How to Have a Child-free Wedding and Not Loose Friends (or Your Mind)
“I love kids, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t see the point in paying $40 for a plate of food that they won’t even eat.”
“I just want my guests to enjoy themselves, and not be worried about their kids!”
“There’s going to be alcohol, and I’d rather not have children be in that environment. How to I ask for the kids to stay home?”
Asking about how to pull off a child-free wedding is one of the most common questions I get as a planner. If it’s fair to guests to ask that they keep the kids home, how to word it on an invitation, or what to do if so-and-so says they won’t come if their kid isn’t allowed. Because it’s such a grey area relating to wedding planning, I hope this little guide helps you make this part of planning clear-cut, and helps keep your sanity through the process!
One of the first things you need to do when you decide to have a child-free wedding is to make sure that those closest that have children to you are informed. They will assume one way or another, but it is always better to tell someone in person the correct information beforehand so that they can make arrangements rather than to spring it upon them last minute, and cause a headache for you. In the event that someone is upset (and is vocal) about the fact you’re not allowing children, stick to your guns and reasoning, but do not feel that you have to explain yourself beyond “We just don’t want children at the wedding”.
Once the important parties are informed, be conscious of how to word it on your invitations and all references guests will use (like websites). The best way to do is on a details card or at the bottom of your invitation, with the wording “Adult reception to follow the ceremony”. Be sure to word this based on the formality of your wedding as well to keep the style consistent (talk to your paper goods vendor about suggestions and recommendations as well). If you feel that it won't capture attention and inform guests enough, or even if attendees include their children on the RSVP, do not hesitate to call them and let them know of the situation.
Now, what do you do if…
You have conflicts with parents who have a newborn or small children that they don’t feel comfortable leaving alone. To be honest, there’s not a whole lot you can do; you either stick to the rule no children allowed, or start making exceptions to that rule (and risk having children at your wedding). You must leave the decision up to them, regardless of how important they may mean to you and to have them there. If they feel the same way about your friendship, then I think they can compromise on having an adult night out to celebrate and leave the baby at home.
You experience issues from individuals who are paying for the wedding. This can be a delicate subject, as you want what you want, but you feel obligated to follow the rules or wants of those who are contributing financially to the wedding. These individuals would be the first I would talk to and bring up the idea of a child free wedding. I recommend telling them of costs associated, crying, and the risk associated with drinking adults. If they suggest hiring a sitter or two for the reception to take care of children, then the whole game plan has changed, and will be a totally separate scenario (and logistics regarding liability, insurance, background checks…).
People who are important to you and your fiancé, but aren’t contributing financially. I would say approach these folks the same way as you would with Parents of Newborns, as they both require the same stick-to-your reasons. If they are contributing to the guest list count though, ask bluntly if they would like to contribute towards anything else. I would tactfully remind them that you are managing a wedding, looking at it from all angles, and really would just like to enjoy the day without children.
The aforementioned advice may sound a little harsh, yes, even to myself as I write this out. But the fact of the matter is that children may be an additional cost you don’t want, potentially endanger them if parents over indulge at your wedding, and when you want everyone to be present and involved during the ceremony and reception otherwise occupy them. I love having family and friends together to celebrate and seeing children present at weddings, but more often than not, they do take the focus away from being present and enjoying the wedding day, and worrying about all the What If’s.
Now, if despite all of this, children do still end up at your wedding, my biggest piece of advice is to breathe and let it go. There is nothing you can do at that time to change it, except to make sure they are acknowledged as guests at your wedding. They will (mostly) enjoy being there, hopefully won’t cause a scene, and the parents will know immediately the faux pas they made when they notice other children aren’t present. Overall, don’t stress over it. There are other more important things that should have your attention that day (like the look on your new spouse’s face when they see you for the first time, or the tears and laughter you’re sharing with your party).
Do you struggle with making these kinds of decisions, or maybe have a unique situation? Feel free to write about it in the comments below, I would love to help and offer advice on how to resolve them!