I received this question regarding inviting children to the wedding ceremony only:
"My daughter is getting married next summer and I am helping her with her arrangements etc. How do you invite some people to the "wedding ceremony only", without hurting feelings? Most of the people in question would be children, ones that really would like to be there. The bride and groom would like the reception to be "adults/or at least legal drinking age" only. The wedding and reception will be held in different locations. Keep in mind that the parents of these children will be invited to both the ceremony and reception. Another reason for this is the tight budget. We are trying to give my daughter the wedding she would love...but on a very tight budget."
This was my reply:
Thanks for your question.
This is a topic which is often the subject of fierce debate amongst couples who are planning their weddings. With today's escalating wedding costs many brides and grooms feel that inviting children to a wedding reception is an unnecessary expense. At an average cost of $60 - 80 a head for catering having children at the reception not only increases your wedding expenses but it also increases your guest list to vast proportions. For most couples if they have to make a choice between asking 4 special friends to their wedding reception or the 4 children of their friends, the adults will win hands down. Sometimes children just cannot be included.
I think that nowadays it is becoming more popular for couples to plan an adults only wedding reception so I don’t think that you and your daughter need to explain your reasons for children not being invited to the reception. What you do need to do is ensure that you make it perfectly clear to your guests that children are welcome to attend the wedding ceremony but not the reception afterwards.
The best way to do this is to send two separate invitations, one to the wedding which will be sent to the whole family who are invited to attend the wedding ceremony, and a second invitation which will be sent to adults aged 21 and upwards who are invited to the wedding reception. You should insert the wedding ceremony invitation in with the reception invitation for those that are invited to both events. I think that if you try to combine the two events on one invitation you risk causing confusion.
If you decide to send one invitation with the words "Adults Only Reception" or "Adult Reception" printed on it, it is very likely to confuse the wedding guests and you might well find yourself under fire with lots of phone calls asking for explanations as to who is invited to which event and why. Families need specifics of who is invited to the wedding reception and who is not so that they can make appropriate childcare arrangements.
This is a delicate situation as you don’t want to offend any of the guests with children. It is far better to make it clear to your guests with children from the outset that if they intend on attending your daughter’s wedding that they will have to make alternative childcare arrangements for the duration of the wedding reception.
The worst thing you could do is send out the invitations to the wedding reception and simply leave the children’s names off of it. This would definitely be offensive to parents - you need to make it clear that their children are not invited to attend the wedding reception because it is going to be for adults only.
You might well find if you send out "Adult Reception" invitations that guests rsvp with their children’s names included on it. In this circumstance you will have no alternative but to make a phone call to the guest concerned and apologise that children cannot be accommodated at the wedding reception due to it being for adults only. Although you are not obligated to give guests a reason as to why you are choosing to have adults only, if necessary explain that financial constraints mean that you have to keep the guest list to a minimum. At the end of the day it is your daughter’s wedding day so they should respect her decision.
In the same way you and your daughter must respect a guest’s decision if they decide not to attend the wedding ceremony or reception. Some people are overly sensitive when it comes to children and weddings and can be easily offended. Some parents believe that their children should be invited everywhere! A lot of parents and even people without children will argue that it is rude and improper to exclude the younger members of a family as weddings are supposed to be all about family. In my experience these guests will be in the minority. Nowadays modern parents realize that couples might prefer an adult only reception. At my own wedding I invited children but over half of the parents I invited decided not to bring their children - a lot of them wanted the chance to let their hair down and enjoy the wedding ceremony and reception without having to look out for their children’s welfare. Sometimes parents like a day off!
Do bear in mind that some guests might ignore the invitation and turn up at the reception with their children anyway. All you can do in such circumstances is either make a place for the child at the parent’s table or politely tell them that although you would love for their child to join in it is not appropriate as it is an adults only party. Inevitably the whole family will feel insulted and leave but that is something you will just have to grin and bear - it is rude to bring an uninvited guest to a wedding even if it is your own six month old baby! Some parents believe that their children should be invited everywhere.
A possible solution for guests with children
If you are aware of guests who would like to attend your daughter’s wedding but who will be put off by the “adults only” theme to the wedding reception then perhaps there is a solution. You could suggest to them that a few of them group together and arrange for a hotel bedroom to be used as a sort of crèche for their children (this is assuming that your daughter’s reception is being held in a hotel). They could hire a couple of qualified babysitters (depending on how many children there are), the hotel could arrange to have DVD player put in the room (if there is not one there already) and the children could be entertained at their own mini party! It is important that your guests understand that if the children are being entertained on the premises where the reception is being held, that the same rules apply – children are not invited to join in with the wedding reception! This solution would be perfect for out-of-town wedding guests who want their children to travel with them. You do not have to feel obligated to arrange this or pay for it on behalf of the guests but you could suggest it to them. I’m sure they will appreciate that your are trying to help them sort out their childcare arrangements.
Having an adults only wedding reception puts a different slant on the evening. You can concentrate your planning on making it a real party atmosphere. It does take pressure off you knowing that you just have to cater for adults with your choice of menu, entertainment, timings, venue facilities etc. You can organize a reception which probably would not be suitable for children, such as a cocktail hour and dancing going on to the wee hours.
Be warned though - you might be saving money not having to pay out for children’s meals but those parents let loose without their children for the night will drink your bar dry!!
I hope you enjoy your daughter's wedding - how exciting!
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