No kids? No kidding.

While I solemnly believe that children should be allowed to share in life’s joys, there’s nothing wrong with having an adults-only ceremony and/or reception. I understand that this is currently a controversial and somewhat unpopular opinion.

A BBC News article about a couple in Staffordshire, England that’s PO’ed because their disruptive toddler was ushered out of a ceremony by a frustrated vicar contains some choice quotes from commenters who feel slighted by adults-only weddings. Quotes like:

“Some people” have lost all sense of common sense in this country… banning children from weddings… as if they were some sort of nuisance? And what next? Well maybe if the kids of “Some people” were better brought up and looked after in this country, maybe they would behave better. What a selfish attitude!

“Speaking as one who is often reminded that he crawled through the vicar’s legs at one ceremony, kids make the do. Those who ban them are missing out, and missing the point.”

However, I’d like to drag out that tired old line, “Won’t someone PLEASE think of the children?” I’m well aware that some moms and dads are the proud parents of little angels rather than little hellions, but I’m inclined to think of them as the exception to the rule.

Many people feel that a marriage ceremony is a solemn, thoughtful event that should not be punctuated by crying, parental shushing, and outbursts of “You said there was cake! When can I have cake! CAKE CAKE CAKE!” So let’s muse a little on why there’s crying, why parents must shush-shush-shush, and why all this yelling about dessert.

What do I mean by ‘thinking of the children?’

  • The nuptial amusements that we grownups find so diverting are seldom fun for the wee ones. Sometimes these amusements drag on for ages, leaving kids ansy, cranky, or worse. There ARE kid-friendly ceremonies and receptions, but I have been to so many weddings where the children in attendance were obviously bored out their gourds. Honestly, I felt nothing but sympathy for them and tried to be understanding when they acted out.
  • Until they reach a certain age — and sometimes not even then — most kids are simply not good at sitting down and shutting up for any length of time. While I appreciate their unbridled exuberance, a goodly number of my fellow adults feel that said zest for life is best limited to occasions where noisiness is the norm. Why force an energetic, curious, creative being to attend a lengthy ceremony where they’ll have to rein in all that exuberance? That aside, someone else’s wedding is not the place to teach an unruly little one how to behave in polite company. That’s what “starter restaurants” like Bennigans are made for, no?
  • Plenty of kids love to dress up, but a lot of those prefer to do it on their own terms. The same girl who was desperate to wear her party dress to school the day before will balk when you tell her she has to wear it to the wedding. Trust me, I know this — I have six younger siblings. Forcing a toddler into formalwear is no fun for the toddler. Forcing that same toddler BACK into said formalwear in the bathroom of the reception hall after they’ve streaked the reception is no fun for anyone.
  • Receptions often begin late in the evening and continue on well into the night, leaving little ones falling asleep in coat rooms or in chairs. There are speeches full of boring grownup humor. For more timid kiddies, all of the loud music and unfamiliar faces can be downright scary! Yes, there is cake and some boys and girls love to shake their teeny-tiny rumps, but the promise of a slice of a cake and some tunage is not enough to sustain those children who are in possession of a great deal of, shall we say, personality.
  • Parents of solo kids run the risk of having their precious bundle of joy turn out to be the only one in attendance. Imagine being six or so at a wedding populated by adults, teenagers, and itty-bitty babies. Hopefully, our hypothetical kid’s mom and dad have brought along plenty of coloring books and other quite diversions, but still… How much will those parents enjoy the wedding when they have to spend the whole of the affair making sure junior is entertained?

All that said, children were welcome at my wedding, but then again, my wedding was held outdoors, on a swimmable bay, in the middle of the afternoon. My ceremony was short and invited laughter from the gathered guests. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the assemble guests were known to be tolerant of youthful shenanigans. If circumstances had been different, I might have allowed only those children belonging to close family members to attend.

As to how to politely turn children away, that’s another matter entirely. I recommend including all of the names of those invited on your wedding invitations — as you ought to be doing anyhow — instead of anything remotely like “So-and-So and Family” to avoid confusion. Also, spread the word among your VIPs (MIB, FIB, MOH, etc.) so they can pass the info along to guests in a more casual way. Don’t, however, do anything gauche like include “NO CHILDREN ALLOWED” on your wedding invitations, lest you find yourself with a lot more ‘regretfully declines’ than ‘joyfully accepts.’

