Sometimes wedding guests are a package deal - that is, the couple invited can't attend the ceremony or reception without bringing their children, too. Here are some suggestions for brides and grooms trying to make them feel welcome:
¢ Invitations: Etiquette says envelopes should be addressed to everyone invited, children included, says Cindy Post Senning, co-author of "Guide to Good Manners for Kids" (Diane Publishing, 2006) and a director at the Emily Post Institute.
¢ Baby-sitting: Jeanne Hamilton, author of "Wedding Etiquette Hell," suggests providing professional sitting services during the ceremony and the later hours of the reception.
¢ Diversions: Consider setting tables with paper placemats and crayons, stocking a table with games during the dancing, and leaving gift bags with small toys and snacks on toddlers' seats during the ceremony.
¢ Think twice about including children in the ceremony, Senning says. "They could freeze - or have a tantrum. Some adults almost pass out from the anxiety of being in a wedding, so it's no wonder that kids will have screaming fits."
Parents should be prepared to walk down the aisle with their child, if need be.
And even if kids aren't directly involved in the event, it's parents' responsibility to make sure they don't wreck it, Senning says.
Some advice for parents:
¢ Plan an escape route: Sit near an exit and be prepared to use it.
¢ Designate an adult companion for each child: Especially if you're in the wedding party, make sure your child has a trusted adult with whom to sit, and play if need be. Hand the friend a bag of small (quiet!) treats, like Cheerios or hard candy, with instructions to dole them out slowly.
¢ Or, find a baby sitter.
Kristin Benson of Minneapolis, Minn., left her toddler at home with grandparents when she and her husband attended a friend's wedding in Charleston, S.C. She did bring her 2-month-old, who seemed to enjoy the party in a sling around mom's neck. But Benson says she would have enjoyed herself more had she been kid-free.
"She was a trooper and slept through most of the night, but we didn't get to fully have the adult experience," Benson says.