Do you want children at your Chicago wedding? For some couples, it’s an easy yes. For others, this is a thorny question. You’ll need to weigh factors including cost, wedding style, and how much noise you can handle.

Should your decision be yes, invite children by including their names, on a line below their parents, on the inner envelope. Children’s names are written on the outer envelope only if no inner envelope is used.

Or, you may send children their own invitations, preferably to those over age thirteen. A teenager’s invitation would be addressed: “Miss Mary Jones.” A joint invitation to young brothers and sisters would have their names on separate lines on the outer envelope: “The Messrs. Jones” and “The Misses Jones,” with “Billy, Josh, Susie and Carol” on the inner envelope to clarify that all are invited.

Tips for Parents Who Plan to Bring Their Children

child friendly Chicago weddingMake sure the children are invited. (Was the invitation addressed “and Family” or to simple the parents?)
Sit near the doors and make a quick exit if the child becomes fussy. Do not make repeated attempts to ‘shush’ the child; do not give an embarrassed grin when family members glance/glare at you. Remove a noisy child from the ceremony location out of respect for the serious commitment the couple is making.
Plan some quiet activities to distract/entertain the child. Books are good; squeaky toys and bouncing balls are not.
Realize that some Chicago wedding venues are not at all child- friendly. There may be no place for the children to play, and no place to change babies. There may be open alcohol sitting where children could reach it, or uneven terrain, with sharp rocks and ponds where children could get hurt or drown.
Proactive Planning by the Couple

Remember, both parents and children are your invited guests, and you are responsible for providing for the comfort and convenience of both.
Children have special, but simple, needs – same as parents. Any child will turn into a “brat” if these needs are not met. If the wedding planner does not anticipate these needs, but instead glares at and condemns the parents as they struggle to cope, then the wedding planner is a less than gracious host.

Much of the mis-behavior occurs because the tots are put into an adult situation that they are not prepared to handle, such as a six hour reception with cocktails, dinner, and dancing.
Consider having a “hospitality suite” for parents & babies, available during the ceremony and reception for feeding, changing, and childcare.
You can hire a sitter(s) to staff the room; consider church nursery workers, daycare providers, neighbors or others you can trust to take on this role. This also can be an area where kids can go rest or color.
Children are better off, on the whole, if parents do not come and go from the “children’s area.” Kids will settle in quickly and play quite happily if left with the babysitter/s, but if their parents show up, they expect the babysat-part to be over. That’s their experience, after all so who can blame them?
Kids want to explore these new surroundings, go see where mom and dad are, etc.
An on-site babysitter is loads easier for parents to deal with, in comparison with one at their own house/hotel room, since they can drop in and check on the kid(s) frequently, and there’s no problem with leaving the kid alone for long with an unfamiliar babysitter out of state.
Seat the people with babies & kid sunder 5 close to the door during the ceremony, on the aisles, and tell them that if the kid gets restless or crying, to please step outside. Have someone working the door to make sure that if they leave, they can come back in for the end. This also will help to make sure that the door doesn’t slam or that the parent doesn’t enter loudly during an inopportune time (the recessional).
It is not physically possible for any child to sit still for long periods of time. Do not expect them to do so. If you don’t want them to break presents or topple the cake, have a safe place away from potential disasters. If they are within close proximity to anything breakable, have an helper escort them back to their parents and direct them to the safe area is.
If you have the room, leave space at the back of the function hall for the kids to get down and play.
Put down a few toys, and ask some friends or parents to bring some to share. Seat families near the play space so they can eat and look after the kids at the same time. Remember – if the only place to run is in front of the cake, do not be surprised when the inevitable happens. It is not possible to stop kids from needing to run and play. Do not expect the impossible.
Children are more sensitive to loud noises. Seat children away from the sound system.
If you don’t want diaper changes in the dining room, provide some place else. No mother will want to put her baby on a dirty, cold, hard bathroom floor, and should not be expected to. “You try kneeling, in your best dress and heels, on a tile floor and you will see what I mean.” One card table, topped with 20 or 30 sheets of blank newsprint, and a large plastic lined wastebasket will solve the problem. A package of disposable diapers, (a store brand is fine), and a box of wipes near the changing table is an inexpensive way of telling parents that they are wanted – not just tolerated.
A nursing mother may want privacy to feed her baby. You might provide a chair in a corner of the restroom. Since nursing mothers must drink more fluids than most, put a with a small table with a pitcher of ice water and some cups beside it.
Kids will become “brats” if they are tired. Bad times for most kids under 10 are after 7:00 PM., and also the around 1:00 – 3:00 PM for toddlers. For this reason, Chicago evening weddings are no place for kids. However, nursing babies are be an exception.
They may not separated from their mothers for reasons you may or may not understand. A hotel could inexpensively provide a “rock and rest guest room”, with a bed, for your afternoon reception. Newborns to 3 month old can fall asleep any where and are not usually a problem.
Hosts who wish to include children are wise to make a good faith effort accommodate their needs. Hosts who wish to include parents are wise to consider their needs, but are under no obligation to meet the guest’s parenting obligations, just as invitees are under no obligation to come.
Guests who bring invited children are obligated to attend to their needs, even if accommodations have been made for them. The best laid plans may not insure the happiness of cranky, overtired, overexcited travelers who are in a strange place with strange people.
This is why some of us choose not to bring our kids some places, even when they have been issued an invitation.


