Getting parents to walk away (instead of the kids doing the walking to the fun place!) proved hard for the kids to separate with kindy aged kids.
posted by taff at 2:18 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ya know, kids and weddings... somehow they just seem... so right. Because even those who don't have kids are participating in the generation of love by being at the wedding. Kids somehow embody that love-making, and generations embody regeneration. I think that's kinda nice. So any accommodations you can make for your most beloved friend's offspring is an investment in love in the long run in my opinion.
posted by salad at 2:30 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

We had a piñata at our wedding reception and that went over insanely well with the three- to nine-year-old set. We filled it with both candy and cheap noisemakers, so the fun kept going for a long time after.
posted by whitewall at 3:16 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If I were doing this here, I'd hire two of the women who do a preschool/childcare program in the community center that I work out of. They're experienced with kids of the correct age and they're experienced with kids who are being separated from their parents for the first time in a childcare situation. They can deal with the kid who loses it and change a diaper when needed.

The nearby tent idea sounds good. Since the wedding isn't too far from where the parents of the kids live, ask if they could each bring a fun toy to share for the day so the kids all have something to play with. (unless those preschool teachers you hire can bring toys ...)

A successful wedding that I attended with lots of kids had it at a site that had a small playground (obviously you can't do this, but I'm mentioning it for future people who might have the option).

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!
posted by sciencegeek at 3:16 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

We had:
- Bubble machine
- Giant Jenga that was mostly used as giant building blocks/giant dominoes
- Kids under 5 got favours that were small Duplo sets to keep them amused during the dinner (older kids got the same favours as adults which was a selection of Pictionary/Dingbats/Trivial Pusuit cards plus notebooks and pencils).

All of these were fairly successful.

If you want to invite kids, make it obvious (we included everyone's names on the invite), but some parents will see it as an opportunity to hand toddler over to grandparents and have a kid-free weekend* so you might not even get all the kids you invite anyway.

(*free of their own kid, I mean, they won't expect zero kids in total)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:27 AM on October 6, 2014

We had a very child-friendly wedding three years ago - like yours, with 75 adults. A lot of our friends have kids, most of them quite young, so we wanted to make the day as relaxing for them as we could. We started earlier - about 2pm. Things naturally began to wind themselves up by about 7pm, although some of the adults partied on a bit longer.

We were lucky enough that the reception venue backed onto an enclosed field with a few items of play equipment. We also supplied a lot of cheap (soccer) footballs and other outdoor toys for the kids to kick about. So most of their time was spent out on the field getting grass stains on their party clothes, which they loved. A lot of the adult guests also welcomed the chance to wander off and be a kid for a while. We hired someone from a company that does 'science parties' - they brought along a load of fun demonstrations and activities, and put on a show for an hour mid-afternoon. As well as that we set up a couple of tables and filled them with colouring stuff, word-searches and suchlike. And to top if off we set up an 'ice cream bar' where the kids (and adults) could go to get a free cone whenever they felt like it.

The thing I've learned from organising parties for children (and attending them) is that imposing some sort of plan is a big help. The longer you leave kids to their own devices, the quicker things will start going all Lord of the Flies on you. So make sure there are both structured and unstructured things to do, and break up their time with the occasional timed event - a balloon modeller, a conga dance, a few party games or something.

People still tell us that it was the best fun they've ever had at a wedding reception. The copious quantities of free barbecue and booze probably helped. I can't imagine any kind of family occasion without children about. I do like the idea of bringing in a couple of helpers to wrangle the kids so that their parents can go and be adults for a while.
posted by pipeski at 3:56 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work as a wedding photographer in the UK and it's very much the norm for kids to be at weddings nowadays over here. Here's just some stuff that I've seen to work (lots already mentioned by others!)

