Lots of opinions and rules, rules, rules out there regarding this topic. Leave it to some of the mainline wedding sites [are you listening Martha Stewart Weddings editors?] to be a real buzz-kill on this topic. As a result, my first rule: Regardless of your decision, please -oh please- don’t refer to them as “wee ones”. Really? How ‘bout “children,” or “kids”?
Decide early and make no exceptions to the rule you create. Guests with kids will need to know your preference so they can contemplate the complexities and expense associated with a “yes” to your invitation. You want your guests to be able to relax and enjoy the day too, so if you invite kids, you’ve got to plan for them, not just “tolerate” their attending. Tolerating sets the bar rather low, and with a 10-year old we can well appreciate the challenge of monitoring behavior in a kid-unfriendly setting. We want to encourage all of our invited family & friends to have fun, not just certain members, and believe that children of all ages can be a part of and contribute to the celebration. If the venue or the venue’s coordinator did not seem kid-welcoming, we eliminated it as an option.
How to signal kids are [or are not] welcome. Signal clearly. We plan to include the names of all invited guests on the invitation. The only exception to this rule would be for our single guests who will get the “& guest” variation. And were we to have decided to not invite kids, I like to think we would have treated those situations as we ourselves would like to be treated – with a personal phone call to explain and discuss. Do not make any assumptions. We all know the rule: never assume, because it makes… . Also, give parents a rough outline of the day’s events so that they can anticipate and plan for any rough spots.
Where to seat the kids. We have not yet decided this one. On the one hand, we hope that a number of families with kids our son’s age will be able to attend. Given these are part of his Portland posse, they certainly would enjoy sitting together — too much. This is asking for trouble unless the table location is remote and the place settings are disposable. So, we are leaning [heavily] toward having families sit together and instead having activities that kids, their parents – and those who are still kids at heart – can do together.
Meal Matters. Inquire about food allergies. Long involved dinners are not a good fit for younger kids. Kid’s eating habits will be best addressed with buffet style dining. If that is not your preference, most caterers are more than happy to offer a kid’s meal option so long as they have a head count to work from and prepare in advance. More importantly, kids will not handle the seemingly endless gap between ceremony and meal very well. Plan on having snacks available that will keep moods elevated and melt-downs to a minimum, which brings me to our favorite Taylor Street topic, favors…
Fun favors and games for one and all. In addition to our venue having space for activities like badminton, tag, and croquet, Santa Margarita Ranch has a steam engine train so guests can go on train rides! I know! We were hooked on this option the moment we saw it, and though it is a pricey add-on, it will be worth it to us. In addition, and in keeping with our casual and welcoming design emphasis, we are pulling together activity packages and favors for the reception tables. You can find prepared kits on-line, but this is not tough stuff to do on your own. Doing this on our own will allow us to customize “the supplies” for the kids attending, and I will use this as an opportunity to involve our son in their preparation! As for favors, what adult wouldn’t enjoy some jelly beans or gummy bears inside their favor box? Better yet, have a table at the reception filled with a selection of sweet and savory treats that guests can browse and visit as needed. Lastly, we may cover table tops with white or kraft paper for crayon/chalk drawing – more for kids of various ages.
As Bob Ross, from the PBS series The Joy of Planning, says, “Any way you want it to be, that’s just right.” This is meant to be fun. Now get busy.