9 Commonly Asked Questions About Kids at Weddings

A young boy and girl on the floor at a wedding reception.

The discussion of whether or not to have kids at a wedding can bring about some controversy. Even if it’s a child-friendly event, there are tons of questions that can arise on how to go about it, both from the couple’s side and the guest’s side. To make things easier, here are some answers to commonly-asked questions regarding having kids at your own or a loved one’s wedding.

1. How do I tell people I want a child-free wedding?

Just say it. Although some people think it’s impolite, you can specify that your wedding is an adult-only event on the invitation. Alternatively, or in addition, you can also repeat it on your wedding website. Be careful with your wording, too, as adding “and family” to an invitation implies that everyone is able to come.

Feel free to confirm, or have someone do it on your behalf, with anyone whom you worry might bring their children anyway. You might encounter some backlash, but remember that it is your day and your choice.

However, if you’re having a destination wedding, understand that this might be tough for some guests. In that case, if you need some adult-only time, you’ll have to provide some sort of babysitting service for part of the celebration period. If you have several invitees with children, you’re unlikely to be able to have a completely child-free wedding if you truly want them to come.

2. What if a guest shows up with their children anyway?

Just because a guest brings their kids doesn’t mean you should stop being an adult. Handle it as calmly as possible. If you specified that this is an adult-only affair, you can be sure they’ll get plenty of side glances from other guests. You’ll only earn extra points for being polite.

Should the kids start acting out severely, you have the right to treat them as you would an overly drunk guest. Have someone talk to their parents about any inappropriate behavior. It’s best to avoid any direct confrontation yourself. Know that in the worst-case scenario, you can ask them (politely) to leave.

3. Is it OK to invite kids only to the ceremony and not the reception?

A little girl standing in the aisle at a church and looking at a bride and groom getting married.

Technically yes, but the children might feel left out. If you do this, you might want to allow kids at the beginning of the reception, during the so-called cocktail period, to not dull their spirits. It is also best to arrange for an alternative yet fun activity for the children so they won’t feel disappointed. Ideally, though, it’s best to choose either one or the other. You either allow kids at both parts of the celebration, or not at all.

4. Can I ask only specific couples to bring their kids?

Yes, but prepare for some backlash, especially if you had to argue with some people about bringing theirs. The situation is understandable, and plenty of couples run into it. You might be obligated to bring your children and/or those of your close relatives, but can’t (or don’t want to) accommodate everyone’s offspring. You can always blame it on a limited number of seats and that your mom absolutely insists that her grandchildren are there.

5. How do I arrange a seating chart if kids are involved?

You have two choices. Either you seat them with their parents, which is best, or you seat them at a separate table. Since weddings tend to be adult-oriented, isolating the kids isn’t always the best approach. In addition, younger kids may not feel comfortable being away from their parents. Not to mention, having the kids next to their parents will assure their behavior is kept in check.

However, if the kids are about 12 years of age or older, or know the other children at the wedding quite well, it’s fine to seat everyone in their own private spot. You can also ask the parents ahead of time which options their children will be most comfortable with and go from there. If you have a separate table with kids under 12, it’s also best to have someone chaperone them.

6. What about entertainment for kids?

Two young girls blowing bubbles at a wedding reception.

It’s best to have a separate play area for anyone under 18, which might mean actual live entertainment, or just a room with a movie, video games, and table activities to which they can escape. You can also provide little goodie bags to keep them occupied, if you wish.

Depending on the age of the children invited, you might also want to hire additional staff to watch over the kids. If the invited parents know of a trusted babysitter who can watch over them during the event, you can extend an invitation to them as an alternative. Just make sure they get paid anyway, and it’ll be your duty to cover the costs.

7. Should children have a separate food menu?

Having kid-friendly foods is necessary if your guests are under 12, as they most likely won’t eat (or appreciate) your fancy five-course meal. Most caterers have child-friendly options or may be able to conjure up something simple at least. Anyone 12 or over should be OK to be served from the main menu, but again, it’s best to ask the parents what they think is the best option.

In addition to food, think about the drinks. Not everyone is a fan of soft drinks, so have a variety of juices on hand. Come up with a few mocktails as well—your adult guests will likely be drinking them, too.

8. How can I involve children in the wedding?

Aside from the traditional flower girl and ring bearer roles, you can ask your younger guests to assist you with other parts of the wedding, or at least offer the option so they don’t feel alienated. This can mean helping you send out invites, sorting the wedding favors, or inviting them to the cake tasting. You don’t need to include all the kids in the planning process—just the ones closest to you. And make sure to check in with their parents first before you do.

If you’re talking about your own children, you can also ask them to be part of the unity ceremony and, of course, the photos. It’s a sweet gesture to mention them in your vows as well.

9. What should kids wear to a wedding?

Two toddlers dressed up for a formal wedding.

Although they’re kids, they’re still required to abide by the dress code. So unless you’re having a casual celebration, it’s expected that children wear something nice. Whatever they wear, assure that the kids will be comfortable in what they’re wearing, or else they’re likely to make a fuss. It is fine to bring a change of clothing to the reception if you’re worried they might make a mess of their other outfit.

Normally, it’s OK for kids to wear white to a wedding, unlike adults, but it is best to check in with the couple first in case they don’t want a mix-up between the flower girls or other kids in the wedding party. However, it is best to avoid looking like a bridesmaid or groomsman, especially if the child is older.

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