- at weddings kids just love to form packs and run around. This will happen! A wedding should be a very safe place for children to run about "unsupervised"
- in the UK it's normal for the kids to be sat at the tables with their parents. It's easier for the parent to deal with their own child, especially younger kids when eating. It's nicer for the parents to be sat as grown ups! Teens (even very young teens) are just treated as grown ups too.
- treats/party favours/games work well. Think of ways that you can involve them. Crayons and a colouring sheet of a bride and groom that they can complete and then give to you as a wedding gift would be cute! Cheap wrapped gifts are nice too and make them feel special... (plastic princess tiarra or jewellery for example). Disposable cameras and instructions that they act as wedding photographers can keep them occupied as well.
- A separate games area is good... A simple dressing up box with pirate hats etc can keep them occupied all through the day and also provide for some cute photos. One wedding I did last year had a big dressing up box for everyone at the evening do with silly wigs, hats, giant sunglasses, inflatable musical instruments etc. The kids loved that (as did the grown ups). Giant jenga, swingball, soccer etc are all good...
- lots of kids love to party and will try stay up as long as they can! They will fade fast and become insufferable though. It's all up to the parents to make the call as to when bedtime is.
- a supervised area would be great. "Alone" time is the greatest gift you can give a parent. Maybe with blankets and stuff so kids can fall asleep there later on and then be carried to bed.
- Make it clear to parents that your wedding is an electronic device friendly location. DS's, gameboys, ipads etc can keep a child quiet and happy even through a long and boring ceremony. It may not be your preference but it really can be a godsend for the all involved....
posted by Mr Ed at 4:01 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

We had a wedding just before Christmas back at the turn of the century. There were many, many kids. We had a special playroom/dining area and two hired nannies so the parents could eat and talk and not get distracted. And then after the speeches Santa (my uncle in law) came along and they all got small gifts. I understand when people want to ban kids from weddings, but as a parent it can be annoying - don't assume that everyone wants to get away from their kids or even can get away from their kids. Kids at weddings are fun and they have a lot of fun. They helped make a very special day even more memorable.
posted by srednivashtar at 5:05 AM on October 6, 2014

If there are any teenagers being invited, I suggest hiring them as activity directors. They can earn a few bucks and you have people who can help herd the little ones.

When I got married, it was the vogue to put disposable cameras on the tables so folks could take candids of each other. DON'T DO THIS! We paid a fortune to develop pictures of people's butts. (Kids find this hilarious for some reason.)

But Twister, Red Rover, Bubbles, can be great fun when you're outdoors in Santa Cruz.

The Tidepools are awesome (spent many happy childhood weekends gawking at starfish) as is the Boardwalk. Santa Cruz is a destination, so when you send your invitations, let people know all of the cool stuff they can do in the area, they may make a little vacation out of it!

When I was a kid, we'd get a motel room and drive from San Jose and stay the weekend. San Jose is only an hour away (if that). It's not weird to assume folks may decide to do the whole weekend.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:20 AM on October 6, 2014

Thank you, thank you, thank you for thinking like this! Weddings should be a family event and not a big show for the bride. An earlier start time (2:00) would be fantastic. Ask your local hotel about a group rate. And then ask your friends which one of them has the best baby sitter. Hire those sitters. The baby section should be off to the side. You could set up a large projector and show Frozen for the calmer ones. If you are having music, keep the volume at a reasonable level. Kids love to dance but many will cry if the music is too loud. Have juice boxes for the kids to minimize spills.
posted by myselfasme at 5:30 AM on October 6, 2014

I feel like some folks are taking time out from answering the question to get in digs at those who don't choose to invite kids to their wedding. A wedding reception is a party, and sometimes people want to make it a fancy adult party, and that doesn't make them narcissists or jerks.

