Keeping all your wedding guests happy – how your venue can best host children with Kelly Chandler
Today’s wedding more than ever is likely to be a true family affair and by that we’re talking a greater likelihood that the bridal couples themselves, or certainly some of their closest friends, siblings and bridal party will have young children. Bearing in mind that the average age of couples marrying is now 30.8, and increases slightly annually, and the fact that the largest proportion of couples have been an item for more than five years, many more wedding celebrations are now focused on relaxed, family friendly fun.
As an ambitious wedding hosting venue looking to get ahead and beat the competition you need to look at how you provide for children so that you’ve got a solution before you’re asked, and right from your early marketing. Bear in mind that your couples with their own young children are likely to have very busy schedules and a lot of demands so the more you can help them with pre-considered ideas the better. This applies equally to those couples who don’t have their own children but know they need to make plans for their young guests and can often feel overwhelmed and inexperienced in not knowing what the options are.
Today’s feature is brought to you in partnership with Stephanie Wallis, childcare expert and owner/founder of Safe & Sound Events, who is the go-to provider for many an independent wedding planner (myself included) seeking the most professional, varied, creative and safe childcare solution for their clients’ weddings.
The venue ‘standard’
Lack of facilities and activities involving a few crayons and paper alongside some games bought from the local store just don’t cut it for the modern wedding, but it’s sadly what’s on offer still at many events. If this sounds familiar then I’m afraid you (and/or your couples) are likely to find the little ones running amok causing mayhem and ultimately spoiling the event for everyone, staff included, through no fault of their own. A higher standard of provision is a must!
It’s worth your venue looking at your terms and conditions also as literally ‘left holding the baby’ is something you are not insured for, neither is an entertainer solely in charge of the children or the obligatory bouncy castle sufficient. Bear in mind too that an entertainer/bouncy castle might provide up to two hours entertainment, which is great for a typical kids birthday party but nowhere near long enough for a 10 hour wedding day!
To get it right here are our top tips for venues:
So often enough space for children to play is just not considered. With crèche supervision, children often move areas during a wedding to utilise the best spaces for the numbers as the wedding progresses through the schedule. This gives great variety for the kids, gets them out and about in the fresh air (always good for sleeping later on!) and enjoying the venue and all its spaces under safe supervision while being sensitive to the goings-on and schedule of the main wedding celebration. Make sure to think about key spaces that are child friendly.
Highchairs and seating
Highchairs are often provided by venues but are not necessarily the best style and may be missing straps. This is a real health and safety issue. Style is often chosen for the look rather than for the practicality, and many highchairs are only suitable for children who can sit upright. There are styles of booster seats to consider which offer a better alternative for varying ages of babies and toddlers. Just as you consider the style of the chair for your adult guests, the same consideration should happen for their children.
Standard cutlery is usually of the size to be able to perform a tonsillectomy on the average small child! They really don’t need the full setting of an adult – we appreciate that it makes the table look lovely, all matching, but what do the parents do with a mountain of items they can’t use? There are some lovely sets of metal children’s cutlery available and plastic cutlery can always be laid out after the photographer has taken all the shots or handed over to the parents once seated. Long stemmed glasses are not required either!
Invest or ask your caterer to provide plastic cups for the kids – there are some beautiful designs for children and it’s a lovely gesture to put some effort into colourful pretty items. If children are invited to a wedding they are important guests, and while their needs are different, this is a chance to treat them just as well, with thought put into their table just as effort is put into flowers and so on for the adults’ tables.
Feeding the little ones
Food for children; chicken goujons and chips is so outdated, tomato pasta is not great for beautiful wedding clothes… This area really needs updating and to be put together with the chef. Many children have a well-educated pallet and are rarely brought up on the outdated idea of ‘traditional children’s food’. Having said that, chips are always a hit as they are often a real treat!
The size of the portions in line with costs needs to be updated too. The average two year old eats at least half that of a 10 year old but usually all children are classified as one. It’s worth having at least two different portion sizes for the age range, with the appropriate costs attached.
The fun stuff
If your venue is offering toys and games they need to be well maintained, compliant with all the various regulations and actually worth playing with. As mentioned previously, colouring is just not enough! Bear in mind that a wedding day can typically run from 2pm to midnight, which is a lot of time to fill and variety is key.
It’s the evening in particular when an outside childcare specialist can really make all the difference. From 7pm onwards little ones are usually heading for bed, so what can be done in a wedding environment? Historically parents would leave the party early or carry on but with unhappy exhausted children. How much better for there to be a supervised “film night” zone with comfy bean bags and a DVD for the older ones to watch and floor mattresses and sleeping bags for the little ones to drop off to sleep until parents are ready to leave the party – everyone is happy this way, and most importantly, safe.
The biggest key to a smooth-running event with children is actually the professional supervision of the children and not just the provision of a child size meal or highchairs. If the children are occupied and made a greater part of the event, then everyone will be happy!
And all the wedding surveys on current wedding customer behavior indicate that comfort, looking after one’s guests and being great hosts are very high up the modern couple’s wedding needs agenda. How proactive is your venue in suggesting entertainment and childcare for your clients’ weddings?
Most of the time young couples without children do not have an understanding of the complexities of what’s required so do need a lot of advice and guidance as to the right provision for them. As an event childcare company, Safe & Sound Events offers the perfect solution to not only consult with venues, enabling them to offer a higher standard of service, but to also remove any logistical nightmares when inviting children to events.
About the Author
Kelly Chandler is a long-term preferred service provider for exclusive venues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draw on prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 13 years of business management, and working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of trade body, the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business. www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk