Childfree Weddings

Parentdish has asked if kids should be banned from weddings.  “Etiquette” expert Diana Mather says that… …”excluding kids isn’t rude at all.” But what is the best way to make it clear it’s going to be an adult only affair?

Mather is right on when she says “weddings are expensive and children can disrupt the service with their squeaks and squawks and generally cause chaos.”  I know about this first hand.

When I got married, I would have preferred it to be an adult only affair, but to keep the peace with my husband-to-be’s family, I agreed to having my brother and sister in law bring their kids.

What I predicted happened–one baby niece at the time began wailing during the ceremony! Thank goodness the parents took her away before we had to ask them to!

I have to say though, after that, the kids were not a chaotic addition to the event. In fact, the post-wedding party included a lip sync contest (yes, really!) and my sister-in-law and nephew ended up doing a a lip sync so memorable it’s one thing a lot of people who were there still talk about today.

In any case, kids coming to a wedding are a risk factor. If you want to exclude them, Mather’s says the best way to do this is–not put childrens’ names on the wedding invitation or don’t put the words “and family” after the names of the people you are inviting.

While Mathers says it is uncool to bring kids anyway if the invite is worded either of these ways, I am not sure that this wording would make it clear to all people that it is an adult only event. Why? Because people with kids are more apt to assume that if they are invited so are their kids.

To be sure, like some who weighed in on Families of Two & Beyond facebook page, it seems somewhere on the invite printed or handwritten, should be verbiage like “Adult-only Ceremony & Reception.”  Doing something like this is more common these days than when I got married, but I’m not sure it’s more accepted.

Well, maybe if it’s a royal wedding…besides the ring bearers, do you think William and Kate’s wedding ceremony included children on the guest list? I would guess not. Many people still see wedding as when whole families gather, from the youngest to the oldest.  Others say it is your day, do it the way you want, and if the invitees don’t like it, they don’t have to come.

Childfree out there, if you are married, how did you do your wedding?

18 thoughts on “Childfree Weddings

  1. We kept our guest list very small – maybe 20 people (including parents and siblings.)
    My significant other’s youngest sibling was 13 at the time. She was the youngest person in attendance.

    If I was going to get married again and wanted a childfree wedding I would schedule it in the evening and serve alcohol at the reception. Most parents probably aren’t going to bring young children to a ceremony that begins at, say, 8 pm and at least some wouldn’t want their kids around alcohol.

    I’m not sure if saying “adults only” on an invitation is considered good etiquette these days? It wasn’t in the (admittedly _extremely_ child-centric) community I was raised in.

    What do you all think?

    1. Lydia, re the etiquette of saying “adults only” not totally sure, but I sure hear from lots of cf that do something like this when they send invies out…~L

  2. My husband and I had a tiny wedding, too. In part to avoid family squabbles about the adult guest list and in part to avoid this issue as well. The only child there at all was my oldest niece (at the time, I believe she was eight), but we have always been very close. She was wonderful the entire time and made the day that much more special. It would have been hard to avoid children (badly behaved children at that, due to some of my cousins’ kids) with a larger wedding. Well…it would have been hard to avoid badly behaved adults with a larger wedding, too. 😉

  3. Like Lydia, we had a very small wedding (25 guests), mostly immediate family, which does not include any small children. Fortunately, it was not necessary for us to say anything on the invitation.

    An extremely awkward thing happened about a month before the wedding, though. My cousin, who is about 15 years older than I am, sent me an email. Due to the age gap and many other factors, I was not very close to him or his wife and kids. Even though they only lived about five minutes away, we only saw each other about once a year or so and only when other family members were in town. We didn’t invite any of our aunts, uncles, or cousins, since my family is so big and we felt like if we invited one we’d have to invite them all and the guest list would have quadrupled in size.

    Anyway, he sent me an email asking if he and his family could come to the wedding and if his daughter could be our flower girl. Needless to say, I was completely floored. I’m embarrassed to say that I never actually responded to the email, I just couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Later I found out that my grandmother told him they could come to the wedding, but they never did show up. We moved across the country a few days after the wedding and (not surprisingly) haven’t heard from him since. I felt pretty bad about the whole thing, because I always wanted to be a flower girl growing up, but as an adult I look back and feel thankful that my parents had the tact not to ask people if I could be in their weddings!

  4. We had children there. Wasn’t a problem. Well, except the disposable cameras got used mostly by the kids so the photos were . . . interesting. 🙂

  5. We had a large (?) wedding… about 115 guests. We very deliberately wanted no children at the wedding, and we did get some push-back about that, mostly from family. I had a lot of younger cousins at the time (this is 5 years ago, now), and didn’t want the possibility of disruption.

    Our decision to do this was reinforced recently at another cousin’s wedding. Many of those cousins who were children when my husband and I got married are teenagers now. Three of the girls (one of whom is 13!) proceeded to take advantage of getting served at the open bar, and made an embarrassing mess of themselves. Now, they weren’t much worse off than many of the guests – including their father! – but this wasn’t the kind of wedding my husband and I wanted. The antics of these kids really made us glad of our decision five years ago.

  6. We childfree have some more work to do when it comes to wordsmithing. I think we need to change the connotation of the phrase “adults only,” which to me still sounds like something X-rated. “Adults Only Wedding” sounds like there will be some sort of public consummation as part of the ceremony. Is there a better phrase out there?

  7. We just said “Adult ceremony and reception” on the reception info and reply cards, as a gentle (if possibly x-rated!) reminder of the nature of the event. It worked! We didn’t even have anyone ask if they could be the exception (to my knowledge, they may have asked our parents…)

    I will say, on the other end of the invitation spectrum, I regret not inviting all the parents of our attendants… We barely knew some of them, but should have invited them anyways.