With that said, we had around 75 people and we hired a very experienced nanny-type person and indicated that she would be around to look after ambulatory-aged kids. She brought some toys and games and stuff and there ended up being around 10 or 12 kids and she was able to keep an eye on them and keep them safe and their parents didn't quite have to keep a constant eye on them, although they were always in sight. This was in a very casual atmosphere, if we had wanted them to be completely separate so that we could do fancy adult stuff I reckon that would take a lot more planning.
posted by ftm at 5:37 AM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Pointing out the obvious: kids don't like chicken marsala. It sounds like you've got enough kids to do special food for the kids area, though paying for catered chicken fingers could be a bit insane... if you can persuade the caterers to let you have 3 cheese pizzas delivered, that would probably make everybody the happiest.
posted by aimedwander at 6:36 AM on October 6, 2014

I just attended my brother's outdoorsy wedding with my two-month old. I'm just new at this, but with his ceremony starting at 5:30, I knew we weren't going to be there for too long - that's the witching hour. I spent a decent part of the reception trying to soothe the baby so family who I rarely see could meet him. We ended up leaving, stressed and with an overtired baby, at 8:30. Having spent a substantial amount of money to travel there, I would have greatly appreciated an earlier ceremony.
posted by flying kumquat at 6:41 AM on October 6, 2014

When I was a teenager, one of the families I babysat for hired me and my friend to work at a wedding. We basically supervised a coloring/crafts/play station they'd set up. I thought it was genius.
posted by radioamy at 7:07 AM on October 6, 2014

I recommend this article from A Practical Wedding: "How to Have A Parent-Friendly Wedding"

I just had my own wedding with lots of toddlers and infants in attendance. Mine was a daytime wedding: ceremony at 11:30, lunch starting at 12:45. Most families started leaving after dessert had been served, around 3:00 or so. If little ones are coming, I think it's inevitable that they're going to leave early.

Also I was a lazy wedding planner and didn't bother providing kid-friendly entertainment or activities. I figured parents would bring what they needed, and I was right. Also, the kids entertained themselves by dismantling the centrepieces, climbing the podium, and generally running around. It worked out just fine.
posted by Rora at 7:11 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depending on the ages of the kids, I'd be really concerned about a 2pm start time - that is prime naptime for the nappers, and a toddler who's missed a nap is an unholy disaster. I'd say 4pm would be a good time for toddlers, but I totally hear the parent of 2 month old above re. witching hour. However, if the bulk of your young guests will be toddlers, it might be better to time it for them. You can't avoid everyone's witching hour so do the best you can, and convey to the parents that you tried. I guarantee you they'll all appreciate your thinking about it, even if the time you arrive at doesn't work as well for them.

At our wedding, we had several kids. I had a couple of teenaged cousins watch them at a separate table right outside the main room and it was great. They came and joined in the dancing for a bit too, and everybody had a blast. Lots of great pictures, and they didn't bother anyone. Minor mishaps aside, kids really can bring a lot of joy to a joyful gathering.

My brother's wedding was very anti-children. That's how his wife's family rolls. It was their prerogative to do so, but our side of the family is very... family-oriented, and the extended family just didn't enjoy it very much.
posted by telepanda at 7:14 AM on October 6, 2014

Okay okay I lied: one more comment.
Whatever you plan to do for the kids, give the parents the details (maybe on a separate slip in the invite). That way the parents will Make the best decision on whether to come and how to handle the evening for maximum enjoyment for everyone.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:30 AM on October 6, 2014

We had far fewer kids than you at our wedding, only six between the ages of 3 and 8. There were five girls and we had them all be flower girls and that was adorable. We put one of the moms in charge of ordering pizza for them, since our caterer did not do kids good. But absolutely the best thing we did was order 1000 silk rose petals from Amazon for $9. The kids must have played 1000 petal pick up a dozen times at least; apparently throwing rose petals all over the adults was the most fun thing ever and also made for some great photos.
posted by carolr at 7:42 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

No one had mentioned a bounce house. If you have room and one person to referree, they are hugely worth it. Often surprisingly cheap. And will tire kids out. Also sundae bars are fine but please provide non sugary snacks too. Lots of kids get hulk ragey when they sugar crash. So fruit, cheese sticks, carrot sticks, bread sticks are good. Water to drink, not sugary juice or punch.
posted by emjaybee at 8:19 AM on October 6, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers! I'm really loving this. A quick question. For those with young toddlers who do nap, what would be the best timing? Naptime is ... 1 pm? 2? Would the parents want to have them nap first, then drive 90 minutes, or could the child nap in the car?
posted by slidell at 8:36 AM on October 6, 2014

We had a very kid-friendly wedding. We just had so many friends and family with children at the time (approximately 15% of our wedding guests were children -- 15 of 100 people) that it was a no-brainer.

