Wedding Wednesday: Advice on Having a Child-Free Wedding

By 300 Sandwiches

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E, 4 years old,  as ring bearer at his aunt’s wedding.

I love kids. Love love love. But I also love rum. And sharp objects. And pools. And dark nights under the stars by the beach. All of which will be on hand at our wedding. None of which are good for children.

Since we’re a mid thirties couple with mid thirties couple friends, it’s expected a few of them would have kids. But E and I decided we wanted a child-free wedding.

The real issue as to why we can’t have children at our wedding is safety. The rehearsal dinner and reception take place at night at venues made of concrete and stone that have large pools and are right on the ocean. There’s too many small crevices and hard objects for children to hurt themselves on. This is before considering how drunk most likely our guests will be after-hours. The last thing I need is someone dropping a glass on a child during the group Electric Slide.

We thought we’d skated around having to tell our guests as such, until the dreaded question came in last week: “we’d really love to come, but can we bring our son?”

This was going to hurt.
I started to write the e-mail. “We’d really like you to come/so sorry/we’re not having children/adults drinking, etc…” oh, this hurts.

But then E said something so touching. “Well we need a ring bearer, don’t we? Maybe he can come for the ceremony during the day, and get a babysitter at night. And besides, we’re closer to him than we are some of the plus ones … And in fact, I like him much more than some of the plus ones!” (He was joking. Calm down, everyone.)

This was doable—the ceremony will be during the day and before adults start pounding rum and getting rowdy. And, it turns out my wedding planner just happens to run a babysitting agency on the side, probably because she has many clients who encounter this challenge of managing kids at weddings.

After living through this kiddie conundrum and still keeping my friendship in tact, I wanted to share my points of advice on saying no to children at weddings:

Think about safety first: Safety is the priority. Not whether the kids will have fun, or if adults will have fun with kids there. Think about whether your venue is safe for kids first.  If you’re having a cliffside wedding in Greece, think of the risk of a child falling over the side. Or a poolside party at a country club. Or a ceremony in a remote jungle of Costa Rica, where the nearest hospital is a 100 mile medivac ride away. Telling guests you’re concerned about safety is easier to digest than, “we don’t want kids at our party.”

It’s possible to say yes and no to children: Can kids come before the ceremony? Before the reception? To a Sunday brunch? Consider if there is room for children at some point in your festivities. If so, make that clear to your guests up front, and be specific about what parts of your wedding are adult only.

Have the rules apply to all children: You will certainly set off a family feud by allowing one cousin to bring a newborn, but telling another cousin she can’t bring her 5 year old. Set rules, and have them apply to everyone. It’s easier to tell all of your guests, “no children under 18” so they understand their boundaries, and make arrangements ahead of time. Be gentle, but firm: don’t print “no children” on your invitations (bad wedding etiquette, I’m told). But add “adult reception” in the invitation, to signal to guests that children are not invited. If guests are still confused, they can contact you individually, where you can explain your decision.

Ask your wedding planner about a babysitter: Chances are your planner encountered this dilemma before. Maybe he or she can recommend hotels or resorts that have daycare (nightcare?) services. Or maybe they can hire a babysitter for the evening for guests with kids. Perhaps a nanny can be hired to watch children on site in a separate room or quarters complete with kids activities and toys. Then parents can still pop in and visit with the kids briefly in between dancing in the conga line and watching the bride and groom cut the cake.



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