34 Responses to “No kids? No kidding.”

  1. La BellaDonna says:

    “Speaking as one who is often reminded that he crawled through the vicar’s legs at one ceremony, kids make the do. Those who ban them are missing out, and missing the point.”

    Yes, kids may make the do, but let them do so in the bathroom; that’s what it’s there for.

    Honestly. Somebody actually was able to write that paragraph, and not understand the original point of contention??? The brides and grooms who ban them WANT to “miss out” – that IS the point.

    My congratulations and good cheer to the brides and grooms who happily include children in their weddings, and prepare properly for same. My equal congratulations and good cheer to the brides and grooms who do not wish to have children participate in that particular life-changing event. In life, not everyone gets invited to every party; parents need to understand that sometimes that applies to their children. Yes, THEIR children; not just other people’s.

    And while it is doubtless gauche to write “No Children Allowed” on an invitation, it is even more gauche to assume that one is welcome to bring parties not invited – and that includes the pint-sized people, too.

  2. I most heartily agree with your final sentiment, La BellaDonna!

  3. La BellaDonna says:

    … Apparently I wasn’t done. I think it is very important to note the difference between the bride/groom who want and plan for children to attend (as you yourself did, with an appropriate venue, and Things For Them To Do), and the brides and grooms who are faced with children who perhaps are strangers to them, and whose parents cannot be counted upon to control their children properly. I was not a wedding-attending child; but my mother was able to eat at a restaurant with five children under the age of 10, all of whom behaved beautifully, because it wouldn’t have occurred to us to do otherwise; she could have, and did, take us anywhere. From personal observation, that kind of parental control is not necessarily the case these days.

  4. KTB says:

    I’m planning an early spring, evening wedding and, after speaking with several friends and family members, don’t intend to include children. We don’t have kids, and neither of us have nieces or nephews, so it isn’t like we’re excluding children with whom we are very close.

    In fact, the friends I’ve spoken with have been very enthusiastic about lining up a babysitter for the night and getting a break from the munchkins! The fact that the vast majority of the children our friends and family have are and will be under the age of three by the wedding makes a compelling argument for having an adults-only evening.

  5. Jen says:

    Having been forced to attend many family weddings as a child, all I remember about them is 1)being bored and 2)the Electric Slide. I would have been more than happy to have not attended any of them.

    I think people should have the wedding they want, not the wedding forced on them by others.

  6. Cecilia says:

    My children sit through a one-hour Mass every Sunday of the world and I promise you, they can make it through your wedding too. If I have a child too young to behave, my husband or I will stand in the back. However, since not everyone feels the same way I do:
    one thing to bear in mind that it is difficult when you invite guests with children and young infants to an out of town wedding and then declare no children at the (midday) reception. If I am not from your town, I may have difficulty finding someone I can trust to leave my infant with. If you can provide a recommendation, that would be very much appreciated by your guests.

  7. KTB: Your guests’ response reminds me of a friend of mine who was traveling quite far to attend my wedding. Because she was a newly single parent, I let her know that there would be plenty of kids for her daughter to play with if she wanted to bring her along. My friend said, “Are you nuts? This is my one chance to get some grownup time!”

    Cecilia: Kudos to you for raising such great kids! If everyone was as good a parent, this might not be such a hugely contentious issue. I think that you raise a good point — if a bride and groom want to exclude children, they need to recognize that they may also be excluding those who cannot obtain childcare and thus should not feel slighted by those moms and dads who choose not to attend. Those who cannot obtain childcare should assume that there was no direct slight intended on the part of those who wished to have a child-free wedding.

    It would certainly be a welcome kindness if spouses-to-be helped guests find childcare or even arranged it! I know that my family church has a supervised ‘kiddie room’ where tykes too little to sit through a wedding service can go to play with blocks and such.

