Do You Want to Invite Kids?

This is one of the most contentious questions in wedding planning, for some reason. I’m really not quite sure why it makes so many otherwise perfectly reasonable people froth at the mouth and arm themselves with the verbal equivalent of thermonuclear devices. It’s just a question and there honestly is no universally right or wrong answer to it. Even Miss Manners et al agree that it is perfectly proper to make either decision.

And yet one side claims that allowing children in the door is tantamount to turning your wedding into Romper Room, leading to social disgrace and a miserable married life while the other side claims that anyone who wants a kid-free celebration hates all children and therefore has no business getting married.

Both sides have blown the thing entirely out of proportion. That’s right, I said it and I stand by it. I’ve been to a metric buttload of weddings in my day, and you know what didn’t determine whether or not it was a nice wedding? Whether or not children were invited. On this question, I am Switzerland… and a Switzerland that feels way too many other countries are being entirely too overwrought to make much sense.

The fact is, there are plenty of reasons to make either choice that do not include failing to take your wedding seriously or hating children. Even if you do have a preference for the less adult things in life or really do think children should be put into stasis from birth to age 21, it’s really your decision. You get to make it, and it’s okay.

But what if you’re not sure which way to go on this one? How do you decide? Take a look after the cut and see.

What is your budget like? Inviting more bodies is going to cost more money. Yes, even little bodies do add up to extra expenses. If you happen to be on a very tight budget, this is something to consider.

Do you plan to have children in your wedding party? Imagine, if you will, what will happen if you have a flower girl and then invite nobody else under the age of 25. Do you really want to do that to a small child? Do you really want the disruption of one lone child who has no playmate at a party not set up for a child’s needs?

Do either of you have a child or children already? What about close relatives on either side? It wouldn’t be terribly nice for them to be left out, but if they’re invited the parents of children who weren’t invited may become resentful.

If you’ve already picked your venue(s), are there kid-friendly facilities? Does the church have a crying room? Does the reception hall provide pint-sized chairs or booster seats? Do the bathrooms have changing tables? Are there things in place that will entertain children if they become bored with the wedding? Are there restrictions that would make having children on site more challenging than it’s worth?

Do you honestly enjoy the company of children? Kids tend to know pretty quickly who really likes them and who’s faking it. Do you really want to spend the day play-acting at an audience who won’t be fooled? On the other hand, if you really like being around kids and genuinely enjoy them, why not have the pleasure of their company at your party?

What’s the timeline of your wedding? If you’re having a late-night wedding with a reception ’til dawn, please don’t invite children. You’ll wind up with some very cranky guests who can easily disrupt the entire event. On the other hand, if you’re having a more typical daytime or early evening event, chances are children can do just fine. Young ones also tend to have more fun and do better at keeping still if the ceremony isn’t too long.

How well-behaved are the children in your circle? Look, I’m not going to sit here in judgment of people’s parenting skills or assume that you don’t have any. I’m just saying there are kids who do well at big events, and some who just plain don’t. If you think about the children you know and fear that left to their own devices for a nanosecond they will set fire (accidentally, I would hope!) to the building, you might prefer they be left at home. If you are surrounded by little ones who are able to keep quietly to their seats at the ballet, you will certainly suffer no major disruptions by inviting them.

How many people on your guest list will consign you to the bowels of Etiquette(ish) Hell for your decision? Whose feelings do you care about most? Whose wrath do you most fear? As I said, people on both sides of this insanely overheated debate assume etiquette is on their side. It isn’t. It never has been. Etiquette is resolutely neutral on this topic. Etiquette has opinions on the niceties of following the decision you make, but stands firm that the primary question is one of individual choice. That said, it is nearly impossible to convince a surprising number of people that this is true. Chances are there’s someone on your guest list who feels very, very, very strongly on this subject and may well decide whether or not to attend based on your decision. You need to decide whether or not it is worth it to you to incur their eternal wrath. Hint: if it’s one of the moms, it’s probably better to just go with it unless you never intend to speak to her again, anyway.

I had a lot of children on my guest list. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing otherwise, because they were people I genuinely liked, because I enjoy spending time with children, because the site was kid-friendly, and because several people who were – and are – extremely important to me might not have come had they needed to hire a sitter.

I have also attended plenty of weddings where children were not invited. I had a great time at all of them, too.

When I was a child, I adored going to weddings (I still do!). But when my parents got an invitation to a wedding that didn’t include me, I stayed home with my brothers and the babysitter and wasn’t psychically damaged at all.

You should make the decision that works for you as a couple in your specific circumstances. It really is okay.

3 Responses to “Do You Want to Invite Kids?”

  1. Jo says:

    These are wise words indeed. I don’t want kids at my wedding (in over a year’s time) and all my friends who are saving the date know my general feeling towards all of the young of the species (nice at a distance, couldn’t eat a whole one, tend to be sticky) and have already begun to plan for sitters accordingly. Most have no problems with this and take the same attitude – it’s your wedding, we know it’s small, do as you will. All except the groom’s sister, it seems….stroppy moods are approaching *sigh*
    Etiquette is a hard thing.

  2. Toni says:

    I think I’ve mentioned it before, but we set up a play area in a corner of the reception, with toys, blankets, pillows and a TV playing kid-friendly movies. It was a big hit with the kids and the parents.

  3. I honestly never considered not inviting children to my wedding, but my youngest brother was 7 or 8 when The Beard and I tied the knot, so I could really not invite him! But still, once upon a time I never realized that this was even a controversial issue.

    I saw it thusly: If you’re getting married during the day or in the early evening at a kid-friendly venue and you wanted kids there, you invited kids. If you were getting married in the later evening at a rather fancy venue and you didn’t want kids there, you made it clear by putting only grownup names on your invitations and by spreading the word that your wedding was adults-only. And your guests need to respect your decision, either way. End of story.

    But yeah, anyway, having kids at my wedding was awesome, since it was on the water at a family residence, and they all ended up going swimming halfway through the reception and were running around in bathing suits. Very cute.