The 4 key take-aways were:
- We were able to hire the staff of our nieces' day care to provide the childcare for the wedding day, paying them very generously for giving up their Saturday. They worked about 6 hours (hour setup-up, 4 hours of care during reception, hour clean-up). We had 1 staff person for every 4 children (since only 6 of the children were under 6 years of age). Having pros was a real help.

- We asked our wedding photographer to take photos of the children in action (playground, picnicking, etc). We had prints made of the best; they made totally fantastic gifts for their parents/grandparents the next Christmas/birthday.

- Kids played in a play area a bit away from the main "grown-up" reception area. Parents loved that.

We really wanted to make sure people were able to come away from our wedding as rested and relaxed as they would wish -- instead of enduring a "marathon" of activity. Hence, we scheduled the wedding ceremony at 11 am, with the reception right after at 11:15 am, allowing families to keep to a more normal schedule. Parents could still join in the celebration and reception but leave -- without guilt -- if their kids needed nap time (or if they needed it themselves).
posted by apennington at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2014

Many kids nap really well in a car and a 90 minute to 2 hour nap/drive is about perfect. Naps generally happen 1-3 pm or 2-4 pm. There are always a few kids outside of this, though many parents with enough notice can work around a one hour time shift.

Parents of non car nappers can arrive early (ask for early check in at the hotel) and have the kid nap there.
posted by saradarlin at 9:43 AM on October 6, 2014

"Typical 4-10pm time slot" stuck out at me. The 5pm low-blood-sugar witching hour with dinner to probably happen around 6:30 and a 90 minute commute with an 8pm bedtime? In our family, probably one parent would go and one parent would stay home. I think a mid-day ceremony would work well if you want the kids to be involved. Ceremony at noon, quiet place for nappers afterwards, fun activities and constant availability of snacks until dinnertime, home in time for the nighttime routine.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:14 AM on October 6, 2014

I am going to suggest that the napping thing is tricky and you shouldn't plan your wedding around it. Kids nap at different times at different ages. Many toddlers nap 1-3 or 2-4ish, as noted above, but little babies may be just conking out again at 3, or super-fussy at 5-6ish, as noted above. Really, it's hard to suit everybody. Lots of kids nap great in the car, so a 3 or 4 start time might be best, particularly if you have a short ceremony and snacks right after. (Really, that's a good way to improve the mood of all attendees, littles and grown-ups alike.)

It's incredibly nice of you to think ahead like this, and I second the babysitter plus activities idea, but that's probably as far as you need to go. Some of the families will need to leave earlier than you might like, but at least they'll be able to come!
posted by chocotaco at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2014

Look, any way you slice it, babies and toddlers are going to have a tough time lasting for the entirety of a 6 hour event regardless of what time you start it, so you should just have it at whatever time works the best for you and the parents will figure out how to arrange their schedules for maximal enjoyment for all parties.

At my wedding 8 years ago, we had a kids' room where my stepmother (a preschool teacher) had arranged a couple of child minders and some fun games. Parents and kids ate at the same table. I didn't make any other accommodations but all the parents who brought their kids thanked me effusively for being so considerate, which tells me that the bar isn't that high. There were way fewer kids than I expected even though most people had to travel, because a lot of folks just didn't want to deal with riding herd on their kids at a wedding regardless of kid-friendliness, and they arranged for babysitters or grandparents.

I now have a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old. We went to a destination wedding a few weeks ago that went 4PM-12AM. We tried to find a sitter beforehand but weren't able to, but fortunately one of the bridesmaids organized a group childcare setting. Basically, we spent the ceremony hiding in the back trying to keep the baby quiet, then there was a longish cocktail interlude where the couple had set up a bunch of lawn games that the kids loved. After that, the bridesmaid had arranged for two local women to have the kids over at the house of one of sitters, where the kids watched movies and ate pizza and generally had a much better time than they would have had listening to toasts and adults making small talk and drinking wine. It was pretty successful and non-stressful all around.

