Kids Welcome! The kid Friendly Wedding Reception
This post is not a debate on whether its a good idea to have children attend your wedding or not. That's a great topic for another day but its also a sticky conversation that you have probably already had if you are reading this today. Each wedding is different and each couple is unique. There are many valid reasons for wanting or not wanting children included in your wedding reception. This post is dedicated to those who will joyfully or dutifully invite children to their wedding.
You want all of your guests to have fun and that includes the little ones and the teens. Making sure that the younger guests feel invited and have plenty to do will help all of your guests relax and have fun.
So what can you do to make sure kids feel welcome and have fun at your wedding? We have all seen the special wedding coloring books but that doesn't help your teens or infants. Teens love to dance but what do they do during cocktail hour and toasts? And what about the babies??? Are we really responsible for entertaining babies? Together, we will explore ideas by general age groups.
Teens that are between 13-18 are at that perfect age to attend a wedding. They will lead your group in dancing as we all know they typically know the latest sounds and dances. This age group usually doesn't need a lot of help being entertained but cocktail hour can be a bit on the boring side. Some of your teen guests may also want to connect with other teens in attendance but know how. Setting up a simple corn hole game or other fun active game in a different area (away from your elegant cocktail hour) with a tub full of sodas, flavored waters, and a few bags of chips or other fun and easy snacks is sure to attract bored teens to start the mingling and fun.
Older Kids between 5-12 just want to dance, be active and eat. If there is a photo booth, they want to dance, eat and get in the photo booth. This age is fun and care free if you give them the right activities at the right time. They are old enough to mind their parents and sit still for things like toasts and buffet lines but these kids have short attention spans and suffer during cocktail hour, waiting to eat and waiting for whatever might come next, no matter what the "next" might be. They want things to keep moving along and at lightening speed. Gift bags or special items placed at their seats are great for these kids. Things that go into these bags can make or break the experience for not only the child but also the parents and other guests and staff. Many kids this age do not want coloring books. They know this tactic as they have endured the coloring pages and crayons at restaurants for years. These kids are much too active to want to just color while all of this activity is going on around them. Here are items I suggest to offer in bags, table settings or baskets at special kid stations.
1. Food and drinks - capri sun, juice boxes, sodas or other self serve drinks will keep the kids hydrated and allow parents to mingle. Snacks such as fruit snacks, bags of crackers, string cheese, carrots, etc... are perfect to put out during cocktail hour since most kids will not like traditional cocktail food.
2. Puzzles, mad libs, silly putty or a few Lego pieces (or mini set) are perfect for kids to quietly play at their seat during toasts or while waiting for their turn in the buffet line or waiting for the cake to be cut. Most kids this age need to stay active and offering one or two small items or even offering a fun box filled with items is sure to keep them happily entertained while allowing mom and dad to socialize during the event.
3. Scavenger Hunts will keep this age kid busy for a long time and also give them fun stories to tell of their adventures. Scout out your venue for fun things to find or hide. Give a few of the staff or guests some prizes to give out when a child finds something on or near them. The lady with the flower scarf might just be a coworker who has a stash of fun size candy bars to give the kids who find her or there might be some bouncy balls behind a tree with a twisted branch. The DJ might play a special song and have some prizes on the dance floor when they hear it. Your imagination is the limit and the kids will have the time of their lives.
4. Offer a room to watch a movie. If you have space at your venue, its always nice to set up a small area for kids to get away and watch a movie or play a video game. You can even hire a teen to watch over the kids and give them a chance to have a little down time. With an increase in childhood sensory issues, a quiet space to feel safe is welcome to not only little ones but often to adults as well. I have seen many adults take refuge for a few moments to watch TV with the kids just to catch their breath.
Young Children ages 2-4 will need to stay close to mom and dad unless you hire a childcare attendant. A fun gift bag for kids this age is ideal. Include those coloring books, crayons, a small tub of play-dough or silly putty and other quiet activities and toys. A small age appropriate snack and drink is also welcome to parents who often times struggle to find drinks at the bar and scramble for the last strawberry garnish to feed their child from the crudité tray. This age group also benefits from having a small room to get away from the party. A small quiet room with a movie or games is much appreciated to get away from the noise and calm frazzled nerves.
Infants and Babies
Infants and babies don't need to be entertained beyond what their parents can offer them. Most parents will bring the food and drink that this age group needs or they will eat off their parent's plates. One nice thing to do for the parents of this age group is to let them know ahead of time the amenities that are available to them such as changing tables in the restrooms, and if there is a quiet room for parents to change, feed or rock their child. Let the parents know if they should plan to bring a stroller or if there are space issues and if a sling or carrier might be a better option. Be understanding if these parents need to leave early as the little one may become fussy with such a big change in environment or schedule.
Kids at a wedding can be a lot of fun. If you have made the decision to host children on your big day, remember to plan for them so that they, and their parents, feel welcomed.