Children At Weddings

Thank you today to one of our most articulate Members, the delightful Isabel Smith, for her insights into those little people at weddings. Grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy……

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the maternal type. Other than the (marginally) increased tolerance level I have developed since my niece was born, I generally take the view that if I walk into a restaurant and hear a crying child, I will walk back out again.

Having said that, I don’t think I was being over sensitive in getting more than a little enraged concerned when children at one of my recent weddings were blowing out every candle I lit, throwing my (expensive wooden) garden games over the hedge, licking the cupcakes and putting them back(!), and kicking the generator.

Our clients have to make the call at some point between the ‘a-wedding-is-a-family-affair-so-of-course-all-the-kids-should-come’ camp, or the ‘I-think-the-kids-will-be-bored-and-besides-the-parents-deserve-a-night-off’ train of thought – often to find horrible consequences (screaming child throughout the ceremony vs certain guests getting huffy and refusing to attend – it’s a difficult trade-off!).

In the past, if my clients have indicated that children will be a part of their day, I have always taken steps to ensure that some age and gender appropriate entertainment is provided. The ideal scenario is of course to bring in the professionals – allocating a space for the kids to play in, and hiring an accredited crèche company to provide the care and entertainment. Alternatively, a bouncy castle is always a winner, but at the very least, I carry some colouring books and pens in my on-the-day kit.

But what happens when, as I found this year, the kids are invited, the client isn’t willing to pay out for much in the way of entertainment, and the parents also want a night off so are nowhere to be seen? Who is responsible then, and how does one handle the nightmare-brat scenario?

I thought I’d better ask an expert:

Joanne Mallon, child psychologist and author of ‘Toddlers: An Instruction Manual’, says that: ‘Weddings are not really child-friendly events. They take the children out of their own environment and routine – especially the 2-4 year old age groups, who may be used to a nap in the afternoon – and puts them in a group with a party atmosphere and often with lots of sugary food too. It’s no wonder they can get hyper!

When things are getting a bit out of hand, not being afraid to address the children directly can often have the effect you want. Simply being spoken to by a new adult can be scary enough since children are often much better behaved for adults who aren’t their parents. However, they are also very sharp, so will pick up on any lack of confidence in your own authority.

Shouting, or telling off can have the effect of goading them into further bad behaviour. Instead, distraction can work really well. Focusing on the ringleader (which doesn’t necessarily mean the eldest child) and getting your eye level down to match theirs, you should offer an alternative activity to whichever naughty one they are currently engaged in (e.g. ‘I’ve got some lovely colouring books over here – shall we go and do some colouring?).

Alternatively, children might be doing something simply because no-one has told them not to, and more importantly, WHY not to. By explaining to the child in straightforward terms that licking the cupcakes isn’t very nice because we’re saving them for later and someone else might want that one can do wonders. It is also useful to give the child some control back by offering to put their favourite cake/toy aside for them for later.

If things are really getting out of hand, you have to remember that YOU are the adult, and take control – take the child by the hand and say ‘let’s go and find mummy’.

Parents who are chatting with their friends and family may lose track of their children simply because they know all the children are together, and may assume that one of the other parents/family members are keeping an eye on them. When this isn’t the case, and you bring the child back to them, using language which focuses on the child’s happiness or a safety concern (for example ‘I think Harry looks a bit unhappy over there and needs you’ or ‘Julia and the boys were playing around the generator and I thought it was starting to look a little dangerous so I thought I’d better bring her back to you’) will go over better than anything that could be construed as accusing their child of bad behaviour.’

Well, thank goodness there are more child-orientated people in the world I can call on! Thank you Joanne!

And, just for laughs, I’ll finish up with the tip I got from the non-expert:

Garreth at Sternberg Clarke: “I’m no Child Psychologist, but I know that if you wear sunglasses around anyone under 5, they will think you’re cool”.

Worth a try!


  1. Aimee Dunne on 23rd September 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Well said Isabel! As a planner and also a mother of two myself I think it’s really important to entertain children at weddings if you chose to have them there; it’s less stress for you and your guests and also means the kids will enjoy themselves more. I also find it really refreshing when couples are quite clear that they don’t want any children there on the day. I think guests are less upset about this nowadays and some (including myself which I’m not ashamed to admit) find it a good excuse to have a nice child-free break at a wedding!

  2. Erika on 24th September 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Great post Isabel! Garreth’s tip is especially cool

  3. Stacey-Marie Chalk on 30th September 2011 at 9:47 am

    Brilliant post! I’m sure it’s one all wedding planners and brides and grooms can relate to! : ) x

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