  8. My husband and I didn’t want any children at our wedding – although I would have rather liked to invite my second cousin’s children because I do known them fairly well and they are well behaved, great kids – in the end we decided that we had to limit the wedding to over 18’s only (in Australia, where I live, 18 is the age of legal adulthood). We had to do this to keep the size of the guest list down and to ensure that parents of children that we didn’t want to invite wouldn’t be offended as it was a blanket rule for everyone.

    We communicated our over 18’s only intention to our close family so that they could reiterate this to extended family. Friends weren’t a problem as most of our friends don’t have children, although one of my friends did have to bring her young baby, but that was fine as she is a close friend and a good mother and the baby was a dream the whole day and night, also we did know that the baby would have to attend when we invited them – she was to be the only concession to our rule. To let our guests know that only adults were invited, we wrote only the adult’s names on the invitations (as Mather has suggested).

    However there was a slight hiccup at our wedding which ruined my childfree dreams of the day. My husband’s cousin ended up bringing her two young children to the ceremony because she could not find a babysitter (this despite the fact that she had previously told us that she had a babysitter all lined up for the day). We really had no say in her bringing her children to the ceremony as we couldn’t turn around and tell her not to bother coming if the children had to tag along!! However she did have the courtesy not to bring them to the reception, which unfortunately meant that she had to go home with them after the ceremony.

    Fortunately the children were quiet during the ceremony, however we ended up with several photos of the little girl in our photography selection – our photographer couldn’t know that even my husband had never met either child before our wedding day and neither of us can even remember their names! In fact we still haven’t seem them since and our wedding was 9 months ago – as they were the only children there, she assumed we must be close to them… I did find that irritating, however one must let these things go and be grateful that at least they were well behaved, and both my husband and I like their parents so we didn’t want to potentially cause a family rift.

    1. Re the hiccup–I love how parents Still think they can bring their kids if they can’t find a babysitter! Seems the respectful thing to have done is to talk to you beforehand and be willing to bow out of coming if that was your preference. To just show up I think was disrespectful of your day and is a great example of the on-the-ground question this month..a situation that exemplifies “kids first” !

  9. My husband and I had a tiny (less than 30 people) cf wedding 18 months ago. We coped by finding a babysitter for our niece and nephews. The kids and sitter stayed in a hotel suite with movies, pizza, and games, while the adults had dinner and an open bar downstairs. In my experience, only using adults’ names on the invitation and serving alcohol won’t deter people from bringing their kids. We did have some drama related to excluding kids, but overall it was less disruptive than tired, cranky children would have been! Keeping the event small and providing a recommended sitter were key. The kids had fun, too- they wouldn’t have liked the dinner/reception anyway.

  10. When we were married, the family of my husband was horrified that I was very forthright in not wanting children at either the ceremony or the reception.

    I explained my reasoning and I suspect they were even more horrified! I simply stated politely that I felt children would be noisy during the service, and disruptive at the reception, because children tend to be active and noisy. Apparently, this was the first they’d ever heard of someone not adoring each and every attribute of children.

    Sister-in-law ended up bringing her three to the church on the day, because “they’d be so disappointed not to see their uncle married” (at ages 2, 4 and 5? really?) Luckily they were only minimally noticeable. I still wasn’t best pleased, but at least they didn’t cry or talk loudly during the vows (my worst fear).

    I do wonder why a parent’s or child’s “need” would trump the bride and grooms wishes?

    1. Excellent question. It totally amazes me that even after being very clear relatives would bring their kids anyway–but then when you think of pronatal assumption that “kids comes first” well there you go…..

  11. This is a timely question for me as I am getting married in 5 months time. We also don’t want young children at our reception, although we are having just our immediate young nieces and nephews to the ceremony as flowergirls and pageboys. After that they are going to my sisters house to be babysat. It is only a small wedding of 35 people. At first the older nieces and nephews were not going to be invited because there is 6 of them and they take up a large part of the reception. My sisters and my mother were disappointed and in the end I gave in. My mother is paying for all the reception, so that is OK. The youngest is 14 so they are good kids (except for the oldest who is narcissistic and does like to steal the show a little). My mother is also giving me a hard time because she wants them to bring their boyfriends and girlfriends, but this we have put our foot down on. We don’t know them (and neither will they in a few months I am sure).

    In regards to the other guests, there is 3 other couples with young kids. I have/am going to speak with each couple about the arrangement. I believe in being frank and honest. I don’t want to put “adult only” or anything on the invitation. As mentioned I think it sounds a bit lewd and that we are child haters.

    One couple have had plenty of warning and are bringing their babysitter with them to the hotel. He did keep checking with us though that it was defiantly no children. I am yet to speak to the other couples. For one of them it may be just too hard as they live interstate and have 4 kids. I will leave that up to them. The other couple I know will push me, pleading that they can’t afford a babysitter etc. This is going to be tricky and I am not looking forward to it. My fiance says I may be surprised. Will keep you posted on the outcome.

    1. First, Mrs. Flowerpot, Congratulations. with a small wedding it seems that talking to the parent parties beforehand is a bit more feasible than if it the wedding uest list was long. Still, sounds like some arrangements are riskier than others. Yes, please report back! I am curious–will you change your “Mrs Flowerpot” name ;)? ~L

  12. I feel that children are over-indulged anymore. Parents do not want to say “no” and crush their little spirits. During the interium, all the adults around are forced to deal with these horrible children.

    Parents, just because, to you, your children are “special snowflakes” that should be adored by all, does not mean that everybody else feels the same way.

    My thoughts are if a parent feels slighted that their children are not welcomed at a wedding, they are the parents that cannot or will not control their children.

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