Ask a Child-Free Person: Is It Okay to Exclude Children from Attending Your Wedding?

Welcome to ask a child-free person, the blog where I, a child-free person who studies motherhood for a living, negotiate common conflicts that arise between the parented and the child-free.

So it’s the summer and we are in what wedding planners refer to as the heart of “wedding season.” To mark this occasion, I have decided to tackle one of the most awkward topics associated with planning a wedding celebration: Is it okay to exclude children from attending one’s nuptials? I for one fervently believe if it’s your wedding, you don’t have to invite anyone you don’t want to. This includes young humans.

Any time anyone has a party and pays for people’s food and booze, who they decide to invite is up to them. No one is owed an invitation to someone else’s wedding, no matter how recently they were born. I mean, just because someone knows and likes you, does that mean they have to invite all your relatives too? You wouldn’t expect them to invite your pervy Uncle Larry just because he’s related to you, would you? So, even if you were roommates in undergrad, and you held back their hair that one time they threw up a bunch of tequila shots when you were travelling in Malaysia, that doesn’t mean they have to allow you to bring a bunch of extra people to a party they’re throwing.

Listen parents, I’m still sympathetic to your situation. I get that babysitters are expensive, and when you’re already paying for a gift, stuff adds up; however, wedding costs add up for your hosts too. The wedding/industrial complex is admittedly out of control, and these days it can easily cost $100 a guest to have a wedding. If the host allows you to bring two children, that adds about $200 to the overall bill. And guess what? If one person is allowed to bring his or her kids, everyone else will expect to as well. Suddenly, thousands of dollars are being added to the cost of the wedding in question. Not only that, but there will be so many extra guests that the chosen venue may no longer be large enough to fit everyone. Inviting a bunch of extra people, no matter how young and tiny they are, can easily cause the price of a wedding to balloon.

Besides these financial considerations, the tone of the event is also a relevant concern. There are lots of places in our world where children aren’t allowed. For example, you can’t take your six year old to a nightclub or an R-rated movie. If someone wants to have a very adult wedding where everyone gets drunk and hooks up on the dance floor (this is the very sort of wedding I have always dreamed of having), having kids around could inhibit people’s ability to behave with debauched abandon. In such a case, it’s probably in everyone’s best interests that the kiddies stay at home for the day.

In the end, I know there are reasons you might want to bring your kids to a wedding, but there are also valid reasons your hosts might not want them there. In this case, what your hosts want trumps what you want. It’s their party, so it’s their choice. At the same time, I’m not saying parents should just suck it up and resign themselves to suffer. The people throwing the wedding should most certainly understand if people with kids have to give them less expensive/home-made gifts in order to compensate for the costs of childcare. The people getting married should also understand if parent guests can’t stay all night to dance up a storm. It’s very possible they may have to leave at 9 or 10 pm to relieve the babysitter instead of rocking out to Drake until the wee hours, and that’s okay.

In the end, I believe it’s the right of anyone who wants one to have a child-free wedding to do so. I will say, however, that if you chose to have one, the onus is on you to cut your parent guests some slack. There is no excuse for being an ungracious host.

Sarah Sahagian is a PhD candidate in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies at York U, where her academic specialty is motherhood. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington PostxoJane, &  The Beaverton. When she’s not writing her dissertation, Sarah reads a lot of novels about other angsty young women, streams a lot of Netflix, and tweets about topics ranging from reproductive rights to who’s going to win The Bachelor.

7 Comments

  1. Guest
    July 21, 2015

    This is a clear demonstration that there is a difference between majoring in motherhood and being a mother. Not inviting someone’s children to a wedding is more then just the ‘babysitting cost’. For someone ‘majoring in motherhood’, I would expect the author to be less ignorant. There was no attempt to understand why someone would be insulted as such invitation, she just assumed it’s about the ‘babysitting cost’. This was very one sided, she (ironically) clearly has no grasp of motherhood. At the very least, a different tone should have been chosen.

  2. Guest
    July 21, 2015

    I’m not quite sure what would be so offensive about a couple asking for it to be an adults only wedding.

  3. AllisonGay
    July 21, 2015

    I don’t think the author is ignorant at all. To assume that your children or any other family members are automatically invited is what’s ignorant. As explained, all these extra people take up space and cost more money…. perhaps the bride and groom would like to invite all of their friends and family and not cut the guest list in half in case everyone decides to bring their kids along. Wedding etiquette tells us that the invitation is for the people that are written on the card. If you want to bring extras, at least call the couple ahead of time for permission and be understanding if the wedding is not child-free. It is an event where people should be celebrating them, after all.

  4. MsLoyel
    July 21, 2015

    @Guest I THOUGHT THIS POST WAS VERY BALANCED. WHAT OTHER TONE COULD HAVE BEEN USED? jUST CURIOUS.

  5. childfree and happy
    July 21, 2015

    As a childfree woman – If I choose ever to get married and want a wedding and reception at a hall/restaurant,  I would have it mandatory that no kids are allowed.   I’m not going to organize a “child’s menu” just because of children no way.  I will have a regular choice  and then a vegetarian choice.   It is me and my husband’s day and we have that right to have it childfree.  I don’t want any child to upstage the bride or groom – it’s our day not kidlet day.   We have a right to be the centre of attention and not have kids running around ruining things.   That said – I may end up just getting married at city hall and having a huge back yard BBQ for whomever wants to come….   It could be a pot luck meal and whoever can bring a microwave to warm things up.  CASUAL WEAR mandatory (no dressing up please)  The costs for the guests would be well hotel costs and travel costs
    .  Most of MY family lives in Montreal etc so there would be travel and hotel costs.   and in this case kids would be welcomed.   But that said – i don’t know how many of my extended family would actually come.

  6. MrsBubSmith
    July 31, 2015

    As a mother of 2 – it is ABSOLUTELY okay to not invite kids to a wedding. In fact, I’d love to enjoy a date night out to celebrate love with my hubby.

  7. jezziebezzie
    August 28, 2015

    This came up as an issue with a friend recently. The child in question was the 10 year old neice of the groom. (So not of the screaming & ruining things age…)
    The invite said “adults only reception”, so they allowed the child – excited to see her uncle & new “aunt” – to go to the wedding ceremony and arranged for their sitter to pick her up at that venue before they went on alone to the reception. So the bride would likely only have been conscious of her in her peripheral vision for a couple of fleeting moments.
    Instead of shaking it off, BRIDEZILLA emerged!! Their family was de-invited from a family brunch the next day. The bride was mad because she had personally warned a more distantly related family member with kids on her side NOT to bring their children. Since a child came, she figured there’d be bad blood on her side of the family. But that somehow was the 10 year old’s fault – and her parents, because they assumed “Adult’s Only Reception” meant the child could go to the wedding of her ONLY uncle.
    Some brides? Need to settle themselves wayyyyy down. Yeah, weddings are costly & a big deal – but still, brides THAT stressed? Gotta stop & remember that “big day” is to celebrate a lifelong UNION!

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