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Inviting children at a French wedding

Elian Concept Weddings Young Bridesmaids French Weddings

To invite the kids or not invite the kids, that is that is the question most couples will ask each other at some point during their wedding planning journey, and one that we’re going to dive a bit deeper into today. And to help us answer the question of whether there should be children at a French Wedding, we’ve turned to our resident French wedding planning expert, Fabienne, owner of Elian Concept Weddings and Events.

So without any further ado (that’s the last tenuous Shakespeare reference – promise), let’s hand you over to Fabienne…

I was recently listening to a radio programme discussing the question “Should you have children at weddings?” The subject was prompted by a statement that ‘two thirds of adults think children should be banned from weddings’ which contradicts another survey stating than ‘only 9% of people think that children shouldn’t be allowed at all’, although 1/3 would prefer it if children under the age of six were not allowed to attend weddings.

Elian Concept Weddings Children at French Weddings CortegePhoto credit: Lydia Taylor Jones

There are good and bad reasons on both sides of the argument and definitively no right or wrong whatever the view taken. My purpose is not to debate the matter as it is a very personal decision based on relationship, budget and vision, as it is also personal for your guests to come with their children or not (if they are invited). It may sound more difficult to not include children at a destination wedding (although as a destination wedding planner I have experienced no kid’s weddings), and it is certainly another thing to embrace when planning a wedding. Therefore this post is for couples who have decided to invite children at their wedding in France.

This can be the children of all your guests, or limited to close family’s children whom you absolutely want to share the day with you and, if old enough, you probably want them to play a role during the day: flower girls, page boys, ring bearers are an adorable part of the cortege, which is a lovely French tradition, while older kids can help ushers, hand out programs and confetti.

lian Concept Weddings Flower Girl French WeddingsPhoto credit: Authentic Love Photography

Either way, it is an important decision and one to take very early on in the planning process in order to look at all related matters sooner rather than later. All too often, essential things, such as organising childcare, are left to the last minute, which is then trickier and can lead to unnecessary stress for everybody.

Communication here is critical. First it should be very clear when children are invited and when they are not. The responsibility to arrange childcare for the little ones should not fall solely on your shoulders, especially if budget is tight. However ultimately you do not want your wedding day to be dictated by children and you should take the matter in your own hands, even if it is only to explain to the parents what you expect from them, e.g. if they need to organise childcare.

Elian Concept Weddings Children at French WeddingsPhoto credit: Anneli Marinovich

If you are not keen to clutter your invitations with kid’s specific information, stick to the mention of their name(s) along side their parents, so there is no confusion that they are invited. Therefore if they are coming, it will be clear on the RSVPs. You can use an alternative method to let parents know the rest. If you have a website, you could add a special chapter/page if you invite a lot of kids. A direct email message to the parents is another good, simple way to inform them of what will be organised and what will not, as can be a one-to-one conversation if not too many guests are involved.

Elian Concept Weddings Young Bridesmaids French WeddingsPhoto credit: Nicolas Chauveau

What you should let parents know:
– If childcare is arranged- how and when (babysitters, special rooms, mobile crèche etc.)
– If childcare is not organised. Recommendations to help them organise their own would be appreciated.
– If their children are involved in the ceremony. Confirm the dress code and what they would do (check ahead if parents are happy with that). Give the rehearsal details as it is strongly advised that they attend so what they have to do can be explained in situ and they can get a feel about their role on the day. It also allows you to notice things that may not go according to plan and find solutions.
– If there is a child menu. It gives an opportunity to check any kid’s potential food allergy.

As with everything else regarding your wedding, the more information you give, and you gather in advance, the better prepared your guests and you will be and the smoother your wedding day will run.

What should you anticipate for the various part of the day when you organise childcare and entertainment for younger guests?

The ceremony
Unless you have hired babysitters or nannies for the entire day, children will be with their parents during the ceremony (religious or symbolic). It is down to them to ensure kids behave and to remove a crying or unruly child to not disturb it.

