The Kid Conundrum

By Nora Heston Tarte

To have a kid free reception, or to not, everything a bride should consider and how to weigh and decide…

You’re engaged; Congratulations! Now comes the hard part. Your wedding day may be a fairytale, but planning it is anything but. There are so many decisions to be made in an often-short amount of time; and while your big day may center on you and your significant other, there’s other people you have to consider.

One question that seems to cause rifts between etiquette professionals is whether, or not, it is appropriate to host a kid-free wedding. Many couples plan luxurious evening events that run past midnight. For that reason, and many others, it may be appropriate to leave kids off of the invite list. However, the decision is never that simple.

First, consider their guest’s feelings. You likely have at least one invitee with children. While some may be happy to leave their brood at home and partake in an adults-only night out, others may be outright offended that their children weren’t included.

Start by considering your celebration. Each wedding is unique, and the answer to your question may be in the details. For example, if you’re hosting a destination wedding, it may be harder for guests to secure a babysitter. Events hosted close to home allow more flexibility for guests who need to arrange childcare.

The mood of your wedding should also be considered. If you plan to serve hors d’oeuvres and fancy cocktails at your black-tie, evening affair then children may not be appropriate guests. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a low-key backyard hootenanny at 3 PM, perhaps you should consider if children will truly be a nuisance.

Once you’ve made a decision, stick to it. It is your day, and the moment you start making exceptions, you’ll start upsetting people. If the rule is “no children,” it should be hard and fast. Once you allow your sister-in-law to bring her breastfeeding newborn, every second cousin twice removed will be calling to complain about the great injustice that is your wedding day.

Set limits. If you are going to allow some kids and not others, make the rules clear. Whatever the rule is, be firm. If kids are acting as flower girls and ring bearers in your wedding, perhaps only allow children in the wedding party at your reception. If your wedding party is kid-free, you could opt for age limits.

Don’t surprise your guests. Be upfront about your plans. If you call your best friend’s sister a week before the wedding to let her know baby John isn’t invited, you’re putting her in a tough spot. Alerting guests when the invitation arrives (or even before) leaves less allowance for the “I can’t find a sitter,” excuse.

Lastly, make peace with your decision. Even if you have to ask your maid of honor to field phone calls from displeased wedding guests, don’t second-guess yourself. Once the plan is in place, stick to it. Then breathe a sigh of relief when reactions aren’t nearly as poor as you’d imagined.