The decision on whether to invite children to your wedding day can be a tricky one. Like many choices surrounding your wedding, this one can create a particularly passionate response from your family and (if handled badly) can have emotional consequences.
Personally, I believe that happy children add an extra magic to an already magical day, but I also know from experience they can just as easily turn a dream into a screaming nightmare! Even if your instinct is to say “absolutely yes” or “absolutely not”, think carefully about your decision and make sure you communicate it as carefully and as early as you can in order to avoid parents (and even children) feeling disappointed.
Deciding – Invite Children or Have an Adults-Only Wedding?
So, here are some questions to help you make that initial decision: should I invite children to my wedding?
Start with a List: How Many and How Old?
Start by making a list of all your guests who have children and (importantly) how old the children will be on your wedding day. Your niece might be a toddler now, but before you know it she’ll be a walking, talking school child. Weddings typically take eighteen months to plan; this is a huge span of time in the life of a child.
Highlight any children involved directly in the wedding (such as bridesmaids) then take a good look at your list. Is it as bad/good as you thought it was? How many children are there? Are there a lot who are the same age or is there a wide variety? Do they know one another? Can you afford to invite them all?
Ask a Parent: “How Child Proof Are My Wedding Reception Plans?
If you can imagine some (or all) of these children taking part in your wedding day, you then need to consider whether they would actually want to. Toddlers and children under seven years old will struggle with a long day of formality or might find the noise, strangers and fuss overwhelming.
If you want children (and their parents) to stay happy you will need to ensure they eat early (lunch at midday, dinner at 5 or 6pm with lots of snacks in-between), are comfortable and entertained. There are obviously costs involved with these things.
If you want absolute certainty, run through your reception plans with a parent whose opinion you trust. They will give you insight into whether your wedding day will result in happy cherubs or screaming nightmares. You might need to then adjust your plans or reconsider all together!
Ask Yourself: “How Child-Friendly is My Venue?”
If there a lot of under sixes on your proposed guest list and you want to avoid overstressed parents, you’ll also need to factor in some practicalities of your venue.
- Space: How many guests can you seat at your wedding ceremony? This might make you decide against inviting children or some families to the ceremony.
- Privacy: Can you let children run around safely away from traffic and strangers?
- Heights: Are there a lot of stairs or steps? These are a challenge for little legs and pushchairs alike.
- Open Water: Any ponds, fountains or lakes to fall into?
- Breakables: Is there an abundance of easily reachable precious artefacts? Wedding venues will charge you for breakages.
- Quiet Areas: Is there a safe place for a nap away from the noise?
- Babies and Toddlers: Does your venue provide high chairs, travel cots (if staying overnight) and baby changing facilities?
- Food: Can your wedding caterer create a simple, healthy, child-appropriate version of your menu?
Communicating Your Decision: Children Welcome, Adults-Only or Children Where Named
Whatever you decide, be clear, honest and consistent and your guests will understand.
Here’s some direction on how to approach each situation and what to include on your invite…
Make sure to include a separate sheet inside the invitation with information to help mums and dads make their plans and decide for themselves whether or not to bring their children. Sharing details on the menu, timings, location, and any entertainment you’ve planned is key. Don’t be surprised if some parents decide to come alone or only bring their children to part of the day.
An Adult-Only Wedding Day
Accept that every parent will respond differently to this decision. Some might be insulted, others excited about a day off. To avoid awkward moments, phone or speak to parents before sending the invitations and explain why you’ve decided to do things this way. State the cut off age clearly on the invitation, with a reason.
Children Where Named
Most couples choose to invite a few special children to their wedding. If you are only inviting ‘a few’ children, make sure it is just that. You don’t want parents to arrive at your wedding and see hundreds of other children in attendance when their own was not invited. They will probably feel quite insulted that their children weren’t deemed special enough.
Guest post by Lucy Pask
Image from Lloyd Dobbie