As your wedding day approaches and you're planning all the finer details, your thoughts may turn to the little people attending. The majority of weddings I've photographed recently have involved children as a key part - whether as children of the bride and groom, or important friends and family as little bridesmaids and page boys. From my experience as a wedding photographer and a family photographer, I'm sharing my top tips on how to involve kids in your wedding, how to entertain them and keep them happy!
Weddings are a hectic time, gathering lots of people together, some who haven't seen each other for years. Emotions are running high and there's lots going on. It's understandable that this will affect children in different ways. Some will thrive on the attention, some will love the party atmosphere and will throw themselves into the fun, whilst others may find it a little daunting and become a little shy.
It's important not to expect to much from little ones, particularly those that are still toddlers or quite young. If it's mum and/or dad that are getting married, then it is likely to be an emotional day for them and it's important to remember and recognise this.
If you have children as key members of your wedding party, it's likely you'll want them in your photos. I aim to work around them and involve them when they're happy. There's usually enough flexibility in the day to let them have a run around and come back to them for photos if needed. Plus I have lots of tricks up my sleeve from my experience as a family photographer to stop kids getting bored and to raise a smile (these sometimes work with the adults too and we get lots of lovely natural and fun photographs!).
For little ones that are still taking a daytime nap, think about how this will fit with the day. Are they old enough to manage without one if they don't get to sleep? Will the excitement of the day make napping difficult? If so, and you think they can't do without it, maybe ensure you find time or have a close family member on hand to take them for a drive or stroll in the buggy at a quieter point in the day to ensure they get their naptime.
Where children are close family members and a key part of the bridal party, you may wish to give them a specific role to play or job to do so they feel involved and important and you feel they're a part of your day. I've seen some lovely ideas at weddings I've photographed:
Whatever role you decide children will play in your wedding, remember to be flexible - overexcitement or nerves may take over. If they have an adult on hand that can help guide them, this will help you and them feel more assured.
As bride and groom, your wedding day will zoom past in a blur. However, for your smaller guests in attendance the excitement will soon wear off, particularly during the wedding breakfast and speeches, which can take a few hours. It's worth considering how little people will stay entertained at this point.
Kids love it when they find something to entertain them waiting in their place when they sit down for a meal. This can be a simple as a colouring book or something more creative such as a puzzle sheet with word searches and quizzes based around the big day and the bride and groom (you can make these yourself if you're particularly creative, or find them on Etsy if you'd prefer someone else did the hard work). At a recent wedding I photographed, each child was delighted to find a pot of lego in their place and enjoyed comparing creations with each other and swapping pieces.
You may wish to go a step further and have a breakout room for kids, with craft tables for younger children or video games for older kids. At one wedding, where nearly a third of the guests were children the bride and groom cleverly hired an entertainer to perform in a side area near the main reception, ensuring parents could keep an eye on their children from a distance whilst they enjoyed their food and the kids were wowed with magic and science. There are also a number of wedding creche providers that offer creche services to ensure all your guests can enjoy the wedding breakfast, whilst knowing the children are being supervised and entertained.
Whilst we're on the subject of the wedding breakfast, whilst you and your guests will be enjoying three-course gourmet dining, the majority of those under 10 are going to be much happier with simple chicken nuggets, fish fingers or pizza. Check with your venue or caterers whether they offer child-friendly options on the menu.
Where it's mum and dad getting married and there are younger children involved that still need a lot of care and attention, it's worth agreeing in advance who will take care of them throughout the day. Whilst everyone on the day will be happy to chip in and help out, by specifically appointing a grandparent, auntie or uncle to be responsible for your little one during the day, you can avoid stress at critical moments during the day and your relative-in-charge-of-childcare can plan their time to ensure they can get themselves ready as well as little one.
This is particularly helpful during the ceremony, as if your little one starts to kick up a fuss, everyone knows who's responsible if they need to be taken out for a short while. Don't forget to make plans for the evening when babies and toddlers will be getting sleepy - consider whether they'll be happy dozing in a buggy at the reception or whether you need someone to take them to a hotel room to sleep - as well as plans for where they'll sleep overnight.
If you'd prefer for your relatives to enjoy your day without worrying about the children, then why not hire childcare in for the day. By hiring a nanny to attend the wedding and take care of your little one, you can all relax and enjoy the day knowing that your little one is taken care of. Whether it's a relative or a nanny caring for your little one, it's worth preparing a wedding day bag ready with spare outfits, wipes, toys and comforters, and plenty of nappies and milk if needed, so everything is on hand throughout the day.
The most important thing is that you enjoy your day. Relax and have fun and take it as it comes. If things don't quite go to plan with the kids, then you'll probably end up with fun stories to tell for years to come!