How to Throw a No-Kids-Allowed Wedding

And have your parent friends still love you

View through a large doorway into a wedding reception

When I first approached writing about kid-free weddings, I was all, “La la la, obviously everyone knows weddings without kids are totally fine, let’s talk about making your parent friends comfortable… if you care.” But then I realized that not everyone thinks that child-free weddings are cool, so let’s backtrack a little.

First, the obvious: kids can be a joy at your wedding, and weddings can be a great way to celebrate with a multi-generational community. That said, there are times where it just doesn’t work to have kids at your wedding. If you’ve decided to have a no kid wedding, you probably have your reasons, and I’m betting “hating children” is not among them. Chief Revenue Officer Maddie, one of the most kid-obsessed people I know, had a (mostly kinda) kid-free wedding, simply because they had a 250-person guest list without kids. Which goes to show that weddings without kids can happen for reasons you might not immediately think of.

So now you need to plan this thing. The first question worth asking yourselves honestly (the honest answer is not to be repeated outside the four walls of your home) is this: Do we care if the parents on our guest list attend? It’s possible the answer is no. Maybe the only parent on your guest list is your super annoying cousin, and if she ends up staying home with her out of control children, you’re fine with it. If that’s the case, read point number one, and then go take a nap. But let’s assume you do really hope the parents on your guest list come. Then read on, because this post is for you.

What follows are our best possible tricks for getting your parent friends in the door, spit-up- and toy-free.

1. Let everyone know ABout the Child-free thing early.

The time to let people know that your wedding is going to be adults only is when you send out your save the dates. Nothing is quite as much fun as someone planning a trip around your wedding, or getting their kids super excited about seeing you get married, only to have them realize six weeks before the wedding when the invitations go out that they can’t bring the kids. Yes, technically, if kids are not included in address on the save the date or invitation, they’re not invited. But in reality, A) people throw out the envelope without reading it carefully, and B) people with small children are used to family mail still being addressed to them as a duo. So you need to have a more obvious approach.

Opinions vary on this, but if you have just a few parent friends, I tend to be a fan of the one-on-one email, or phone call, or even text. Something along the lines of, “It’s black tie, and we’re not having kids, but let us know if there is anything we can do to help out with little Johnny.” However, if you have a lot of parent friends, this approach is too time consuming or might otherwise not be practical. In that case, I suggest something gentle but obvious. A wedding website is a great place for this information, because you can expand it beyond NO KIDS PLEAZ, to “Since we have huge extended families, we’ve chosen to limit our guest list to fourteen-year-olds and over, and we hope you understand. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help.” As we always say at APW, your job is to communicate your needs and expectations around the wedding as clearly and kindly as possible. Once you do that, people will make their own choices.

2. Are your guests local, or not?

If most of your guests are local, having an adults-only wedding is going to be relatively straightforward for most parents in the crowd. Sure, some of them simply won’t be able to make it, but most of them will be able to call a trusted sitter, or drop the kids off with family, dress up, and enjoy a night on the town. However, if you have parent friends that would need to come in from out of town for your wedding, the situation is decidedly more complicated. While some parents may be able to leave their kids with someone else and come to the wedding, it’s best to assume that this isn’t an option for everyone (particularly families of small children). Check with individual families, but it’s wise to assume that at least some people will have their kids with them when they travel.

3.Provide childcare Information.

If friends are traveling to your child-free wedding with kids in tow, that means they need to find childcare that they trust in a probably unfamiliar city. Then, they’re going to have to negotiate leaving their kids with strangers, in a new place (quite possibly at night, when kids tend to be the most clingy). For some parents and kids that’s going to be no big deal, and for other families it’s going to be difficult. (Clingy stages come and go… for parents and kids.)

To maximize parental attendance, it’s helpful to come up with a list of trusted childcare providers who can come to the hotel, campsite, church, or wherever where the wedding is being held. Provide this list (or let people know you will be providing this list) as early as possible. This is a great use of your wedding website. As a parent, it helps to know that someone who knows the area has vetted the childcare recommendations, and you’re not leaving your kid with someone the hotel concierge found out of the phonebook.

The extra credit option is to offer onsite childcare. Only you will know if this is right for your wedding. And it mostly will depend on if you have enough parents that would like it and use it. This doesn’t just provide care, it also means the kids will have company (often good in an unfamiliar environment), and will be nearby in case of an (probably minor) emergency.

4.consider making a (possibly nursing) mother of an infant exception.

If you have any new (and possibly nursing) mothers in the crowd, consider bending the no-kid rule for those moms. (This, happily, is pretty standard etiquette.) New motherhood is isolating, and if you can avoid your girlfriend having to sit out a wedding because the baby won’t take a bottle, do it. Don’t worry about other parents being upset. “She’s nursing, and it’s the only way she could come,” is explanation enough.

Beyond that, have a conversation with your partner about how flexible you want to be. Maddie’s rule that people who ask to bring their kids can is obviously the maximum flexibility. But there are other ways you might be asked to be flexible. Are you okay with parents bringing their kids if childcare falls through at the last minute, or would you rather they skip out with less than twenty-four hours notice? If a toddler with the hotel sitter has a meltdown, are you okay with mom or dad bringing him in for a quick cuddle during the toasts? If you have a flower girl or a ring bearer, are they invited to the reception? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it’s best to have early conversations about where your own boundaries are.

parent of two pro-tip: If a wedding is generally child-free, but someone needs to bring their kid because they are nursing/childcare fell through/they’re actually in the wedding party, as another parent, I don’t care. It’s not going to make me mad, because I know how hard this parenting gig is. That means two things: one, make exceptions if you need to; and two, if you decide to hold a firm line, blame yourself, not other parents. (“I’d love to let you, but I think the other parents would just be so mad,” always earns you side eye. Because as a parent it sounds to me like you just threw your parent friends under the bus so that you didn’t have to stand by your own choice.)

5. Don’t have your wedding at the zoo, and please have babies at brunch.

It’s relatively easy to explain to a kid why they won’t be coming to Auntie Beth’s 9 p.m. cocktail reception at the museum. It’s noticeably tricker to explain that you’re not invited to Auntie Beth’s balloon-themed wedding at the zoo. While you can have a child-free wedding anywhere, think about your location and timing. If you feel like kids in your life might have hurt feelings, talk to them, and promise a trip to the zoo to see the llamas soon.

And finally, if your wedding is a non-local affair for some of your guests, they’ll understand that the kids are not coming to the wedding and reception. But if you’re hosting additional events (a welcome dinner, a brunch), parents will probably need to bring their kids to that. If it’s an adults-only weekend, make that clear up front, and expect lower attendance from the parents in the crowd.

In Short…

The reality of having an adults-only wedding is that some people won’t be able to come. They might have unreliable childcare, or a kid going through separation anxiety, or they might just be too damn tired to make other arrangements. That’s fine. You’re wedding, after all, is not an imposition, and people are going to decide if attending works for them. The goal (as always) is to maximize the attendance of people you love, and hurt as few feelings as possible. How to do that? Well, the same way you should do everything wedding related. Talk to people. Don’t apologize for your choices, but try not to be too rigid either. If there are llamas, invite everyone. And always, always be extra nice to brand new mothers.

