How to tell guests you are having an adults only wedding

More and more people are asking the question – “how do I tell parents that we don’t want their children at our wedding?” The reality is that more and more brides, and grooms as well, do not like the idea that children will be coming to their weddings. And that’s okay. Here at Southern Bride we are all about being practical, dispensing of traditions that don’t work for you, and retaining the ones that do work. If you don’t want children at your wedding – you don’t have to. Consider your feelings on the matter validated! (And this is coming from a parent as well).

Adults only weddings are not uncommon affairs, but there does seem to be a certain amount of guilt about explicitly not inviting your close friend’s kids. So the issue of how to “deal” with the children of your guests is coming up more and more often. Here are some tips on how to let your wedding guests know that you are after a child-free wedding day:

“…But children are meant to be at weddings!”

1148743_1681241525495004_8123491938235856665_nFor some, weddings are inextricably linked with children. Most wedding scenes we see in movies involve cute and huggable children running round. But reality can differ. Check me out as a little four year old flower girl. I decided at my cousins wedding that I didn’t like beards… and the photographer had one. Hence a grumpy face, tears and a sullen attitude most the day!

When children get bored, they usher in trouble. They roam around, fidget, cry and grizzle. They aren’t out to ruin your day – noise and chaos is just what kids do.

Bored children can be nightmares for adults, especially to their parents and the couple getting married. Just the thought of crying children, children messing up with her gown and that of the bridemaids can give you the cold sweats. Another sad fact is that some parents are not very sensitive to the impact of their children’s behaviour on others. Other parents will not be able to relax, because they’d be policing their children all day.

kids activity kits… if you do have kids to entertain!

How do we tell parents we are having an adults only wedding?

The very best way to avoid inviting children is to be up front and mention it in the wedding invitations. Don’t dance around the topic, hoping people will pick up on subtleties – make sure guests know where their children stand.

Couples who want an adults-only wedding can do a few things:

  1. Print guest names on the wedding invites – and do not mention their kids’ names.
  2. Spread by word of mouth that children are not wanted in the wedding, either by explaining to each individual family or with a polite handwritten note accompanying the wedding invite
  3. Mention the number of seats reserved for a particular set of guests. For example, on their RSVP card, Mr and Mrs Bennington are reserved only two seats at the reception. That means that Mr and Mrs Bennington’s five kids do not have places in the wedding.
  4. If you’re comfortable with being a bit more explicit than just omitting names and relying on Chinese whispers, then a straightforward  ‘adults only’ line printed on your invitations should do the trick. Please don’t go for the overused “we want to give parents the night off” wording – as a parent I find this condescending – just be up front.
  5. Being up front and calling & telling parent-guests that kids will not be welcome in the wedding can also be a viable option. For some, the gesture will not seem that polite but as long as it is done in a tactful way you cannot be blamed for someone else taking offence.

If the guests still fall clueless and insist on RSVPing for their children, you will need to call them in advance of the wedding and explain children will not be attending the wedding. This can feel brutal, but it is nicer than seeing the children at your wedding and feeling annoyed. It’s also kinder to other wedding guests, who have respected your wishes and left their kids with a babysitter. Imagine how unfair it is to leave your kids behind (as that’s what the couple have requested) only to turn up and see a ton of children running round at the wedding.

shop the LOVE lights here

Exceptions to the “no children rule”: Newborn babies

Many engaged couples have not had children yet so are unsure what sort of baby will produce what sort of drama – so they run with a blanket ban over babies and children in general. But I ask that you are sensitive to the needs of parents with newborn babies, especially if they are RSVPing in advance of actually having the baby, as sometimes can happen.

I highly recommended you extend an invitation to babies under the age of 6 months, if you really want the mother to attend the wedding. Younger babies, especially those 3 months or less, will be exclusively breastfed or bottlefed and will generally be unable to part from the Mum for any longer than a couple of hours. Parents might be unwilling to be away from their children for a long period of time, so you may need to accept that not inviting the child means the parents will not be attending.

New parents tend to be especially sensitive to more than a peep from their wee one, and a quick feed from the breast or bottle usually settles these young babies down. Even my son who was a colicky baby was settled with a feed and a jiggle on the hip (well, during the hours that a wedding would be on anyway… let’s not get into getting him to sleep at 10pm at night!).

As babies grow past 6 months they become more mobile and harder to distract or settle. Toddlers and preschoolers are more likely to cause chaos!

