Ask The Kit Weddings is our bi-monthly column on wedding etiquette. Wedding expert Alison McGill tackles the pressing — sometimes uncomfortable — questions that everyone from the nearly married to the guests in attendance have on their minds. Send your questions to [email protected].
My fiancé and I have just started planning our fall wedding, and the subject of children attending our celebration has been brought up by both family and friends. We have many little ones in our social circle, and although we love them very much, we would like our formal evening wedding to be a child-free event. How do we make it clear to our guests that we want an adults-only wedding without offending anyone? —Kaitlin
Not including children in a wedding invitation is definitely a minefield. It is also something that absolutely must be communicated in a firm and non-negotiable way. Like many couples will tell you, sometimes entire families show up at your wedding when you were just waiting for the parents!
For advice on how to handle this problem, I called Katie Gregg, always a diplomat, event planner and director of Katie Gregg Events & Co. She says it’s essential to set clear intentions and stick to the boundaries on your wedding day. “It’s your day, and guests should understand and respect your wishes,” says Gregg. “Sometimes, even if a wedding invitation is specifically addressed to them, the parents think it is acceptable to bring the children with them. It doesn’t, and when it does, it can cause significant stress.
Read on for Gregg’s expert advice for dealing with children and your marriage.
Why do people bring their children to weddings when they obviously haven’t been invited?
“In my experience, most people don’t understand how hosting a whole family can affect the overall number of guests, budget, and formality of a wedding,” says Gregg. “You need to have discussions with the surrounding guests who will be invited to your wedding from the start, even if it means having an uncomfortable phone call before the invitations are sent out, so you can clarify any assumptions. If you’re hosting a destination wedding or just want to go above and beyond, consider arranging childcare for guests you know would have attended with young children. Communicating your dream wedding style from the start can also help your guests better understand why they can enjoy an evening without the kids. You might even receive a “thank you” after your wedding! »
Can you include a line in your invitation stating that you are having an adults only wedding?
“I always think you should lead with etiquette and clarity when it comes to your formal invitation,” Gregg says. “No detail should be left obscure to your guests. It starts with properly addressing your envelopes. If you have an inner envelope, this is a great place to include only the names of adults and do the same on the outer envelope. I suggest including a detailed insert to communicate important facts that you might not fit in your main invitation – this is where you can address the adults-only wedding stipulation. Keep your verbiage short Something as simple as “Please note this is an adults-only celebration” is perfect.
In your experience, what happens when wedding guests arrive with children who were not invited?
“I can tell you this is a time when panic sets in,” Gregg says. “Not only does this cause logistical problems, including not having assigned seats and not being included in the meal count, but it can also change the formal feeling the couple had hoped for and disappoint other guests who have respected the couple’s request. There is no easy way to communicate this to your guests.
A nice solution, however, might be to welcome their family at cocktail hour or the pre-dinner celebration, politely communicating that unfortunately the rest of the evening should remain adults-only. This gives your guests some time to start having fun and coming up with a childcare plan for their little ones for the evening portion of the event. Or, alternatively, you can welcome them back for the evening portion, letting them know that their seats will be warmed up while they decide. Having a wedding planner who can put out the most intense fires on the wedding day will be a saving grace in this situation. We act as a voice and can have those tough conversations, so you don’t have to worry!
Let’s pivot slightly and talk about having children as part of your wedding party. Adorable but also stressful!
“I love the little ones as part of a wedding ceremony – the darling outfits, the endearing walk down the aisle, the cuteness of it all – and while they can be a wonderful addition, they can also add a another layer of stress. They need to be organized, their parents need to be ready for an emergency, and if they’re staying for the rest of the party, they need to be entertained. I love the trend of unique gifts or favors at seats younger guests: coloring books, games, select gift boxes, kraft paper linens for doodling Fun menu ideas like kids buffets or even designating fun tasks like a planned confetti throw can be a hit for keep the little ones happy and more importantly occupied.