For those of you who are having kids at your wedding, see: How to Have a Parent-Friendly Wedding.

For those of you who didn’t have kids (or don’t want kids) at your wedding, how did you make it work? Parents, what does it take to make a child-free wedding work for you?

This post originally Ran on APW in October 2014.

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  • Nora

    This is giving me flashbacks…My husband and I pretty much did everything we could to cater to them without making ourselves miserable (both of us are stressed out by children who aren’t teens), but like 70% of our guests who are parents were absolutely unbearable about this…maybe that was just our luck. Most were from in town, but we still let everyone know by phone when we sent save-the-dates and again with invites and of course stressed that we completely understand if they can’t leave their kids. For out of town guests, we provided childcare literally two minutes away from the venue. We very much blamed ourselves and our thoroughly grown up wedding when we had to hold firm about the “no one under sixteen” rule.

    ….and yet. Loads of people took the opportunity to talk about how much they love their little ones (which, guys, we know!) and make the passive aggressive comments folks love to make to childfree people. They kvetched about being “thrown under the bus” for people without kids. One person, actually told me i was causing an inauspicious beginning to my marriage and I wasn’t doing enough for parents – because, I quote, “we’re the ones doing something truly important, by raising the future.”

    At least our best friends and his sisters who have kids were perfectly decent about it.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Are you still friends with that person?

    • Jess

      Yeah, it sounds like you hit the Unlucky Jackpot. Some people are fine with it and some people are not.

      “We’re the ones doing something truly important by raising the future.” I mean, COME ON. That’s some self-centered moralistic bullshit and speaks volumes about that person.

      • penguin

        I rolled my eyes so hard at that line.

  • Maya

    I disagree that you have to invite kids (or explain yourself to them) if you’re having the wedding somewhere a child may hypothetically enjoy spending time. I mean, really?

    • emilyg25

      I disagree with this too (I’m a parent). If your kid is old enough understand where the wedding is, they’re old enough to start learning that they don’t get to be part of everything and that’s okay. I also don’t think you need to invite kids to events around the wedding, just understand that a lot of parents will probably skip them then.

      • Abs

        I mean, sure. I think that this was in the same vein as the whole post–if you don’t care whether these people come/are hurt, then that’s actually completely fine, but if you do care, here’s what you do. So if there are kids in your life who you’re really close to, but you don’t want them to come to this thing that is pretty much their dream party, they (like anyone else) will probably take that harder than if you had a party where it was clear why they weren’t invited.

        • savannnah

          Or parents don’t need to tell their kids everything about the party they aren’t invited to- that seems more hurtful to me.

          • Eh

            I agree with this, but then the parents need to know from the first mention of the wedding that the children aren’t invited, and there needs to be no talk about the details of the wedding in front of the children. For example, at a family supper where the children are present the Bride/Groom should not mention that they are getting married at zoo (or other super fun location).

          • CMT

            That’s going too far for me. I don’t think the couple needs to bend over backwards to make sure the kids don’t momentarily get their feelings hurt.

          • Eh

            So, there is etiquette around not talking about your wedding in front of people who might assume they are invited (or at least making it clear that they aren’t invited), but not about talking about your wedding in front of children who might think that a wedding at a zoo sounds really cool?

          • Amy March

            Yeah come on of course there is. No, sorry, adults are not all obligated to never mention the wedding details at all because children are not invited. That’s ridiculous.

          • Eh

            My original comment was in response to parents not sharing all the details about a wedding that is child-free with their kids. My point is that if the parents don’t know it’s child-free they might mention something before getting the invitation and realizing it’s child-free, or if the Bride/Groom talk about the wedding in from the the children then the parent’s can’t control that. The parents then have to deal with those situations.

          • Amy March

            Oh yeah ok then I agree. Parents have to deal with those situations, parents also can try to avoid sharing details.

      • laddibugg

        Yeah I don’t get this either.
        The sooner you learn not everything is for or about you the better.
        However….if your 8 year old niece/neighbor/friend said to you ‘wouldn’t it be cool to get married at the zoo’ and you thought ‘yeah that would be cool’ and decided to do it….I totally get why her feelings would be hurt ;-) . You jacked her idea!

    • A.

      Yeah, I disagree with that too. I mean, I have family members who had a kid-free wedding at Disney World. It was fine. The kids were most just none-the-wiser if not attending at all or they were happy to hang out at the hotel pool with another relative (one of the cousins-in-law who married into the family) who sat the wedding out if brought along. It only would have been a big deal if people made it one.

    • Leah

      I agree with Meg on this, and see it less as ‘somewhere a child might have fun’ and more as ‘somewhere a child won’t be inappropriate’ (eg fancy restaurant, place with lots of breakable things at toddler height, etc). Babysitters can be expensive, stressful, and logistically complicated, especially if you are traveling for a wedding. I get doing that to go have a classy fine dining experience, but if we are hanging out at a picnic spot in a park then it becomes harder for me to justify the expense and trouble of finding a sitter. We traveled for a wedding recently that was out in a lovely field with a big tent and lots of room to roam. It was no-kids, so we tracked down a sitter and spent $200 for it, and I spent a lot of time at the wedding thinking about how much fun my happy low-maintenance 1-year-old would have had crawling around in the field for free rather than cooped up in a hotel room for $200. I wasn’t upset or angry or anything (we could have totally decided not to go), it just wasn’t a decision I would have made.

    • penguin

      Also… you don’t have to tell the kids where the wedding is if they aren’t going to it. And they can go to the zoo another day! I agree with not rubbing it in their faces or something, but that doesn’t mean that you have to choose a wedding venue that kids wouldn’t enjoy.

    • Amy March

      I don’t think you have to, but if your goal is not having issues with parents not hosting a day time event at a carnival probably helps make the path smoother for you.

    • Cleo

      Agreed, Maya.

      Coincidentally, when I was 7 or 8, a family member had a no-kids wedding at the zoo. I was really upset I wasn’t invited, but then my mom took me and my sister to the zoo and showed us where the wedding was going to be – in the boring building with a bunch of science-y exhibits and no animals (it’s a beautiful space, but to a 3rd grader, it was the place we had to trudge through so we could get to the animals on the other side) – and she assured me no one would be allowed to go look at animals during or after the wedding. So I then thought, “Who would have their wedding at the zoo if they didn’t want to go to the zoo? That’s stupid!” and promptly was not upset about missing the wedding.

  • Eh

    We were invited to two child-free weddings this summer (husband’s cousin and one of my best friends). They were on the same day and far apart, so we had to make a decision about which to go to – since I was a bridesmaid in one, we went to that one. Neither of them told us until the invitations went out.

    My friend contacted me directly when she mailed the invitations to say that the wedding was child-free but that she knew that might be challenging for us because we were travelling 8 hours. She was getting married near where we grew up so I was able to leave my daughter with my dad and step-mom. If it wasn’t for that I would have been very hard for both of us to go to that wedding (obviously, my husband would have stayed with our daughter). Since we were coming in the day of the rehearsal, we did need to bring our daughter to the rehearsal and rehearsal supper as we did not have time to detour to my dad’s house beforehand. I did check with my friend first and she said that children could come and that other people were bringing their children. For this wedding we almost had that situation where our childcare fell through at the last minute because my dad and step-mom had to go to a funeral for a close friend the day of the wedding. We adjusted the time my husband dropped off our daughter (so he would just make it in time for the wedding) and my dad left the luncheon early (my step-mom stayed a bit longer).

    The cousin never made it clear that children weren’t invited since when some parents contacted her she said that their children were invited she just didn’t include them on the invitation (note: my name wasn’t even included on the mailing address part of the invitation – it was only addressed to my husband “Mr. [Husband’s First Initial] [Husband’s Last Name]”). We never contacted her since we weren’t going to her wedding, but I heard other people say that children were not invited (other than the few that were there). If we had gone to the cousin’s wedding, one of us would have had to stay home because all of our regular babysitters were at that wedding (or away, since it was a long weekend).

    My SIL’s cousin had a child-free wedding this summer too. My brother and SIL have three children, including a newborn at the time. When my SIL asked if the newborn could come (before he was even born) she was told no. She then asked her mom to trade off watching the baby in the hotel room (since my brother had to stay home to watch the older two children). The cousin said that she wanted my SIL’s mom to enjoy the wedding and not be watching the baby. So my SIL said she wasn’t going to the wedding. This caused a lot of drama in their family. A couple of weeks before the wedding the cousin agreed that my SIL could bring the baby to the wedding. The cousin even allowed her to breastfeed during the reception in the room the bride and bridesmaids got ready in (though the venue coordinator kicked her out and said “you can’t be doing that in here”).

    • theteenygirl

      Pretty much everything about this is making me shake my head.

    • penguin

      The coordinator kicked a breastfeeding mother out of an unused room? That’s really crappy behavior on their part, wow.

      • Eh

        Yep! She told my SIL that the Bride didn’t want anyone in there even though the Bride had told her she could use it. And the only other place to sit was inside the reception hall, which was full of distractions (e.g., people, music, flashy dance floor lighting) for my nephew so he wouldn’t nurse in there.

        • penguin

          Wow so rude! That sucks for that mom.

  • Katie

    This is the subject that caused the most fights over with my husband. He didn’t get why I didn’t want kids at our wedding (indoors venue, evening reception, no extra room and not a tiny guest list). Well, on his side there was going to be around 30 kids. That’s almost half of the adults’ guest list!!! He kept insisting “if we invite people, we invite the whole family” and “people won’t understand and be upset” (apparently making me upset was not an issue for him). I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love those kids (even though most of them I’ve seen, like, 2 times). But! They get to be at every. Damn. Family. Party. Can I just have one when they’re not the center of attention? Yes, call me a huge b*tch but I just don’t want to have somebody spill their juice on my dress, run all over the place, scream during vows, etc etc.

    We compromised – we only invite his brothers’ kids (five children, from newborn to 10 years old). Unfortunately, it means my mother-in-law will probably be chasing them everywhere, playing games and so on. I honestly hate it, because she invested so much in our wedding and I really want her to be able to enjoy it, catch up with her relatives and friends. The family dynamics are peculiar: the parents just let her deal with their screaming kids, because she’s a saint and always wants to help out (that happened at another wedding, where she was closer to the groom than her kids’ spouses, but she still was the one consoling a crying toddler and having to leave the church with him).

    Okay, rant over. But anyway, we’ve sent out our save-the-dates and never mentioned anything about the kids, and now I’m thinking that it’s a huge mistake! Ugh, do I really have to email everyone individually…

    • Eh

      It’s not a huge mistake, but you might want to mention it before the invitations go out so people can plan. It’s trickier to find childcare if all of the people who regularly watch your children are also at the wedding.

    • z

      I think it is fine to have a no-kids wedding. Really, I do. But I have to question some of your statements about your MIL. It is nice that you want her to enjoy the wedding and catch up with relatives. But the kids *are* her relatives. And she would not spend so much time with the kids if she didn’t enjoy it.

      • Katie

        I wouldn’t say anything about it if she hadn’t personally shared with me that sometimes she doesn’t enjoy it that much (that wedding I mentioned was one of the cases she was upset). I just know that she won’t say no, and that upsets me greatly

        • z

          Ok. But still, they are relatives. Most weddings don’t invite 100% of the relatives and that is fine. But try to acknowledge that they really are family even though they are kids.

          It seems like your fiance’s family has some different attitudes about parenting and family events. That may affect you in more ways than just the wedding.

          • NolaJael

            I think catching up with older relatives that you don’t see often versus being the default babysitter of grandkids because of lazy parenting norms is a totally legitimate distinction. Yes, children are relatives. But that doesn’t mean that they are entitled to monopolize grandma’s time at social events.

          • z

            It’s Grandma’s choice how she spends her time at the wedding.

            Invite the kids or don’t, but sounds like this is really about their parents and a difficult family dynamic that will endure long after this wedding is over.

          • Katie

            I’ve been married into that family for almost 2 years now, I know what those dynamics are, and while I’m not completely happy with them, it’s not my place to have a say. However, MY wedding is something I want to have a say in, and all I asked was a kid-free event, and that’s why I’m a little upset :(

          • Katie

            yes, thank you for saying this

          • Yeah, one of the reasons we didn’t invite kids was because of (some, specific) parents– who bring their kids to an event and then abandon all parenting duties, making older cousins/whoever become default babysitters. Even if it’s the parents’ responsibility, you can’t just say ‘whatever, it’s fine if the kids drown in the pool because it’s their parents who should be paying attention’– anyone who somewhat cares HAS to take on the responsibility! It’s awful.

          • suchbrightlights

            Yes! Grandma is also a person!

            I mentioned a “who is being served” rule towards inviting kids- to me, if the parents of the children and the grandparents of the children are both groups that I care about, and if it’s neutral for one set but definitely Grandma is being served by NOT having the kids… I’d be inclined to leave the kids home for Grandma.

      • RNLindsay

        Eh… that last line is tricky. My own grandma gets roped into helping out a lot with my younger cousins, not necessarily because she enjoys it but, similarly to Katie’s MIL, she’s a saint and can’t say no. It’s hard to have an adult conversation with Great Aunt Mary when little Suzie is tugging on your dress saying “Grandma, Grandma, come play with me!”

        • Katie

          yes,, and this is EXACTLY what happens at any family function with kids. Which is, I guess, part of the charm (as my own MIL describes it, “you know our parties, they are always chaotic”, which is NOT the vibe I want for our wedding), but also can be incredibly annoying.

    • Amy March

      I don’t think it’s a huge mistake, but it would be good to start informally spreading the word, especially since it’s mostly his family that’s the issue.