  8. Redblur63 says:

    I think people forget that weddings (especially in church) are traditionally a religious ceremony and should be accompanied by some sense of decorum and respect. Older children can usually sit through a ceremony, but younger children might need a nursery or quiet room to maintain the solemnity of the proceedings. Since this is the second time around for me, we’re getting married at home, but we’re not having small children in the wedding, and my daughter/MOH is helping plan a playroom for the children who will be at our wedding so they will have some appropriate toys and diversions. Plus, we have a huge yard, so if they don’t like the hot Gypsy jazz band we’ve hired, they can always go play on the swingset!

  9. Evie says:

    To add another personal experience to the lovely explanations above of why the children themselves may not be thrilled to attend, many years ago I was a flower girl at a family member’s wedding. I was about five at the time. I was stuffed into a scratchy, stiff, and warm taffeta dress that I had to keep on for a very long ceremony in a very large and formal church in another state, and my mom actually almost throttled the very (ahem) “demanding” bride when she pitched a fit because I started crying during the unbelievably long photo session after the ceremony. Good times.

    I attended many weddings before the age of 12. Yes, I did have fun. However, I also wore a lot of uncomfortable and expensive clothes, ignored fancy food I didn’t like, and dreaded being forced to slow dance with the one male cousin my age because everyone thinks it’s just so adorable to have a photo of two kiddies dancing together next to the bride and groom. As others have said, regardless of your final decision, I think it’s important to actually consider the comfort and enjoyment of the children themselves, not just whether they’ll annoy you during the ceremony or look cute in your wedding photos.

  10. Sarah J says:

    This isn’t really related to the issue of guests bringing children, but is related to children in weddings. I was recently at a wedding that was attended by many siblings of the bride and groom, all of whom have children, mostly little girls. Instead of finding matching (and probably costly) dresses for the girls to wear, the mother of the groom found fairy wings and tiaras in the bride’s chosen colors. They were cute in their little wings and even better, acted like princesses (most of the time, between the ceremony and the reception they took off the wings and ran around) It was a fairly casual affair, the reception being a catered buffet in the (large and beautiful) back yard with guests coming and going, and being greeted by fairy princesses.

  11. Jennie says:

    For those with big budgets, set aside a buck or two and have a kids room at the reception. Hire a professional nanny or granny. That way parents don’t have to worry about finding a safe baby sitter and kids won’t disrupt the festivities.

  12. Kathryn says:

    I just know how important my nephews are to me, and can’t imagine taking my wedding so seriously as to exclude them. As far as “thinking of the children” goes, I don’t think anyone had as much fun at my sister’s wedding than her husband’s nephew, three and half at the time, and it was certainly not a casual affair. Maybe I’m making too much of it, but as far as I can tell, weddings are largely about family, and kids are as much a part of my family as anyone else. You can’t control how people parent, but you can have a good sense of humor and a positive outlook, and kids aren’t going to ruin a wedding anymore than a mistake by the caterer or the rain might. And if money is at issue, have a kids’ table with buckets of crayons instead of flowers, and serve them mac & cheese.

  13. Barb says:

    I think that having kids in the wedding compliments the affair! 🙂

  14. talda says:

    i always find if amusing that the parents who feel slighted that their kids are being excluded could be found in the choir for no kids at weddings before they have their own.

    my own stance on kids at weddings depends on the kids. i was a rambunctious child; so much i was once removed from a church service…apparently it offends God to have a 3 year old crawling over the pews – my poor mom watched the whole thing unfold while singing in the choir! needless to say that was the LAST time i pulled that stunt. anyway, a bunch of kids like me? no way, but older kids who can actually sit down and behave, sure why not. provided, of course, the venue and time is appropriate for younger guests.

  15. Twistie says:

    As a child I adored attending weddings. I loved seeing the pomp and circumstance, trying out the food, seeing the amazing cakes, and hearing all the music. It was more fun to me than saturday morning cartoons.

    However, my parents were invited to several weddings where children were not included. I was always a bit disappointed when that happened, but – and here’s the point – I wasn’t hurt or in any way traumatized. In those cases, my brothers and I stayed home with a sitter (or by ourselves, once we were all into our teens and had proven ourselves responsible), and had a perfectly good time at home or staying with friends.

    I think most children – even those like me who honestly love weddings – will only be slighted by lack of invitation if the parents present it to them as though it was intended to be insulting.

