To Invite, Or Not To Invite, That Is the Question

Everybody seems to have an opinion on this one. Pretty much everybody seems to think their personal logic on the subject is – or at least ought to be – universal. Way too many people find the opposing view not only incorrect, but offensive as well.

What’s the question? Children as wedding guests.

wedding kids

I’ve wandered around more bridal sites, bridal blogs, and bridal message boards in the last two months than I had in the rest of my life put together, and this is one of the nearly universal sore spots that keeps coming up.

On the one hand, there are those who insist that a wedding is no place for a child and so to allow them to attend will make a mockery of the occasion and all the bride’s hard work will be destroyed by an unruly child. On the other stand those who insist that weddings are about families and families are about children so any marriage that fails to include little Egbert at the wedding is doomed from the outset. I wish I could say this was an exagerration.

Me? I stand squarely in the middle.

I love kids. I love having kids around me. I wouldn’t have missed having the smaller guests at my wedding for anything. One of the best shots in my wedding album is of a group of kids playing ring around a rosie, and clearly having a grand time. An eleven-year-old boy caught my garter with an Air Jordan move that still makes me laugh to this day. I also have fond memories of attending many weddings as a child.

On the other hand, there were weddings where my parents were invited without me, and somehow I survived them leaving me with a sitter for a few hours. As an adult, I’ve been to child-free weddings and had a great time.

Miss Manners, Emily Post, and their ilk all agree that it’s perfectly polite to choose either path concerning children. As far as I’m concerned, that more or less ends the argument: choose the version you (meaning the bridal couple) prefer, and stick to it.

Just keep a couple things in mind when making your choice and carrying it out:

1: Keep it consistant. If you choose to go child-free for the wedding, don’t invite any children at all. It’s probably best not to have children in your wedding party in this case, either. Two or three children can entertain each other, while one bored preschooler will take up a lot of someone’s attention. Also, if you invite people telling them little Agatha-Mae isn’t welcome because no children are allowed, and the first thing Agatha-Mae’s parents see is someone else’s child at the reception, this could lead to hurt feelings.

1b: If you invite everyone else’s kids, you have to invite the one tiny hellion whose parents are also invited. See above for the reason.

2: Don’t list who isn’t invited on the invitation. Not inviting children is not a breech of manners, but writing ‘no children’ on the invitation is. The uninvited are not indicated on that envelope, either. Make it out to who is invited. If anyone tries to RSVP for their children who weren’t invited, call the culprits and gently – but firmly – let them know there’s been a misunderstanding, and while you’d love to see little Nimrod some other time, he simply cannot be accomodated at the wedding.

3: If you choose to invite children, make sure you write every child’s name on the envelope rather than ‘and family.’ Also, it’s a nice touch to send older children individual invitations under their own names. And once they turn eighteen, it’s mandatory. Remember, you’re inviting individual people who share an address. Treat them as individuals.

4: If you plan to invite children, make the event child-friendly. Make sure there’s something for them to do that will keep everyone contented. Kids often love the dance floor, but it doesn’t hurt to have a corner set up with a few toys or some soft cushions for little ones to crash on. And while some kids are happy to eat the same thing Mom and Dad eat, others are pickier. Many caterers will do less expensive kids’ meals. Explore the option.

5: Whichever decision you make, don’t apologize for it. Don’t be defensive with those who try to tell you you’ve made the wrong decision. Just smile and thank them for their input, and do precisely what you’d already decided to do.

14 Responses to “To Invite, Or Not To Invite, That Is the Question”

  1. dovian says:

    We had a number of smaller cousins at my wedding, and we hired some teenagers from our congregation to babysit. The whole affair was outside, so it was great – there was a swing and some other entertainment in the front yard with the babysitters, while the “grownup party” was in the back. The two year old caught the bouquet and according to her mother wouldn’t give it up for the next week, including while sleeping! Her brother (4) was so sleepy towards the end of the evening that he wouldn’t let me put him down, and we have some adorable pictures of him looking over my shoulder. My mother made little bags with crayons and toys for them to use during the reception as well.

    We didn’t specifically invite the kids but we didn’t not invite them either – we figured those that wanted to bring them, would, and those that wanted some “grownup time” would leave them at home. Worked pretty well.

  2. Melissa says:

    I definitely agree that putting “no children” right on the invitation is tacky. I’ve received invitations that have a small, discreet insert stating that children under the age of X cannot be accommodated at the ceremony, which I think is OK. The best solution I’ve heard for those who really don’t want kids at the ceremony, though, is to hire an on-site babysitter who can take little Devilkins down to the Sunday School room. The parents are usually grateful to not have to look for their own sitter and it serves as a safeguard against major miscommunications (“I know you said you weren’t having children at the wedding, but I didn’t think you meant my little darling!”).

  3. Sarah says:

    I think that unless they are in the bridal party or of an age where they can sit quietly and be bored quietly for the full length of the ceremony, kids don’t belong at the ceremony. If/when I get married, I intend to have an on-site sitter at the ceremony for kids under X many years. I just think that most kids would rather go watch a movie and eat pizza than be stuck sitting in place listening to adults talk for however long the ceremony is.

    At the reception, though, I think it’s great to have them be a part of the party.

  4. Dianasaur says:

    Having an on-site sitter is great. We had an outdoor wedding that had an indoor area as well. The children were with the sitter for the half hour of the ceremony, which was perfect since my best friend was a bridesmaid and her husband was our minister. Then they’re parents had them for the reception. It was neat to see our favorite little kids (children of friends) all playing together in their adorable dressy clothes. That is one of my favorite memories of the day.

