Happy Halloween! Oh how I loved this day when I was a kid running from house to house with my friends through leaves that came up to our ankles refusing to take a break until we hit every candy bowl in the neighborhood. I still get a rush when we take our girls trick-or-treating. My step-daughters think I sound like a drill sergeant when I tell them to pick up the pace and hustle up those steps to the front door. And how fun were our grade school Halloween parties? Large rooms full of dressed up kids with treat bags in one hand, gigantic lollipops in the other and enormous jars of candy scattered throughout. Well those parties must be seared into my subconscious because this is also a fitting description of what my wedding reception looked like, too.
I realize for some that the thought of having children at a wedding reception is frightening, but I believe including them in the celebration enhances the experience for the couple and all of their guests. The kids’ excitement to be at a “big person party” is contagious and brings added spirit to the festivities. You won’t have any trouble getting the dance party started with energetic kids in the room. The bride will feel like true royalty as little girls stare in awe at her gorgeous white gown and tell her over and over how she looks like a beautiful princess. Most importantly, you are giving your guests with children an endearing family memory they will never forget.
Since our wedding party included my 7 year-old and 10-year old step-daughters, my 6 year-old niece as flower girl, and my 4 year-old nephew as “ring security”, it was predetermined that our wedding would be kid friendly. Plus, as a bride in her late-30s, the majority of my friends had kids whom I adore and wanted to be a part of our celebration. We ended up with 25 kids in attendance, and, let me tell you, EVERYONE had a blast on account of the kid friendly details . Here’s what we did:
- In addition to passed hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail hour, we put large bowls of goldfish, pretzels and Chex Mix on the cocktail tables with clear plastic cups next to each bowl. The adults were as appreciative for the snacks as the kids.
- I hired the sweetest 17 year-old twins to look out for the kids during the reception. They were given a list of all of the kids’ names, their parents’ names and the parents’ assigned table numbers. During the cocktail hour they found every family on the list, introduced themselves, and told the kids to meet them in the children’s section of the reception. Our friends LOVED this because it gave them a chance to enjoy an evening out with uninterrupted adult conversations.
- We put the children’s tables on one end of the room with some space between the other tables. In place of a table setting, the kids were each given a wedding-themed activity book and crayons. Plus games and scavenger hunt cards were placed on each table.
- As soon as the adults began their salad course, the kids were invited to go up to the Chicken Finger and Mac ‘n Cheese Bar. Our caterer provided biodegradable disposable cups, plates and silverware that were kid-proof. They even purchased a special kid size buffet table just for our reception. The kids were very pleased with their meal, it was cost effective, and I later learned from my girlfriends that their husbands were ecstatic when they discovered chicken fingers on their way back from the men’s room.
- Our centerpieces are probably what the kids (and adults) will remember most about our wedding. In lieu of flowers, our centerpieces were made entirely of red and orange candy. We had jars full of sour balls, candied orange slices, gummy bears, Airheads, Kit Kats, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, 100 Grand Bars, Take 5 Bars, and M&Ms. Even the bottom of the lollipop bouquet vases were filled with itty bitty red and orange jawbreakers. Each guest was given a treat bag with a note saying, “Love is Sweet. Fill this with treats. When you are able, go to the next table to meet and greet and find more candy to eat.” And they all did!
- As predicted, the kids did an excellent job of getting the dance party started and keeping it going until the end of the night! And in a twist on the age old tradition, only the kids 16 years and younger were invited to take part in the bouquet toss.
Needless to say, we set the expectation bar high for our young guests on what it takes to throw an amazing wedding! Many of the kids were heard saying “BEST WEDDING EVER!!” even if it was the first one they’ve ever attended. Some of our friends opted to have a parents-only getaway weekend but were grateful that we gave them the option to bring their kids. The best compliment I received was from my friend Sue, a mother of twin 5 year-olds. She now tells engaged couples that her biggest regret from her wedding was making it adults only because our wedding made her realize that kids make the day even more special.
On June 21st, Jason and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary. (Woo hoo!) HOW IN THE WORLD DID TWELVE MONTHS GO BY SO QUICKLY?! Unlike many couples who celebrate their first year with a romantic getaway for two, our anniversary will be a family affair that includes my two step-daughters, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, I had the good fortune of becoming both a wife and a step-mom when I said “I do” one year ago.
I am blessed to have two loving step-daughters who instantly accepted me into their lives, and I wanted them to know that I love them like my own. So soon after we were engaged, I suggested to Jason that we take the girls on a Family-Moon the week after our wedding. This way we could solidify our new family and, most importantly, the girls wouldn’t feel like I was taking their Daddy away from them. Jason thought it was a great idea, and the girls were thrilled when we told them we were ALL going to Mexico after the wedding.
We had a blast! We swam and snorkeled and ate our hearts out. The girls LOVED telling anyone who would listen that we were on our Family-Moon and that they were junior bridesmaids in their Dad & step-mom’s wedding. Including them in our post-wedding vacation made them feel special and helped Jason and I seamlessly transition into our new roles as co-parents. It was the perfect way to begin our new family, and I encourage other blended families to plan Family-Moons of their own. Of course, Jason and I recognized the need to also celebrate the commitment we made to one another, and six months later we went on our own Honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand – which I’ll tell you all about in a future edition of The Corner of Chestnut & Vine.
Finally, this blog entry would not be complete without a shout-out to my wonderful parents, Dee and Dennis McCauley, who also celebrate their wedding anniversary on June 21st. Happy 46th Anniversary, Mom & Dad! Your example inspires me to be the best wife and parent I can possibly be. Jason and I love you and are honored to share your anniversary!