August 8th, 2017 | Laura McDonagh
Wedding etiquette can feel like a minefield of decisions and dos and don’ts, with one wrong step having the potential to cause a rift of Cold War proportions. Where to sit your couple-no-longer best mates – and their new partners? To free bar or not to free bar? At my own wedding in 2011 the fish starter emerged from the kitchen only for my Aunty Breda to announce (within full earshot of that top table) that she “couldn’t even look at a fish”. Six years on and I’m still thinking about that haddock entree and Aunty B’s pursed-lip fish disgust. Time to let it go, man.
But anyway, I digress. My point is that the build-up to any big day involves running the gauntlet of tough decision-making, and undoubtedly one of the most controversial dilemma of them all is this: to invite the kids, or declare your big day child-free?
Couples split into two camps on this one, with some thinking that weddings = love and that = family, and so the more under tens running around pulling knee-skids on the dancefloor, frankly the better. An equal number are at the other end of the spectrum, considering their big day to be a less-than-perfect environment for a four-year-old suffering from mood swings and a Haribo addiction.
So, what can help you make the initial decision as to whether to invite the kids or not? Well, we’d always advise taking a good look at your close family and friends first. Do your siblings or best mates have children? Would they struggle to organise sitters for your long wedding weekend in Ibiza? Be aware. We’re not suggesting you change your dream day to accommodate everyone else or feel the pressure to invite children when it’s never been part of your plans. However, you may have to accept that if your sister-in-law is going to be breastfeeding a three-week-old at by the time the day rolls around, she may feel she can’t attend – and you might have to be ok with that. The best way to avoid fall-outs is to give your guests plenty of notice so that they can organise childcare if needs be – oh, and another top tip from the wise: be clear on your wedding stationery as to who exactly is invited. Don’t write ‘The Joneses’ if you actually just mean ‘Mr and Mrs Jones’ and not their adorable-but-ear-piercing six-month-old. These things have a habit of being misinterpreted.
If you go the other way and decide to invite children, you may want to have a think about how best to keep them entertained. Weddings are feats of endurance even for grown-ups – I can’t count the amount of times I’ve disappeared from a reception for a sneaky power nap – and so the average two-year-old who relies on two scheduled daytime sleeps a day is going to find a wedding tough going.
Consider when your ‘golden times’ will be, i.e. when you really, really need children to be quiet – most would say the ceremony, particularly the vows, and the speeches – and plan, plan, plan. I’ve seen everything from a vicar’s warm reminder that it’s ok to step out during the ceremony if required (i.e. if Nathaniel loses the plot) to a ‘pop-up’ creche organised by a local nursery for a couple of hours (more affordable than you might think).
Here’s the best of the Brides Up North brainstorm for keeping the kids onside…
ask the experts
Speak to your venue – after all, they’ve done this before. Do they have a room where children can go for some downtime? Provide a hamper of quiet toys and games? A stash of high-factor sun cream, plasters and Calpol? Sofas and blankets for a snooze?
And while you’re on it, ask about children-friendly food; lunchboxes for during the drinks reception, plastic plates and cups and child-size cutlery. Saves a multitude of potential accidents and meltdowns.
keep em quiet
Definitely consider children’s packs for during the meal. Never underestimate the novelty value of a CBeebies magazine, a sticker book or a mini Lego set. If you don’t have children yourself, you might want to speak to mums and dads you know to get some age-appropriate ideas.
star of the show
Rather than trying to keep them out of the way, why not get them involved? Many children love having a job, so whether it’s Unofficial Instax Photographer, Number One Confetti Thrower or Holder of the Guest Book, they’ll be all over it.
Fun and games. You can even tie the kiddy entertainment into your theme. Cute retro vibe? Go for space hoppers, a sweetie table or even an ice cream van. Rustic country feel? Giant wooden Jenga, croquet, or a rounders match. A word of warning, though – you may be fighting the adults off the pitch later in the evening!
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Laura is a true Northophile: she married Adam in Durham in 2011 accompanied by 200 Northumbrian lamb shanks and a Mackem 1950s tribute band who did a rockabilly cover version of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. They honeymooned in Northumberland in a 1972 MG convertible, went surfing in Alnmouth and made it to the Edinburgh Fringe (let's ignore the fact that it rained all week). Her big mantra is 'no regrets'...but if she could travel back in time and wear a wedding dress with a Peter Pan collar and pockets, she'd pretty much die happy.
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