Wedding Etiquette and Not Inviting Children

 In Wedding etiquette, Wedding Invitations, wedding planning
Children at a Wedding

Children Attending a Wedding

As a popular NJ wedding venue, we’ve answered our fair share of questions for brides-to-be over our many years of partnering with happy couples to plan their special day.  But when it comes to wedding invitation tips, one of the questions we get asked most, whether planning a large NJ wedding or a small NJ wedding, is “How do I let my wedding guests know their children aren’t invited?”

You’ll be glad to know that the answer is simple. Well, not quite.

The simple answer is not to include the children’s names on the invitations. Proper wedding etiquette dictates that if children’s names are not included on the parents’ or guardians’ invitation, then they are just not invited. (Even if children are to be invited, it is not expected for them to receive separate invitations. However, wedding invitation etiquette does require individual invitations to be sent to “children” over the age of 18, as they are considered adults.)

That said, as a New Jersey wedding location, we know it’s never quite that easy. Not all wedding guests will be aware of the guidelines or be able to get the message by reading between the lines. Some just assume their children are invited. And to be honest, there may be some parents who feel so strongly that their children should be invited to your wedding that they choose to willfully ignore your wishes and the absence of their children’s names on the invitation and bring them along anyway.

We’ve helped out many concerned brides on their wedding day at our NJ banquet facilities by arranging last-minute seating and meal accommodations for children who unexpectedly “joined the party.”

But before we go any further, is it okay not to invite children to your wedding? Yes. If you’re happy to have children at your wedding and/or reception and can accommodate them (whether as a matter of cost, number of guests, special food considerations, or disruption factor), then by all means do.  But if you’d prefer not having children at your wedding, it is a perfectly acceptable practice. It is also permitted protocol to limit invitations to children by age at your wedding. And even if you have young ones as ring bearers and flower girls as part of your wedding party, you don’t need to feel obligated to then open your invitations up to every guest’s children.

Of course, the real concern isn’t necessarily how to make it clear children are not invited to the wedding, but how to avoid upsetting wedding guests and avoiding hurt feelings. You’ll probably already know which friends or family will require a little extra attention to manage their expectations and feelings. But keep in mind, if you don’t make sure these guests know where the line is drawn and they do end up brining their children, you’ll also risk upsetting your other attendees who followed etiquette and left their children at home. You don’t want to worry on your wedding day if your guests feel like you were playing favorites.

Therefore, the best tip for brides is to not make exceptions to the no children at my wedding request, with the exception of the ring bearer and flower girl.

Even before you send out your wedding invitations, think about how to respond if you receive wedding invitations RSVPs with a “plus children.”  You should respond right away as directly as possible. Don’t just send a text or an email; speak to the individual in person or at least by phone to explain the situation so you can both gauge their feelings and be sure the issue is settled. Be apologetic but firm, assuming the “miscommunication” was on your part, but be clear that you are not able to include the invitation of any children at your wedding. If you feel it necessary to explain why, then do so (for any of the reasons listed above, for example), but do not feel obligated to plead your case. While you want to be a good host and ensure everyone enjoys themselves, it is your special day and they are invited at your will. Of course, you’d only want to share with them that you hope they understand and will still be able to join you.

There may be some parents you just won’t be able to make happy, but you have to take solace in knowing that you’ve done what you could, any stresses created won’t be popping up on your big day, and they will be limited to those more challenging friends or family who might have a high bar to reach anyway.

As added insurance, you may want to have at-the-ready suggestions for qualified childcare or baby sitters. This could come in handy when talking in advance to guests who are travelling with children from out of town or those parents who protest at the last minute that they just can’t find anyone to watch their children. If there are enough guests with childcare issues, you may want to even consider having childcare services arranged at a nearby location. Having a prepared answer and not having to scramble last-minute will be well worth the extra effort.

At the end of the day, when you’re up-front with your friends and relatives, you’re able to remove the “oh, I didn’t know” factor. Usually, once you personally express your feelings it is much harder for guests to ignore your wishes. As a bride, it can be very easy to become so focused on all the difficulties that go into planning a wedding that it can be hard to think about your guests’ perspectives; and reasonably so. Parents who are juggling a lot themselves may have the same problem seeing your side of the equation.  So even just touching base and appealing to their better nature by subtly reminding them of your situation will make for a much smoother and less stressful wedding day. And there’s nothing we love more than seeing a bride and groom who can be in the moment and truly enjoy their special day, shared with their loved-ones.

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