"To be (included) or not to be (included)...THAT is the question!"
When it comes to children on your wedding day, there are basically three choices for you:
Say 'yes' to the kiddos.
Inform your guests via your wedding website (not invitations) that it's an adults-only event.
Hire a child care service either at the reception site in an adjacent room or in an alternative nearby location such as a hotel room with hired, experienced sitters.
It's a delicate subject when you tell someone that their precious little ones are not invited to your adults-only event!
Be prepared...someone will get upset about your 'adults only event'! Expect that some guests just don't understand. And no matter how clear you think you are, you may still get some emails or phone calls asking "Can I bring little Johnny?" Be firm, but polite! Take a stand and stick to it! Then, don't let no-shows upset you or ruin your special day. Focus on the people who are celebrating with you, rather than the ones that aren't.
So that you don't have angry guests, it is very wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others! But, you can get away with allowing the children who are in the bridal party.
Here are some of the main reasons most couples have to remove kids from the guest lists:
Cost--some couples are on a very tight budget. Some families have a lot of kids and each plate adds up...even kids' plates! The couple just can't afford all the little ones. Those who don't understand have most likely never had to host and pay for a per person affair.
There will be drinking at the reception. A lot of people do not feel it is an appropriate environment for kids.
It's a late night event.
As a parent myself, I've always thought that if an event was very late into the night I would assume parents would know not to bring the children and a babysitter was needed. But, there goes that word...assume...gets you in trouble every time! If you go to a nightclub, you don't expect to take your kids there. As a rule of thumb, if the wedding is in the late evening or is very formal, inviting kids are not appropriate.
Inviting children to the wedding but not the reception is a logistical nightmare for parents. They are now tasked with having to transport the little ones home or somewhere else in between services. If you're going to have a kid-free ceremony, make both the ceremony and reception kid-free. But if you insist, here is some suggested wording for your invites:
Children are welcome at the ceremony only.
Wedding ceremony followed by adult-only reception.
Children are very welcome to attend the ceremony, but the reception is an adults-only affair.
Here are a few ways to inform your guests whether or not there will be children at your event:
With children -
Address your envelopes properly. To ensure clarity of the invited guests, write out the names of all invited guests on the inner envelope of the invitations.
Include child care service information in RSVP cards for the special day for children.
Put a note on your wedding website, such as "We know your kids are awesome, but due to space restrictions we cannot accommodate guests under age 18 (or whatever age limit you decide) on our wedding day."
Omit the kids' names from the inner envelope if they are not invited. Address your attendees' inner envelope with the exact names of those invited to your wedding (excluding the little ones). Do not put 'and Family' on the outer envelope.
Have an RSVP card that says: "We have reserved 2 seats for you. How many guests will attend? 1 or 2 (circle one)" With two adult names listed on the envelopes, this obviously only includes them, not the kids.
You should make a courtesy call to all families with children to explain to them whether kids will be invited or not. If you are arranging child care services, it is a great way to assure them that their child will be well taken care of at the wedding and reception and to get a final count for the day care service.
Come up with an age limit, such as no guests under 14 or 16...and stick to it!
Writing 'Adults Only' on your invitation is easiest but it is a definitely NO in the wedding etiquette world.
Make sure you debrief your immediate family members and wedding party about no kids in case they are asked.
Here is a very helpful script when you have to make phone calls to families with kids:
"Sorry, but we tried our best to explain in the invitations that we are unable to accommodate children. We hope that you can still come and celebrate the day with us. (If they say yes they're coming) Great, we look forward to see you and (any other adult names) there. (If not coming) So sorry, well you will definitely be missed.
Consider your event and your activities...children may not necessarily be comfortable there either! There are all types of opportunities for the little ones to get in trouble or to cause disruptions in the special day...playing under the table, playing with their food, sneaking candy, touching people's clothing with their sticky cake-iced fingers, kicking someone's chair, etc. Remember, kids get bored easily and have very short attention spans...so if they are invited remember to include some fun activities for them also.
Most parents will understand your decision and happily find a sitter for their date night! The trouble comes when your event is out-of-town and spans over a long weekend. That's when it's best to consider the child care services option for your out-of-towners! The 'no kids allowed' request works best when the majority of the guests are local.
If you decide to hire a child care service, here is some helpful advice:
There are professional event child care services to take care of the little ones. Look up those in your area. Ensure they are highly experienced, certified, and trained! Many offer military discounts.
There should be one sitter for every four or five kids.
Ask the caterer to prepare a special meal for the kids, such as chicken strips, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.
Have a Disney movie to show.
Have age-appropriate games available.
Call your child care "the Children's Reception". Have music playing for them to dance.
Have bubbles and balloons.
If you have the budget, hire a magician or a balloon artist.
Have art supplies, coloring books, crayons, etc. on the kids' tables.
Also, there are some venues that do not allow children. This makes your decision very easy. If that is the case, just add a note in your invitation saying:
Due to restrictions at our venue, children are not invited.
Our venue's management request no children under 16 (or whatever age).
Regrettably, children are unable to attend (per our reception venue management).
Enjoy your day whatever you decide!