I’m not sure if my child is invited to this wedding?

For parents, if there is any doubt whether your children are allowed to attend the wedding, then it is best to contact the couple and clarify whether your wee ones are welcome. Don’t take it personally if the couple say no.

If your children are welcome to attend, be mindful of your children’s behaviour and temperament. Take along activities to distract them (non-messy, flying or noisy ones though!). Bear in mind you would not want to ruin the wedding just because your kid suddenly threw a tantrum. Assume the position of the couple. How you would feel if you were on their shoes, and children are creating scenes at your wedding. It would not be pretty and cute, right?

If you can swing it, get a babysitter and leave your kids at home when you attend a wedding – especially if there are not many other little ones around. They might get bored throughout the wedding ceremony and cause stress and frustration, as you’re outside soothing a grumpy baby while everyone else is enjoying themselves. Plus you want to be able to sit back and relax some adult company for once!

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  1. When I got married, I didn’t want kids at my wedding & made it known to my family. Then they started saying ” well then we can’t come to your wedding, because we have no babysitter” I feel that that was an excuse for them to bring their children. Thinking back, I should have kept my word & not have them at my wedding because the kids were running around, they broke my candelabra which I had to end up paying for…..they took no responsiblilty even thouigh there were witnesses. NO ONE should tell the bride what to do…….it is HER wedding & if no one wants to come because of her decisions, well then they are not true friends & relatives to begin with. A true person will WANT to respect, not bring up drama. Some people just want attention, & make it about themselves instead of respecting other’s decisions. And finally, guess what…..I have no relation with my family to this day because of other dramas & gossip, so it wouldn’t have hurt me if I would have stuck to my original decision. So, if you don’t want kids at your wedding, don’t have them & you will not regret it. If they blame you later on, they will learn their lessons when they have a request & ask them if they wouild want to be respected.

  2. Ok….here is the issue….my niece is getting married…..her future in laws are hosting the wedding….in the beginning supposedly it was mentioned no children, but not stressed…..a month or so ago the bride wax cutting my hair and we were talking about how many were invited….she gave the # of invitations she had , multiplied by two (for couples) added @ 20 for children and she said, but I’m sure everyone invited will not be able to attend….we went on batchelorette cruise and children were mentioned several times….she mailed the invites the day we left for the cruise….RSVP’s are starting to arrive and the mother of the groom is having a fit no children !!!!! I am really hurt that my grandsons will not be able to be apart of this joyous family occasion …..I feel if it was that important she should’ve kept stressing that no children were invited instead of putting on the bride making her look irresponsible

  3. My partner and I are getting married next year overseas. We have asked for it to be an adult only event due to space restrictions but mostly due to the fact that even though our wedding party is fairly small 60 adults, with most of them have 1-4 children. If we invited children as well we would have 40+ children which would end up more like a kids party than a wedding.

    I’m a pre-school teacher also and know how hard it can be to entertain that many and even a much lesser amount of children for extended periods of time. We fully understand that this may in turn mean that some people can’t come and are sympathetic of families who would like to come but can’t because of this but parents also need to consider that there are sometimes greater reasons as to why children are not invited as opposed to simply just not wanting them there. Even thiugh we would like to invite the kids, there are too many, and with the huge number of children it is unfair to invite some and not others.

    For our guests with children we advised them on our save the dates and wedding app/website a year in advance, we are also helping them to organise babysitters if they do decide to bring their children with them, and finally anyone with small babies are welcome to bring them.

  4. I really appreciated your exception for small babies, although I think the same problem can apply to mothers of older children as well. Any couple considering going adult-only needs to understand that in a number of scenarios they really are asking their friends and family to make a choice between immediate family needs and “their day.” I’m in this position currently, where my brother and his fiance decided on an adult only ceremony and reception, and tearfuly trying to decide what to do. We had planned to travel in from abroad for the event, with our small children (because you don’t miss your brother’s wedding), but we won’t have childcare once we arrive. Weddings are family events so everyone my children have relationships with that I would trust to babysit for a rehearsal dinner and then a full 8 hours the next day will in attendance, therefore not available! The wedding happens to be over a holiday to make it that much more complicated. If my kids can’t attend it doesn’t make sense financially for all of us to fly, so I’m faced with going by myself and missing a holiday with my littles, or missing one of the biggest days of my brother’s life. I never wanted to be in this situation – even asked for an exception (and then was treated like THAT guest). I would imagine that guests coming from more than two hours away could find themselves in a similar dilemma. I know this is a trending idea to help cut costs and not have the possible distraction, but what happened to being a gracious and accommodating host – being realistic about the needs of the loved ones you’ve invited to attend? I think we might have lost something culturally, here.

