When you don’t want children at your wedding reception, it’s usually due to financial concerns, limited space, or simply because you want a very formal, elegant and sophisticated atmosphere. However, these are very tricky waters, and navigating them may require quite a statesman. Head off any debate right at the start by putting the phrase ‘adults only’ or ‘adults only reception’ right on the invitation. A tad too crass for you?  Try something like this: “…seats have been reserved for Mr. & Mrs. John Doe at our reception, we hope you can join us.”  Then write the number of seats required for the adults of the household.

    On the other side of this issue, there are people who feel children are a very vital part of a family function. Who doesn’t enjoy the sight of little ones having fun and dancing at a wedding reception? And be prepared: Even if you put out the word to your friends, relatives and bridesmaids that you prefer an adults-only wedding, there will still be those who insist on bringing children. Here are a few suggestions to work out this very sticky wicket. First, make no exceptions for your favorite niece or nephew. If you have some children there, there will be hurt feelings, and unwittingly you will offend those whose children have not been invited.

    If you’re going to invite children and are still concerned they might upset special moments during the ceremony, there are a few effective steps you can take. First, you should consider offering some sort of nursery at the ceremony venue. Most churches and temples have a room for children, so talk to your contact at the venue about using that room. You should hire qualified babysitters and make your ushers aware of the circumstances. Have them show the room to parents and introduce parents to the sitters. Another compromise is allowing children who are old enough to behave, say 7 years and older, while requesting that infants and toddlers not be present.

    If you do all you can to have an adults-only wedding and reception, be warned: Some parents may still show up with their youngsters, even when it was quite clear that they weren’t invited. If this happens, take the high road and ‘accept the things you cannot change.’ Creating a scene on your wedding day will always leave you with unpleasant memories, so be gracious and accommodating. Trust me, you’ll be glad you were.

    And, of course, children will not eat aspic, tenderloin, dauphinoise potatoes or asparagus in dinners costing upwards of $100 per person. Talk to your caterer and have a special table and menu for children only. The kids will enjoy their mini hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, apple juice, and macaroni and cheese, and you’ll wind up saving money. Provide crayons, cover the tables with butcher paper, and put balloons on the backs of each child’s chair. You’ll be a hero, and the kids will enjoy themselves.

    At the reception, if you have child guests, have a sitter who is prepared for the children to wear themselves out, and another one waiting in a separate room with quilts and pillows. Most parents will be relieved and even have the chance to stay for a few more dances before going home.

    One final query: What has happened to baby strollers?  Not too long ago I saw a sign in a church in London that said, “No pushcars or naughty children.”  When my nephews and nieces were little, there were small, fold-up umbrella strollers. Today’s carriages are the size of Chryslers, and some parents have no qualms about bringing them to the wedding and reception. I once heard an usher tell a little white lie to one such inconsiderate young mother: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but the fire code will not allow us to block the aisles. I would be glad to take that to the back for you, and you might feel more comfortable in a back pew, in case the baby acts up.” I gave that young man an ‘A’ for perfect etiquette!    

John Sullivan has a fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute. He has partnered with Ken Miesner for the past 25 years at Ken Miesner’s Flowers at Plaza Frontenac, where they recently did flowers for their 1,000th wedding!