  16. Kate says:

    As with any other service (like church services) I think that parents have a responsibility to exit with any small children who won’t settle down. If the kid doesn’t respond to mom’s “shhh!” then s/he might need to cool it out of earshot.

    As for the reception – I’m planning on hiring a few teenagers and having a kid room with toys and a laptop for DVD’s. We’ve done this at all our family weddings and it works out well. Doting relatives get to see the children – I usually pay a visit to the “kid room” once during the evening – and the kids don’t get too bored.

  17. 7nina says:

    Recently there was a debate in the Weddingbee boards about this. A guy with a young baby was infuriated that his darling wasn’t invited to the wedding, and as part of his argument said “Bridezillas get over yourselves-your wedding isn’t ruined just because a child’s screaming during your vows.” Well. yes, it could be. If I hired a videographer to commemorate my solemn vows, I’d think it was ruined.

    Now, neither my FI nor I have kids in our families, just our friends’. But one of those friends has horribly behaved kids, and as neither my mother nor my grandmother can be at my ceremony, and I am having it taped for them, no kids. I am annoyed at being made to feel like a bad person for not wanting them there, but I don’t.

  18. Melissa B. says:

    7nina, I saw that debate too. Calling the no-kids wedding people “bridezillas” was really unfair, and the guy was generally overreacting and came off as a self-absorbed helicopter parent. But he did have one valid objection: the invitation he received said “Adults Only,” which (as NtB pointed out) is an etiquette no-no. I think if his friends had done the correct thing and simply addressed the invite to him & his wife, and then explained their choice personally if there was any confusion, his feelings might not have been quite so ruffled.

    I generally file this one under “different strokes for different folks” — some people want to invite kids, some don’t, and both choices are OK. It should be up to the hosts, with no moral judgment passed on whether the bride is a “bridezilla” or whether the couple really values family or whether the wedding will be appropriately solemn and formal.

  19. De says:

    Melissa, I too file this under different strokes/different folks. I don’t tell others how to plan their events, and they shouldn’t tell me. It shouldn’t matter either way.

    That and no, not everyone gets invited to every party, and people need to understand and respect that.

    To be perfectly honest, no, children will not be included in my (future) wedding. I have a long list of reasons that don’t need to be repeated – all that matters is that both myself and my intended said no.

    If someone complains and says they won’t come without their kid, then that’s fine by me – my wedding is The Day I Get Married, not The Day I Hang Out With Every Generation Of My Family…the show will go on with or without them. They might be missed (or not, depending on how they declined the invitation), but I certainly won’t lose any sleep over it.

  20. me says:

    Somehow I am happy I come from a family, where kids were automatically included in everything. I got to eat in fancy restaurants from an early age. I was taken to the museum at 2 years old. I would have been deeply hurt to be excluded from my sisters wedding, she is 16 years older than me. I was expected to be able to behave through an afternoon long french seven courses meal, with a minimum of fuss. And I was and it was fun. And so to this day I know how to behave in social settings even if my innate clumsiness breaks through sometimes. Kids are a part of live. And yes some parents are incapable and some kids are stubborn. But how will they learn that at this events other people are more important, if they never get to be there ? How will they learn to sit still, if there is never sufficient reason to do so ? Sure parents with wailing kids should go outside, sure some small measures like crayons help, but are we not somehow in this all together. Isn’t auntie or uncle I-like-my-liquor not also embarrassing. Or grandma who wants too smooch everybody, especially if young and male. Do we not also put up with those people ? And the embarrassing friends, who have seen bride or groom misbehave on their bachelor party ? And still they get to be there, but kids are banned, based not on merit, but because of age ? Weddings for me are not for the bride or the groom, in my books weddings are for the family. Hopefully bride and groom know already that they love each other, the wedding is to spread the word and have others participate in this love. Else you needn’t invite anyone. Else it is just bragging.

  21. Bridey says:

    I wonder if that “bridezilla” dude has the same “it’s not ruined just because a child is screaming” philosophy when what’s in question is his own nights at the theater or the movies, or long-anticipated evenings at expensive restaurants, or trips to art galleries and public libraries….

  22. Anna says:

    I completely agree with me (the commenter two posts above) and Kathryn.

