For families with a “No Child Left Behind” policy when it comes to weddings, a couple’s decision to make their nuptials an adult-only affair can not only be seen as controversial, it can be enough to start a family feud.
Whether or not you plan to include those pint-size cuties on your invite list, wedding and etiquette experts all agree that the key to avoiding any hurt feelings is stating your intentions with careful consideration and a certain amount of decorum well before the big day.
Ban Kids, Spare Parents’ Feelings
Frank Andonoplas, master bridal consultant and adjunct professor of business etiquette for the School of Hospitality at DePaul University says he has seen a slight increase in recent years on the part of his own clients to make their nuptials a “kid-free” zone.
Andonoplas says the reasons for this stance is personal and is sometimes rooted in a couple’s desire to keep their wedding a more formal and dignified event.
“Some children, not all, can be disruptive at weddings, especially during the ceremony which should be a solemn event,” Andonoplas says.
If the consensus is to put a ban on babes at your wedding, the best way to politely convey this message to your guests is by communicating directly via phone or in-person. In addition to a word-of -mouth approach, Andrea Liss, founder and creative director of Hannah Handmade, a custom invitation boutique firm in Evanston, Illinois, suggests placing careful consideration on the wording of invitations to express a couple’s wishes.
“One way is to simply not include the children’s names on the envelope—if the children are not listed on the envelope, they are technically not invited to the wedding,” Liss says. “Some couples feel that this is not a strong enough statement and in that case, the wording we suggest is ‘Adult Reception’ and we put this text in the bottom corner of the invitation as a footnote.”
No matter what decision a couple makes about children for their wedding, all guests should respect the occasion and remember who the event is for. “As guests, it’s our responsibility to be gracious and accept the wishes of the couple, and not make a fuss,” Liss says.
Andonoplas agrees, and offers this advice to parents whose children are not included: “Think of it as a night out, and if you’re not comfortable, don’t attend.”
If You Invite Children, Set Them Up for Success
Andonoplas’ love affair with the business of weddings started early, leaving him with fond memories of attending several large family weddings during his own childhood.
“My parents felt strongly that weddings were family events and that if their kids weren’t invited, they wouldn’t go either,” Andonoplas says, “Children attending weddings get to experience these life events and understand what marriage is.”
Yet, Andonoplas admits he’s seen it all when it comes to children’s behavior at weddings, and issues usually occur when children are not properly prepared or lack any parental supervision at all during the event. If your heart is set on seeing a sweet flower girl or ring bearer in your bridal procession, Andonoplas suggests considering these factors first:
- Age and maturity of the child: Children between the ages of 5-10 are most suited to participate in the wedding party or attend the ceremony. However, each child’s maturity level is different, so consider individual personalities and each child’s ability to stay quiet or sit still during the ceremony.
- Time and formality of the wedding: Be mindful of each child’s mental and physical limitations. Asking a young child to stay awake for a 7:00 p.m. candlelight ceremony may be next to impossible.
- Supervision: Parents who are also in the wedding party will be hard pressed to quiet their crying child if they are doing double duty at the altar as a wedding attendant.
Prepping kids for a wedding is crucial, according to Lynelle Wooley, founder of Los Angeles-based website Flower Girl World. Wooley created the online resource after her own daughter was asked to be in a wedding, and she could find little information to help her prepare. The site offers advice, tips and inspiration for brides and the mothers of flower girls, and also includes fun themed activities, crafts and a book series to prepare little ones for the experience.
“Being a flower girl is a huge honor and milestone event in a little girl’s life,” Wooley says, “We want to help make the experience easier and more enjoyable for everyone.” Wooley thinks the flower girl’s (or ring bearer’s) mother is responsible for executing the bride’s vision, and supervising her children on the day of the event.
Here are her tips for parents:
- Encourage children in the wedding party to practice in advance, and include them in the rehearsal.
- Make sure your children get plenty of sleep the night before.
- Prevent crankiness by bringing mess-free snacks and activities on the day of the wedding.
Andonoplas recommends a “children’s suite,” where children can socialize with their peers in a comfortable environment manned by a licensed and bonded professional sitter service, be made available in a separate room during receptions.
“I’ve arranged age-appropriate entertainment, games, toys, crafts, Wii and child-friendly foods to be provided to keep kids happy and safe during the wedding,” Andonoplas says.
Written by Lisa Zimbler for Make It Better. Read more about weddings from Make It Better: