Real Weddings

Get Ready For Your Wedding – Experts’ Tricks For Avoiding Those Tantrums

Let’s get to know it.


1. Think easy breezy

‘If you know you’ll have lots of mini guests, consider a venue
where everything’s on one site, so parents aren’t stressed out with
travel time between the ceremony and reception,’ advises wedding
planner Jenna Hewitt ( who plans around 30
nuptials every year. ‘The ideal is outdoor space plus accommodation
(you could even consider tents), so kids can dip easily between
downtime in their rooms and the party zones.’

2. Be crystal clear

If you want to invite children but also ensure they’re kept
under control, you need to inform parents from the get-go, says
Jenna. ‘On your invites, try something like: “Children are welcome
but if you’d prefer to be carefree and let your hair down, leave
your little ones at home”. It will clarify that parents who keep an
eye on their children are welcome, but it’s also a great excuse for
those who want to be child-free for the day.’

3. Get savvy with your selection

‘It’s OK only to invite children of close family – many people
do – just make sure you send the appropriate invite to the right
guests,’ adds Jenna. ‘You don’t have to make allowances for other
parents – it’s your day.’

4. Reveal your running order

When Liz Mossop, 37, married David, 42, last year, 50 of their
200 guests were children aged from six weeks to 16 years. Fifty out
of 200! And nope, the couple weren’t even parents themselves at the
time. ‘We made the running order really clear on our invites, so
that all the parents knew what kind of entertainment we would
provide and the times when we’d be eating, meaning that they could
be prepared with snacks and distractions,’ says Liz.

5. Keep the ceremony sacred

The only tears you want
are the love-struck variety. So how do you lock down tiny howlers?
‘We had a church with a side-room – which many have – and we filled
it with toys and broadcast the service into there,’ says Liz. ‘In
the order of service we specifically asked guests to take their
children there if they couldn’t manage the ceremony, and the vicar
tactfully reiterated this before I walked down the aisle.’ Get your
ushers on board, too. ‘If the parents are part of the ceremony, sit
them at the front, but at the far end of the pew, so they can
evacuate in a hurry,’ says Jenna. ‘Put other families at the

6. Supply tricks and treats

‘Think stickers, puzzles,
crayons and colouring-in books,’ suggests Susie Young from The
Little Top, which offers bespoke wedding childcare
( ‘Ribbon wands will look really cute in the
pictures too.’ And forget blue for boys and pink for girls. ‘Stick
with your colour theme so there’s one less thing to argue about –
plus your wedding photographs will look more sophisticated, too,’
says Jenna.

7. Handle demonic flower girls

Don’t be fooled by her
cuteness; she thinks this is her big day. ‘Keep your flower girls’
involvement really simple to eliminate any stress,’ advises Jenna.
‘Give her a prop like
a basket of rose petals to scatter, or bubbles to blow, and ask
her mum or dad to practise with her at home before your rehearsal.
Also have her parents swoop her into a pew instead of standing to
watch your vows.’

8. Plan cocktail-hour capers

While the grown-up guests
dig into Pimm’s o’clock, wow the kids with a wedding guest
scavenger hunt. ‘Children have a sheet and pen, and have to spot
things like a bow tie, a candle, a blue hat and red lipstick,’
suggests Susie. ‘You could personalise the items to you, and
illustrate the list for children who cannot read.’

9. Know your audience

Younger children love
anything playful – so think about games where they can jump up and
down, and provide a fancy dress box with lots of balloons (then
watch them jump up and down with balloons wearing fancy dress).
Older children love anything that’s competitive: why not set up
your own beach-ball volleyball contest? Ask Snapchat-obsessed
teenagers to live-blog your day, (with flattering camera filters,
obviously). Everyone loves a bouncy castle and croquet – just watch
adults don’t get competitive….

10. Free the beasts

‘Children are more likely
to sit still when needed when they’ve had a chance to blow off
steam,’ says Susie. ‘A bouncy castle is ideal, but even inexpensive
items such as footballs can keep school-age kids occupied for
hours.’ Outdoors not an option? ‘Ask the venue in advance for an
extra room to create a family VIP area,’ suggests Jenna. She
advises zoning one end of the room off as a crazy space, with loads
of toys and board games. ‘Then fill another corner with rugs,
cushions, books and Frozen playing on a loop so parents have a calm
and cosy space for feeding, naptime or talking down a

11. The three Ps of catering for

i. Personalise: ‘Giving children a smaller
portion of fancy food could backfire,’
warns Jenna. ‘Ask your venue to hand out a lunchbox and theme
it to your day.’ Try heart-shaped sandwiches and Hula Hoops, so
mini guests get a ring on their finger, too.

ii. Prepare to party: ‘If children eat and then
leave the table, this can upset a seating plan, leaving lone
parents having to shout across the table or missing out on the
adult fun,’ says Susie. ‘Try a separate supervised children’s area
– with a childminder – where they can eat their packed lunch and
play. Activities like Lego challenges will keep them happy.’

iii. Ply with food they can play with: If
you prefer to have children at the meal, make their food double as
entertainment. ‘Give them biscuits to decorate with icing pens and
edible dyes, or set up a fruit kebab-making area,’ suggests

12. Project a speech-saviour

‘We hooked up lots of wireless “silent disco” headphones to a
laptop and then projected a film on to a wall at the back of our
venue for the children to watch,’ says Liz. ‘It meant the adults
could enjoy the meal, plus speeches, undisturbed. We put a
13-year-old in charge of swapping over the DVD when the first
finished. Win, win.’ (Silent disco equipment hire, from £95,

13. Get the party started

No need to worry about getting people on the dancefloor –
children have no qualms about dragging their parents on to it, so
use it to your advantage. Play Tiny Dancer by Elton John to score
some cute points.

14. Alcohol 101

Though kids are basically like squiffy adults – they make
mischief and fall over a lot – a party heaving with tipsy big
people can be overwhelming for kids. ‘Saving the really boozy
drinks, like strong spirits, for when children are in bed will stop
the party peaking too soon,’ says Jenna.

15. Throw a pyjama sleepover

‘We set up sleepover dens with films, popcorn, and story time
for all the little ones so parents can stay late and party with you
guilt-free,’ says Susie. Alternatively, set up a corner with
blankets and cushions at the end of the marquee farthest from the
DJ. Partied-out children curled up together are a sign of the Best.
Wedding. Ever.

… Not inviting children? Here’s how to handle it without
the parents having tantrums

 ‘Traditionally, the
rule is only those whose names are on the invite are invited,’ says
William Hanson, author of The Bluffer’s Guide To Etiquette (£7,
Bluffer’s Guides). Nonetheless, some people assume that their
little darlings are included. ‘Printing “no children” in black and
white sets the wrong tone, while saying “We’re sorry, we can’t
accommodate children” is far more palatable,’ he advises. Even so,
you may receive a few personal requests – every parent thinks their
child is special. How to respond? ‘Try “I’m sorry, please don’t
take it personally, and please don’t put us in a difficult
position”,’ suggests William. ‘Ultimately, your guests need to act
like the grown-ups that they are.’