  23. One of our favorite things to shoot during a wedding is the adorable girls and boys!

  24. Captured moments — I assume you mean with a camera and not a gun.

  25. 7nina says:

    Anna, good for your parents. But here’s the thing. It’s all very well to say, ‘well, if the kids don’t ever experience these things, how do they know
    ?”, but you have to allow for idiotic parents. My friend with bad kids? Her daughter has literally been kicked out of 2 schools at age 8 for bad behavior and her mother thinks it’s because not enough allowances were made for her creative darling. I wish I were kidding. Admittedly, I might feel differently if these kids were family, but as I’m on only child and none of FI’s nieces have kids, nor will they by our ceremony, so I am standing firm.
    On the whole, I do believe weddings are about the family-but I also think that it isn’t horrible to have a non child-friendly wedding. Of course, people who want flowergirls and ringbearers, but want to disinvite them to the reception tick me off.

  26. Anna says:

    7nina…I don’t think I said anything about my parents?

    I agreed with the two I’ve said before, but then again, I probably come from a completely different situation. I’m completely used to Greek weddings, which, if they are Orthodox, as they usually are, they include no vows. Actually, if you’re in Greece, the congregation will crowd around the bride and groom (there are no “pews” like Western Christian churches), people will be talking or making some kind of noise, children will be right up front for a good view, the rice will be thrown inside the church while the bride and groom walk around a table…basically it’s a formal, serious time, but at the same time, joyful and connected to the community. To not have children there is, in my viewpoint, boring, snobbish, and self-centered. However, a wedding/marriage means different things to different people.

    I will concede to one point. I absolutely hate it when the bride and groom are dancing their first dance and there’s little kids on the dance floor, getting the way of all the pictures.

  27. La BellaDonna says:

    I’m not happy about the “Adults Only” on the invitation, but I suspect that the bride and groom who sent out that invitation may have had every reason to believe that if they did NOT, some of the people whom they invited would have assumed that “of course they could bring the children!” – even though the children weren’t invited.

    I do think there are plenty of opportunities for children to learn to behave in a civilized manner – once a week at the service of one’s choice, or at a restaurant, or in fact any other public venue – or even at home. I don’t think that someone else’s wedding is an appropriate “learning venue” – especially if the bride and groom haven’t volunteered. That said, if the bride and groom are in a position to offer it, even if they don’t want children attending a wedding or reception – no, not even a kids’ corner or a kids’ room – I think it would be a nice touch if it were possible to offer a properly supervised children’s room at the hotel itself – that way, nursing moms wouldn’t have to worry about being separated for too long from their babies, and other parents who might not be happy about being separated for a weekend would still have the opportunity to enjoy some grownup time.

    And can I say HOW CUTE those faerie princesses must have been!

  28. rb says:

    I took my kids (ages 5 & 6 1/2) to a wedding this past Autumn. They weren’t invited to the reception and didn’t attend that, but the bride specifically asked me if they’d like to attend the ceremony. I asked the kids and they did want to. So they got dressed up, were very excited and curious, and to my amazement, sat still and were quiet through a Catholic Mass and ceremony. They of course were threatened with “There will be no SWIMMING and no ROOM SERVICE if you do not behave!”

    They spent the reception at our hotel with their teenage cousin, our hired babysitter. They had a great time swimming and ordering room service four times (!) and hubby and I had a great time dancing and dining at the reception.

  29. 7nina says:

    Mea culpa-I accidentally mixed you up with commenter me.

  30. Johanna says:

    This is going to be a long comment again but this is a topic that gets me very aggravated. Most of my wedding-related prejudices, fears and crisp opinions about traditions come from the various ceremonies & receptions I attended as a child. The ceremonies were boring, being photographed with the happy couple just because you look adorable is annoying and the ridiculous games with grownup jokes you don’t understand and the scary kidnapping of the bride were things that made me want to cry and go home every time. Not to mention the fancy food. With this basis I would strongly recommend not taking the kids if they weren’t especially social and likely to enjoy the occasion, or they will elope for their own nuptials later and a great party is missed.

