Few things are guaranteed to polarize a guest list more than the never-ending debate of kids at weddings.

Over here in one corner, we have those who are aghast at the very idea of not inviting littles to a wedding. What, no kids!? But weddings are FAMILY affairs, they gasp.

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And here in the opposite corner we have those who shudder at the mere thought of ankle-biters at a wedding, firmly convinced the whole event will be wrecked by any guests whose feet don’t reach the floor at the reception and who are not old enough to imbibe the champagne toast.

The truth of course, is that neither corner is right, or wrong. It is strictly the decision of the couple themselves, on whether kids are included, based on preference, family circumstances, and budget.

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It is absolutely okay to not invite children to your wedding. Okay? Especially for a more formal, or a late afternoon or evening affair. If you do decide to join the no-kids corner, here is our advice:

1. Make it crystal clear from the get-go, with no room for ambiguity or error, that yours is an adults-only wedding. The wedding invite is the first obvious place to make your position clear. We personally think it tacky to state ‘no children’ – this is an invitation after all, and should not contain any exclusionary clauses. Much better to say ‘this is an adults-only wedding’.

2. Many couples now have wedding websites, which is another great place to state your adults-only position, maybe with a short explanation of why, though certainly there is no obligation to explain your reasons.

3. If you have close friends and family with children, who you fear may be hurt or put out by your position, pick up the phone and call them to explain, BEFORE sending the invite. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, include a brief personalized note with their invitation.

4. If your budget allows, lay on babysitters for guests who want to attend, but who maybe cannot, or do not wish to, leave their small ones at home. At the very least, provide contact details for babysitting services.

5. Whatever you do, don’t start dithering under pressure. Should anyone be so rude as to moan down the phone or by email at you for not inviting their kids, remain firm. The exception to this of course, is for the ring-bearer and/or flower girl.

Just because you want your three-year old niece to be your flower girl does not mean you are obligated to invite everyone else’s kids too.

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If you find yourself firmly in the YES corner for children at your wedding, and are already excitedly envisioning the flower-girls dresses, then we have plenty of tried-and-tested advice for you too:

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1. The ‘be clear on the invite’ advice applies to you also. If you want to invite older kids only, say so with an age cut-off. If you want to invite your friends’ 11-year-old but not their lively toddler, stipulate this by clearly stating the actual name(s) of the children invited with an extra second invite in the envelope.

2. Make your smallest guests feel welcome and included (and happy….remember, happy kids = happy parents) by serving some sparkling apple or pear juice at the champagne reception, maybe in plastic champagne flutes for the age 7-and-under crowd. They probably won’t drink it or will take one sip and discard the rest but who cares, they’ll feel included and just think of the darling photos!

Be the most popular couple ever by providing kid snacks and drinks during the cocktail hour; that space between the ceremony and the reception can seem interminable to children. Let them have their own little party.

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Be realistic and order kid-friendly meals and drinks at the reception. There’s nothing worse than excited, hungry kids. And if your meal is plated, ask can the kids be served first, or if a buffet, be sure they get to go up first – feed those kids pronto!

3. Seating chart – please (and we say this from the heart) for your poor wedding planner, when handing them your seating chart and place cards, stipulate which guests are children and whether they are small enough to require a high chair or booster seat. We are amazingly skilled at guessing which place card names belong to children but it’s nice to not have to play that guessing game.

4. The jury is out on the kids-only table at the reception. Depends on the numbers and ages of kids. Older children (we’d say age 7 or 8 and up) can handle it with some adult supervision from time to time. Littles will be better (and safer) seated with parents. Oh and do not, repeat do not, seat any random single adults at the kids table! Anyone remember the Friends episode where Ross was seated at the kids table? Point taken.

5. Goodie bags are your friends. Kids don’t care about your carefully prepared favours but they sure will appreciate a goodie bag for entertainment, packed with such absorbing treats as colouring and activity books (we advise crayons or pencil crayons only, not mess-making sharpies), stickers with a sticker album, mini-Lego boxes or small puzzles and toys, mini bags of Goldfish-type treats, and for older children, a scavenger hunt with items to tick off in order to win a small prize.

6. If your venue allows, have a separate room where children can retire to chill out or even nap. Ideally with a TV and DVD player. If you can manage it, provide babysitters or kid wranglers to supervise or even provide entertainment, otherwise alert parents in advance that a room will be provided but parents will be required to take turns to supervise.

7. Put ’em to work! Nothing, but nothing, is more loved at weddings than cute and adorable ring-bearers, flower girls, and junior bridesmaids.

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In our experience, the best age range for flower girls is 3 to 7. Same for ring-bearers. Younger than three is heart achingly cute but oh my, the potential for disaster is huge unless accompanied by an adult.

Be sure to practice your flower girl’s role with her, ideally at the venue and with the same music.

Children LOVE to be given important jobs, and a recent and growing trend we adore is to include more children in the ceremony by having the flower-girls and ring-bearer preceded by a child, or children, holding a written sign. ‘Here comes your bride’ and ‘last chance to run!’ are two we have seen.

Kids in the age 9-12 range are also amazingly handy to use as ushers (a huge guest-pleaser) or even to hand out kleenex! Give them a lapel badge saying ‘official usher’ or ‘official kleenex dispenser’. They’ll love it.

One of our most precious weddings had the ring bearer accompanied down the aisle by a team of ‘ring bodyguards’ complete with smart get-ups and water guns. Man, those little boys took their job seriously and their stern expressions were enough to deter the most determined ring burglars. So sweet our teeth are aching at the memory.

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So, kids or no-kids, it’s your choice. Just be clear either way, and if you do invite the junior crowd, be prepared. This is over and out for our blog today, and we hope you enjoyed it. Be sure to share any experiences or ideas of your own, we’d love to hear them!