    • topscallop

      Can you hire a babysitter to watch them during the ceremony, if not also the reception? Your MIL should be able to enjoy it, and then during the reception your BIL and his spouse should be able to take care of their own kids, I would hope…

      • Katie

        The venue is warehouse-like, just a big space with only one separate room – a tiny “bridal suite’, which will be crammed with 5 kids + babysitter. I was thinking about it, too, since not inviting them is not an option, but I’m at my wits’ end…

        • topscallop

          That’s tough – maybe still hire someone to keep them occupied with toys and games at their own separate table, or see if some of the other relatives will agree to take turns entertaining them so MIL can enjoy herself as well?

          • angela

            My sister is similar to how you described your BIL, and we ended up giving her a plus one for her babysitter at our wedding. If you’ve already accepted that the kids will be at the wedding, a babysitter may help make their presence less felt while still appeasing the people who want them there. For us, the babysitter freed up my mom and sister (not that they didn’t pay plenty of attention to nephew still, of course, but they weren’t running around harried like they often are at big events) and also kept my nephews busy and quiet during times when they might have otherwise been looking for attention (they were 3 and 4 at our wedding). Granted, five kids is more than two, but for us it was definitely worth the extra cost. Plus she took them back to the hotel for bedtime!

            FWIW, my wedding was a 4 hour drive from where my sister lives, she brought one of her regular babysitters (a high school student), paid her a flat rate for the weekend, and she shared a hotel room with my sister and her sons. The babysitter came to the wedding in party clothes, wrote my husband and I the sweetest card, and, if anyone noticed her presence, no one said anything to any of us.

  • savannnah

    We took a different approach to the kid question. Because my husband is from the mid west and we were getting married ‘late’ (at 30) nearly all of his close family in our generation and friends have kids who are 1-4 years old and I had a cousin or two who had just had a baby within the last year. Overall we invited 31 kids under the age of four to our wedding of 175 adults and about 15 of them attending. I set up a kid zone for the whole weekend outside with a play tent, balloons, kites and some colorful rugs and string lights and I kept joking that the kid zone would be the most successful part of the wedding.
    On the other hand, there were some older distant cousins, college aged and teenagers who were not invited due to numbers and a clear cut off about just generational who was going to be invited and we got a ton of push back against that and some who just showed up with their parents which I found pretty rude. My husbands aunts children, who we expressly did not invite because at his brothers wedding showed up in snow suits for a garden wedding, came to ours in what I can only best describe as athleisure wear and played on their gameboys all night, including at the ceremony. At that point I was happy to have many little dance partners to distract me.

  • Engaged Chicago

    We are inviting children and I’m starting to second guess that choice. Our guest list of under 21 is about 30 deep. But I’m honestly only worrying about three: my fiancées neices and nephew. We love them so much but the logistics prove complicated. My fiancé wants his brother and best man to be there for him all day. However They live an hour away in the suburbs and due to family issues, their only preferred childcare help is my fiancés parents (who we want to enjoy all the friends they insisted on inviting to the wedding hah.) their 5 year old would do great, the 3-year old is a handful, and the 8-month old Might be breastfeeding. It’d be great if they could leave the younger two with babysitters and enjoy the wedding but they don’t have people they trust and it wouldn’t be fair since my cousins and step siblings are invited with their children (since they’ll have parental and sibling help). Wish we had thought this through earlier. Hopefully we can get a babysitter to help during the reception.

    • emilyg25

      Trust that your future in-laws are adults and they can handle this is the way they see fit.

    • ManderGimlet

      Agreed, your fiance’s family seems to have a handle on the situation, plus there will be lots of other family and kids around. One thing to keep in mind: everyone wants to have a good time and no one wants an cranky/upset/injured/etc child. The cool thing about weddings is getting to see your community together, in action, not just talking and dancing, but holding each others’ kids for a minute to run to the bathroom, uncle feeding the toddler so mom can take a break, college friend leading a conga line for the older kids, everyone coming together to have fun and make your wedding beautiful. If you love your people enough to plan all this, trust that it will work out.
      Also, pro tip: Holding a baby on your lap at a wedding reception is a perfect excuse to get people to bring you food and come socialize with you while you get to stay sitting!

      • Engaged Chicago

        I love that idea of seeing everyone interact with each other! I know that there is support. Part of the reason I’m concerned is because my in-laws are concerned. My fiancee’s brother and wife rely on them a lot for childcare (they’re asking that their rooms are adjoined at the hotel) and my in-laws have expressed their interest in NOT wanting to fulfill that duty and to enjoy their friends and dancing. You’re right though that they’re adults and I’m planning on them figuring it out without my personal intervention. I just hope that our solution is not that my fiancee temper his expectation about how present his brother or parents are at the wedding.

        • ManderGimlet

          Oof, sounds like an issue that has been simmering for a while. Hopefully his parents will be forthcoming to his brother about their desires and will work together to find a solution that doesn’t fall into your laps!

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Our venue is a fine dining restaurant that is absolutely not an appropriate space for bored children to spend the evening. We’ve told this to our closest friends and family, and they all seem cool with it, and most of them are happy to have an adults’ night out.We’ve invited 5 kids (belonging to out closest friends) to be a wee army of flower children in the ceremony. They all need to go home before the dinner starts, so we’ve used this as an excuse to include some of the friends’ parents that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to invite. (There are so many friends’ parents that we love, and we wish we could afford to invite them all.) They’ll come for the ceremony, maybe hang around during cocktail hour, and then escort their grandchildren home for the evening. A bit unconventional, and technically Against The Rules, but we played the know-your-people card, and everybody was game.

    • MTM

      Flower Army!

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        I’m pretty excited about it, not gonna lie.

  • z

    I think the main thing is to understand and own what you are asking people to do. Just like the “ask” of a destination wedding is a lot of time and money for travel. The ask of a no-kids wedding is stuff like “Take your two small children on a long car trip and leave them with a stranger while you party with their beloved grandparents” or “Pump before and after and then have your milk thrown out by the TSA” or “Buy four plane tickets and then only one person gets to attend the wedding because the babysitter flaked”. If you can look your friends in the eye and make that kind of request, great. Own it. If not…

    • Jess

      As a person who had a strictly no-kids wedding, you definitely do have to own it and totally understand if people say no, or leave early, or whatever they end up doing.

    • Amy March

      Or, the ask is “come celebrate with me if you want to, or don’t and that’s fine too.” You formulated what those asks look like to you and that’s fine, but they aren’t necessarily true for everyone, and I think it’s a bit much to suggest that anyone might not be able to look their friends in the eye and issue an invitation to a no kids event. Like, do what you want, decline if you want, I am in no way asking you to buy 4 plane tickets, I’m just saying I’m getting married, I like you, and I’d love you to come if you want.

      • penguin

        Agreed – having a no-kids wedding isn’t some kind of shameful burden that you’re putting on invited guests. You’re just inviting them, and they can decide to come or not.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        It’s an invitation to a meaningful ceremony and a party, not a request for an inconvenient favor. If it feels like the latter, maybe send your regrets and stay home.

