Wedding etiquette: should children be invited or not?

One main issue that troubles a bride and groom when they're preparing to send out invites is whether they should invite children to the ceremony and reception. Can you invite some youngsters, but not others? How do you refrain from offending guests who have children and may expect them to be included in the big day?

Kristen Harding, childcare expert at, has shared her words of advice with HELLO! Online on whether weddings should be a kids-free zone.

Scroll down for how to avoid those awkward situations and questions...

Pippa Middleton attends her sister Kate's wedding to Prince William, with young bridesmaids Grace Van Cutsem and Eliza Lopes

How do you decide if you want to invite children to your wedding?

This is a personal decision and one that only you can make – it's important to remember this. It's your day, so if you want to include a child that's fine but if you want to make it an adult-only event, that's also acceptable.

What if you want to invite some kids and not others? Can you really have a grey area?

Having a grey area can lead to hassles, unless you have defined that grey area with the utmost care and attention. For example, if you have children who are involved in the wedding ceremony, but don't want any other children there, you can explain that. If you are allowing children over the age of five, you can also explain that – what you can't say is 'everyone else's child can come, except yours!'

How do you not cause offence to your guests by asking them not to bring children?

Set expectations from the beginning – know your policy on children before you send out the invitations. If you are including children, allow a place on the RSVP to state the number and ages of the children. If you are not inviting children, state that on the invitation if you think your guests will call to ask. If you think someone will be offended by the decision, have a conversation with them before you send out the invites and explain your reasoning. The same goes for if you want to invite some, but not all, children in your extended family – remember it's your wedding, so you get to choose who you invite!

If you do invite children, how do you keep them entertained?

Keeping children entertained on the day can be done in a number of ways, but you need to think about their ages and where your wedding is taking place. On your own, you can set up an activities area for the children with arts and crafts, books, games and puzzles – we know giant versions of things like Connect Four go down well. You'll need to have someone keeping an eye on this area, whether parents agree to take turns, or you hire a babysitter or an event nanny.

If the children are older, I often suggest planning a large scale activity such as an interactive scavenger hunt. You could also involve them in the ceremony, from helping with decorations to escorting granny to her seat. The more invested they feel in the day the more likely they are to behave.

What kind of external help can you get on the day?

There are several options. Babysitters will take care of a few children while their parents are at the main event, while event nannies will help you run the activities you've set up with all of the children in one place. Going further, a full wedding crèche means the staff and the activities will turn up on the day to entertain the children.

Should children all sit together on one table, or is that mayhem?

This really depends on the size and location of the wedding, as well as how many children there are. First of all, there needs to be an adult close by who is actually paying attention! Having an adult dedicated to the table or one of the event nannies is the best way to keep a little order at the table.

If you have more than a handful of children, you should look at splitting them into groups. Think about how the mayhem starts – one child decides to throw a chip across the table and in a matter of minutes you have ten children lobbing food or in tears! Choosing foods that children actually like will also help to keep things under control – just keep it simple and avoid things that stain.

If you do decide to have a kids' table, remember to factor in their attention spans – don't expect them to sit through dinner, speeches, and dessert without needing to act their age.

As a guest, what can you do to make sure your child isn't problematic at a wedding?

Keep in mind that you are ultimately responsible for the behaviour of your child. While they look cute in their little tux or party dress, they are still children. Take their favourite activities and snacks with you – hungry tummies equal grumpy and impatient children. You don't have control of the feeding schedule at these kind of events, so be prepared. I don't condone bribery, but a few rewards just might get you through the day. Whether it's a new game on your phone of a colouring book and crayons, just save them for key moments!

Be realistic – if your children don't usually stay up past 8:30pm, don't expect them to be angels till 11pm! If you want to stay till the end of the event, hire a babysitter and have them take the children before the bedtime routine usually kicks in.