To invite or not to invite? Considering Children on your Invitation List

Posted June 18, 2015

First comes love, then comes marriage… then comes the baby in the baaa-by carriage! The old rhyme about imminent offspring is as cute as a button, and something many look forward to after they tie the knot. However, some brides aren’t quite sure whether or not to consider a “baby carriage parking section” at their wedding receptions (not literally, of course!). And like most planning conundrums, the questions don’t stop there! Once a bride has decided if children will be included, or asked to remain at home, many aren’t sure the most polite yet clear way to convey this information to their guests.

The decision about including children in your wedding celebration is completely up to you as a couple. Kids are some of the most adorable, winsome little creatures and can add the most magical moments to your special day. Case in point: the family stories that will be told long afterward about little Johnny busting out some hilarious dance moves that lit up the dance floor, or little Susie sneaking under the unguarded cake table, making for an adorably guilty ‘icing bandit’ cake face, will be cherished forever.

There are also many reasons some couples opt for a child-free environment. Weddings typically involve months of planning and orchestrating—not to mention a huge fiscal investment! Children introduce the risk of unpredictability, which does not often go hand in hand with perfection. Kids can be loud, messy, not terribly considerate of others and often make for an early departure for their parents. Whatever the decision about kids may be, the number one priority should be to make it abundantly clear. Parents tend to make assumptions about this, and often don’t ask. For those of you in either camp, we’ve sourced some wedding etiquette guides, and put together a short summary of some helpful tips.

Little Ones Welcome
If you are planning to include and invite children, adding the words “and family” to the invitation envelope indicates as much. Alternately, brides can also indicate this by naming each person invited, including the children, on the inner envelope (or outer is fine if you are skipping inner envelopes).  To avoid hurt feelings if you’re having only select kids (such as the flower girl and ring bearer, or immediate family members) make sure you explain your invitation parameters. If possible, seat the parents with children together at one table or at tables close to each other. The quickest way to ruin the party for a single guest (or a couple that has opted to hire a babysitter for the evening) is to stick them at a table with kids.
One decision you shouldn’t sweat is feeling that if you include one kid, you must to include them all. It’s perfectly acceptable to only to invite children who are part of your or your fiance’s family — or those of close family friends. It is very important to set your boundaries—such as children of family only, or a specific age limit—and stick to them. But be aware that making special accommodations for one family may create some hurt feelings for another who took the time and expense to make other arrangements.
If anyone outside the preselected kid sphere asks, simply tell them the truth- that you’re trying to limit the guest list. It is important to note that it is considered a no-no to extend “ceremony only” invitations to children. While you may feel as if you are being helpful by including the child/children in at least part of the big day, nothing’s worse to a child than seeing other people head off to a party while he or she has to head home.

Aiming for an Adults-Only Celebration
Many wedding etiquette experts agree that it’s tacky to state ‘no children’ on the invitations themselves if you have selected to have a kid free atmosphere. There are several ways to go about this while being sure to adhere to the goal of clarity. First, note only the parents’ names on the invitation. Another option is to write the following on the RSVP card: “We have reserved_ seats in your honor” and just include the number of adults. If you aren’t including children but someone insists on RSVP-ing for theirs, you will need to contact them and let them know you’re sorry; you are looking forward to creating an environment where all parents can fully enjoy themselves to the fullest at your wedding, without having to keep tabs on their little ones, or head home early from the party for bedtime.
You could also include a note card in addition to your invitation and RSVP, suggesting reputable sitters/babysitting services in the area for your event; or alternately, it’s incredibly considerate to consider providing a separate room onsite at the event with vetted sitters and activities for a group of children onsite at your event. Let guests know via your wedding website or included notes card that this room will have things like board games, coloring books, goodie bags (with identical delights for girls and boys; no need to incite a war over the only box of princess scented markers), snacks or kid friendly food, and a TV with a children’s movie playing. Then parents have the freedom and flexibility to check in on their babes, or discreetly pick up their kids and depart from the party at their convenience.

Whatever you decide: Kid-free scene or one step below a ‘Disney cruise’ environment of celebration, we at I Do love to see how each couple’s day comes together through thoughtful planning and dreaming to become their own perfect fairy tale!

*Photo cred to Sposabella for the beautiful image of the darling children included in Carlson & Kyle’s wedding.