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Keeping Kids in the Picture

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Children often get invites to serve as the precious flower girl or dapper ring bearer at a wedding. But they rarely make the guest list to the wedding itself.

That's changing these days as couples marry later in life. They tend to have friends and relatives who have children - and, well, baby-sitters aren't always an option. Guests who have to travel across the country may skip out on a wedding if baby-sitting is a challenge.

"We felt it was more important to have our friends attend and share in our day than for them to miss it on account of baby-sitting issues," says Ira Sherak, an animator whose wedding in Pasadena, Calif., included guests from the East Coast.

The key is to make the nuptials kid-friendly without ditching the romance, sentimentality and beauty of the occasion.

Some couples choose to include the children in the reception, providing activity books at the tables and even gadgets for them to use. They may bring in extra entertainment, such as a clown or juggler for a kid's segment. Couples also can ask the DJ or band to play music catering to children's tastes, even creating a kids-only dance.

Sherak chose to host a private room for the dozen or so little guests, replete with a DVD player, TV, toys, games and snacks. He hired two chaperones from a baby-sitting service, using referrals from friends and family. One stayed in the room at all times and another was available to escort kids to the bathroom and to their parents.

To minimize costs, Sherak suggests bringing in your own meals for the kids.

"We let the chaperones get pizza for the kids instead of letting the caterers charge us $45 per kid for chicken nuggets & milk," he says.

Other activities for the kids' room to keep boredom at bay include filling a piñata with treats, playing musical chairs and even covering a table with butcher paper for kids to unleash their inner Picasso or Monet.

Even with the best of plans, couples should be aware that their little friends aren't perfect, and a meltdown or some rambunctious behavior may be inevitable. With some extra planning, though, children can secure those coveted invites to a wedding and participate in a milestone moment, learning about a rite of passage.

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