8 Tips for Getting Married with Children in Tow!
You're FINALLY getting married. You did it all "backwards" and got the children before making it legal baby, or you're blending kids into your new family. You are investing a whole heap of money into your wedding day and you're oh-too-familiar with how demanding it is being "on" all the time as a Mama/Papa so you're freaking out that you might not to enjoy your day as much as you should. What can you do to ensure you get to enjoy your celebration for the day when getting married with children in tow?
What'll they do next? (Credit: SL Photography)
You may want to restrict the number of children at your wedding to just your own, or you may have a brood of children coming. Either way, here are some great top tips to help you to relish every moment.
1. Ensure you have a go with the flow mindset
Let's face it, they say 'never work with kids or animals' for a reason. They're unpredictable...children can bring mess and chaos at any moment to any place.
The best thing you can do is chill out. Yes, it is easier said than done but manage your expectations of them acting like us. Because they won't. Chances are they'll discard those gorgeous shoes that you spent too much on, the little ones will know you're stressed and won't have been napping in the days leading up and might be clingy, those good, white clothes just won't stay clean...AND you've asked for them to sit still too?
If you can lower your expectations for perfect behaviour, life for YOU will be so much easier. Don't stress that they are acting like kids! Because guess what? they are in fact kids (damn it!). So go-with-the-flow if you can and let them run around if they want after their part in the ceremony/during speeches if it's taking too long (quietly hopefully!). If you are relaxed with them truly being children on your wedding day, your guests will follow your cue and be ok with it too.
And you know what? Those moments of them just being children, well, it's THOSE moments that make the best photos and will be a true and honest reflection of the beautiful family you are...possibly noisy, inappropriate and messy but charming, snuggly, relaxed and smiling because they've been allowed to be themselves on what just so happens to be their special day too.
Credit: SL Photography
Kids love to have a sense of importance in the ceremony and it will help make the lead up to the wedding super special and memorable for them. As the ceremony is usually during daytime, it is more likely to fit with their schedule too when they're feeling on form.
Special clothing in itself makes it all feel super spec for the children - indeed, the mere anticipation of special clothes is exciting. Special outfits needn't cost a bomb either - you can put together great outfits from local stores or Trade Me. You may just need accessories that pull the children's outfits together, eg suspenders and matching cap or a hair wreath that your florist can help with. You can find amazing kids' clothes online and can even have items custom-made locally or from Etsy.
A specific job for the children takes that special involvement up to the next level. It can be as simple as being the ring bearer (tip - do tie the rings together and onto the items they're carrying them in!), walking down the aisle first (smaller kids can feel overwhelmed and may need an older child to hold their hand, or be pulled in on a cart), or throwing confetti/petals at the end of the ceremony. Some children may even be comfortable doing a reading or song if asked.
Including your children in the words of the ceremony itself is also a wonderful way to acknowledge your children or to blend your families. A mention of your children and how proud of them you are is beautiful. And what better way to bring two families together than to make vows to each other's children to be a loving parent to them. Some couples with kids choose a reading that speaks to the children - for example, there are some wonderful Dr Seuss and Winnie the Pooh quotes that fit beautifully in a wedding ceremony.
Another way to truly include your children is to gift them a small gift with some beautiful words, as adults do to each other with rings. A special piece of jewellery like a locket or for us Kiwis, a pounamu, is a wonderful way for them to feel included and acknowledged. It doesn't need to be expensive - let's face it, for smaller children it may well be lost or broken over time Photo: SL Photography & Design anyway - but watch the surprised, happy faces of your children when you involve them this way.
3. Have a designated kids' table for food
If your kids are anything like mine, they need food, like constantly. Snacking or having food to graze on is sooooo important to keep the grizzles, grumps and clinginess far away. And the timing of having that food is absolutely crucial!
Those expensive canapés are probably wasted on most kids anyway, so save some money and have some good, healthy food available for them so they can pop something into their mouths when they need it. Sugary food is fun at a wedding but too much and along with the excitement of the day and you might have an over-excited, crash-n-burn type scenario on your hands when you really need it the least.
