Playing at formal events and special occasions

All about play

Playing at formal events and special occasions

If you are attending a formal occasion such as a wedding, family party or funeral with your child, you might wonder whether it’s okay for your child to play there. There aren’t any rules about this, and other parents may be feeling the same.

Things you may be concerned about

  • That your child might cause a distraction or interrupt things
  • That the sound of children laughing and playing might cause offence
  • That your child might get bored and restless if they aren’t allowed to play.

Why might children need to play?

A formal event can be quite stressful and tiring for children. Lots of things can make the experience tricky for your child. For example:

  • being in an unfamiliar place or situation
  • seeing people behaving in an unusual or different way
  • being expected to sit quietly for a long time.

Balancing your child’s needs with the needs of other people

It’s good to think about how to meet your child’s needs, balancing this with the needs and wishes of other people at the event. For example:

  • Some people love the sound of children’s voices at a wedding, but other people feel a wedding should be more solemn.
  • After a funeral, some people find it comforting to see children playing, but other people may be upset by it.

Forward planning

Could you get in touch with the hosts or organisers in advance to talk about your child and the event? It will show that you want to do the right thing and give them a chance to let you know how they would prefer things to be.

You could try saying:

  • I know my child will find it hard to sit quietly for a long time
  • They’ll need to have a chance to play and relax during the day
  • We don’t want to cause any disruption so would like to check in advance the best way to do things.

Things you might want to check include:

  • Will it be okay if I take them out to play for a little while?
  • Is there a space where it is/isn’t okay to play?
  • Is there anyone who we need to be particularly considerate towards or careful around?
  • Will other children be there?

Some people will answer saying they are completely happy for children to play. People who are less comfortable about it will have a chance to see your point of view and are likely to appreciate that you’ve asked.


  • Be prepared to have these kinds of conversations with other people on the day.
  • Make it clear that you’re keeping an eye on your child while they are playing, even if you’re watching from a distance.
  • If there are a few children there, take turns with other parents – and any other adults who are willing to help – in keeping an eye on the children.
  • Take a few small playthings for your child – like a pencil and notebook, some small puzzles or a favourite soft toy.