Considerations and Tips for a Kid-Friendly Wedding

Do you have plans to invite many children to your wedding?

The decision of whether to include, limit, or omit kids from your guest list is a personal choice, one unique to your relationships and directly affected by your wedding budget, venue, and time of day.

If you and your beloved are currently working out which--if any--younger friends or family members might be invited to your celebration, it’s useful to consider particular realities for the parents in your life. You might be the oldest in a large family, for instance, or have many recently married friends with babies. Parents’ ease of traveling long distances or arranging childcare can be a major factor in their ability to attend your big day and is worth bearing in mind.

Whatever your call, the temptation to fear is real: how can you avoid wounding guests or prodding sensitive relationships while maintaining healthy boundaries around your decisions? It truly can be hard to feel a sense of freedom when so many others’ expectations influence your actions. As with many wedding-related choices, it’s helpful to discern with sensitivity, move forward with prudence and conviction, and strive for peace over the fact that it’s impossible to please everyone. Chances are, guests who have been through the wedding planning experience themselves--especially in more recent memory--will be reasonably disposed to your choices regarding kids, understanding financial constraints and the challenges of managing a chorus of opinions and expectations.

For Catholic couples in particular, concern might arise in the heart that excluding children from your wedding--whether by necessity or choice, or even de facto circumstances--conveys a closed-off attitude to life. But don’t let yourselves believe that. Openness to life involves so much more than who is or isn’t on the guest list.

If, however, you and your fiancé do decide to have children attend, their presence is a visual testament to the fruits of married love and to your families’ history in the making, across generations. There are no guarantees they’ll behave perfectly, eat everything placed in front of them, keep their best outfits spotless. In a way, that’s the point. The family is a beautiful mess; a cenacle of growth through its very imperfection.

That said, having kids at your wedding isn’t without challenges. Here, our suggestions for cultivating a kid--and parent--friendly atmosphere.

Offer materials for the liturgy.

A month or two before your wedding, ask friends and family members to loan you any Bibles, prayer books, and religious picture books for children to page through during the Mass. Place the books in a basket near the entrance of the chapel, and designate a family member to offer them as guests arrive and regather them at the end.

If possible or necessary, consider kids when booking.

If you anticipate early on that your guests have a significant number of kids, consider keeping their needs in mind as you make your plans. A reception venue with an outdoor area, for example, facilitates play and breaks for kids and makes it easier and more feasible for young parents to attend. Serving a buffet-style meal rather than individual entrées is usually more cost-efficient.

Enlist help.

Hiring high school or college-age babysitters to assist with on-site childcare can result in a lower-stress evening for both parents and children--younger siblings of your close friends or members of your parish’s youth group are a good choice for this role. Provide activities like coloring, books, Polaroid or disposable cameras, bubbles, and board games.

Create a space for downtime.

If the layout of your reception venue allows, creating a nearby area for kids to rest or decompress is a welcome gesture. A downtime space might be as simple as blankets, snacks, and Netflix; a few chairs for nursing mothers are also thoughtful.

Encourage kids’ participation in your guest book.

Childlike faith is more than a figure of speech. For some children, your wedding might be the first they’ve attended; a glimpse of romance and joy that stirs the heart, and an experience more formal and special than their everyday . A sign inviting them to write (or dictate) a message to the bride and groom is sure to elicit humor; and most likely, wisdom.

We love the opportunity to walk beside you in the steps toward your vocation that will end--and begin--at the altar, with the help of so many like-minded sisters. Brides, we want to hear from you in the comments and on our social media: have you and your beloved struggled to come up with guidelines for inviting children to your wedding? How did you approach it, and if you had them attend, what measures helped make the day more kid and parent-friendly?