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Children should be allowed at wedding ceremonies – survey results solve a common wedding-planning puzzle

'To invite or not to invite young children?' to weddings is a big question for couples planning their big day - but a new survey conducted by the Church of England's wedding show promotions team suggests a majority of people agree with the Church that children should be welcome at the ceremony.

The Church's stand - which has the appearance of a beautiful nave and which offers advice and leaflets on all aspects of organising a church wedding - will be at the National Wedding Shows at Earl's Court, London, on 1-3 October, and the NEC Birmingham on 8-10 October.

In an ICM Omnibus online fieldwork survey of 2,008 people in Britain, 85% agreed that children should be allowed at wedding ceremonies, with 9% disagreeing and just 6% saying they didn't know.

A majority of people also thought that it was down to churches to initiate the welcome to children, and actively plan how to amuse younger ones during the service.

When asked to think about the statement 'The church should welcome young children to wedding ceremonies, and make arrangements to help keep them happy and occupied', 68% agreed, 23% disagreed with 9% saying 'don't know'.

The result has prompted the use, by clergy manning the Church of England stand at wedding shows, of a new advice sheet called Welcoming Children at Weddings, which has been based on feedback from diocesan Children's Advisers across the country. It suggests people should "give each child a 'wedding bag' when they arrive, containing cards and crayons, so the children can make cards to give to the happy couple later on"; and it encourages the use of a "wedding-themed 'fun sheet' containing things such as a word search, picture to colour and things to spot within the church or service".

The advice sheet also aims at clergy and suggests ways for children to take part in the service, particularly when a couple already has children; one point advises: "By inviting the couple's children to stand with their parents during the prayers or blessing, you will be creating a wonderful moment to remember, and emphasising that this wedding marks a new beginning for the whole family."

The Bishop of Hertford, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, who will be on the Church's stand at Earls Court on 3rd October, said: "This solves a key wedding-planning puzzle and shows couples needn't worry about inviting children. So if you want to have children at your ceremony, then the Church aims to welcome them, just like Jesus did. We hope it will make the big day even happier and more special for couples and their guests."