  5. Pencils says:

    I agree with everything you say up there. Particularly the part about how you might want to skip having children in the wedding party if they’re not invited to the wedding or reception. So many brides on my local board adamantly insisted that NO CHILDREN would sully their wedding…except the ones in the bridal party, who had to go home once the pictures were taken. Those poor kids were props. As someone else said, small kids are bored in wedding ceremonies, and they get bored standing around taking pictures. What exactly are the children getting out of being your attendant if they don’t get to attend the party? They’re people, but not ones old enough to understand why they should do a long and boring favor in hot itchy clothes for someone they may not know well, in exchange for a cheap piece of jewelry or, heaven forfend, a hanky embroidered with a poem about a ringbearer or flowergirl. At least buy the kid something he or she really wants, like an Nintento Wii, and you won’t have to explain the use of, like a hanky.

  6. Kai Jones says:

    I differ in one respect: weddings are about building a family, or bringing one together, and those children are part of that family. So I choose to think less of people who want to celebrate an event as if it only affected their lives, and not the lives of the families and friends–including children.

    It may be perfectly find by ettiquette, but I don’t find it admirable behavior.

  7. Fenny says:

    My cousin got married when the Adorable Nieces ™ were pre-schoolers. They stipulated no children at the wedding. As they lived a day’s drive away, it would have meant that Bro & SiL would have had to leave the kids for 3-4 days in order to go to the wedding. They weren’t prepared to do that, although they would have gone if the kids were invited. Their wedding was full of small guests, who mostly behaved admirably and were whisked off home and put to bed with sitters in the early evening.

    Another friend of mine did the entertainer for the kids while the adults sat through the reception thing, which was very well organised. The presence of the children added to the service and they came back towards the end of the reception for the cake.

    I’m with the whole “weddings are for families and friends” side. I don’t have enough family or friends to ignore the younger section. Nor would I dream of having a wedding that didn’t have a place for the smalls – with suitable entertainment as necessary.

  8. Bride Diva says:

    It all depends on the reason why. Brides who say “kids will take away from MY day” annoy me. I’m all for having kids at weddings but I’m not having them at mine. Ha ha ha. No, I am not being a hypocrite. The reason is because it’s at night and on a boat. I don’t think thats a kid-friendly environment.

  9. Pencils says:

    I’m one of the “weddings are for families and friends” camp too. In fact, except for my older sister, our entire wedding party was made up of kids. We have a lot of kids in the family and we wanted them to participate. (And unlike my thirtysomething friends, they *wanted* to participate.) We encouraged guests to bring their children and had kid’s meals available for them. Cupcakes, too. I believe that weddings are about joining families, and kids are part of the family. OTOH, some people have a vision of their wedding that isn’t a kid-friendly environment, like Bride Diva’s night boat trip, and that’s fine. Just make it obvious to the guests so they don’t show up with little Madysen in tow. There’s nothing wrong with leaving the kids at home and acting like adults for a change. It’s fun.

  10. Never teh Bride says:

    Heh, I have six younger siblings, so there was never a question of not inviting kids. My grandmother’s ‘must invite’ list — hey, I have a big family — included younger cousins and the children of older cousins. But I did have a daytime, outdoor wedding on the water at a private house. Shortly after the ceremony, just about every kid stripped down to bathing suits and ended up in the water, which was fine by everyone involved.

  11. de says:

    I know I”m going against the tide here (as I can see with previous posts) but I personally believe this:

    A wedding ceremony is the cementing and celebration of the start of a new family – specifically the family of the two people being married. **not** those in attendance.

    This leads to two things:

    1) A family is not defined by children. A family is defined by love. Children are an *option*, not a *must*. Therefore, the family you are celebrating might not include children (now or ever).

  12. de says:

    🙁 my other comment was cut off. very unfabulous.

    or perhaps it seems truncated because of the ‘awaiting moderation’?

  13. La Petite Acadienne says:

    I am in agreement with de, and must say that the judgemental attitude of some of the people on this board is rather unfabulous, indeed.

    Some people have their reasons for not making their wedding a “family event.” I am personally of the belief that the wedding should be about the couple celebrating their commitment in a manner that is meaningful to them. If that includes cousin Hortense and little Eggbert, then that is wonderful. If it does not, however, then that IS their prerogative, and to “choose to think less of” people because of how they choose to celebrate THEIR love and commitment? Wow.

  14. Kit says:

    Thank you! I’m solidly in the middle as well with the style of the wedding being the tipping point for me. If it’s big and formal and long then either provide alternate accommodations for the smaller ones or leave them at home. If it’s more casual then kids might be a great addition! Really the one thing I DON’T get are parents who, after getting a “adults only” invite, still try to bring their kids. Why? Seriously, WHY? Not for the kids’ sakes – weddings are, by and large, BORING. Heck, they’re boring for those of us closely connected to the couple. So please, for the sake of the children, either make the wedding kid friendly or let them stay home! This coming from someone who survived a long, formal wedding as a child and is still traumatized by it. SO BORING!

    With that said, since we had a garden wedding with a short ceremony, casual reception, and small guest list we specifically invited the kids. Guess what? Only one showed – my nephew! All the rest of the guests were so thrilled to have some “adult” time that they gladly hired sitters. Go figure!