When it comes to wedding planning, there's a seemingly endless list of things couples must worry about to make their dream day go off without a hitch. But preparing to celebrate your love with your nearest and dearest frequently brings up some tricky situations, as the debate sparked by one viral tweet recently detailed. Twitter user @Backpainandwine caused a bit of a stir by tweeting: "Probably going to get slated for this, but people are perfectly entitled to request no children at their weddings." Her thoughts quickly went viral, with thousands of people sharing their own beliefs about the "kids at weddings" conundrum.
Of course, there are many valid points to be made on both sides of the coin, with plenty arguing that it's a couple's choice whether or not to include little ones at their celebration. Scary Mommy tapped a slew of wedding planners to share their candid thoughts about bringing your darling angels to the dance floor, as well as how engaged couples and guests alike can make sure the day is smooth sailing for all involved.
No joy like a toddler trying the "Y.M.C.A."
As with all things wedding-related, family dynamics tend to make a difference, and many couples couldn't imagine a big day without their own kids or their adorable nieces and nephews on the dance floor — there are priceless memories aplenty to be had, and it saves parents from needing to secure childcare in advance.
But it's understandable if you don't care to have your college pals or old coworkers' kids, especially given the increasingly astronomical cost of weddings. As for whether or not kids belong at weddings, "There isn't a right or wrong answer. The answer is: whatever makes most sense for that couple," says Rachel Silver, founder and CEO of Love Stories TV. "It's perfectly acceptable to have only the flower girl(s) and ring bearer(s) at a wedding," adds Chrissy Wolfman, a California-based wedding planner and owner at Plan to be Wowed.
Penny Baird, Florida-based wedding planner and CEO of Blessed Magnolia, admits it's a "touchy subject," with Silver noting, "If children are invited to your wedding, then just assume anything could happen."
How to Prepare for Kids
If you have decided to have children there, the pros recommend advance planning and communication so that all parties involved are aware of their options, whether you're hosting a huge soirée or a small, intimate gathering.
Bring in Backup
Baird always suggests that couples hire professional event sitters if they can swing it budget-wise. "These companies are great as they provide entertainment for the children, feed them, do arts and crafts with them, and ensure that they feel as special as the guests that are enjoying themselves with all the wedding festivities," she says. Professional sitters are typically "ready to start accepting children after the ceremony prior to cocktail hour so parents can enjoy the evening and know that their children are being taken care of."
Silver recommends scheduling a sitter during the ceremony and/or speeches if a couple is worried about unwanted interruptions, especially for younger children, who can be easily overwhelmed by big gatherings.
Smaller weddings might be a better environment for children, says Baird. "Large weddings tend to be too big or noisy for little children, especially for flower girls and ring bearers. It is truly a long day for them, starting early with getting ready, spending time with the bridal party for pictures before the ceremony, after the ceremony, and then sitting still for dinner before all the fun starts" — all of this can create "tired, pooped out kids" within an hour of the festivities starting. Baird recommends having someone ready to take kids home early or assigning a designated kid host in case little tikes begin to get tired or unruly.
Of course, destination weddings add another layer to the mix. If couples don't want kids at their destination wedding, Silver recommends offering to help connect parents with a local babysitter to help make it easier for them to attend.
Keep It Clear and Concise
"If someone is offering to have kids, they need to be fully prepared," says Hoey. "They need to have a kids menu, kids table or kids seating, and activities. If you are opening that door, open it all the way and accept the responsibility to entertain your little guests as well as your adult guests."
What Parents Can Do to Prepare
Guests should also prepare for the big day. "As a guest and a parent, you don't want to be stressed out all day wondering if your kid is enjoying themselves, so make sure you keep them entertained," adds Dwinika.
"Parents can make sure to bring toys or games to entertain the kids and be prepared to step out if the child is disrupting moments like the ceremony or speeches," recommends Ellie Durbin, founder and planner of The Aisle Assistant. "Wedding days are long and nap and meal schedules get thrown off, so it's also helpful to have snacks to tide them over and maybe bring the stroller for naps if they're young."
Along with plenty of kid-friendly snacks and activities, parents can prep their little ones ahead of time by talking about expected behavior at a wedding in the weeks ahead of the big day, says Palm Beach-based wedding planner Jennifer Hardiman of Fabuluxe Events. Showing them videos of wedding festivities can get them excited and show them how they should behave.
Keep the Kids Home
Not every planner thinks kids and weddings are a match made in heaven, however. Retno Dwinika, wedding planner at Amora Bali Weddings, doesn't think kids under five should attend as guests. "Kids are still growing and need a lot of stimulation but also a lot of sleep," notes Dwinika. "If they're too bored or sleepy, it can lead to tantrums."
"It can be tough for children at weddings," she adds. "They're taking in content they can't understand, in an unfamiliar environment with people they don't know very well. This is definitely a recipe for bad behavior."
Kayla Hoey, a Boston-based wedding planner at Kiss the Ring, thinks only teenagers should be allowed. "It's not the right environment for a child," says Hoey. "The dinners are later, the food is elegant, it's a long night, there's a lot of alcohol and drinking, and a crying child is not what anyone wants to deal with on a night that is supposed to be full of love and happiness. It is also a liability issue for the venue and caterer to have minors around alcohol, heavy equipment, and furniture. It creates stress for the couple and that child's parents, not to mention each head catering-wise can cost lots of money, and many kids won't eat the wedding meal."
How to Gracefully Balance Expectations
Couples should make their expectations clear well in advance of the big day, notes Dwinika. "The no-children policy needs to be clear and concise so that there is no confusion."
Durbin recommends being "intentional" about wording on invitations, being sure to write "the Smith family" if kids are included and write the first and last names of each invitee specifically if they're not. Couples should also "include a note on their website and communicate with close family like their parents, who can help reiterate the adults-only policy to guests," says Durbin. "In some cases, couples may have to have a more direct conversation with guests one-on-one."
"Being consistent is key when saying no to children," adds Hoey. "If you allow one, or two, or three, it leaves the door open for everyone to try and plead their case."
No matter your stance, it's a couple's choice to include or not include kids and a guest's choice whether or not to attend. After all, as Durbin told a recent bride, "An invitation is an invitation, not a subpoena." Wolfman adds that weddings are expensive for engaged couples and attendees alike, and a couple's preferences and wishes should be respected — no questions asked.