        • suchbrightlights

          Thank you for verbalizing why it pissed me off so much that one of my cousins (who is also planning a wedding) didn’t RSVP. We knew damn well she was coming because she told her father, and her father told my mother, but the whole behavior of not giving us enough respect to tell us directly felt *exactly* like she was treating her attendance as an inconvenient favor to bestow. And frankly, if she cares so little about the meaningful celebration to which we invited her, the favor she can do us is to stay home. (Most of my cousins are pretty rad, but she’s one of a kind.)

          Now back to talking about kids.

      • z

        What I am saying is, educate yourself so that you know what you are actually asking people to do. It is no different from a destination wedding. Some people are comfortable asking that of their friends. Others are not. And others have no clue what is involved for a parent to be at a no-kids wedding. Having a realistic understanding of the undertaking for your specific friends will help with expectations and help you make planning decisions that you are happy with.

        • Cdn icecube

          Plus some people can’t help that their wedding is a destination wedding. I’m getting married in my hometown which is a ‘destination’ for 90% of the guests. These people knew that I would be probably be getting married there so if I decide not to invite kids to my ‘destination’ wedding they can deal. Either come or don’t. But don’t try to make me feel guilty about it.

    • emilyg25

      While I think you should own it and understand if people decline, having a kids-free wedding is really not that big of a deal. It’s perfectly normal. There are all kinds of reasons people decline invitations–that doesn’t mean merely issuing the invite is burdensome. When you have kids, you accept that your life is a little weird for a while.

    • angela

      Along with “owning it,” please do NOT try to tell other people how they should feel about it. I’ve been invited to a child-free wedding with language like, “We want our wedding to be a fun adults-only getaway for you! Stress-free without the kids!” While that might be the case for some (I have a cousin who loves child-free weddings for those exact reasons), it certainly isn’t for everyone, and it’s never fun to be told how you should feel. It’s like the “please put your devices away so you can be fully present.”

      • penguin

        Totally agree, and I HATE that line about “put away your devices so you can be fully present”. You don’t give a damn if I’m fully present, you don’t want me to take pictures or be on my phone during your ceremony, which is totally reasonable. Just tell me that. When we were looking for welcome signs on Etsy (we ended up giving up), a good number of the signs included that line.

      • Jenny

        Yes! Also, you might think it’s a fun get away so I can focus just on you, but really you don’t get to tell me how to focus, I’m probably going to be distracted by my phone making sure the sitter isn’t calling, wondering how my kid is doing going to bed with a stranger in a strange place, and leaving early because I don’t want to pay another 50 bucks for the sitter.

      • elysiarenee

        So much agreement. Don’t pretend a decision about you (which you’re totally entitled to make for your event BTW) is actually for *our benefit*

    • Mrs H

      But the thing is-everyone sees it differently. It sounds like you think it’s a huge deal to be invited to a wedding without your kids, which is fine, but I have kids and if they’re not invited to a wedding…I don’t mind. You’re framing it as if it’s inherently rude and it’s just not.

      • Harriet

        Agreed. When my boyfriend’s sister got married, she planned a beach wedding in Italy. There was no way that we could afford to go, so we sent regrets and didn’t go. No one was offended and they hosted a party two weeks after they got back for those of us who, for whatever reason, couldn’t attend the wedding abroad.
        Cuz, get this parents, a wedding isn’t about you and your family. It’s about the bride and groom and what they want.

  • sofar

    I am firmly in the wedding = children camp (because, to me, a wedding is a community celebration). But I totally respect those who feel differently, have a non-kid-friendly venue or who have to leave kids off the list to avoid having 100 extra guests.

    …as long as they abide by Meg’s No. 1 point — if you don’t invite kids, you don’t get to be upset that their parents don’t come, especially if your wedding requires travel and you don’t provide on-site babysitting at your destination venue. We know a couple getting married in Europe next summer, and they’re getting all pissy because members of their extended family “assumed” their children would be welcome and are now “refusing to come” because their “kids can’t come.” OK… you didn’t communicate from the beginning that kids weren’t invited, and now you’re pissed that your loved ones can’t drop the kids off at a sitter for a week and go to to Europe for your destination wedding?

    Meanwhile, my BIL is doing it the right way. He called everyone with kids and informed them the wedding would be held at an adults-only resort. But he’d be blocking off rooms at the resort nearby AND had hired his cousin (who owns a daycare) to watch the kids on the wedding day and would be footing the bill for that. Not saying anyone has to hire a babysitter, but I’m all about being up-front with parents so that they can PLAN.

    • LAinTexas

      I’m leaning hard toward trying to convince BF to go the courthouse wedding with just our immediate family route, but if we do end up doing a larger wedding, I’d definitely advocate for providing childcare. I want friends and family who have kids to be able to come, but I don’t really want them AT the wedding. I used to work at a banquet hall (for over three years), and kids at weddings are just not ideal, IMO (I know you disagree – no offense meant to you!). Props to your BIL for accommodating everyone in the way that makes the most logical sense to me.

    • Jan

      Agreed. We had a kid-friendly wedding but it didn’t even start until after 6pm, so we still had to do some work to make it easy for our guests (we hired a sitter to stay with the wilting kids indoors while their parents partied outside), and in some cases we just had to be understanding if people couldn’t make it or had to leave early due to our timing.

      Do what you want– you will never, ever make your wedding 100% convenient for everyone– but also do what you can to address obvious hurdles as best as possible. Also: be patient and gracious.

    • Anne

      Just want to say that I totally agree with you on wedding = children. I know there are many kinds of weddings in the world, but I personally can’t even start to imagine what it would look like or how people would have responded if we had decided to have a no-child wedding.

      • sofar

        Same. And, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d married someone who felt strongly about having no kids there. I don’t know how I’d have made that compromise. So glad I didn’t have to — in his family’s culture, the “Wedding as my personal vision” concept doesn’t exist, and kids go everywhere with their families. It was the ONLY value that united his family with mine.

    • Julie Fountain

      I think this is probably also “know your people”. I mean, your crowd might get the idea of an adults-only carnival themed party at the zoo and think that sounds fun and chic and instagrammable and whatnot, and totally understand why they can’t bring their kids. 75% of mine would not at all. Like, it would not even cross their minds that maybe their kids aren’t invited to the zoo wedding, because why would you have it in a zoo if not to encourage kids to come? I think for a lot of people it would be hugely stressful to explain and enforce why kids can’t come to an event at a traditional kid place. And hey, if that stress is worth it to you, then more power to you. Whereas if you what you want to do is avoid (a) hurt feelings and (b) a fight, then I can see how probably it’s best to plan an event that is not quite so obviously something your guests’ five-year-olds would enjoy. But, YMMV.

      • sofar

        I think maybe you meant to reply to someone else?

        I don’t care where the wedding is (traditionally Adult venue or the zoo or Chuck E CHeese), but if it involves international travel, the couple needs to make it very clear (before people even think about booking flights) whether kids are invited or not.

  • Kara

    We had a kids free wedding 8 years ago. It caused some family drama, but I didn’t care (I’m not rude, I was sticking to my guns). We had 225 guests. I said no kids under high school age (so no one younger than 14).

    This was strategic–not only for the head count, but also to avoid inviting one of my cousins who would not behave (he was 13 at the time), and his parents would not discipline him.

