There are many reasons you might prefer not to have kids at your wedding. Babies and toddlers can ruin a ceremony by crying, talking or shouting through the vows. And even the best-behaved kids can sometimes cause damage and mess at the venue, which you will have to pay for. Having to keep an eye on children can be stressful – for your guests and venue staff, as well as you.
But even more importantly, although kids are smaller than adults, they still take up a full seat and place at the table. This means that if you allow your guests to bring all their children, you may not be able to invite as many of your friends and family as you’d hoped to, due to space restrictions.
It’s entirely up to you and your other half whether to allow children at your wedding or not. If you decide to have an adults-only affair, then this guide will tell you everything you need to know. We’ll talk you through child free wedding etiquette, what backlash you might face, and how to communicate your wishes firmly but politely.
Are Child Free Weddings Selfish?
There are two main schools of thought on child-free weddings. Some parents believe that adult only weddings are selfish – they feel it’s rude for the bride and groom to ‘reject’ their child.
On the other hand, many people feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a child-free wedding. After all, weddings are all about the bride and groom, and their wishes should be respected.
The truth is that nobody is ‘entitled’ to a wedding invitation – and this includes children. As the bride or groom, you have the right to invite whoever you want.
So, just as you shouldn’t feel obligated to invite your parent’s obscure friends, or work colleagues that you dislike, or extended family whom you haven’t seen for years, you don’t have to invite children if you don’t want to.
However, be aware that if you choose to have a child free wedding, you may ruffle some feathers. Some parents that you invite may feel insulted on their child’s behalf if you outright say “no kids allowed”.
So, if you’re going to have an adults-only wedding, be prepared for the following:
1. Some invitees may refuse to attend if they can’t bring their children (as a matter of principle, or because they don’t want to leave their kids in childcare).
2. Inevitably, some guests will ignore your adult-only rule, and will put their kids’ names on the reply card. This means you may need to have some awkward telephone conversations.
3. Some of your guests may fail to show up on the day due to childcare problems (e.g. the babysitter calling in sick).
If the above scenarios are okay with you, then go ahead. But if you’re going to have an adults-only wedding, there are some important etiquette rules that you should follow.
Child Free Wedding Etiquette
First, pick an age limit for your wedding guests. If you want to ban all children, then 18+ is the way to go. If you’re only worried about young children, then keeping the guest list 13+ or 16+ may be more appropriate.
Use your best judgement – but whatever you choose, it should be a firm rule that applies to everyone. You can’t let some families bring their children, but not others. This will cause offence and upset. Either everyone gets to bring their kids, or no-one does.
Secondly, don’t pick-and-choose which parts of your day children can and can’t attend. Saying that children are welcome at the ceremony but not the reception can cause problems. Parents will have to arrange transport to take their children home, and the kids may get upset at having to leave their parents. The entire wedding day should be treated as one event: either child-friendly or child-free.
Thirdly, be as sensitive and tactful as possible about the no-kids rule. Don’t outright put ‘NO KIDS’ on your wedding invitations – this will come off as rude. And if you get any no-shows due to childcare issues, be kind and understanding about it.
How to Tell Guests that Your Wedding Is “Adults Only”
Decided that you definitely don’t want kids at your wedding? Here’s how to make the adults-only rule crystal clear to your guests, while causing the least possible amount of offence or upset.
1. Address Your Invitations Correctly
Be very careful with how you address your save the dates and invitations. Don’t write ‘The Smiths’ or ‘The Smith Family’ – otherwise Mum and Dad will assume their kids are invited, too. Instead, specifically address the invitation to ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’.
To make it extra obvious, use an inner envelope as well as an outer one. On the inner envelope, write the first names of the adults you’re inviting; for example, ‘To Paul and Barbara Smith’. Most people will understand immediately that if the kids aren’t mentioned, they’re not invited.
2. Add a Note with the Invitation
If you’re worried that the message won’t get across, you can include a wedding note card alongside the invitation. This is a small card that lets you include extra information about the wedding.
On this card, inform your guests (in a kind and polite way) that the wedding will be adults-only. Here are some examples of wording you could use, depending on your formality preference:
“Regrettably, we are unable to extend our invitation to children, due to space and budget constraints. Thank you for your understanding.”
“Although we love your little ones, unfortunately our venue is unable to accommodate guests under the age of 16.”
“We have decided to make our special day adults only – so you can take the day off and let your hair down! If you need assistance arranging childcare, please let us know and we’ll try our best to help.”
3. Be Specific On the Reply Card
Usually, wedding reply cards (also known as RSVP cards) have a blank space to allow your guests to write their names. But to make it clear that kids aren’t invited, you can fill this in ahead of time for your guests. Write their exact names on the reply card next to a check box (can or cannot attend).
Alternatively, you could include a line that says “__ out of __ guests can attend”. You can write the number of guests you’ve invited in the second box, so that there’s no ambiguity.
4. Add Information to Your Wedding Website
If you have a wedding website, it’s a good idea to add a page explaining that the wedding will be child-free. You could even include this information as part of a FAQs (frequently asked questions) page. For example:
“Q: Can I bring my children? A. Unfortunately, we’re unable to accommodate guests under the age of 18 (aside from our flower girls). We appreciate your understanding.”
As a gesture of goodwill, you could even set up a page with email addresses and telephone numbers for professional nannies and babysitters in the area.
5. Spread the Word
Ask your wedding party, close friends and family members to help spread the no-kids rule via word of mouth. Coach them on what to say when guests ask if kids are invited, or mention offhand that Little Susie is so excited.
For example: “it’s nothing personal, but Dave and Sharon are having an adult-only wedding. They’re sorry about it, but there just isn’t enough space at the venue to allow for children. But I know a great babysitter if you want me to give you her number!”
6. Follow Up with a Phone Call
There’s a chance that some of your guests will – deliberately or accidentally – ignore all of your hints that children aren’t invited.
So, if you receive intelligence – either by word of mouth, or on a reply card – that some of your guests are planning to bring their kids, you’ll need to nip this in the bud.
Give them a call, and politely explain that unfortunately, children aren’t invited. You don’t need to give a reason, but blaming it on space or budget restrictions can help avoid awkwardness.
7. Stand Firm
If any of your guests refuse to accept no-kids rule, you’re going to have to be firm with them. Stress that your wedding won’t be a child-friendly event: there won’t be any kids’ meals, children’s entertainment or activities, or anywhere to change nappies or park a pushchair. Explain that if they do bring their kids, they’ll be turned away, and that’s just how it is.
Unfortunately, not all of your guests will be happy with this. But remember, it’s your choice who to invite (and not invite) to your wedding, so don’t let anyone bully you into changing your rules. If anyone pulls the “if Little Sammy can’t come, then I’m not coming!” card, simply say “that’s a real shame, but I understand. In that case, Dave and I look forward to catching up with you and your family some othe