When in the early stages of wedding planning, my clients often debate whether or not they should include children on the guest list. They carefully consider and acknowledge logistics, cost, and atmosphere associated with their littlest guests. It can be a hard decision for couples to make and there are several factors to take into consideration before mailing your invites.
Photography: Juan Euan
The first priority should be your own opinion – do you like kids? If you’re more of adult-fun type of people, it’s absolutely acceptable to keep your guest list to people 18 and above.
But sometimes it’s not that easy. Even couples who are not ‘kid people” sometimes have nieces, nephews, or kids of best friends they may want to include. If your preference for young people and your relationships don’t automatically make the decision for you then consider these other factors.
If you are budget-conscious, you can make the decision whether or not to include children after you have established your guest list and know the estimated cost of your adult guests. Some venues have special pricing for children’s meals and services, while others charge full price regardless of age.
Some couples may be able to reallocate the funds they would have used for children to provide a more enjoyable experience for their adult guests. And, conversely, some couples may choose to forego an extra so they have room in their budget to include kids. Either way, the difference will impact your budget. It’s important to know exactly how.
Another big factor in deciding to include children is the vibe you want to create on your big day. Baby babbles or a rambunctious group of kids can really change the atmosphere of an event.
If your goals are to have a formal event with celebrations that carry over into the later evening hours, adults-only is probably where you want to lean. In a tropical paradise, everyone is looking forward to relaxing, celebrating, and soaking up all that the tropical paradise has to offer. Guests without children will be looking forward to the opportunity to have their friends all to themselves, and you may also be surprised (or not) to find that your guests who have children may actually be looking forward to dancing, drinking, and adult conversations too. Adults-only events level the playing field and give everyone a little less responsibility.
Slightly more casual, day-time ceremonies are better suited for children. Many larger venues provide the opportunity to create kid-friendly spaces with activities like crafts, games, and even their own buffet. Welcoming a family-centric atmosphere could be helpful for families who wouldn’t be able to attend without their children (whether because of family values, challenges with child care, etc) Others might extend their stay and turn your wedding into the focal point of a family vacation. Having little ones in attendance also guarantees everyone will get to experience some wild dance moves and lots of laughs at kids on a sugar high from the cake!
Travel and Logistics
Looking at some of the less emotionally driven factors, travel and logistics can be determining factors. Are the adults on your list open to traveling with their children? Or would they have an easier (and less costly) trip if they came solo? Does your venue foster an environment that is conducive to including children, offering the space for kids to be kids during the reception? Or would they be expected to act like your adult guests? Would your child guests have the opportunity to enjoy themselves, or would they be told to sit down and be quiet? Getting these answers to understand the overall environment of your wedding venue might help influence your decision.
It’s Not Everyone or No One
Like many other wedding decisions, the choice to include kids isn’t one that is all or nothing. There are ways to include the children closest to you while asking the majority of your guests to enjoy some kid-free time.
One easy way to pick and choose is to include the children closest to you in your bridal party, assigning them roles of ring bearer, flower girl, or junior bridesmaid. In wedding etiquette, individuals who are a part of the bridal party aren’t technically considered “guests.” You can maintain your “no kids” rule while using a little loophole to include some kids in your day.
You could also set clear boundaries, drawing lines related to the relationships you hold with your adult guests. For example, you could say, “nieces and nephews will be the only children in attendance.” Or, “only children of adults in the bridal party.” However you slice it, draw the line, be clear and up front, and try not to make exceptions to your own rules to avoid hurt feelings.
If you’re really concerned with feelings, there’s nothing wrong with calling up your friends (both with and without kids) and letting them know you are considering options and value their opinion as you make a decision.
Communication is Key
Whatever you decide, communication with your guests regarding their children is key. It’s easy to utilize your invitations to communicate your intentions.
When addressing your wedding invites, the outer envelope should be addressed to the adults in the household. i.e. Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
The inner envelope is to be used to specify all the guests intended to be invited.
John, Mary, Susan, and Tommy
John and Mary
You can also utilize your RSVP cards to specify the number of reservations you have designated for each family.
“We have reserved you X seats at our table and can’t wait to celebrate with you!”
If you’re really worried about being surprised, give your guests with children a call and let them know that you either can’t wait for their kids’ wacky dance moves or express your excitement of getting them all to yourself for the event.
Either way, be open and honest about your intentions. You don’t owe guests your reasoning, but direct communication on the matter will keep things transparent.
The Best of Both Worlds
If your budget allows, you may be able to include children in the trip to your destination, and then set up a childcare service during your ceremony and/or reception to give parents a break. Work with your planner to learn as much as you can about space availability at your venue.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to inviting children to your wedding. Evaluating your goals, relationships, budget, and logistics can help you make an informed decision as you work to plan an enjoyable and unforgettable event for all your guests, regardless of their age.