Getting married is all about celebrating with your friends and family – even the smallest members. Of course, elegance and children don’t always go hand in hand, which is why many couples struggle with deciding whether or not to invite guests under the age of 18.

“Couples should take several factors into account when deciding to have a kid-friendly wedding versus an adults-only wedding,” advises Whitney Craig, owner of Confetti Events.

According to Craig, common factors can include the wedding location, venue size, the size of extended families, if there will be flower girls or ring bearers and how far guests are traveling. Ultimately, though, the decision often simply comes down to costs. By inviting entire families, couples are significantly extending their guest lists.

“Weddings now can range from $100-$500 per person. When you consider those costs, it doesn’t seem worth it to provide a seat and meal for someone who may not enjoy or appreciate the experience,” explains Hannah Schumm, owner and lead Planner at Weddings by Hannah.

Of course, there are plenty of advantages to including little ones on the guest list. “Inviting the entire family makes the wedding a celebration of family,” says Craig. “Kids have fantastic energy, and watching them dance, run around, and laugh is often the favorite memories of older wedding guests.”

Want to make your wedding a family friendly affair? Here are a few tips for keeping the event fun for guests of all ages.

1. Provide childcare options.

It’s difficult for parents to feel comfortable celebrating if they’re wrangling kiddos all night. Hiring a professional babysitter to supervise young kids can give parents peace of mind and allowing them to sneak in some child-free dancing.

If you’re looking to save a little money, you can also simply provide a list of reputable options on your website for parents who are interested in booking childcare for the event.

2. Give kids their own space.

If your venue has the space, Schumm recommends creating a separate room just for kids – no parents allowed. This can be a place for kiddos to watch movies, dance or play games under the watchful eye of an aforementioned childcare provider. This gives kids the space to be themselves and allows couples to maintain an elegant reception for their older guests.

3. Stick to a kid-friendly schedule.

As any parent knows, kids need to wake up, eat and go to bed earlier than adults. One way to accommodate is to schedule things like dinner and dancing a little earlier in the evening.

“Typically, I like to have kids eat dinner during cocktail hour, which can vary from 5-7 p.m. Parents love knowing their kids are eating and don’t have to wait till 8 p.m. when the plated dinner is served to the adult guest tables,” suggests Craig.

Or, you can even host the wedding during the day with a brunch-themed event so everyone can enjoy the entire affair and still go to bed on time.

4. Plan engaging activities.

Many of the most traditional wedding activities, like drinking cocktails and making small talk — are not kid-friendly. Keep your youngest guests occupied by offering a few other, more engaging options.

“Planning out activities for kids is a huge plus from photo booths, giant Jenga, Connect Four, to having a magician or balloon artist come in; there are many ways to make the kids feel extra special,” says Craig.

5. Offer a kid-approved menu.

Kids aren’t known for having sophisticated palettes. Avoid having a bunch of hungry six year olds on your hands by providing a few kid-friendly items, such as chicken nuggets or mac and cheese. Another fun idea: help kiddos feel special by offering sparkling cider so they can also raise a glass to the newlyweds.

6. Make young guests feel welcome.

Overall, if you decide to invite kids to your wedding, be sure to include them in your big day. “Make every guest young and old feel special, welcome and wanted — they made a lot of effort to be part of your special day so stop in and say hello to the kids and throw in a kid-friendly dance,” adds Craig.

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