7 Dos and Don'ts of Having an Adults-Only Wedding

Not inviting kids to your wedding? Here are the best (and worst) ways to go about it.
irina grechko the knot wedding planning expert
Irina Grechko
irina grechko the knot wedding planning expert
Irina Grechko
Wedding Planning Expert
  • Irina Grechko is a Senior Fashion and Culture Editor for Refinery29.
  • Irina is an experienced editor who has focused on fashion and wedding content.
  • Irina served as an Assistant Editor of News and Planning for The Knot.
Updated Jun 07, 2022

Your wedding guest list is ultimately up to you, so if you want a child-free celebration, you're completely welcome to it (tons of couples choose to). That said, anyone planning an adults-only wedding tends to run into a few sticky issues, from invitation wording questions to dealing with guests who won't get the message. Our best advice is to be honest, yet tactful. Follow these important etiquette tips for planning an adults-only wedding without hurting anyone's feelings.

How to Say No Kids at a Wedding

If you're throwing an adult reception sans kids, you'll need to be direct with your guests so there's no confusion. Clear, understandable language is the key here. We know, these etiquette situations can be some of the stickiest parts of wedding planning, but having your special day, your way is definitely worth the awkward conversations. Here's how to make it happen:

Do Properly and Carefully Address Your Wedding Invitations

Make it clear from the start that your wedding is adults only. How? Address each invitation to exactly those invited, otherwise some guests with children might assume their whole family is welcome. If you're sending out more formal invitations with both an outer envelope and an inner envelope, you can be extra direct about the specific people invited. The outer envelope features the guest's mailing address, while the inner envelope includes the title and last name of each guest. If you don't have an inner envelope, you'll need to be as clear as possible on the outer envelope.

You can also go the extra mile and write in their exact names on the response card (the same way you addressed them on the outer envelope). Then all they'll have to do is check "will attend" or "will not attend" on the RSVP card. That way, it will be obvious only "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith" are invited. Using an e-RSVP? Allow the drop-down button only for however many are invited.

Don't Print "Adults Only" on the Invitations

You shouldn't feel guilty for keeping your wedding a kid-free zone, but it's not polite to specify your wishes front and center on the invitations. Doing that is the easiest way to ruffle feathers. Having a child-free wedding can be a very sensitive issue for some invited guests, especially out-of-town family members, future in-laws and close friends with little ones. For a more tactful approach, have your immediate family, wedding party members and friends spread the word to guests by word of mouth so they have lots of time to secure childcare.

Do Mention It on Your Wedding Website

Your wedding website is a place to share important wedding info—both the basics and additional details you're not supposed to put on the invites (think: registries, transportation options, dress code and more). That makes it a great place to slip in a note about keeping your bash adults-only before recommending any babysitting options in the area (a thoughtful touch). Here's some specific adults-only wording you can use:

We love your children, but due to space restrictions we cannot accommodate guests under age 18 [or 21, or another age] on our wedding day.

The couple requests that this be an adults-only event.

Unfortunately, we cannot host any children at our wedding. We appreciate your understanding.

Do Have a Flower Girl and Ring Bearer at the Ceremony (If You Want)

You're welcome to have flower girls, ring bearers and junior attendants at your wedding ceremony. But then the tricky part is, if you want them at the ceremony and not at the reception, they'll feel like they're missing out on the fun part (they're kids after all). In that case, it's good to come up with a plan to treat them after the ceremony or cocktail hour. You could hire a professional babysitting service to supervise in a nearby space or separate room at your wedding reception site (your wedding planner can help make the arrangements). Work with your sitter service to plan special, age-appropriate activities like crafts and games, and plan meals that are kid friendly and fun, like a pizza-making class or a breakfast-for-dinner mini buffet.

Don't Make It an "Adults-Mostly" Reception

While you can have children in your wedding party and still have an adults-only reception, be mindful not to bend the rules for other people with children. If you let some loved ones bring their families and not others, it might look like you hand selected which children were and weren't invited—which could lead to a pretty uncomfortable situation. Inviting all children only to the ceremony probably won't work either, since they might get upset having to say good-bye to their parents or if they see other guests going to the party when they have to go home.

Do Call Anyone Who Assumes Their Kids Are Invited

It's normal to start hearing from family members who are questioning why your younger cousins, nieces and nephews aren't allowed to come. Address the sensitive issue right away by calling and explaining, unfortunately, you can't invite everyone you'd like. You can blame it on budget and venue constraints (if you want), which often wards off further protests and avoids hurt feelings. But remember, you don't have to give a lengthy explanation. You're not going to please everyone, but it's okay to say a kid-free wedding is a personal decision you've made, and leave it at that.

Don't Waver

Even if you've properly addressed the invites, shared via word of mouth and posted a note on your website, be prepared to get some pushback. Just remember, like with other decisions you're making, this is your wedding day and you and your partner get to decide who's invited to the wedding—period. Address the issue and upset parents with sensitivity, but don't back down. If you have a truly angry guest on your hands (and their happiness means a great deal to you), it's a kind gesture to look into hiring a babysitter to watch their children at home for the duration of the entire wedding, ceremony included. At the end of the day, the best you can do is be thoughtful and helpful to your the guests with kids.

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