An Ontario bride-to-be has a warning for engaged couples considering a child-free wedding: Be prepared for backlash.
“Be prepared for people to imply you’re inconsiderate, that you’re hurting their children’s feelings, that you’re hurting their feelings.”
The cautionary advice comes after one of the relatives of the bride, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid more family drama, didn’t seem to appreciate the “adults only” request at the bottom of her RSVP.
“She made a point to note that the reason they wouldn’t be attending was because the invitation wasn’t extended to their daughter — insinuating it was unfair to her that they attend and she not. She went so far as to write that on the response card,” said the bride.
The 32-year-old found the passive-aggressive response “excessive.” But she doesn’t regret her request.
“People are going to get offended by something, no matter what. Especially with weddings.”
When the bride privately recounted the reaction to a group on Facebook, others began to share their own horror stories.
“We had the same response from one relative when we didn’t invite kids,” one woman wrote.
Another said a distant family member “crossed out the number of guests written on the invite and added two extra people for their kids.”
There was also at least one case of a family member who ignored the request altogether, and showed up to the reception with kids in tow.
“The overwhelming response of solidarity to this incident,” the soon-to-be newlywed said, “has shown me that even if I ever thought I was wrong for requesting an adult-only reception, there are a lot of people out there who feel the exact same way.”
Of course kids don’t always disrupt the festivities. They’re often able to thoroughly enjoy themselves and can sometimes become the star of the party. Weddings may even become one of their favourite childhood memories.
But the fear of the alternative is what keeps them off some guest lists.
Why an adult-only affair?
“A lot of my couples opt to not have children at their reception,” said Toronto-based wedding planner Rebecca Chan. “It’s definitely a touchy subject.”
It usually doesn’t have much to do with cost, as kids under 12 will often receive a discounted children’s meal and those two and under typically dine for free.
“It often is a capacity issue,” said Chan.
That was the case in this particular situation. The couple is getting married in a restaurant that barely fits 100 people. Finding space to accommodate the family’s 20 kids wasn’t a reality.
The only exception will be nieces and nephews, children in the bridal party, and a couple newborns who need nursing.
Roughly one-third of Cynthia Martyn‘s clients opt for a “no kids” wedding.
“They may wish to have a night out for all their friends and family who are ‘grown ups’ and let them have some fun without their kids,” the Toronto event organizer said of their reasoning.
The etiquette of kid-free weddings
Kid-free weddings aren’t exactly new. And couples are certainly entitled to them. It is supposed to be their day, after all.
Chan doesn’t recommend writing the request on an invitation, though.
Instead she encourages couples to tell parents directly.
“That way, you can provide explanations if needed, and there is less risk of it being taken the wrong way.”
Make sure to also communicate your request well ahead of time, to allow parents to find child care. Most parents will understand and will appreciate the advanced notice.
WATCH: Wedding etiquette 101
Other wedding experts are a little more lenient. Martyn doesn’t believe a phone call to all guests is required, but agrees it’s a nice gesture for close friends and family.
She thinks sending it out on wedding invitations 12 weeks prior to the wedding is enough. Etiquette expert Elaine Swann agrees.
If you do put it on your invite, try to avoid “no kids” or “kids not allowed.” Keep it classy and positive with wording like “adults only” occasion or reception, Swann suggests.
Options to keep kids entertained at a reception
Custom wedding colouring books is one way to keep children occupied.
Another possibility, if the budget allows, is to set up a completely separate room at the reception venue and hire an event babysitter service. A team will then “come in and entertain the children with games, crafts, and child-friendly movies.”
“The sitters will mind the children and supervise meal time while the parents are able to enjoy the festivities nearby and check in on the kids at any time,” Martyn said.
“This is a great way to be inclusive and ensure there is minimal drama surrounding this issue.”
“Because it’s your day, it’s your happiness, and no one needs that kind of negativity in their life.”