If you’re having a civil ceremony, you will have a lot of input into what goes into your big day. You may have less choice when it comes to children.
Firstly, do you invite them at all?
There’s no short answer.
1. If you already have your own children, you will probably want to have other children there, assuming yours are going to attend (as surely they must).
2. If you don’t have any of your own, you may well resent the risk of other children spoiling your ceremony.
3. You may not feel able to invite children, because you can’t afford extra guests. For the reception, you may need to bear in mind that children 12 and over will usually be charged full price.
If you don’t invite children, their parents may not attend, which is something you must be ready for. So giving plenty of warning (so they can arrange childcare) is important. You also need to be consistent (for obvious reasons!), although young bridesmaids or page boys etc. can serve as exceptions.
Whatever you decide, make sure the invitation is clear.
Making the best of it!
If you do invite children, there are ways to minimize any negative impact they may have.
At the ceremony, ask the ushers to seat those with young children at the end of rows, so that a sudden urgent visit becomes less disruptive.
Maybe you could put a treat (a box of raisins, say, or a party bag) in with the order of service, so the children have something to occupy them for a while.
You may be able to put on some entertainment for the children – a magician, balloon modeler, for example. If the venue is OK with it (and the weather permits!), you might be able to offer outside games such as Connect4, which can be hired easily enough. If you have a bouncy castle, remember that that will need a responsible adult attendant throughout.
Be aware of health and safety issues – is there an unguarded pond? Are there trailing cables?
Try and consider children’s tummies when planning their menu. A two-year-old and a twelve-year-old will not want the same food, and probably neither wants the same as the adults are having! High chairs may need to be provided. Some sort of distraction is worth offering during a potentially lengthy meal (maybe only crayons and a book). Depending on numbers, you may want to group children according to age.
A couple of extra thoughts
A first-aid kit should be available at the venue, but you should arrange to bring plasters, high factor sun-tan cream, Calpol and anti-bite cream too.
Finally, you may like to offer a play tent with (quiet) board games, craft materials or fancy dress clothes; or bubble-blowing equipment. Lego can be a good idea too.
Happy children will mean happy adults, so don’t underestimate these ideas!
Michael Gordon can deliver a tailor-made civil ceremony around London or further afield.