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Natalie and Ben

Children at weddings can be quite a tricky topic. Some couples can’t imagine their happy day without cute flower girls, youngsters hurtling around playing garden games and little ones strutting their stuff on the dance floor. Alternatively, adults-only weddings are becoming more and more common and it’s totally understandable that many couples want to keep their special day just for the grown ups (with less noise, mess and tantrums, at least from the kids!).

To help you decide which way to go, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to inviting or not inviting kids, what to say to guests about your choice and the best ways to keep children at weddings entertained…

Bride and groom signing marriage register with their children
Bianca and Scott

Kids or no kids, that is the question…

It’s absolutely fine to decide that you want a child-free wedding, especially if you’re having a very formal celebration. To help you choose we’ve outlined the pros and cons below…

No children means…

  • You can save money - If budget is tight it’s an easy way to keep guest numbers low.
  • You can choose any venue or destination -  Some venues are less child friendly than others. Also, if you’re coveting a destination wedding in Paris, the Maldives or similar, you won’t be restricted by school holidays or the extra expense of your guests taking kids.
  • There won’t be unwanted noise at key moments - Kids cry, make noise, run around and get bored and your day is likely to be more predictable without children.
  • Some parents will have free rein to have fun - Once the childcare is sorted, some of your guests will really be able to relax and enjoy themselves. 
  • Other parents may not be able to come - If they’re unable to arrange or afford childcare, some of your guests may not be able to accept your invitation. 
Flower girls wearing garlands carrying bouquets holding hands down aisle
Grace and Anthony

Inviting children means…

  • You’re guaranteed a fun atmosphere - Children at weddings certainly add fun and laughter, both intentionally and unintentionally! You’ll get some great photos and some of the more chaotic moments are guaranteed to be the ones you treasure forever.
  • Your own kids will have someone to play with - If you’re having your own children there, they’ll loving having friends to hang out with.
  • Cute flower girls and page boys - Up the ‘Ahh’ factor on the big day with a few flower girls and pageboys. What’s more, it’s the perfect way to include close family members in your wedding party.
  • Guests can save money - If you’re worried about how much your guests are spending to attend, letting them bring their children will generally reduce their costs.
  • No one will be upset - An adults only wedding might upset some family or friends who think their children should be there or who might struggle to arrange childcare. You should do what’s right for you, of course, but it’s worth considering who might have trouble with the decision.
Rhian and Gavin holding handing with their two children and their wedding guests throwing confetti at their local wedding venue.
Rhian and Gavin

Can I invite some children and not others?

Yes, it’s OK to invite a select number of children, but this is where things can get complicated. It’s easier to say yes or no to all children. However, if you have your own kids or close family members do, then you may want them to be with you. Plus, you may struggle for childcare yourself if all your nearest and dearest are celebrating with you. In this case, it’s a good idea to draw the line at either children of immediate family and/or children of the wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen). If it’s immediate family only, make sure this extends to everyone on both sides.

Carly posing next to her campervan wedding car with her bridesmaids standing next to her and two flowergirls standing infront
Carly and Robert

How do I let guests know?

If you’re inviting children, simply include their names on the invite along with their parents’. If you’re not inviting children, make the invitation out to just the parents. You should also be specific elsewhere too, so it’s very clear. A line such as ‘Please be aware this is an adults-only wedding’ or ‘Our special day will be adults-only; thank you for understanding’ in the details is a good idea, as well as somewhere prominent on your wedding website. If you have guests who may struggle with the logistics of this, you could also give them a call directly so they have plenty of notice.

Real Weddings Essex: Nicola and Lucy’s forest wedding
Nicola and Lucy

Happy kids, happy parents, happy couple...

Once you’ve made the decision to include children, it's a good idea to think about how to keep them contented and happy throughout the day. There’s absolutely no obligation to provide entertainment for any children attending your wedding, and most parents will come armed with a few activities to occupy their own kids. 

However, if you do want to ensure a great atmosphere and that a good time is had by all, including the parents, then there are lots of things you can provide, from little activity packs on the table to hot and cold running child care for the duration of the day. Here are a few ideas to ensure happiness all round…

10 top tips for entertaining children at weddings

Kelly holding her two sons with Stijn during their civil ceremony.
Kelly and Stijn

1 Plan ahead

Before the ceremony, ask the officiant to make an announcement that it's OK for parents to leave the room if they need to, which will encourage them to do so. Also, ask your ushers to seat the parents of very young children at the ends of rows for the service. That way they can easily make a quick exit.

2 Keep them occupied

Give the kids in the wedding party important jobs to keep them busy and make them feel important. Suggest scattering rose petals, holding the rings (with supervision!), handing out the order of services and confetti or being ‘Fancy Dress Supervisor’ for the photo booth props in the evening. Older teenagers could direct the parking or act as ushers. At the reception get them to hand out cake and ask guests to sign the guest book.

Charlotte and Jake

3 …and well fed

During the day, provide kid-friendly food options, such as sausage rolls, apple pieces, cheese, slices of pizza, bread sticks etc - to keep them happy rather than ‘hangry’. A child-friendly option or two for the wedding breakfast is also a good idea. If the kids are old enough, seat them at their own wedding table, possibly with a paid supervisor. For younger kids sit them with their parents but try to include another child of a similar age on their table too.

4 Give activity packs as favours

Tailor them to the right age group, but include things like wedding-themed colouring, pencils, sweets, stickers, small toys, puzzles, simple fancy dress items and more.

Wedding decor at Rachael's easter egg hunt
Rachael and Paul

5 Hire indoor/outdoor games

Giant Jenga, Twister, croquet or space hoppers will all go down a treat with adults and kids alike. Do you have space for a bouncy castle? If it’s a winter wedding, what about a couple of retro arcade games? 

6 Set up a kids’ room

If space allows, a separate room with craft activities, board games, snacks and Disney movies is a great idea. You could hire a trusted babysitter to keep an eye on everything or set up a rota system for parents to take turns. If there’s no accommodation on site, add blankets and cushions and turn this into the ‘quiet’ room in the evening.

sweet table for Rachael and Paul's Easter egg hunt reception
Rachael and Paul

7 Have a few sweet treats

Another one that will be just as popular with the grown ups as it is with the kids! Create a fun sweetie table or book an ice cream van to turn up mid afternoon to reward the children for their good behaviour up until that point.

8 Create a treasure hunt

Ask an older child or a friend to be in charge of a treasure hunt for the kids. Give them clues to solve around the venue and its grounds and a reward when they’ve completed it.

A group shot of Hayley and Johnathan with all their wedding guests.
Hayley and Jonathan

9 Hire a children’s entertainer

A magician, face painter, story teller or balloon artist will keep them occupied for a good while. Check out our local suppliers for great ideas.

10 Hire a creche/nanny service

If budget allows, then a professional crèche or nanny service will take all this off your hands and allow parents to really enjoy the day. Wedding creche services provide plenty of activities, as well as offering babysitting services into the evening too.

Hannah on the morning of her wedding day in her pyjamas. Another image of Hannah in her wed2b wedding dress with her mum and flowergirl.
Hannah & Joe

Lastly, remember, it’s not your job to keep children at weddings happy, that’s down to the parents. But if you love the idea of sharing your big day with your own little ones and those of your nearest and dearest, then a few clever ideas will make it a fun day for all the family! 

Click here for lots more clever ideas for keeping children at weddings happy from our brilliant real life brides. Why not share your story too? Also, for more inspiration, check out our Instagram, Facebook or TikTok accounts.