If children are a part of your big day, a local mother of the bride shares her advice

When our daughter said to me that they would be having 17 children “in” the wedding party, I panicked. I thought to myself: “Two kids can be a nightmare. How are you going to control 17?”

Her fiancé had 14 nieces and nephews at the time and our other daughter had three kids to add to the total. All were under 12 years old.

As I listened to their reasons for why they wanted to include all the children, I quickly came to the conclusion that this was important to them and in order for their special day to go off without a hitch—or with as few as possible—I needed to help come up with a game plan to incorporate and coordinate all the little ones.

This large number of children in and at the wedding greatly influenced many of the details, starting with the reception venue. We found a place where we could safely and comfortably corral the children. The wedding was August 1 and the place the happy couple chose had an outside area shaded by giant trees; it was loosely fenced in by a hedge and the reception hall, a perfect containment for adventurous tykes. We rented a tent that would be put in place over most of the area and near a side entrance to the reception hall. This would serve as a covering for the children’s food table, play area and a craft table.

Next was figuring out the children’s attire. The bridesmaids were wearing orange dresses and carrying yellow and orange flowers. We looked for clothes before Easter and picked something that the children could use again and that were not specifically wedding attire in order to keep an eye on the cost, comfort and practicality. The boys wore khaki pants with bright green polo shirts. The dresses for the girls were from Belk and Sam’s. While the boys’ shirts varied a tad, the girls’ dresses matched well.

Before the wedding, my daughter and her fiancé decided that the children would walk down the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony in sibling groups and take their seats in the front rows with their parents rather than standing at the front during the wedding service.

For the rehearsal dinner, the bride and groom wanted an informal setting with a barbecue dinner buffet, which pleased adults and kids alike. Family who had travelled from out of town were invited to this event also. The groom’s parents hosted this event at the local ski lodge known as Snow Flex (www.liberty.edu/snowflex). The venue offers year-round skiing and tubing. We made arrangements ahead of time for the children to go tubing but as the evening progressed, almost all of the guests took a turn on the slope, even the bride and her bridesmaids wearing fancy dresses!

On the big day, I drew from my experience working with children at church. If you have never worked with children, find a friend who has and enlist their advice. To keep tabs on the children, I found four people who either worked in child care or were teachers. Two teenagers were hired as helping hands to make sure all the children stayed in the designated area. The kid helpers wore bright green T-shirts that matched the citrus colored theme of the wedding and were easy for parents to spot.

Parents of the children in the wedding were seated in the reception hall next to the exit doors adjacent to the children’s tent area, which allowed for easy access for parents to see children and for children to find parents as needed.

There were a total of 32 children at the wedding, including the 17 who were a part of the bridal party. The children were divided by age into groups starting with babies up to walkers who had a designated sitter. The next three groups were almost evenly dispersed—ages 2-3 years old, ages 4-6 years old, and ages 7 and up.

Finding things to entertain the children throughout the reception was a challenge but doable. We came up with “safe” games such as bean bag toss, ring toss, bubbles and a T-Ball/whiffle ball area. Table games like Old Maid, Connect Four and Candy Land rounded out the activities. Blank rolls of paper were spread across the craft table with crayons and washable markers. The children made a giant picture for the bride and groom. There were simple, inexpensive prizes for the kids to win.

We had kid-friendly food featuring PB&Js as well as ham and cheese sandwiches, pasta salad, and fruit and marshmallows with dipping sauce. Flavored water and lemonade was available all evening. We did make sure to ask about food allergies ahead of time. The children were allowed to go through the adult buffet, but most of the kids were thrilled with their special kid-friendly fare. For a special attraction, we had a candy table for the kids (and kids at heart) to make their own candy bag to take home.

Paying a few trustworthy folks to watch and entertain the children was worth every penny. Parents were beyond grateful that they could relax and enjoy the special dances, the cake cutting, the toasts, etc. And the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and time with cousins and new friends rather than be told to sit still.

Most of all, I knew that our daughter and her husband wanted all of these precious little ones not only to be at their wedding, but also to be “in” it. It was our job to make their wish a reality and, in the process, make a sweet memory for all.


Story and Photos By Deborah Huff

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