Touchy Topics: It's OK Not to Invite Kids, but Anticipate the Consequences
As a newly minted bride-to-be, one of my first breakdowns came at the realization that I maybe, probably didn't want to include children in our wedding and that was likely to cause a problem when the news broke. While in the throes of wedding planning, I chose to stay firm in mine and my now-husband's decision. We were looking at the possibility of around 30 children and that seemed overwhelming. Our wedding was scheduled for the late evening after most kids are in bed and we had far too many kids in that typical flower girl and ring bearer age range to single out one or two to be in the ceremony.
There are plenty of reasons to make a decision about whether or not you plan to include the short stacks and they're all good ones because they're yours. It really is that simple. Saying kids are welcome will bring you a lot less flak than saying no, thank you, but about six months before the big day, I wrote about some basic tips to make the process easier.
Be clear, honest and upfront.
I’ve read etiquette suggestions that insist any wording on the invite explaining children are not invited is in poor taste and the communication should be left to your wedding party/parents or hinted at through addressing only the adults on the invitation envelope. You may have to lean on friends and family to mediate for you (thanks, Mom!), but depending on them wholly to communicate something that isn’t always going to be well-received makes me feel uncomfortable. I also hate hints. My fiance and I are opting to include an information card with, among other pertinent information, a line that gently explains that we respectfully request this be an adults-only event. We’re still fidgeting with the actual wording.
Explain head count constraints.
Weddings are expensive, #duh. One of the biggest ways to keep your budget in check is to limit the head count. Ours is 125 and we both have huge families that we actually like and see on a regular basis. Bam. 90 guests right there. If we make space available for 30 children — most of whom we rarely see — we’re going to have to leave off at least 20 friends who’ve been around to cheers us, take our pictures, high-five us and otherwise support and nurture our relationship in a practical day-to-day way. We feel more inclined to celebrate with these people than children who usually hide behind a parent’s leg and blush when we say hello.
Blame it on the venue.
It’s right there in our contract: “Children must not be permitted to run, jump or climb within the 22 acres of the venue.” There’s a rolling green field and rock terraces and TREES. Basically, temptation to do ALL OF THOSE THINGS is everywhere! Truthfully, this wasn’t one of those “oops” things we overlooked before signing. I pointed it out and we exchanged a wide-eyed nod, knowing it would be something we could use in the future.
Now that I'm about six months on the other side of the wedding, it's fair to share the results of our choices. While we had a relaxed and fairly intimate evening, there were some ramifications that couples may want to consider before they take a hard stance.
People were mad.
Like, real mad, y'all. From threats to bring the children anyway to one guest calling my mother repeatedly trying to bypass our request for an adults-only night, there was a lot of tension and some of that translated to interactions on the night. I knew it was a probability when we made the choice, but honestly, I wasn't as upset as I had anticipated. Nevertheless, the anger was still there.
Some people stayed home.
I have to admit, I was a little taken aback when I walked out into the chapel to take my stroll down the aisle and noticed the number of empty seats. There were a lot of people who declined our invitation (most without an RSVP) and cited staying home with the kiddos as the reason they chose not to attend.
They also left early.
I had imagined an evening where couples would take the night off and leave the kids with other family members or trusted sitters and dance to their heart's content. That's not exactly what happened. We intentionally cut the cake early in our reception because it started so late, but it wasn't the senior citizens getting out of town. A good deal of our friends and family with younger kids had to say goodbye shortly after we got a chance to say hello.
Would I have changed anything? No. I still hold by my original belief that it was kinder to exclude children than invite them to a late evening wedding geared around adult activities. Truthfully, I had a lot of support, much of it from people who have their own kids, but there are typically at least two sides to every decision.
When it comes your time to make the choice, remember that it really is your choice, but everyone weighs the various factors differently. We're also here to help you along. Whether it's consulting on how to word your invitations or some day-of help managing any guest that wants to give you grief, having our Wedding Day Superhero Christen on your side will make those snags and stumble completely surmountable. Let us know what we can do to help make your day extra special!