I think your yard game and cabin idea is great. Crayons and toys at a table will keep kids occupied for a little while, but kids that age will start running around after 30 minutes no matter what, so having somewhere for them to go that won't be disruptive is a good idea. I think the pool is a nonstarter as a during-wedding activity--as a mom, I would never, under any circumstances, let my preschool kid be in a group setting at a pool with a childminder I didn't know if I wasn't there. Although having a pool will be popular for before the wedding/the next day.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

My wedding was about 100 people total including about 20 kids. I didn't even realize it at the time but the venue was next to a small playground. There was the evening exodus but there were a few kids and parents who hung around and were thrilled to keep dancing until we turned off the music. We had light-up ice cubes which the kids loved - one kid took his to show and tell months later.

I thought of doing things like coloring books but I knew the parents of the kids and they don't leave the house without coloring books, crayons, games, play-doh, etc. However, bubbles might be fun. Likewise, I didn't think the parents would be comfortable with a random babysitter they didn't know so I didn't bother with that. My venue contract explicitly said no bounce house. My husband was disappointed. Maybe you could have a separate kids guestbook? Just an idea but then writing in it could be a thing parents and kids do together and the parents won't worry about ruining the guest book. Guest books are kind of silly but I like mine :)

I think keeping things relatively informal helps too - that way, parents don't feel like they might be interrupting something important if they have to run after someone. Maybe see if the venue has a changing table in the bathroom? And for the love of God, tell the photographer to take pictures of the kids. I didn't tell my photographer and I'm still a little bummed that we don't have many pictures of them.
posted by kat518 at 1:55 PM on October 6, 2014

I think babysitters at the reception are a great idea. Even if sitters are provided, all parents might not choose to bring their kids. So you're prepared, I think it's a good idea to include a line about the babysitters on the invite or RSVP card.

I design wedding invitations, and the best RSVPs I've ever done had a line that read something like "Babysitters will be provided to make the day fun for kids and adults!"

It's great to give parents a heads up that their kids are welcome and that they'll still be able to relax and have fun.
posted by elvissa at 2:21 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This was incredibly helpful. Thanks to all of you!
posted by slidell at 9:02 PM on October 6, 2014

You're on the right track even thinking about this already. We didnt have any toddlers but we had a range from 7 to 16, and they were kept entertained by a friend we "hired." We provided craft materials to be given out as needed, and a couple of the young ones came up with a game that involved hiding from me and then trying to poke me without being seen. There were a few instant best friendships formed, as kids will do, which did result in tears when everybody had to leave at the end.

Probably the most amusing detail was the kids getting into the tiny Angostura Bitters bottles we had as favors, and then essentially daring each other to drink water they had doctored up. A hotel goblet of tap water with two cocktails worth of orange bitters is not delicious.

But yes. Put all the names on the invitation, hire a minder or two (depending on numbers and ages), and don't worry about dumbing down the food. Parents with especially finicky kids will come prepared, and the rest will surprise you. The kids at our wedding went nuts for the risotto "action station." It's fun to have kids there, parents appreciate the thought, and as long as there's a watchful eye keeping things under control the kids largely entertain themselves.

I don't know if you're already set on a seated dinner but we knew we didn't want to do one (more often than not it seems that's where good parties go to die). Instead we did a "roving reception" with passed hors d'oeuvres and the aforementioned risotto station. Our ceremony was at 3:30 and we did toasts, cake cutting, and the first dance one after the other around 6PM so people could leave for dinner (if necessary) without any FOMO. The whole thing was done by eight. In your case the advantage would be that anybody returning home that night could get on the road at a reasonable hour.

After ours we had an unofficial second wedding at our regular bar, but that's a whole other story.
posted by fedward at 9:13 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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