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Wedding Etiquette: How to Tell Your Guests That Children Aren't Invited

Emma Goddard Published by Emma Goddard
Published on May 27, 2015

Celebrating the union of the ones you love, dancing to “Cupid Shuffle” at least once, and taking advantage of the open bar are all hallmarks of a good wedding. It’s a day where everyone puts their worries behind them and enjoys their time with friends and family. Yet if you're the married couple-to-be, being able to revel in all that glory on the big day requires significant planning.

Whether that means getting the color scheme right or ensuring the catering is immaculate, there are a lot of things that can get messy before the wedding. Unfortunately, this yields to some pretty stressful situations.

Yet of all the things that could possibly go wrong, having guests complain about being unable to invite their children might be the worst of all. It complicates everything. It's a dilemma that many brides and grooms experience before they get hitched. So it's important to know exactly how to handle something like this should the situation arise.

How to Address the Invitations

While it’s certainly important to make sure your guests are clear as to who and who isn’t invited, it’s a major faux pas to acknowledge the no-children policy on your wedding invitations, according to Author and Spokesperson for Emily Post Institute, Lizzie Post.

​“The way you handle that is children’s names do not appear on the invitation,” Post said. “What you don’t want to do is put ‘No children’ or ‘Adults only, please’; It’s unnecessary. It basically takes the focus off your inviting the family and puts it right to your concern of having children there.”

Unfortunately however, not everyone gets the message and in fact, there are guests who tend to assume that if they’re invited then their kids are too. Post has said that it’s even common for those same guests to add their children’s names to the RSVP card.

​So instead, Sharon Naylor, author of over 35 wedding books, including The Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette, advises creating a wedding website to make things clear.

"In the past, guests ‘got it’ when their invitation arrived addressed to just Mr. and Mrs. ____ without any mention of the kids on the outer or inner envelope," Naylor said. "But that etiquette rule seems to need some backup to make it crystal-clear to guests. Some may be unclear about the rules of the invitation envelope, and some may think the rules don’t apply to them."

Naylor notes how the bride and groom should write out a clear message on their personal wedding website that let's guests know that the event will be adults-only. She also recommends creating a script for yourself when pushy guests call to ask if they can bring their children.

"You may hear, ‘We don’t want to leave our kids with a sitter’ and other reasoning, which puts you in a tough spot," Naylor said. "But you have to stand your ground, because if you let one couple bring their kids, everyone else will hear about it, and be mad on the wedding day.​"

Hiring a Babysitter

Even if you choose not to have children at your wedding, it's always a good idea to have a babysitter or two on hand. Should a scenario arise that someone extremely close to you (say, your own sibling or best friend) really can't attend unless they can bring their child, you can still have a kid-free reception by having someone take care of your guests' children elsewhere.

"I always suggest to people who are having adults-only weddings that they hire a babysitter or two either to be at the reception or a location very close to it," Post said. "Or to provide names of local baby sitters they trust should [the guests] need to travel, and that can be on the wedding website."

This way, according to Post, you're sending an extremely straightforward message but also providing an alternate option for those with children. Additionally, having a babysitter on call will be helpful should any guest choose to bring along their little ones against your wishes.

Don't Give In

So for days, even months up to the wedding, someone has been begging you to allow her child to attend. Perhaps she truly can't stand to be away from her son or daughter, or maybe she can't find a babysitter. You think, "Well, maybe I'll let this one child come because this is my sister's kid we're talking about after all." Don't do it.

While it's still your day, a huge offense you could make at your wedding is allowing certain children into the ceremony and reception and not others.

"People get very offended when other people’s kids are favored, while their kids are left out," Naylor said. "If they see some friends allowed to bring their kids and they or others not allowed, that’s definitely a faux pas. Now, there are some instances where super pushy guests just bring their kids along without them being invited (or expressly told not to bring the kids) and there’s nothing you can do about it."

Unless the only children at your wedding are those who happened to be in the bridal party (flower girls, ring bearers, etc.), make no exceptions.

"If [there are children] in your wedding party, they really do need to be invited to the reception, along with their parents," Naylor shared. "It’s up to the parents if they want to take the kids out of the reception and deliver them home or to the babysitter in the hotel room if the kids are bored or tired."

Did you have children at your wedding? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!

This article was written by Emma Goddard. Follow her on Twitter @egoddardhokie.

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