Kids? No kids? What to do?!

By Cecilia Pita


The days of Emily Post may be long gone but etiquette is still very much alive.  While the rules of etiquette are forever evolving and conforming to the way we live today, particularly with the introduction of new technology, common sense still plays a key role in shaping these rules.  Etiquette will remain a necessity as long as so many are deemed rude, self-centered and abrupt.  And, wedding etiquette will remain a necessity as long as those sensitive issues and questions of protocol exist.

One such sensitive issue is the idea of an adults-only reception.  This is becoming an increasingly popular idea but it’s not without debate.  Couples may consider this option in an attempt to trim the guest list and subsequent costs.  Some simply don’t want to deal with the crying and hyperactivity of certain children.  Whatever the reason, a couple is entitled to be happy and celebrate their wedding however they see fit.  Nevertheless, they should remain gracious, hospitable and realistic, regardless of their choices.

If you plan to have children in attendance at your wedding, you may want to include some child-friendly food on the menu. New potatoes topped with whipped sour cream and caviar may sound like the perfect, elegant pairing for your champagne cocktail but a child may only see fish eggs.  So, consider having foods such as chicken fingers or pizza for those finicky eaters. If children are sitting with their parents, you may also want to provide them entertainment in the form of a colouring book and crayons to keep them occupied.  Some couples even go so far as to have a children’s table with favours or planned activities and entertainment and simply hire sitters to help keep an eye on things.

If we consider the notion that children are simply younger guests, shouldn’t we then extend them the same hospitality and consideration we do their parents?

So, be sure to factor them into your decision-making.

However, if you choose to have an adults-only wedding, you should be aware some feathers are bound to get ruffled.  So, it’s important not to make any exceptions and remain firm in your decision, or you may complicate an already delicate situation.  While no one has the right to insist on bringing uninvited children to the wedding, some may try. Couples should manage their expectations and be realistic. Some friends and family may be unable to attend if it’s an adults-only affair, especially if they’re coming from out of town.

The other dilemma couples face with the prospect of an adults-only wedding is the question of how to get the word out. Couples should avoid printing “adults-only” or “no children” on the invitation.  They might try enlisting the help of friends and family to help spread the word. The reality is, although the invitation indicates who’s invited, some people may erroneously assume their children are automatically included.

To be clear, if the invitation is addressed to ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith,’ Mr. and Mrs. Smith should not assume their daughter Jane is also invited.  If the invitation is addressed to ‘The Smith Family,’ or ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jane Smith,’ then it would be safe to assume all three members of the Smith family are invited.

One possible compromise, if your budget and venue allow, is to have a children’s room for activities and hire babysitters to help out.  Some hotels even offer baby-sitting services for their guests, so this may be another option to offer those with children.

Despite a couple’s best efforts, some may have a difficult time accepting the fact their children aren’t invited and may take it personally. So, it’s important to let people know your choices aren’t personal and gently and diplomatically mention you hope they understand your decision, and hope they will be able to attend.

The goal at the end of the day should be for everyone to have a memorable experience.  This is a celebration after all!

Whether a couple chooses to have children in attendance or not is a personal decision.  As guests, we should respect a couple’s choices.  Similarly, a couple should execute these choices with respect, understanding and diplomacy.  For more about etiquette visit

Cecilia Pita is an expert on etiquette