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Should You Invite Children to Your Wedding or Not?

Years ago when I sent out my wedding invitations, a dear friend replied straight away that she would love to attend but only if the invite extended to her new partner’s 10-year-old daughter. I thought it was a bit cheeky especially as I’d never met the child but I wanted my friend to be there, so that was that. I remember seeing the girl on my big day looking fed up and as if she’d rather be anywhere else than at a stranger’s wedding.

We need to talk about the children

Concern about potential accidents

More recently, I met a mother of the bride who was organising her daughter’s wedding. The reception was going to be in a marquee in the grounds of the family home. The mother and daughter had decided that there would be no children at the wedding as they felt it would be less disruptive. The mother, in particular, was concerned that her treasured rockery would be trampled and she’d identified potential accident risks in a steep slope and an unfenced pond.

Whether to invite children to a wedding or not is a hotly debated topic. There’s no right or wrong answer and, ultimately, it is the bride and groom’s personal choice.

We need to talk about the children

Risk of alienating parents

There’s no doubt that when the invitations go out, some guests – like my friend – assume that they and their kids are the package deal and to say otherwise risks alienating parents. There are many reasons why children, particularly younger ones, aren’t welcome. One is that weddings are expensive celebrations and excluding children and young people helps keep costs down.
Others feel that children can be disruptive, especially during the service. Who wants noisy or screaming children drowning out the vows or running out of control during the reception?

Some couple say no to children or young people under the age of either 14 or 18, but it does open a hornet’s nest. While some guests with children are happy to have a day without their children, others will not come – and what do you do about nursing mums?

If you opt for a childfree wedding, you need to make it clear early on, perhaps when you send out the save-the-date cards. If your message is unclear or too subtle, it can lead to problems if the parents only find out at the last minute and are hard-pressed to make alternative arrangements or, worse, turn up with the children who have not been catered for!
On the invitations be simple and direct and there will be no confusion. Firstly, name the people on the invites and say either: ‘Sorry, no children’ or ‘Adult wedding and reception only’. If you want to sugar coat the message try saying: ‘In order to allow all our guests, including parents, an evening of relaxation, we have chosen for our wedding day to be an adults-only occasion.
We hope this means you are still able to share our big day and will enjoy the time off!’

Welcome time off

It’s not uncommon for wedding venues to specify no children, so if that’s the case, incorporate that in the wording, such as: ‘Due to restrictions at our venue, children under (put age limit) are not invited’. If you are happy for children to attend the ceremony but not the reception try: ‘Children welcome at the ceremony but the reception is adults-only’.
Another way of looking at it is that some parents may welcome time off to socialise. At Pippa Middleton’s wedding, you only had to see the Duchess of Cambridge grab hold of her active young children to stop them running off and herd the rest of the page girls and boys into the church to realise that’s it is hard work at weddings with little ones. It’s not at all a relaxing day for parents.

We need to talk about the children

Recommend baby-sitting options

For some parents, a wedding is the perfect excuse to let their hair down, have a few drinks, catch up with friends and enjoy a good dance. The problem is that when children are little the ceremony can be a tense affair – whether the cause is crying babies, a toddler needing the loo or, as I’ve witnessed, a baby being sick down the back of a guest in church.
Wiping noses, changing nappies, breastfeeding or feeding the children have to be done while trying to safeguard fabulous wedding clothes, socialise and dance. Teenagers come with a different agenda – our son has never forgiven us for travelling to a family wedding on his 17th birthday, although we’ve forgiven him for getting horribly drunk at the end of the wedding reception. All these pressures can make weddings feel like an indomitable challenge.

What do you do if you get a harsh reaction to your childfree zone policy? If you have a really angry guest on your hands and their happiness means a great deal to you, it’s a kind gesture to hire a babysitter to watch their children at home or in a hotel for the duration of the entire wedding. Or you could appear helpful by recommending baby-sitting options on your invite. If some parents are still awkward and upset then probably they shouldn’t come to your wedding. After all, you aren’t going to please everyone and that’s OK.

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