  5. This all comes down to empathy (or lack thereof). Those who lack empathy are the ones who put their invited guests (notice “invited”) in this situation. The wedding couples who lack empathy are the ones who choose to invite people with children, but then who expect those people to act like they don’t have children to think about. You knew these invited folks had kids. If these people were important enough to invite to your “intimate” affair to begin with (especially if they were family), then you invite the kids. If not, then don’t invite them.

    Yep. It’s “your” day. You can have that day alone. It’s your choice. You can have that day with others. It’s your choice. You are always free to choose, but you are never free from the consequences of your choices. It’s the nature of cause and effect.

    Certainly, it’s your right to choose what you do on YOUR day. You could even choose to NOT feed your guests. However, it’s pretty logical to conclude that your hungry guests wouldn’t respond well to that. If you printed “no food allowed” on the invitation, you may even have many potential guests decline. The response that lacks empathy is this: how dare those selfish people get hungry, want to eat, bring their own food, or decline to attend because they needed to eat? Bottom line is this: don’t have guests if you don’t want to be a host / hostess who considers the needs of those guests. Elope.

    Otherwise, prepare yourself for some long-term consequences (e.g., when you’re the one cut out of christenings, birthday events, graduations, and–oh yes–those grown up childrens’ weddings). If the kids didn’t mean enough to you for you to have them present at YOUR *special* day, then chances are that those “snotty nosed brats” probably won’t find your presence worthy at THEIR *special* events / days.

    My brother-in-law (after asking our daughter to be the flower girl) responded through text that they had “changed their minds.” No kids allowed. Period. Personally, I don’t care what the couple does. I really don’t like weddings, and would prefer to not go to any (kids or not). But this “choice” had consequences beyond me or my husband.

    My son (15 years old), old enough to be aware that his presence was “unwanted,” was hurt. He asked why his “uncle didn’t want [him]” at his wedding. I had no answer, and think his uncle should have had that conversation with him–not us, the nonparty to the decision. Our son has always looked up to his young uncle. No matter how his dad and I try to spin this, he thinks this reflects how little his uncle cares about him. I don’t think he’ll ever forget this, so the relationship is damaged. Sad, but it’s wedding couple’s day and the wedding couple’s choice.

    1. I nodded alllll the way through your comment Shannon! I do hate how people use “It’s our day” as if it excuses them from being rude – especially if they’ve already promised someone will be a flower girl etc.

      I think the best thing a couple can do is be upfront, respectful and thoughtful of others – unfortunately it’s too easy for some people to hide behind a cell and text bad news than deliver it in person…

    2. I know this is a late comment but I am getting married in October and found this while looking up the best way to add “adults only” to our wedding invitations.

      I do not think that having an adult only wedding lacks empathy. I think that what your brother-in-law did has left a bad, bitter taste in your mouth for all other people who do this in a tasteful way that is not hurtful. We are inviting our guests children who are 15 and older. The reasons why we are not having young children is because we have envisioned our wedding day a certain way and it happens to be child free. Do we love our friends children? Yes. Do we want them running and screaming around the aisle? No. We get one wedding. One day. In the grand scheme of things this is a very, very small request. Might some people not come because of this request? Maybe. But if they don’t want to be there because their child who they spend every waking moment with cannot be there for 24 hours then that’s fine! They would have had a miserable time being there.

      I am not sure why I felt so compelled to respond to this comment. I think because our decision to make our wedding child free is not one from a place of dislike, exclusion, or lack of empathy – it’s just the way we’ve envisioned our wedding. And it is OUR wedding.

      1. Hi KB,

        I got this comment reply in my inbox because I posted one above. I wrote out a response to you earlier, but I had a technical problem – so if two similar but different show up, my apologies.

        I wanted to take the time to reply because I just went through this on the opposite end, if you read my comment above. Of course I ended up going to my brother’s wedding but it was all such an emotional time! In your comment, you say, “In the grand scheme of things this is a very, very small request.” And that’s what I want to address.