There are heaps of great healthy (or healthy-ish!) snacks you could have available for the children throughout the day that look great and will sustain them so you have a better chance at enjoying your day. A designated children's platter or even a snackpack of their own can be perfect and also look the part. This could be a role a friend or family member could happily take on to help you out. And don't forget some decent drinks for them - even just soda water with a little blackcurrant cordial or mixed with juice for colour in a mini milk bottle and straw can feel special but without the peaks - and troughs - of fizzy drinks.
When it comes to the meal times, it's also great for the children to sit together if they can and great for the parents to have a meal with adults. Ahhhh it's the little things. For the sit down meal, a hands-on activity to keep them quiet (I mean entertained) during any speeches is a great idea too. For example, providing some drawing items or bowls of lego in the centre of the table can really help.
4. An activity table
We loves us a good children's activity area and love putting them together for our couples! A real 'No Adults Allowed' zone. What kid doesn't love a bit of adult segregation? Depending on your wedding outlay, this could double with your children's food table but could equally be a separate table and area that the children can access throughout the day.
We've set up areas with tipis, activity tables and games, and they're always a hit. We love setting up areas with paper, colouring projects (eg wedding themed, boho mandalas for bigger kids, face masks), crafts Credit: Sabrina Photography (avoid things that stain, like paint!) and simple age-appropriate games (dominoes, noughts & crosses, cards etc) so the kids have their area to dip in and out of play for the day. Who can go past bubbles for an outdoor area - and check this tip out, tape the bubble bottles to the legs of chairs to stop the inevitable tipping of bubble mix at the first bubble. Another great activity for kids is a scavenger hunt where they have to observe and mark off items on a list, eg pink shoes, a kiss, piece of cake etc.
These spaces aren't just for the kids, parents love seeing their little darlings from afar happily getting down with the crayons.
5. Outdoor games
Kill two birds with one stone. Outdoor games that are available for all guests can provide entertainment for kids too - for example, jenga, croquet and connect 4 are easy for most kids to play. Outdoor games encourage them to get some fresh air and burn some energy to boot. We've seen giant jenga blocks being used in all sorts of construction by kids at weddings so they needn't play with them the same way we do and can provide hours of entertainment.
We have also put up swings and hammocks at various events and always find these are such a hit for kids during the day. And dress-up boxes (coupled as a photobooth area) are great fun for the youngsters (and oldsters) too.
6. Dance-off! Get your children onboard for a family dance. They'll probably only want to dance for a song or two but this is a great time for your family to all be together at one time during the evening for some fun and laughter. And what's more, you might even tire them out a bit with any luck!
Another idea is for the kids to stage a music takeover at some point and have a few of their favourite songs played for them to dance to before heading off to settle down.
7. Night-time area for children
If you decide to have children at the reception, you might consider a nightime reception spot for them to chill in. We love the idea of a slumber
party tipi set-up in a corner or quiet room for kids to chill or nap so they have their own little space, or even some mattresses and cushions spread out for the kids to chill on and watch a DVD.
If you had an activity table earlier in the day, this could be brought inside to this area as well and the kids could even make the happy couple a special card together.
8. A nanny or babysitter for the evening
We can't recommend enough having a trusted babysitter on to keep an eye on the little tykes (or teens for that matter!). This will provide you with peace of mind, as well as any other parents who have kids there. If your children will only be there until the earlier part of the evening, having this person to take your kids off home to bed will be such a blessing for you as you get to celebrate your family first and then can kick up your heals completely unimpeded for the rest of your night. Alternatively, should you have a night-time area for the children at the reception, knowing someone trustworthy is there with them, will allow you to relax.
Getting married with children in tow can actually make your day extra special. Little kids often see it as your entire family as all getting married to each other - how adorable is that?
With a little preparation and reminding yourself to chillax with their potential unpredictability and planning how to best involve them and keep them busy, you can make it easier on yourself to enjoy being the bride/groom for this one day and less about being a Mama/Papa!