    And then there are the adults who do not find all the tiny people, especially the loud and social ones with “personality” so cute and joyful. I don’t think we should all have to be in this together, as some of us choose not to have children and some of us can’t even have their own. There are enough people on this globe already so I don’t think of myself as a bad person if I can’t or won’t bear children… until someone comes up and says I am, and that I should arrange my day around other people’s kids. In this day and age the procedure of making babies is mostly known to folks so it is a choice to have them and a choice to be made with awareness that babysitters will probably be needed at some point anyway.

    So I say the parents who think their children should be on top of the list for everyone, even the distant cousin who wants a graceful, quiet, grown up wedding, are the ones that are selfish. Kids enjoy themselves a lot more in their own birthday parties, and some of us don’t enjoy the lovely screaming and streaking of the little darlings in our parties. It’s great that some brides and grooms go through the trouble of arranging kid-friendly receptions, but that should be the couple’s choice and no grumbling, no questions asked! Like La BellaDonna said, some people gladly miss out.

  31. again says:

    I invited only adults to my wedding – that is, invitations addressed by name, no children included (other than the flower girl and ring bearer and their smaller siblings – my nieces and nephews, that is). This message apparently did get through, because I heard that a female friend of my husband’s (whom I did not know) reported to several other friends (whom I did know) that she was MORTALLY offended by this omission and it was against the whole spirit of wedding and family and of course she wouldn’t be able to come, and how unfair was it that, seeing as she had four (as I recall) children, she could never go to weddings with such restrictions. I was not sorry for the necessity of her absence.

    My response at the time – which I was not shy about sharing – I still hold. She had the children. They are a great blessing. I love big families and someday intend to have one myself, God willing. (And I will accept with grace the need to stay home from the occasional wedding. I stay home from plenty of weddings now – because of my JOB. Hello.) One accepts such blessings with a generous spirit – knowing that they involve sacrifice. Probably not two SUVs in the driveway for some years; a reduced number of date nights; a smaller bank balance; and the occasional twinge of sadness at adults-only occasions you cannot attend because you cannot always obtain a sitter. (This woman lived over a thousand miles from the ceremony.) In short, the problems attendant on having small children are problems SHE CHOSE when SHE DECIDED to have children. I respect and admire her decision to do so; but it is not my responsibility to accomodate it, it is hers. Moreover, what I really got het up about at the time was the intention that other people spend their money to accomodate your life. I paid for my own wedding entirely, with my entire bank balance: six thousand dollars. Had my guests all brought their children, the guest list would have doubled (lots of young families). I simply didn’t have any more pennies to spend on that; not a matter of “budgeting,” the funds would simply not have existed. My choice was to leave her kids home or not marry my husband. I chose to marry my husband – and THAT was the point of the day.

    I am, in fact, a stickler for etiquette. However, I have great skepticism for supposed etiquette “rules” that involve the rule-maker spending the money of others for his own convenience.

  32. Jo says:

    We planned a no-kids wedding, primarily because the chapel where we got married was so small that we barely had room for my family and his. Kids were welcome at the reception, so we passed that along by word-of-mouth to the folks with kids. We planned for ’em at the reception (pizza and soft drinks and fun music)–we did NOT plan for ’em at the ceremony. It was meant to be quiet, private, and small.

    And several people brought their children. (Gets hold of self…)

    It would’ve been fine, I suppose, if those children had been a) clean, b) somewhere in the same ballpark as appropriately dressed for a chapel service, or c) quiet, but none of the kids managed all three and most didn’t manage even one. It was a…small, private, and very loud, smelly, and obnoxious wedding.

    Even fourteen years later, even five years after the groom and I divorced, I am *still* pissed off about the people who chose to bring their Little Darlings with them. We didn’t have the wedding formally photographed or video’ed, thank God, because most of the photographs would’ve had small, dirty blurs screaming past and the video would’ve been unintelligible thanks to the joyous cries of toddlers.

    I suppose it should’ve been my first clue, that all the people rude enough to bring badly behaved, swimsuit-attired and barefoot, dirty children to a no-kids wedding were friends and family of my now ex-husband.

  33. That’s terrible, Jo! Someone needs to give those parents a lesson in proper etiquette…preferably with a cricket bat to the butt.

  34. Twistie says:

    Jo and NtB, I’d like to point out that Mr. Twistie owns a cricket bat…I’m just saying.