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Aug29

Ideas We Love: How to Keep Little Guests Entertained

 

A “Little Guest” at Jami and D.J.’s 2010 Wedding Reception at Akron City Centre.  Photo by David Abel Photography.

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In addition to being a DJ, MC, and lighting designer, I’m also a (very) new mom, so believe me when I say “I love children.”  Problem is — sometimes children struggle to find their place at an adult party.  It’s not that they’re bad, it’s that — plain and simple — they’re bored.  As an entertainer, I have watched many a young guest battle with boredom at an adult-geared celebration.  The fact is, as riveting as cocktail hours, toasts, and fancy dinners may be to those of us at the “grown-up” tables, it can be difficult for children to relate to this kind of social gathering, and bored kids can equal fast trouble — for everyone.

Obviously, your youngest guests don’t throw kinks in your wedding day because they mean to, but it’s important to plan for them, just the same. They are an entirely different demographic, all together, after all!  The good news is: preventing their boredom is relatively uncomplicated. Remember: their needs are simple, and so is providing an outlet, even without the “Hokey Pokey!”

Even though it is a growing wedding trend today to have “adult only” celebrations (and not invite children), I want to share a bit of the advice I offer to couples who hire us to DJ, MC, or provide uplighting and lightscaping for their special events. Included also is the advice from one of my many trusted local wedding planner friends.

 

Here are some dos (and stay tuned for some don’ts):

  • DO: Provide coloring books and crayons, quilt squares and fabric markers and other crafty fun. Consider giving each child their very own welcome basket of goodies.  That way, there’s no chance of disputes over crayons.
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  • DO: Serve a special menu for children that they’re likely to enjoy (because, as delicious as that gorgeous duet of bleu-cheese-topped filet and jumbo shrimp surf-and-turf is, the truth is: they’re much more likely to prefer the chicken nuggets). Try serving grilled chicken, macaroni and cheese, or even pizza accompanied by recognizable vegetables. Keep seasoning to a minimum, keep ketchup-friendly foods to a maximum and remember how much you loved ice cream and pasta when you were their age.
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  • DO: Hire someone to provide babysitting during your wedding and reception.  That way, you can enjoy an adult-only party, but parents won’t have to find a sitter or leave their little ones behind (two of the most common objections of moms and dads who decline an invite because of an adults-only note).  Imagine your kids with friends dancing the night away unencumbered by worries about how the kids are — they’re in the next room, and they can check on them any time they want!
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  • DO: Get serious about creating a party just for them — bouncy castles, video game buses, and craft centers are a great way to keep them entertained and happy about spending time at your party.
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  • DO: Remember — photobooths are just as much fun for children as they are for adults. Bear in mind, though, that the kids might totally take it over, too!  Consider a photobooth duo — one for the kids and one for the adults.  We also offer several exciting outside-the-box photobooth options such as green screens, flipbooks, and the graffiti wall, too!  Contact us for more details.
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  • DO: Include some special events just for the kids — how about bride and groom teddy bear tosses just before the bouquet/garter toss?  It’s a great photo-op with some of the children.  Imagine how special that would make your little guests feel.


I called Amanda Cursaro, an event designer who owns baci designer stationery + events out of Cuyahoga Falls.  She, too, has seen couples create activity packs for children. She’s also seen candy tosses and late-night snack tables for kids. She mentioned something I haven’t yet: Consider covering some reception tables with butcher paper that kids can color on (because, really, how much admiration will they probably have for your rustic or modern centerpieces?). And, don’t forget to do a couple kid-oriented dances sooner than later so you don’t have to clear the dance floor of adults, who then may or may not return.

Here are some don’ts, too:

  • DON’T: Forget about safety.  Avoid things that could become dangerous, Amanda added. In fact, she recalled a precaution I’ll repeat: If you’re having a wedding near a body of water, have children wear glow-in-the-dark necklaces to help adults keep an eye on them. (Really — isn’t that a stellar idea?)
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  • DON’T: Plan kid activities that will make a mess or a create a potentially costly disasters. Let me be more direct: clay, paint, and most magic markers are your biggest no-nos, but bubbles can also get sticky-icky real fast.
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  • DON’T: Go too, too heavy on the sugar.  While candy can be sweet in more ways than one, bear in mind that some parents will allow their children to have it while others won’t. This could build tension between your littlest guests, so consider offering healthy snacks like crackers and fruit, instead.

Amanda made another good point, too: If you as a wedding guest know your children aren’t likely to impress everyone with their silence, it’s OK (and probably preferable) to have them skip the ceremony.  If you as the bride or groom have a situation arise, this is yet another advantage to choosing to hire a planner, because s/he can take charge of any issues that may arise.

“It’s really good to have a professional there, just making sure things go smoothly,” Amanda told me. “Someone needs to be in charge of children, and it doesn’t need to be the maid of honor.”

Cartwheels and catastrophes aside, though, here’s what I see as the bottom line: don’t fear children on your wedding day, and don’t forget to appreciate the little ones in your life — they can absolutely join in the celebration, if you’re up for it.  They grow up in the blink of an eye!

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