I recently had the pleasure of taking my family to the incredible estate of John Ringling – yep, the circus guy. On it, there’s a circus museum (or two), an opulent mansion called Ca’ d’ Zan (House of John), Florida’s oldest rose garden, and an incredible art museum. It’s actually a stunning wedding venue.

It’s the kind of place that’s a great compromise for my family. The circus museum makes the kids happy and I’ll admit that the adults loved it, too. The mansion is a fun curiosity – perhaps a little frustrating for little minds wanting to touch everything shiny. And the art museum was there for me. I love walking the galleries.

My daughter (she’s five) held on like a trooper. She was curious (why does that man have wings?!). She was intrigued (is that a person or a mermaid?!). And only a little bored. We were on our way out when a docent at the entrance asked if we had seen the arms and heart in a particular piece (a glass piece by Beth Lipman). No, we had missed it all!

She then proceeded to walk my daughter and I halfway back through the wing and promptly sat down with my daughter on the gallery floor.

Annika was enraptured! There were fish and hands and lungs and severed legs and intestines all laid out in blown glass on a mantle. It was more coolness than any five year old can handle. “You mean that’s inside me?” Now, how to explain that hers isn’t made of glass, but of tissue (no, not that kind of tissue)?

The thing is: this was inconvenient. It was lunchtime. We were hungry. It was rainy and we were beelining for the car when this occurred. Yet, in that moment, the rapturous wonder of a five year old made it all go away. We were there, embracing the moment and mommy and daddy were both very happy.

It was a galvanization of the idea that happy kids make for happy parents (though the reverse is perhaps even truer).

It’s a reminder anyone planning a family event needs and it’s one often overlooked by a bride and groom without kids of their own. If kids will be there, don’t let them be an afterthought. Provide them fun and wonder and the adults in the room (or at least nearby) will be happy and content. They might even let loose and have some fun.

For you, that might be childcare at the venue or activities for the kids. It might be clown or a movie or a party favor just for them. There are a million ways to keep kids happy, engaged and entertained (and probably a million and one ways to do the opposite). Just make sure to have this discussion with your wedding planner if your guestlist includes a lot of children; it will make the entire evening just that much more fun.

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