How to Plan an Elegant Kid-Friendly Wedding Reception
Having been to over a dozen weddings in the past decade, I've seen it all when it comes to reception styles: from adults-only black tie affairs to super-simple potlucks where kids of all ages were invited. While I know that some couples are unable to invite children to their weddings due to budgetary concerns (completely understandable!), I think others are under the impression that it's impossible to have an elegant reception AND invite their friends' and family members' kiddos. I'm here to put that misconception to rest and share with you why and how I made our reception both elegant and kid-friendly.
Note: Kristian and I are both older, and have LOTS of family members and friends who have young children. We ended up having over 50 kids under 10 years of age at our wedding! If you're getting married right out of college or don't have a lot of married friends/family, your number of kids to invite probably won't be as big. That said: if you can afford to invite all the kids, I highly recommend it!
Why invite kids to a wedding?
1. Because, in the Catholic understanding, the two purposes of marriage are the union of spouses and the procreation of children. It makes theological sense to celebrate your nuptials surrounded by kids!
2. Kids make dance floors SO much more fun.
3. It's helpful for families with lots of kids who may not be able to afford a babysitter. I know that some of my friends wouldn't have been able to attend if they weren't able to bring their kids; especially my mom friends who are nursing!
4. Read this post by my friend Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas about the fact that she regrets her adults-only wedding. This was what convinced me to take the time and extra effort to plan a kid-friendly reception.
5. It's a powerful witness to your vendors, servers, and anyone at your wedding who isn't used to seeing a lot of big families.
Tips for planning an elegant kid-friendly reception:
1. Have designated kids' tables with NO centerpieces and LOTS of coloring books and crayons.
I don't have a photo that really captures the layout, but we had two spaces that we used for our reception: the main ballroom and a pavilion that was right next-door. In the ballroom, we seated only adults. In the pavilion, we seated some families who we knew would want to sit with their kiddos and had five kids-only tables in the center of the room. These tables had NO flowers or centerpieces on them: just coloring books, crayons, and wedding-themed paper placemats that they could draw on. I got all of these items on Amazon; it's AMAZING how cheap bulk coloring books are! I made sure I had differently themed coloring books as well so that there was something for everyone. According to our guests, the kids' tables were a big hit!
2. Provide supervision during dinner.
I'm blessed to have several high school and college-aged girl cousins who were obliging enough to babysit the kids' tables during dinner. I checked with all of the parents who were going to be in the ballroom ahead of time to make sure they were comfortable with this, and my cousins did a fantastic job making sure everything went smoothly. If you don't have cousins at your disposal, consider hiring a few local high school kids (who come highly recommended, of course) to babysit during the reception.
3. If possible: pick a venue that has safe outdoor space for the kids to run around in.
Barr Mansion is not only a gorgeous venue, it's also fantastic for kids. While we had daylight, my nieces and cousins and friends' kids were running around on the lawn, climbing the trees (see photographic evidence above), and generally having a great time. It's out in the country, set back from the road, No one was cooped up, which I think is key to keeping the kids (and their parents) happy at any event.
4. Have at least one kid-friendly item on the menu, and one kid-friendly flavor on the cake.
We didn't have a kids' menu (ain't nobody got time for that), but we did have cornbread, a mashed potato bar, and a pork dish that even the kids enjoyed. The bride's cake had some funky flavors (like lavender apricot), but we also had kid-approved flavors like raspberry cheesecake and classic almond.
5. Start and end at a reasonable hour.
Neither Kristian nor I are night owls, so this was an no-brainer for us. Our wedding Mass was at 2:00 PM, our reception began at 4 PM, and we were out the door by 9 PM. Some of our guests with little ones had to leave early, but no one had to skip dinner or miss out on the toasts, which is really nice for parents who are used to missing the fun because of bedtime.
When all was said and done, Kristian and I were both so thankful we invited children to our wedding, and that so many of them came! I can't tell you how much joy it gave me to see my nieces playing with my dear friends' children, even though they had only met that day. I loved seeing the little girls twirling on the dance floor and my baby-wearing friends and family dancing with their infants. Several of our guests thanked us for making the reception so welcoming to their families, but it was really our guests who did us the honor of being present--kids and all--at our wedding.
I'd love to hear from y'all now: did any of you invite kids to your wedding? How did it go? Any tips/tricks to share? Please do so in the comments!
All photos by Leah Muse Photography.