“I just got engaged and the wedding planning has started right out of the gate. We picked a date and found a venue we absolutely love (yay!). But things are not without stress: My fiancé has 18 first cousins, many of whom have multiple children, and many with whom he has really great relationships. I have no young children on my family’s side, but I do have some friends with children. If we invite all the families of the cousins, that adds up to about 30 kids. The cost concerned us at first, but our wedding coordinator told us that the kids’ meals are actually pretty cheap. Still, that’s 30 extra bodies on the dance floor. And if I invite 30 children I don’t really know, how can I say no to my dear friends’ little ones? The problem just snowballs! I suggested only inviting the ones who are over 15, but my fiancé’s mom says it has to be all or nothing because the family will get upset. So, can I just say no to all kids at my wedding?”
…And you thought wedding planning was all gorgeous florals and fancy gowns. Unfortunately, a lot of the process involves problem solving: How do you fit 250 people into a venue that only holds 180? You cut the list. Though crossing off people can be an excruciating process—you’re ready to nix whoever Janice Tarantula is but turns out your father-in-law will throw a hissy fit if you do—it’s often necessary based on budget and space. And you never know how a mama bear will react when her cub has been slighted. “How dare they not want little Felix to show off his flossing dance moves!”
But you’re not alone in saying no to kids at your wedding. Soon-to-be bride Rachel G. told us, “I'm getting married at the end of this month, and we have a firm ‘no kids’ rule (our youngest guest is 16), because it completely changes the vibe. I've attended receptions where there have been babies crying and rolling around on the floor, nagging their mom about something or frantically running around chasing each other. And, to be honest, that is exactly what I don't want. My fiancé and I are treating our reception as a way to give parents a chance to relax and enjoy a night out together.”
There’s also the extreme flip side. “I know people where the invitation said something like ‘feel free to bring your children and we as a community will all come together to watch them so you can enjoy yourself too,’” a friend told me over text when discussing the subject matter. Sounds like the beginning of a Law & Order episode…
Jennifer Brisman, New York wedding planner, tells us that saying no to all kids is perfectly fine, as long as you include some thoughtful considerations. For instance, she thinks that if the majority of kids on both sides of the family are invited, including all kids is the right idea.
While cost is not an issue in the writer’s case, Brisman says that you can save some money by isolating a separate “party room” with a TV screen, a few movies, snacks, toys and games. This could also alleviate the “30 kids on the dance floor” issue. “The ease of such arrangements will depend on the venue,” Brisman notes, “so this is something to consider before picking your venue. Whenever you can offer resources or help to guests to assist in managing their wedding experience by helping with their children, definitely do it!”
If it’s a local wedding, managing your guests’ wedding experience is a little easier. Most parents can splurge for a babysitter, enjoy a fun night out and return home before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin.
If it’s a destination wedding, though, Brisman cautions that things get more complicated. What if parents don’t have the resources or they simply don’t feel comfortable leaving the kids behind for a whole weekend? Do they bring them along? If they do, Brisman suggests that you “absolutely offer a babysitting service, resources or an option that they’ll arrange and you’ll pay the bill.” If they decide they can’t bring the kids—remember, flights, hotels and meals add up quick—then you have to respect their decision. “Put yourself in the mind-set that just about every parent would love the opportunity to fly somewhere cozy and special and leave their kids at home to enjoy a few days of food and beverage. But it’s not you, it’s the circumstances,” Brisman advises.
I asked a real-life mom and frequent wedding goer (I’ve been to a wedding where she toted along her adorable 18-month-old) her take on the issue. Her response? “Sure, ban kids, but don't be salty when people with kids don't come. If parents of young kids don't have family nearby, they have to do a lot of planning, and it can cost a lot of money. Obviously, as parents, we think it’s super fun and ideal if people throw a wedding that’s kid-friendly, but I also get that people don't want to do that. Bottom line: just don't be a dick about it.”
Because this topic can escalate quickly, Brisman suggests “making phone calls to at least the handful of those nearest and dearest and talk with them about it.” Don’t let a communication breakdown about your big day be the end of a relationship.