Where Do the Children Sit?

Ask the parents if the kids would prefer to sit together or if they would like to sit with the parents.

What Do They Eat?

Offer selections from a children’s menu. Since children tend to eat smaller meals than most adults, your caterer may have selections available at a reduced cost.
Suggestions:
Hamburgers (with potatoes)
Grilled cheese sandwiches (with potatoes)
Adult appetizer & entree without the sauces that the grown-ups get
Smaller portions of the grownup food without the veggies (with chips or something instead)
Cheese and fruit platter (Advantages: most kids like it, it doesn’t leave crumbs, it’s easy to chew, and it’s good for them.)
Veggie pizzas,
Non-meat sandwiches (depending on what the kids are used to)
Small pita pockets
Make sure you have juices and sodas (caffeine-free and non-carbonated options).
Tip: A snack without sugar, as soon as the reception starts, can head-off many temper tantrums.

Activities and Favors

Children love to dance. You probably will find that they are the best dancers on the floor during the ‘Hokey-Pokey’.
Other suggestions are: the Limbo, the Chicken Dance, and the Twist.
Children are in awe of princesses and magic. You might plan a quick photo session that includes the bridal couple with special little guests. I’ve seen many of these photos included in a collage when the (former) child grows up to marry.
At a young age, a special moment with a bride can leave a lasting memory. The snapshots are nice to include in any thank you notes sent.
Older children may like been assigned their own cameras to take photos of family members. Their snapshots, while not always centered or in focus, can show a unique perspective of the celebration.
Outdoor Chicago weddings lend themselves to fun games, freebees , bubbles, or kites.
Indoor weddings in Chicago could include activities/goodie bags with coloring books, crayons, small cans of play-doh, or stickers, inflatable guitars, Hawaiian leis, sunglasses, painting books with small paint brushes (the kind of painting books that turn colors when water is applied), bubbles, storybooks, figurines (save your Happy-Meal toys!), novelty straws in bright colors or in spirals, play jewelry and personalized cups.
One poster planned a special ‘teddy bear toss’ for the children, allowing the adults free access to the bouquet and garter.
You could have a Play-Doh available and a simple contest where the children design their own wedding cakes. Have a prize for the winner(s).
Criteria for good children’s favors:
Have relatively few pieces
Not stain
Not be a choking hazard (small parts not recommended for children under three years old)
Occupy the children for a while
Be identical or almost identical to cut sibling rivalry!
Including Children in Meaningful Ways

In addition to the traditional flowergirls and ring-bearers, you could:

Have more than one flower girl or ring bearer
Assign a child to deliver roses to mothers/grandmothers/honored guests
Include Bible bearer
Ask page boys to carry a floral garland (or one of greenery or of ribbons) before the wedding party enters.
Include preteen girls as junior bridesmaids
Have a child ring a handbell to start the ceremony
Request one or two children to be trainbearers who will hold the end of the train to keep it “full” as the bride enters.
Ask the children to hand out programs, favors or bubbles/rice.
If your Chicago Suburbs wedding is not formally catered, ask older children to assist with punch and/or cake. Assign a child to be the official “refills checker” – someone who will notify those assisting when the mints/sandwiches need to be replenished
Designate a child as the “official” disposable camera distributor/collector.
Use a vow-bearer: Have a copy of your vow printed on a parchment scroll tied with ribbon.
Ask older children to assist with the guest book.
Ask their parents if the children could light the alter candles.
Put the older kids (8-13) to work as “assistant directors.” Have them get folks for portraits or interviews. One videographer brings an old camcorder for the kids to use.

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