    This meant 3 families were effected on my mother’s side.
    Family #1 had a 14 year old and a 12 year old — the parents decided neither kid would attend.
    Family #2 had the 13 year old that was the reason for no kids, an 18 yr old, and a 21 yr old — older siblings attended, 13 yr old did not
    Family #3 – 9 people (my aunt + uncle, 3 cousins + spouses, and their kids) decided not to attend because of the no kids rule meant the cousin that had a 15 year old and a 4 year old couldn’t bring the 4 year old. Most of the adults had already RSVPd that they would attend, but decided to boycott anyways.

    Eight years later, I’m really glad it worked out the way it did. Family #2 daughter was married a few years after I was, and her younger brother (the one I didn’t want at our wedding) got drunk and made a scene at her wedding–he wasn’t legally able to drink at the time. Guess what, his parents acted like he didn’t exist as he was making a scene. I’m so thankful this didn’t happen at our wedding.

    Sure, I received passive aggressive comments from family. But it was worth it for me.

    • Eh

      My husband’s family has a family that is like #3. My husband has three cousins who are sisters. They boycotted my BIL’s wedding because their children were not invited. A few years earlier, these cousins had made a big deal about their children being invited/not being invited to another wedding. Their father actually told the Bride/Groom not to invite his grandchildren because they lived local so it would be easy for his daughters to find childcare. One of his daughters (Groom’s cousin) told the Bride that her father doesn’t speak for her on this matter. The Bride said that they were planning on inviting the children were invited. Despite making a big deal about it none of the cousins went to the wedding. Because of these cousins making a huge deal about their children being invited/not invited to these other two weddings, my MIL asked if we were having children at our wedding. My response was “Yes, I’m not going to ask my siblings and cousins to travel across the country and tell them to live their children at home.” She said “Even kids from our side” (who were all local) – YES! None of these cousins came to our wedding either but since they weren’t mad at us (since their kids were invited) a couple of them come to my bridal shower.

      • Kara

        Yah…. sigh. Some people will bitch no matter what. I’m glad there was less drama for you.

    • Elizabeth

      Ugh I am in a deep terror about this. One of my FH’s nephews is 14 and I cannot bear to be around him he is so awful. Constant rude and disrespectful comments, excessive swearing, actually climbing on furniture, throwing things when he’s bored, and the worst table manners I’ve ever seen, including throwing and spitting food when we go to restaurants.

      I do NOT want him at the wedding, but he’s FH’s sister’s son, and I don’t know how I can logically ban just him from the wedding.

      • NolaJael

        Yikes. I can’t imagine.

      • Kara

        Sounds so familiar. Just add in trying to steal alcohol and that was my cousin. I’m sorry. I know what you’re going through.

        • Elizabeth

          Our entire guest list is only 60, so he can’t exactly blend in if he’s being a brat. I can’t decide if I should piss his sister off and say he can’t come, or just deal with him being there and try not to worry about it.

          • Kara

            Talk to your partner about it, and any decision made should be communicated by him.

            Maybe you guys decide it’s best not to invite brat, and to specify he isn’t invited. Maybe you guys decide he is invited, and you’ll hope for the best. Or it might be “brat can come to the wedding, BUT if he makes a scene, he and you will have to leave. We won’t allow or condone that behavior at our wedding.”

      • emilyg25

        One of my cousins is not quite that bad, but he does have a history of being destructive. We got married at my in-laws’ very nice home. My mom kept an eye on him and we told some of my SILs who are also tough moms. He was actually really good for the most part and had an absolute blast dancing. I say invite the nephew and seat them far away from you so you don’t have to worry about it.

      • ManderGimlet

        Do you have male friends who are okay with not being popular? Not that anyone should rough up a child, but that there should be someone who can stand in as a figure of power and authority who can keep an eye on this kid and step in with a hand on the shoulder and some strong words should he get out of line. Kid’s mom may have a problem with this, but she is the one raising a boor whose own aunt and uncle don’t want him at their wedding.

  • Jess

    I wouldn’t have minded kids, but my mom would have been a freaking nightmare about it (for context she complains about babies babbling in basic family restaurants and children running on sidewalks).

    So… no kids it was. This meant we understood when more local friends left early. When some friends couldn’t come.

    We held firm that kids came to brunch, and when we found out there were a few grandparents who traveled along as sitters, they came too.

    We put up lots of information on our website, let people know directly via e-mail or texts, and overall, it was ok.

  • Em

    So I think the approach we’re taking is: no kids who aren’t family (with exceptions for breast feeding newborns on a case by case basis but I think most of our friends’ babies should be of an age where they can stay at home for a night by next August – unless someone falls pregnant in the next couple of months!) with kids who are family (our nieces / nephews) coming to the ceremony and then being collected by babysitters before dinner. We asked the parents of the kids whether they’d prefer a night “off” and they were all enthusiastic about the idea, so we’re hoping it all works out. I haven’t been to many weddings amongst my friend circles (if any, actually?) that have had kids, so I’m hoping making it kid free doesn’t ruffle too many feathers.

  • sage

    Thanks for posting this. I wish I had read this article more closely before sending out our Save the Dates. Apparently a family friend (who honestly I forgot she had kids) told my mom that her boys were so excited for the wedding… Thing is we were not inviting children since we are already inviting 250 adults, but I didn’t follow the rules from this article so I guess that’s on me.

    I am concerned about guest list and venue capacity (of course we are expecting a decent number of people not to show or bring a plus one, but our venue holds 220 comfortably and 264 absolute max, so we are pushing it). But at the same time we are happy for children to come if that’s the only way their parents can come to the wedding. Or in the family friend’s case where her boys are excited to attend (how can I say no?!)

    Anyway I have no idea what to do. Is there any way to say “kids are not technically invited but if you really want to bring them then just ask us and we will say yes”? Or is that functionally the same as adding the kids’ names to invites and we should just do that?

    • sage

      For context, we have already talked to many close friends who plan to leave their toddlers in the care of grandparents who live in the city of the wedding (with the exception of a couple nursing mothers obvs) b/c they are excited for a night off with adults. And the reception is late evening at a banquet hall which to me doesn’t exactly scream kid friendly

    • Amy March

      No it’s not on you. You can still just not invite them.

      • sage

        Thank you for this. I needed some real talk.

    • ManderGimlet

      If you’ve only sent the Save the Dates and not the invitations, you do not have to honor their assumptions! (guessing you did not address the Save the date to each member of the household but instead only to the friend)

  • JRL

    We ended up booking an outdoor campground venue on a lake. Large body of water + bonfires + open bar + a large group of children between ages 2-7… turned into a “no kids wedding” for us. I think this is a case of know your people and be emotionally prepared if people aren’t able to make alternative arrangements to attend. We checked with our nearest and dearest (brother, best man) and everyone we spoke with was on board from the beginning. We shared it on our website and had family share it by word of mouth as well. I know at least one cousin won’t be able to attend our adult only wedding because of logistics, but we expected it would happen with some people and neither parties have hard feelings.

