It’s a big day, with your family and best friends coming out, often from far away, to witness a tear-jerking ceremony and a good adult time. There’s often champagne, dancing, late-night revelry and reminiscing about the mischief you caused when you were kids.
But what about the actual present-day kids? How does a couple or wedding planner incorporate these precious bundles of joy into the ceremony, prepare for those sugar-high sweeties at the reception, accommodate the wee ones who need to nap or nurse or have their diapers changed?
Or, how does a couple-to-be just say no to children entirely? Hint: It involves setting clear intentions, and a babysitter — or six.
Susan Thompson, owner of Vermont-Made Weddings, said kids can be an integral part of the day, and a wedding can be as fun an event for them as it can be for adults.
“Kids add a lot,” Thompson said. “They are cute, they are adorable, and they can add a whole new dimension to a wedding.”
She’s done things like hire a guitar player to serenade the kids at their own table. And, as a food-forward planner — Thompson also owns Catering by Dale — she’s been known to bring in an ice cream bar, cider doughnut station or candy buffet.
“Just things like that, that make kids happy,” Thompson said.
When it comes to children, the more the merrier, says Jaclyn Watson, a wedding planner and owner of Jaclyn Watson Events.
And just as adults may crave a kid-free evening, she said sometimes kids don’t find sitting at the table with a bunch of grown-ups all that engaging. Often, she’ll have sitters attend to the young ones, give them some arts and crafts, or games.
The more-can-be-better theory can apply to the ceremony, too.
“We try to step away from the traditional flower girl,” Watson said. “Once, we did a ribbon parade with a half-dozen girls.”
So, what if the couple is adamant in saying “sorry kiddos, but this is our time?” Watson said it all starts with the invitation, printed clearly at the bottom: “This is an adult-only wedding,” or something along those lines.
There is some etiquette and societal sensitivity to navigate, things like ticking off family members who are eager to see grandkids — doesn’t matter whose, just a bunch of adorable little ones — running amok and showing off how many teeth they’re missing.
“We’ve had some clients that are pretty torn, especially when they want a flower girl or ring bearer, but they still want to say no to other kids,” Watson said.
Post Institute co-president, author and etiquette guru Lizzie Post says it’s fine not to want kids at your wedding, but you don’t necessarily need to put it on the invitation — “make it known through word of mouth,” she suggests.
Write just the adults’ names on the invitation, and don’t include phrases like “and family” or “the family of” so-and-so to make your intentions clear.
“When people RSVP and they add their kids in and you have a kid-free wedding, you call them and say, ‘Oh, I'm so excited that you and so-and-so are going to be able to come. I do think there’s been a slight misunderstanding, we actually aren't able to accommodate children at the wedding,’ ” she said.
For guests unsure if their little ones are welcome at a wedding, Post says to clearly ask the couple to avoid hurt feelings or awkward situations when the event happens.
“Make a decision based on what works best for you and your family,” Post said, but you shouldn’t just bring your kids along without checking first and making sure that they really are invited.
Even if an invitation indicates no children, it’s no guarantee that guests, especially those coming in from out of town, won’t have to at least travel to Vermont with the lads and lasses in tow.
Cory Fine, owner of Sitter Scout, said her company is able to take care of the little ones, all the way up to the medium ones. The company has enough sitters on hand and on call for a sitter-to-kid ratio of 1:3 for infants and toddlers, a 1:5 ratio for the bigger boys and girls, up through age 12. Presumably, once you’re a teenager, you’ve got it all figured out.
Remember the days of hiring a next-door neighbor’s 14-year-old to watch the kids in your home, with your television, your fridge, your closets? You’re not getting that with Sitter Scout.
Fine said all of her sitters — and, yes, it’s still PC to call them babysitters — are at least 18 years or older, a lot of them in their 20s and 30s. They have at least two years of child care experience, and are trained in CPR and other basic medical skills. Many of the sitters see Sitter Scout as a side gig, but Fine said she also has many full-timers.
“They are all highly-screened individuals,” she said.
Fine said there are numerous ways to incorporate children into a wedding, or not.
If kids are invited to the wedding, it all depends on the engaged couple’s whims on where they want them, on a scale of “seen and not heard” to “release the hounds!”
They can all be corralled into a dedicated child care room, or Sitter Scout can set up dedicated kids’ tables throughout the reception area.
Fine’s employees can post up in the hotel rooms and watch over the flock. It’s closer to the pay-Susie-20-bucks scenario, but without all the long-distance phone calls.
“Personally, I think it’s really fun if the kids can be there,” Fine said. “I like the ones where they let me come up with a slate of activities. We’ll do face painting and arts and crafts,” and the like.
The couple “could offer to pay for those babysitters if you wanted and had the money to, but you don’t have to,” Post said.
Get the gear
When it comes to sitting, it helps if the parents bring a crib for the baby, or a stroller to push them around in if it’s nice out.
If not, Yellow Turtle in Stowe rents those things out, along with backpacks, boxes of toys, “everything that parents dread traveling with,” says store manager Tracey Davidow.
She and her crew will even go grocery shopping for families who come to town, from formula and diapers to snacks. The store also sells cute apparel that sometimes gets overlooked, like a flower girl dress or a bow tie, or even a tot-sized three-piece suit.
Hard-to-pack items like high chairs, swings and exersaucers can be rented for a few bucks a day, and car seats, strollers and hiking packs can be had for under $15 per day. You can even rent a Diaper Genie for $5.
For winter events attended by those from frost-free zones, cold-weather gear like snow suits and jackets can be rented.
Davidow said the cribs (about $20) are commercial grade and full-sized, “top of the line equipment.”
“What we can give our clients is a good night’s sleep,” Davidow said.