Elian Concept Weddings Children at French WeddingPhoto credit: Lifestyle Wedding Photos

Flower girls, pageboys, ring bearer and other children performing a duty should be supervised by a parent or an adult who can guide them as the ceremony goes on.

The cocktail reception / vin d’honneur
From this point, you could hire babysitters or child-minders to watch over the children and entertain them. The purpose is safety (a lot of French countryside venues have swimming pools, ponds or lakes) as well as to make sure they have a great time, while adults relax and mingle. Fun activities and garden games are always welcome. Here are some ideas on Entertaining children at weddings.

lian Concept Weddings Children at French Weddings ChildcarePhoto credit: Anneli Marinovich

You can also consider a mobile crèche or a child entertainer if your budget allows it.

The dinner
Having children’s meals is in order here. I believe any French caterer will have a child friendly menu on their wedding menu choices or will be happy to suggest one. Be prepared to discuss the food included as you may find some options are more designed for French children’s taste. From 12-13 years old, it is usually accepted that they can have the same meal choice than the adults. Baby’s food should be provided for by their parents.

Elian Concept Weddings Children at French Weddings kid tablesPhoto credit: Elian Concept Weddings

Seating arrangements: I would recommend planning for separate tables, and also seating younger children and teenagers separately. If there are not many of them, the latter should be placed with the adults. Some furniture companies offer child tables and chairs. Something to think about if appropriate for the age group.

It is up to you, in agreement with the parents, to decide if very young children should eat in a separate room. It might be easier to coordinate meal times if that is the case.

On the kids table(s) no need for fancy decoration, no candles, flowers or wine glasses. Replace them with fun favours or goodie bags. Colouring sheets and pencils, stickers, puzzles, small games or toys will make them feel special and keep them diverted. They can then leave the table when they have finished their meal and carry on playing with the child minder(s) while the adults are still eating.

Elian Concept Weddings Invite Children at French WeddingPhoto credit: Lifestyle Wedding Photos

The evening party
Depending of their age, children love to join in on the dance floor. For others and when the little dancers become tired, they can be put to bed by the child minders in a dedicated room, until their parents are ready to go.

Elian Concept Weddings Should Children be at French WeddingPhoto credit: Authentic Love Photography

Hiring a babysitter or a child minder in France.

– You could contact a specialist company, such as SillyBillys or La Compagnie des familles. Also consider companies specialised in kid’s parties to find child entertainers.
– Alternatively, ask your wedding venue for recommendations. It is worth noting that some venues required that a professional child-minder look after the children if they are part of the guests list.
– If you have a wedding planner, finding suitable childcare based on your requirements will be part of their services.
– There are various ‘rules’ as to how many child-minders are required to look after how many kids, but it is commonly recommended to have one person for 3 children under 6 and one for 6 older children, although it is reasonable to hire at least 2 babysitters especially if there is a mix of age.
– Fees start from 10 to 15 euros per hour (excluding travel expenses). A set fee, usually around 150 to 200 euros for the day and evening could also be agreed in advance. Depending on the company and which services are provided, hourly fees can go up to 25-30 euros.

Elian Concept Weddings Children Entertainment French WeddingsPhoto credit: Authentic Love Photography

Practical considerations:

– Check with your wedding venue for the availability and suitability of extra rooms to allocate to childcare. Ideally two, one as a playroom and the other as a resting room.
– Remember to check that the child-minder(s) will be able to communicate with the children in English
– Provide a meal and consider paying them extra if the evening lasts longer than expected
– Give them the itinerary so they are aware of what is happening and when during the day and the evening

Elian Concept Weddings Invite Children to French WeddingsPhoto credit: Anneli Marinovich

Children will add a special atmosphere to a wedding. They are sweet and fun. But it requires thoughtful planning to ensure everyone enjoys the celebrations.

FABIENNE IS OWNER OF ELIAN CONCEPT WEDDINGS AND EVENTS, WHO IS A BI-LINGUAL WEDDING PLANNER AND IS AVAILABLE FOR WEDDINGS THROUGHOUT FRANCE.  FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT: WWW.ELIANCONCEPTWEDDINGS.COM