  • Mary Jo TC

    I just wanted to chime in as a parent who HATES to bring my kids with me to weddings. I have had so much fun at weddings when I leave my kids at home (whether they were invited or not) and so much frustration when I have had to bring them (because my siblings wanted their nephews at their weddings, I don’t know, so they could scream and ruin the family pictures. Seriously, check out my kid in this picture.)

    So brides, if you don’t want kids at your wedding, trust that there will be at least a few parents who will be like, WOOHOO! I hope that makes you feel a little bit better.

    • Leah

      I don’t know… I totally get that you see this as ‘ruining’ the picture, but I see it as ‘funny real awesome family picture full of personality’ and way better than boring formal group shot without the kiddos… :)
      (but of course night off from kids is also awesome)

      • Mary Jo TC

        Yeah, I can laugh about it now, but that night and for quite a while afterward, I was pretty pissed about my toddler’s entirely age-appropriate behavior.

      • Yeah, I think that’s a super cute pic, so to each their own. But I also don’t think I use big family group shots for anything other than reminiscing anyway, so a stray kid “moment” would be a feature not a bug.

      • Eh

        At my dad and step-mom’s house they have a series of pictures from the family pictures taken at their wedding. At the time my one step sister had 3 children and another step sister had one child (now there are 14, soon to be 15 grandchildren between me and my 6 siblings/step-siblings). The oldest grandchild did not want to stand still for the picture. There is a picture where his mom is holding him and he is hitting her. Another picture where he is throwing a tantrum on the ground. Another picture where everyone is looking in one direction because he ran off one way. Another picture where everyone is looking in the other direction because he ran off the other way. Another where he is covering his head. We did eventually get one of him looking at the camera but he is not happy. I bet my nephew (who is not 13) doesn’t think that the pictures are funny, but the rest of us do.

      • Alli

        I’ve got a great family shot where my cousin’s 2 year old is picking his nose

    • Eenie

      Oh this is so great!

      We invited all kids to our wedding but only our five nephews came – everyone else felt like you apparently!

      Family just seems different. I couldn’t have imagined them not being there at least for the ceremony. The youngest left with my SIL early cause he was having a bad day.

    • Jenny

      I don’t know. I usually chose to leave my kid at home, but I like it when he’s invited.

  • Pingback: How to Throw a No-Kids-Allowed Wedding | Wedding Warriors TC | Wedding Planner | Kennewick, Richland, Pasco()

  • Iflonida

    We had kids at our wedding because it was a “destination” for most. I didn’t technically want kids there, but it was important to have their parents there so that’s what we did. We held an adults-only party the night before the wedding and recommended babysitters to our guests with kids. I’d love to say “Having kids was awesome and I can’t believe that I ever thought to exclude them.” BUT the kids monopolized the photo booth all night so we paid extra for something that didn’t get used (except by the same 5 kids) so I do have that one complaint. I have a kid now and have done everything from say “no” to kid-free events because we couldn’t make it work to pay a babysitter (to travel with us, babysit all evening 2 evenings in a row, eat, and have her own hotel room) to be able to attend kid-free events.

  • Aimee

    What’s the etiquette on when kids should/shouldn’t be invited? e.g. if I invite my friend’s kids does that mean I have to invite ALL my cousins’ children and vice versa? Does out of town vs local matter? How do you decide on an age cutoff and what if it splits up some families’ kids (e.g. some under 14 some over)? Should ‘kids’ over a reasonable age cutoff always be invited (e.g. my mom’s friend has a couple high schoolers I’ve never met, do they need an invite?) Once a family’s children are over 18 (or old enough to stay home without a sitter?) are all bets off invite-wise? Does it matter if they still live at home?

    • z

      I think you choose arbitrary rules that suit your situation, and them communicate them clearly and well in advance.

    • Amy March

      I think it makes the most sense to start with whether you want kids in general there and then whether you want specific kids there. There’s no reason why you have to invite your mom’s friend’s kids.

      • RNLindsay

        Right. A lot of older adults at your wedding most likely have grown children. Are these children a part of your life? If not, they don’t need an invite (such as the case of your mom’s friend). High school aged children should be able to stay home for a night.

    • savannnah

      We got much more push back for not inviting adult kids than we did not inviting anyone else- and more people made assumptions about their collage aged kids being invited than their babies and toddlers.

      • Katie

        that’s what I’m a little cautious about. We said “no kids but immediate family”, but when my MIL was giving me her relatives’ addresses, she said “Do you want to put so-and-so’s kids on the invitation as well? They’re high school aged”, and inside I was like “um, no, why would I want to invite teenagers whom I’ve never seen and who will probably be immensely bored at the party with no other people their age?”
        I really don’t know how to approach the subject should a confrontation arise :(

        • Amy March

          “No, I don’t. As you know we already have a space crunch, I’m not inviting people I’ve never met. Immediate family yes, extended family no.”

    • Cdn icecube

      What I THINK we are going to do is say if/when people ask that we were unable to invite second cousins. That way it sets a clear line that all of my cousin’s kids (2 of which are 18+ but most are <5 are not invited. None of my friends have kids so as of right now that isn't an issue, but as others said, it sets a very clear line.
      However, if anyone sees a huge problem with this way of thinking please let me know! :)

    • suchbrightlights

      We had a firm number dictated by venue capacity (and our sanity.) Also, we are really not kid people.

      Our niece is 4. She’s a great kid who has been home-schooled and raised around adults more than other kids, so not only is she great on her own out of context of anything else, but she’s also relatively precocious when it comes to being in a room with other adults. Also, she is the Only Grandchild ™ and not to have her there would have been a Thing, even though her mother voiced that she was cool with it. We put the kibosh on her involvement in the wedding, but it will be a service to the adults around her to have her there, she will be able to enjoy coloring by herself while the adults around her also enjoy themselves, and after all, it is her uncle’s wedding. She is coming.

      My best friend, who was my bridesmaid until circumstances dictated she was not able to come, was traveling from out of town with a child less than 9 months old. I assumed it would be logistically impossible for her to attend without him. He was coming.

      My cousins have a 1-year-old, and everyone in the world that that child knows and loves was going to be at this wedding. They’ve also just moved to the area and don’t have a trusted sitter yet. Her parents would not have felt comfortable attending without her, and we wanted them there. She was coming.

      At that point we drew the line around “children of immediate family, children of the bridal party, and infants are attending,” and excluded others. This meant that two sets of friends who each had two children were invited without their children; one set booked a sitter and RSVP’d fairly immediately and the other set was unable to attend. I think you could certainly draw your line around “children of the immediate family but not of my cousins,” or “children with whom I have a relationship but not children whose parents have a relationship with my parents,” or “children under 7,” and I don’t really think you need to justify it. But having a fairly bright line did help me to make a decision that I felt was made with respect and hospitality towards the guests, because it forced me to think about why the line was defined that way.

    • Alli

      Our rule was we invited family kids and that’s it. I mean it was still a lot of kids, but my parents friends and work friends could figure something out, it’s not like their entire families would be at the party too.

