Flower girlsYour wedding is your big day, and you want to surround yourself with all the people you love — including your family and friends’ children whom you also adore. Here is advice for including children in your wedding party as well as how to entertain them at the reception.

If you include children in your wedding party as the flower girl, trainbearer or ring bearer, it is important to remember that you are doing just that – including children. To expect them to act as miniature adults is unrealistic. If their behavior isn’t exactly as you had envisioned, a relaxed attitude and good sense of humor can help save the day.

It can be difficult for most children to stand still for any amount of time, and it can be especially scary to be in front of so many people during the ceremony. Make it easier for a child to participate in your wedding party. Here’s how:

  • Allow an older child to escort them down the aisle.
  • Send a young child down the aisle and have them sit with an adult in the front row.
  • Place an unsure child near an adult attendant they feel comfortable with.
  • Use a piece of tape to mark the spot on the floor where you would like the child to stand.
  • Give them responsibilities appropriate to their age.
  • Ask a parent to be with them — watching them at all times.
  • Include them in only the last segment of the pre-ceremony photo session.
  • Dress them in their wedding attire after they arrive on-site.
  • Offer them non-staining snacks with clear water to drink.
  • Provide them with a fun bag of quiet time activities.
  • Have realistic expectations for the age of the child.

Your guests will have an accepting, emotional response to participating children. Try to do the same. Let any imperfections in their role become a funny story to tell in years to come, instead of a source of disappointment. Relax and enjoy the pleasure of including your favorite children in the festivities of your special day.

If you are concerned about guests bringing their children to the wedding, provide a paid attendant in an on-site nursery. In advance, identify the guests that might potentially need this service.

  • Enclose a special card in their invitation indicating the time and location of on-site childcare.
  • Ask for an RSVP of those who will need the availability of childcare.
  • Include a place for the recipient to respond with the number and ages of the children who need care. This will help you prepare with an appropriate number of caregivers.
  • If you have a wedding website, include the time, location and RSVP date of the nursery.
  • Include the photo and credentials of the caregivers for parental reassurance.

At the reception, it can be a good idea to set up a children’s table:

  • Ask your reception venue to set a smaller, shorter table and chairs.
  • Cover the table with paper or paper linens so the children can color.
  • Place a small packet of crayons with their name on it at each plate as a place card.
  • Create a small bag of quiet time activities for each child to enjoy at the wedding and take home afterward, as their guest favor.
  • Create interesting centerpieces to serve as décor, entertainment, and dessert all in one. Fill clear plastic containers with fun colorful snacks like Goldfish, M&M’s and Gummy Bears.
  • Order kid’s meals for this table of small guests — and save on food expense.

Be sure to place the parents of these kids at tables nearby or have the hired babysitter, from the ceremony, sit with them during the reception, as well.

What ideas can you share for including or entertaining children at a wedding?

This is the first of a three-part series by Sharon McGukin, author of “Flowers of the Heart: A Bride’s Guide to Choosing Flowers for her Wedding.

Read the second in the series, “‘Big’ Ideas for ‘Little’ Flower Girls.” 

Read the third in the series, “15 Fun Floral Ideas for Ring Bearers.”