7 Dos and Don'ts For an Adults-Only Wedding

Not inviting children to your wedding? Read our top dos and don'ts for an adults-only affair.
by Ivy Jacobson and Irina Grechko
Adults only wedding cocktail hour

Your wedding guest list is ultimately up to you, so if you want a child-free celebration, do it. That said, there are a few sticky scenarios that tend to come up when kids aren't welcome at the wedding. Our advice? Tread lightly and follow these tips.

1. Don't Print "Adults Only" on the Invitation

You shouldn't feel guilty for not wanting children at your wedding. But take that extra step to specify that your wedding is adults only by writing it front and center on the invitation and feelings will get hurt for such a head-on approach. Having a child-free wedding can be a very sensitive issue to some, especially for out-of-town family members and close friends. For a more tactful take, have family, wedding party members and friends spread the word to guests so they have lots of time to secure a babysitter.

2. Do Properly Address the Invitation

To make it clear from the start that your wedding is adults only, address your invitations to exactly who is invited, or some guests with children might assume their whole family is invited. You can also go the extra mile and write in their exact names on the response card (just like you addressed them on the outer envelope), and then all they'll have to do is check "will attend" or "will not attend." That way, it will be clear that "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith" are the only guests invited. “If it's an e-RSVP, allow the drop-down button only for two," says Lauren Sozmen of Loli Events in New York City.

3. Do Feel Free to Put a Note on Your Wedding Website

Your wedding website is a place to put catchall information about your wedding, like your registries, transportation options, dress code and other pertinent items you wouldn't necessarily share on your formal invitation. This is an appropriate place to also mention that your wedding ceremony and reception are adults only and recommend any babysitting options in the area.

4. Do Have a Flower Girl and Ring Bearer at Your Ceremony (If You Want!)

It's fine to have flower girls, ring bearers, junior bridesmaids and junior groomsmen at your ceremony. But if you want them just at the ceremony and not at the reception, chances are 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. “Hire a dedicated nanny service that's licensed and insured to oversee a special kids room adjacent to your reception space," say Amber Karson and Emily Butler of Karson Butler Events based in Washington, DC, and San Luis Obispo, California. “Parents can drop off their kids, check in when they need to and enjoy dinner with ease knowing that they're nearby, should anything come up." Work with your nanny 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.

5. 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 guests bring their families and not others, it might look like you hand selected which children were and weren't invited—and that could lead to a pretty uncomfortable situation. Inviting children just to the ceremony won't probably 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 or to a hotel.

6. Do Call Any Guests Who Assume Their Children Are Invited

Hearing from family members who are questioning why your younger cousins, nieces and nephews aren't allowed to come is normal. Address the sensitive issue right away by calling and explaining that you can't invite everyone you'd like. You can blame it on the budget constraints (if that's truly the case!) which often wards off further protests and avoids hurt feelings. But remember, you don't have to give a lengthy explanation and can simply say that an adults-only wedding is a decision that you've made and leave it at that. “You aren't going to please everyone, and that's okay. Having or not having children at your wedding is a personal decision and one you and your partner made together," Karson and Butler say.

7. Don't Back Down

“Be prepared that if there are some close family and friends who want their kids there, you may get push back," Sozmen says. But like with other decisions you're making, this is your 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. “As long as you're thoughtful and helpful to the guests with kids, then that's the best you can do," Sozmen says. “If parents are still awkward and upset beyond that, then they probably shouldn't come to your wedding altogether."

Not sure where to begin with your wedding planning? Take our Style Quiz and we'll pull together a custom wedding vision and vendors to match, just for you. After that, create a free, personalized wedding website to keep your guests informed (and excited!) about your plans, and a time-saving Guest List Manager to organize your attendees. Even better? You can sync your Guest List Manager and wedding website to update everything at once. 

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