Wedding Details: Pint-Size Problems

Having kids at your wedding means planning ahead — for anything.

You're about to exchange the handwritten vows you've labored over for months with your groom. You look deeply into his eyes, tears streaming down your face

You're about to exchange the handwritten vows you've labored over for months with your groom. You look deeply into his eyes, tears streaming down your face, hands shaking. You open your mouth to tell him all the things you feel and then … a shrieking cry bellows from the back of the church. It appears that one of your guests' little ones — the kid you invited — is having a temper tantrum during one of the most important moments in your life.

Sadly, it happens often — horror stories of pint-size wedding guests wreaking havoc on your Big Day. Having children at your wedding is a wild card — you never know what you're gonna get. For some couples, it's easy — you just don't invite them at all. But for those who want to have the young ones there, just like your adult guests, it's especially important to consider their needs. “A wedding is truly a family affair,” says Megan Kline, owner of Megan Kline Events in Philadelphia. “And having kids included is part of what makes the wedding so much fun.”

Bring 'Em In
For Michele Moore of Chestnut Hill, it was a no-brainer. “I have a lot of nieces and nephews,” says Moore, who had 55 guests under the age of 12 at her wedding in State College. “I figured the more, the merrier.”

Though Moore admits it was easier for her to accommodate her younger guests because her wedding and reception were outside — “I think because you don't have walls around the kids, it makes them behave much better” — she still chose to offer her child guests several kid-friendly options during and after the ceremony. Among the fun ideas, Moore left crayons and paper at each child table, set up a volleyball net for the older kids to play with during the reception, bought stacks of Frisbees, built a bonfire later that evening to toast marshmallows, and even handed out glow sticks at the end of the night for the kids to keep.

“You can't ignore kids if you're going to invite them,” she says. “And you can't expect them to act like adults, so you need to plan something to keep them busy.”

Ask your reception facility or caterer what special treats they have for kids. At the Westin Philadelphia in Center City, young reception guests get a care package, says Stewart Mahan, director of catering and conference services. “We provide them with the Westin Kids Club package,” he says of the child amenity all kid guests receive when they stay at the hotel. “Milk, cookies and a bag with a drinking cup, a baseball hat, puzzles and other things kids find interesting are provided at check-in.”

In addition to goody bags, Mahan suggests considering child-friendly meals. “Brides spend a lot of time tasting, laboring over what they're going to serve,” he says. “They should focus on pleasing the children, too.” Mahan and his team will serve sliced fruit, chicken fingers, french fries, pizza and even the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Mahan, though, is fast to warn: “It's an adult affair, and sometimes kids take away from the wedding. So the best thing to do sometimes as the bride and groom is to book the hospitality room for the kids to stay during the reception and provide a babysitter.”

Kiddie Watch
That's where Laura Walker and her mother and partner, Rita Vitro, come in, as owners of The Wedding Sitters, based in Newark, Delaware. Vitro (who has been in childcare for more than 30 years) and Walker offer something that's become, if not a trend, a very welcome courtesy. “The bride and groom are not responsible for providing a babysitter,” says Kline. “But it's becoming more popular to do so.” Adds Walker, “So many guests won't come to a wedding if you don't invite their kids. So it becomes a question of whether or not the bride really wants the kids there or not.”

Walker knows full well how important it is to have sitters on hand. While having her first dance with her husband, the young son of a guest ran across the floor several times. “I couldn't help but think, 'Get that kid off the dance floor! It's my first dance!'”

To avoid such semi-catastrophes, Walker and Vitro offer packages starting at $55 per child for up to five hours, depending on location and number of children. They'll watch kids at the reception venue or even in a hotel room across town. The best part of the package: The whole day is a party for the kids too. “They leave this big party where Mom and Dad are, and then they feel left out,” says Walker. “This makes it special for the kids.” Party themes include princesses, superheroes and even cartoon characters. Kids make crafts, decorate cupcakes, and feast on Goldfish crackers, juice and, on request, kiddie tea-sandwiches.

“It's really a nice thing for couples to do for their guests if they're not inviting children,” Walker says. “That way, guests have one less thing to worry about and they can just enjoy the evening.”

If you're up for including little ones in your Big Day, Kline does suggest setting a minimum age. “Guests should know whether their families are invited by the wording on the invite,” she says. “If it's sent to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, they're the only ones invited.”