        As a non-yet parent, it might seem like a small request, and for local guests it might be small. For out of towners, though, its going to take a bit more effort. Some families will have to work to get their little ones ready to stay over night, or for a full weekend with a sitter. If bigger still nursing babies are not allowed, there will be a huge amount of pumping to get a food supply ready, and pumping at the wedding as well. Our family opted for my husband to stay behind with the children, (since I was traveling abroad) which meant I was attending dateless. I know its “your day,” but that was still a disappointment for me, and made it so much less fun. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and again, it won’t be hard for everyone, but for some, it really will be a challenge.

        And the challenge is not just in the practicalities. Its also quite emotional to feel that you might end up missing the biggest day in your loved one’s life because the needs of your children. That’s really where the problem lies, in feeling torn. I might decide in advance to decline in my RSVP and then feel like I let you down, and even have personal disappointments for not being there (because I want to be at weddings). Or I might RSVP with a “yes” and then have to cancel last minute because my baby sitter cancelled or some other colorful scenario arose. When the kids can’t come, I know its not a guarantee for me to be there. Also, its good parenting to be cautious about sitters, and aware of your child’s overall emotional needs. They are little people after all, and really might not be a phase where a weekend away from mom and dad is in their best interest. Its not as easy as “just get a baby sitter.” Its certainly not being overprotective or clingy either. The parents are the best ones to know what the needs of their kids are, and as much as they love you, the kids really do come first.

        My intent here is not to tell you that you are doing something wrong, or to convince you to change your mind. Rather, I hope to give a different angle that will help you communicate your decision. If my brother had said it was a “small request,” it really would have hurt my heart, because it was a big effort for our family. He and his beautiful new wife were worth the effort, but I wish I would not have had to leave my kids behind over a holiday to be there.

        Being gracious toward the sacrifices your guests are making to be there with you will always go far. They really do want to be there with you, so if someone calls up and asks about bringing the kids along, just be kind when you re-iterate your position. In some cases, it might be wise to offer a compromise. That can be anything from letting the kids in that family attend, to helping out with local childcare. And certainly, it will help everyone if you give advanced notice. I believe you are 9 months out based on your comment, so go ahead and start communicating this to people who might need to know. It is your day – so you do get to decide. Just be kind and gracious. People really do want to be there with you.

        I hope it goes beautifully well, and that your marriage will be forever joyful and enduring.


        1. Please remember…the day is not about you. It is about the people who are getting married. Their day, their desires and their dream. If it was such an inconvienience yoy should not have attended. Your children will only hear your whinings regarding how unfair the event was becoming. If you had taken a more positive attitude and displayed a joyous response because your brother was so happy that this day was occuring it could have turned out much different. Children learn and react by what they are exposed to. You could skype, facetime..whatever…Not your day, not your party. Stop whining!

      2. My fiance and I have no interest in having children at our wedding. We don’t like kids, don’t plan on having them ourselves and want our friends to have a night off. It has nothing to do with cost-effectiveness. Everyone knows this – we made it clear from the start and, to be honest, those with kids are looking forward to it. Also worth noting that we’re having an international wedding too – we’ll just recommend a few babysitters in the area. The people on here saying that’s selfish to want *your* day how *you* want it are the reason that there’s so many articles online for frazzled couples trying to navigate this situation which should be absolutely straight-forward.

  6. I think the invite sends a pretty clear message without actually saying no kids. If it says to Mr and Mrs Bloggs not Mr and Mrs Bloggs and kids then it is only the couple invited. I think they then can’t assume their kids are welcome and should rsvp with that question in mind if they would like their kids to come. I definitely don’t think it should turn into a huge drama as its not their wedding.

    1. You would not believe how incredibly dense people can be about how an invitation is addressed, especially in the Midwest, where I live. I had 8 year old and 9-year old nieces who were flower girls/junior bridesmaidS at my wedding and my husband had a barely 3 yr old god-daughter who was another flower girl. 8 and 9 years old is old enough to know how to ACT in public [at least it was 20 years ago], 3 years old not so much. I “invited” these 3 specifically and those of my/my husband’s immediate relatives; no other children’s names or “and Family” invites were sent. Yet there were at least two dozen kids at our wedding I had never laid eyes on. Who took over the dance floor, ate all the favors and tore around while their parents just enjoyed themselves.

      I’m only replying to this because I’m currently planning my husband’s Masonic Lodge installation of officers. It is a solemn occasion, the installation room and staging areas are full of antiquities and valuable items used in the ceremony, and it is no place for small children. Plus, seating is limited and we will be gaving a full sit-down dinner following the installation ceremony. There is no additional space or room to have a “kids’ area” or I would provide it with assistance of members of the Rainbow Girls.

