Should children be at your wedding

By Terry Meadows

5-minute read




Your decision to invite or exclude children when you get married is a quagmire of social negotiation and a delicate balance of individual sensibilities. We have seen hundreds of weddings with and without children at Zion Springs. There is no hard and fast rule; ultimately, this is your wedding.  

But what is your personal preference? 

Do you need to have a seamless experience with little chance of disruption and distraction, or do you get comfort from the thought of something more relaxed and family-oriented? 

Make an early decision if you want your wedding to be family-friendly or adult-only, and make sure you keep the logistics in mind when you have children attend.  It will impact your budget and significantly affect the vibe of your celebration—either way.

In this article:

  • Your wedding budget and guest numbers
  • Wedding venue guest number limits
  • Wedding venue facility restrictions
  • Are children allowed at a formal wedding?
  • How to entertain children at your wedding
  • How to tell your wedding guests if children are not invited

Your wedding budget and guest numbers

Including children means more guests and more seating and food costs added to your bottom line. If you are on a budget, it might be reasonable to limit the number of guests; often, children sometimes not added to the list and then remembered later rather than sooner. Your wedding budget is the major variable cost based on the number of guests. 

If feasible, consider providing childcare and entertainment for children if you plan to include them.  Don’t forget to provide food that appeals to their preferences. Not many children are eager to have a plateful of locally foraged chanterelles suspended in an aspic of emulsified heritage red berries, accompanied by an artisanal dairy foam with a gelée of macerated Haricot verts and agave infusion. (Did that just make you hungry or just smile?)

Wedding venue guest number limits

Including children means more guests and more seating and food costs added to your bottom line. If you are on a budget, it might be reasonable to limit the number of guests; often, children sometimes not added to the list and then remembered later rather than sooner.  Your wedding budget is the major variable cost based on your number of guests 

If feasible, consider providing childcare and entertainment for children if you plan to include them.  Don’t  forget to provide food that appeals to their preferences. Not many children are eager to have a plateful of  locally foraged chanterelles suspended in an aspic of emulsified heritage red berries, accompanied by an artisanal dairy foam with a gelée of macerated Haricot verts and agave infusion. (Did that just make you hungry or just smile?) 

Some venues have a limit on the number of guests they can accommodate. If you’ve decided on a venue with a particular limit, then you may need to pare down your list to include adults only, with an exception made for parents of newborns. 

Tip - This is the perfect opportunity to pass the blame if you don’t want to deal with awkward questions as to why you don’t want to invite children.

Wedding venue facility restrictions

Some facilities may not be suitable for children, such as destination weddings, cruise experiences, or even the top of that beautiful mountain with the sheer cliff sides plummeting to an abyss below. Be aware that some sites might have expensive decor or carefully curated furniture that is not made for young children. 

Your wedding should be a time to celebrate your union without the distraction of keeping track of children who may want to explore their surroundings.

Are children allowed at a formal wedding?

This is something that is entirely based on your personal preference. It’s your wedding and therefore your choice. Most guests are either not bothered by or understand and accept your decision. On the other hand, some family members might be disappointed, and that might mean some uncomfortable pushback or pressure to change your mind. 

Having lots of children adds a relaxed and informal aspect to your day. They can play significant parts in your ceremony, from flower child and ring bearer to usher and program distributor. At the reception, they can attend the guest book or hand out confetti packets (or an earth/animal/bird-friendly form of celebration.) 

Older children and young teenagers appreciate having activities that include them in the celebrations. If they are ushering guests, have them encourage parents with babies to take their place at the end of the row for an easy escape if the child gets fractious. They can also be roped in to help with entertaining the younger children.  I see bouncy castles and ball pits here!

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How to entertain children at your wedding

Children are loads of fun and invariably hilarious with their unabashed exuberance. And they have some sick moves on the dance floor. They may not always understand everything that is going on, but they surely appreciate the pageantry and excitement of the celebration. 

Check into providing a playroom with a babysitter to keep them safe and entertained. If your budget doesn’t extend that far, offer to put parents in touch with one another so they can share the cost of a babysitter. Parents will appreciate that they can share in your union knowing that their children are close by. This can be particularly appropriate if you choose to have children attend the ceremony and not the reception or vice versa. 

Bear in mind that a few children might be manageable, but they become marauding tribes when they gather in large numbers. If this appeals to your sense of celebration, the more, the merrier. Just be prepared to keep them busy and entertained.

How to tell your wedding guests if children are not invited

Should you prefer to avoid the prospect of a sulking, angst-ridden, or bored teenager, an irate and hungry baby, or a feral juvenile bent on evading the scowling adult chasing after them, you need to let your guests know early that your wedding is adults only. 

If you plan on having a few specific children attend the ceremony, express to guests why they are the exception to the rule, and then provide childcare for the reception if required. 

Be prepared that some guests won’t be able to attend as they can’t get childcare. While nudging the rule for them might be tempting, be careful of this slippery slope. And don’t buy a ticket on the guilt-trip train. This is hard, especially if it is somebody special to you. For these exceptions, see if you can help them find a solution that means they can spend at least some part of the day with you. 

Tip - Have you considered live-streaming your ceremony for those who can’t attend in person? 

Using the invitation to let guests know if children are invited

Your first port of call is the wedding invitation. You can include a line on the invite or as a separate insert in the envelope. 

For child-inclusive invitations, address the invitation as “The Lastname Family.”  Children over 18 years get their own invitation.

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For child-excluded invites, address the invitation to the specific guests who are invited, “Mr. and Mrs. Lastname” or “First and First Lastname.”

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Include explicit wording in your invitation and on your website to alert parents, which gives them time to make childcare arrangements. You are not obliged to over-explain your reasons for excluding children, which can be a sensitive issue for some people. 

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Some thoughtful ways to express this are:

  • We are very sorry that due to safety reasons/space restraints at our venue, we are unable to extend this invitation to children.
  • In order to meet guest number restrictions, we can only extend our invitation to the children of close family and/or our wedding party.
  • Unfortunately, as much as we’d love to invite all of our friends’ children, we can only accommodate a few close family children/we cannot accommodate children.

And it’s always nice to include

  • We hope that you will understand this decision and will still be able to join us on our special day.

With such easy access to communication technology, you always have the option to call, send a text or voice message, or email guests directly to make sure they are aware of your stance on children attending your wedding.  This is where you can add notes about possible childcare options or expectations of children’s roles in the service.  Or to drop a personal note that children are not included.

Do you invite children to your wedding or not?

Sixty percent of respondents in the United States preferred no children, while another 55% invited children to their wedding, according to a survey conducted by YouGov. 

You’ve been trying to decide if you really want children at your wedding or really don’t. So many angst-laden decisions are ingrained in the tradition of wedding planning, such as how much to budget.  Make it your goal to simplify as many decisions as possible as early as possible.  And stick to your decisions.  Be clear and concise in your communication on whether or not children are invited. Agree from the outset that you and your partner’s choices are united, and remember that this is a celebration, not a gladiatorial conquest.  Your decision to include or exclude children is entirely your own.  This is your wedding, remember!

To us, what’s most important is getting a wedding you love and getting it done right, no matter what type of wedding it may be. We believe the perfect wedding is one where you can gather with your loved ones and celebrate together. If we can help couples reduce the stress of planning a wedding, then we feel like we’ve done good. You can look at our other articles for more information on other aspects of planning your wedding.