    • kazeegeyser

      I never got invited to weddings for my parents’ friends’ kids OR 2nd or more distant cousins, regardless of my age. I’d say if the kids are above the age where they can reasonably left alone or with a sitter, there’s no need to invite them unless you are close to the parents/kids. Mom’s friend’s teenagers probably don’t want to come, anyway.

  • penguin

    If someone without kids wants to provide childcare at their wedding – how do you go about vetting a babysitter or finding a good service? We don’t have many small children in our families at all and none are attending our wedding, but I was just curious about this. Since we don’t have kids, and I don’t know anyone local with small children – how would you find childcare to provide people?

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      I’m wondering the same thing! I attended a wedding a few years back where a friend, who was the sister of one of the grooms, had a nursing <1yo. The marrying couple wanted a child free wedding and planned to hire and pay for child care for the baby. It wasn't a good idea logistically (see: breastfeeding), but the parents also had zero interest in entrusting their child to a stranger from another state for however many hours.

    • topscallop

      Also, is it gauche to ask parents to pay for the babysitter if you have a child-free wedding but find someone to watch the kids? We only had 1 kid and 2 babies at our wedding and were fine with them there throughout, but at my brother’s wedding they didn’t allow kids during the ceremony, and posted on their website that the charge for babysitting was $20/kid. Seemed a bit rude to me but maybe it’s more about how it was communicated – they did a lot of weird things on their wedding website, including that they would notify guests who were getting a plus one, and if you weren’t notified it meant you didn’t have one (I was not notified, and my fiance was not included on the invitation addressed to me, but it turned out to be an oversight).

      • Amy March

        I think it’s all in how you present it. “Here is a recommended sitter and their contact info” versus “we’ve hired a sitter here is your bill.”

    • CMT

      I went to a wedding last year where both members of the couple getting married were teachers, so they had some of their trusted high school students there as babysitters. They were in a room just off the main event space and I think it went really well.

    • e.e.hersh

      My suggestion would be to ask around to anyone you know that has kids – even if it’s a friend of a friend. Someone with kids may not be able to provide you directly with their sitter’s name, but they might have contacts from a Mom’s group or daycare (or would be able to solicit suggestions from within those groups) that would get you pointed in the right direction. There’s also services like or even posting on a neighborhood site for sitters, but it’s feels better to know that SOMEone you know has actually used that sitter before.

    • TheHungryGhost

      Just a possibility that you may be able to fit into your budget, but do you have such a thing as wedding creches in your area?

      My fiance and I want a child free ceremony (I have trust issues about the ability of kids to stay quiet at important times, or more importantly, their parents ability to remove them from the ceremony if they start squawking). It’s about £300 for three trained childcare providers to look after the children for 3 hours, then they can join in the rest of the party (or we’ll be offering their parents the option of splitting the cost of extending the care if THEY want to let their hair down).

      For us, it’s a good compromise between having them there and letting ourselves relax.

      • Amy March

        £300?!? How many children is this? That’s so much money.

        • It does depend on how many children it’s for as to whether you need three*, but actually £30 an hour per person for (presumably) trained and qualified child care professionals to travel to the location doesn’t sound massively unreasonable to me.

          *rule of thumb for school trips is in the UK is 1:2 for under 5s, 1:5 for 5-11, 1:10 for 11 plus.

        • TheHungryGhost

          Yep, three trained professionals (not local teenagers) for three hours. Three under fives, and eight five-ten year olds. We’re actually looking for another quote, because we’d rather have two for four hours, but their agency don’t do that. They don’t just babysit – they set up a whole play room with activities, and they’ll be able to prepare the kids to do something that will fit in with our theme in a cool way.

          It will make a massive difference to our wedding. We’re (hoping!) to secure a venue that’s quite distant and rural, and a lot of the kids are children of cousins, so they have any usual childcare knocked out as everyone will be there. It is actually about a quarter of our venue cost (£1250, including accommodation for 30 people for three nights)!

          I’d far rather pay that to stick the kids out from under our feet for a few hours than forfeit our stunning and very meaningful location!

  • Gemjay

    Another pro tip: don’t have your child free wedding on a long weekend. My cousin did not make a babe in arms exception and even though we had ample notice we could not get a sitter to save our lives- all of my fam being at the wedding and every one else was out of town. My husband was going to stay home with her so I texted my cousin feeling terrible that I had rsvped for both of us and told her to invite a b-lister if she had. She then proceeded to invite the babe and we all got to go and have a good time and the baby didn’t disturb anything.

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  • ManderGimlet

    As someone who does not intend to have kids but did intend to have all her friends’ kids running around and doing breakdance backspins on the dance floor at her wedding: most parents don’t want to bring their kids to a non-family wedding! I think we invited 7-8 kids across 4 families (all under the age of 6) and not a single one are bringing the kids. If it’s a family member and all the grams n gramps and aunts n uncles will be at the wedding, it will probably be a different scenario, but you never know! If you are on the fence and logistics have you spooked, just invite them and see what shakes out, it may not even be a big deal. If you only have a couple kids coming you can work directly with the affected parents to figure what will work best for you and them.

  • koshkakot

    We had a no kids wedding. We also had a small (35 people) almost exclusively close family wedding (grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, parents, siblings). I have one younger cousin who was 13 at the time. Some of my cousins have kids, but they (the kids) were not invited. This was made super clear from the time we sent out the save-the-date email. We had a family friendly larger group BBQ party a few months before the wedding where kids were welcome, as were family friends and others that didn’t make the wedding day guest list.
    My cousins with kids all made it to the wedding- which was a 4-6 hour drive away; they ended up making a kid-free weekend of it, and had a blast.
    For our families, this worked well, because we were such a small group.

    I absolutely adore children- they just did not make sense with the wedding we were having. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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  • Ella

    This was a really thoughtful article and I would only like to add (drawing on my experience) to the comments that another challenge for parent-guests is that while weddings are planned in advance, children can’t be. We are about to attend a wedding that is a five hour drive for most guests, including us, and is no kids. Now: they are dear friends and we want to celebrate with them, but the stress it’s caused us due to the unplannjngness of children is now making it feel like a chore even after we have accepted there invite. Our youngest is 2; six months ago we no idea whether she would be “ready” to spend a weekend away from us. We hoped, but we didn’t know. Now, a couple of weeks out, we realise that in a month she would be ready but right now she’s not. She’s in a serious separation anxiety phase and the idea of leaving her a) in an unfamiliar rented house b) on her own (older brother is staying with his cousin that weekend) and c) with, literally, a total stranger, is so repellant that I’ve decided I will need to miss half the wedding to put her to bed myself (then babysitter can watch her.) I’m at peace with this decision and while I think the wedding couple have been a bit unhelpful, I don’t begrudge them their right/needs not to have kids attend. Rather, my worry is that I’ll be judged as (something, I don’t know) for missing part of the wedding, simply because if you aren’t in someone’s shoes it’s teally hard to see their logic. Some people can leave their toddlers with a person they’ve just met, some people have excellent hardy grandparents who can help – but I’m not that person and in this context I stand out as such. And it’s definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the wedding, which is a pity but kind of unavoidable. Them’s the breaks I guess.