      Most members of the Lodge know about the non-child-friendliness of most rooms in the Masonic center; unfortunately, non-Masonic guests may not. We have to stick to our guns this time on the “no kids” rule. We are not going to be responsible for ripped lambskin, broken officers’ jewels or other damage to Masonic property. As I type this, I have at least 3 kids under the age of 6 who fit that bill. With that in mind, the invitation will include the line “Regretfully, due to venue restrictions, children under the age of 14 cannot be accommodated”. Something like that. [13 is the usual majority age for Masonic youth programs]. Still working on it.

  7. Depends on your family makeup – we had children of siblings/close friends at the wedding. Family occasions always have children and weddings were no exception. But it depends on how they are & behave, and generally with my mum around – the grandkids behaved! My matron of honour was breastfeeding mum to four month old, so had to wait for 20 mins during photoshoots for her to feed baby.

    1. I think having wee nieces and nephews or friends with children does help soften engaged couples to the idea of kids at a wedding too Carol. I know pre-kids I was definitely a heap less sympathetic to how hard it is to arrange babysitters (especially if you have to go out of town for a wedding).

      I was a bridesmaid a couple of weeks ago and my wee boy went with grandma to watch us drive past in the wedding cars. He told me later “Jenna pretty, Mummy pretty”. Melts your heart.

  8. I am currently wedding planning with a 3y/o and a 3month old (They will be 5 & 2 when we get married). We are having a relatively child free wedding but are giving my sister and my sister in-law the option of bringing their children or not. Any non immediate family members or friends will be child free. I haven’t started working on invites yet as we are still fine tuning the guest list but I like the id a of putting a note into the invite to ask people that they leave their children with a child minder or non invited friend / family member.

    1. I think it’s fair enough to extend the invite to some kids and not others. It’s just like if you don’t want to invite someone’s random boyfriend that you’ve never met!

      You’ve got plenty of time for wedding invites, you don’t need to think about getting them till about 6-8 months before your big day 🙂 But I agree, adding a wee note should be sufficient. Being a Mum yourself, people might assume their kids can come along so you do want to be clear on who you’re inviting.

  9. My hubby and I welcomed children at the ceremony, and had an adults only reception. For most parents this was a good compromise, and because it was in my hometown there were plenty of grannies and aunties around to look after the children in the evening.

    A couple of exceptions were made for children from out of town, but on the whole most parents I talked to were happy about having the night off!

    I wouldn’t have done it if it limited too many people from attending, but because of the location and the fact there were only a handful of little ones in the family, it all worked out well.

    1. Yes I think the location plays a big part in whether it’s appropriate to expect kids to stay at home.

      We went to a wedding in Nelson at the end of last year and really struggled to find a babysitter for our 2.5 y.o. He was welcome to attend but we wanted to be able to have a few drinks and enjoy ourselves 🙂

  10. Before I had children, I wanted a child free wedding. I had no understanding that babies need their Mum, and young toddlers sometimes had never experienced being away from their folks, especially if you have no family support.

    Now a parent, I think you have to make the call – do you want your friend or relative to attend your wedding? If yes, some compromise may be necessary.

    I would take one of your exceptions further – any breastfeeding Mum must be treated as connected to her baby, not just to 6 months. My baby refused a bottle and her main feeding time was in the evening, so banning babies meant I could not attend.

    The other exception is your own blood relatives – are you really going to ban your own nieces and nephews? Think carefully about the repercussions of this before you make the call.

    One of the best weddings I went to had a children’s room – an experienced nanny to look after them, lots of games, toys, a TV and beds. The children could run around in the garden at the start, then for the serious bits younger kids could quietly disappear. There was a kid’s table for the meal for the older ones and parents could slip away to breastfeed or check on their charges.

    Just remember your next stage is likely to be as Mum of that squalling newborn – do you really want to be banned from your friend’s wedding?

    1. I think you’re right Kirstyn! A lot of the misgivings that brides share are to do with kids misbehaving or being noisy. My boy is coming up 3 and I wouldn’t take him where possible, just because I know he can act up/have tantrums. But many babies get “banned” from weddings when they 1. need to be with Mum for feeding and 2. aren’t particularly noisy.

      P.S. I used 6 months as a guideline in my post because I know pre-baby I had no idea about the ages and stages 🙂

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