Most brides want to have the traditional flower girl and ring bearer for their wedding day. Having said that, it seems that more and more couples do not want children at the reception. This is a sticky wicket, indeed, but it can be done properly.
Technically, if you address an invitation to ‘Mr. and Mrs. John Doe,’ you will assume the recipient/s understands that only they are invited—not their friends and not their children. However, over time, people have become less socially savvy, or they pretend they don’t know, or they simply ignore the basic rules of etiquette. What this does is put the burden on the host to make it obviously clear that children are not invited.
One way that was very popular about 10 years ago was to add some text in small font onto the lower left-hand corner of the reception card that read: Adult Reception. That comes across as a bit awkward, but it’s certainly clear.
If your wedding has a website, a more subtle way is to incorporate your wishes somewhere in the ‘Details’ page. For example, you can create a section called ‘Child Care,’ and have it say something like this: As this is an evening event and we want our guests to enjoy a carefree experience, we have gathered a list of highly recommended local babysitters. This is really helpful if you’re having a destination wedding or having your wedding in a big city. In a smaller town, where everyone knows everyone else, this might come across as somewhat odd.
The foolproof way to get what you want (a child-free reception) is to hire a sitter for the evening. Let all the guests be aware (through the website or an insert card with the invitation) that there will be an off-site sitter should they require it. This might get a bit expensive, but it’s worth it—it’s the very best way to get the desired result without an awkward conversation. Rent some movies and order a pizza to be sent for the kids’ dinner. You’ll be a hero to the kids—and they definitely won’t be at your reception.
So when you’ve done all this and you still get back an RSVP card that says ‘4 people’ when you’ve invited two, it’s just time to give up. At a recent wedding, a mother with a baby stroller (the size of a Chrysler) pushed the stroller right down the center aisle where the runner would be. She parked her Chrysler—err, baby stroller—sat down and fed her infant. I had no objection to any of this, except for her choice of location for the stroller. The sad part was she didn’t understand why I wanted to move the stroller. (Go figure!)
There are some weddings (usually with large families) where children are welcomed. Some brides love to see the kids dancing and having fun at the reception. If this is your scenario, you might consider a separate menu for children, as well as a separate table. If it’s a late reception, you may want to have some pillows and blankets, because excited children usually get tired rather early. Make sure they have at least one adult babysitter.
It’s perfectly fine to have a family-inclusive reception or a very elegant adults-only affair. The decision is up to the bride and groom—it’s their day and their choice. However, I do not suggest inviting some children and not others. Getting the evil eye from a new sister-in-law because her children weren’t invited is not a great way to start your new life. (Think about it!)
Oh, and leave those Chryslers out on the parking lot!
Wedding expert John Sullivan has worked with partner Ken Miesner for 30-plus years at Ken Miesner's Flowers in Plaza Frontenac, where they have collaborated for some 1,200 weddings! 'Like' him on Facebook under 'Wedding Wisdom,' where guests are welcome to post pictures, and leave comments and opinions.