Childfree Wedding Etiquette

6 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Wedding season is officially upon us, and you know what that means. Drunk uncles trying to dance with your friends, the bartender saying clever things like “you again?” when you order another top-shelf cosmo, doing the Y.M.C.A. against your will and better judgment, waiting for grandparents to go to bed so the DJ can play “On a Boat”. Sounds like a child-friendly scene, right?

[insert record scratch]

This subject is a bit of a sticky wicket. Because although today’s weddings have mostly evolved (devolved?) into a variation of the above scene, they started out much differently. Weddings used to be thought of simply as a celebration of two families coming together, and last I checked, there’s sometimes kids in those. Traditional ceremonies include them in important roles like carrying an empty ring pillow to the groom (everyone knows that losing the actual rings is the best man’s job) and dumping a full basket of rose petals at the top of the aisle, failing to scatter a single one along the way.

So how did this notion of specifically dis-inviting children to weddings become such a hot topic?

Somewhere along the way, “wedding” became code for “most expensive and overplanned event of your life.” Terrifying shows like Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress have fed the mania machine. After watching a few episodes, the thought creeps in that perhaps you too should be vigilant about the font and paperstock weight of your placecards. That you too should plan to start your ceremony at exactly 5:17, position the photographer at a 43 degree angle to catch the light just right, pay hundreds of dollars so your spraypaint foundation glows but doesn’t shine in the sunset. And if some toddler should start yapping about Elmo at the top of his lungs, ruining your perfect moment? Well, it’s easy to see how a complete psychological break might be on the way.

Does this mean all weddings should be childfree? Or maybe just that the bride-and-groomzillas should calm down? Each couple’s situation is different, but one thing’s for sure – everyone should be aware of a little child-related wedding etiquette.

Here’s some for everyone involved:

Bride and groom, no one understands the value of an adults-only party better than me.

But if those closest to you have kids, is it really that big of a deal to you that your wedding be childfree? Keep in mind that people are uber-sensitive about perceived slights to their offspring, and family rifts have started and carried on for decades for far more trivial offenses. You’ve got enough to worry about without making additional problems for yourself. Seriously. You’re about to officially enter into someone else’s family – if the kids in question are on that side of the family, think long and hard about whether this is how you want to make your entrance.

All that being said, when you’ve got twenty-five grand or more hanging on the biggest day of your life (for some people), it’s your prerogative. If it’s not going to cause drama, or you just don’t care enough, knock your socks off. It’s your damn day, as they say. You (or your parents) are the ones footing the bill, you should have control over who’s there. A nice “Adult Reception” on the invites should do the trick. If someone doesn’t like it, they need not attend.

If you’ve got the cash to do it, a nice compromise is offering to hire a few babysitters to corral the kids into a separate room at the venue or leave them back at the hotel.

Parents, I’m going to implore you to use a little common sense.

Are you part of the immediate family? If not, do the bride and groom love children, enough to want them there? Are your kids well-behaved, would you want them at your own wedding (no seriously, would you?)? Do you have any babysitting resources you can call upon so you don’t even have to worry about this, and can just have an awesome night or weekend livin’ it up childfree?

Look carefully at the invitation and wedding website – are there any clues that there shouldn’t be children there? If the invite is addressed to just you and your spouse instead of the [insert name] Family, consider doing some research – talk to someone close to the bride and groom and see if you can get a feel for what’s acceptable. If you’re still in doubt and can’t leave the kids behind, ask the bride. If you’re too much of a chicken to ask, at least have the decency to note it on the reply card so she’s not scrambling on the day-of for additional seats and kids’ meals.  It also gives her a chance to call you and end your friendship prior to the wedding.

If you’re getting haughty and thinking things like babysitters are expensive…well yes, they are. You knew that when you had kids. You also knew you’d have to make sacrifices. And if the bride and groom don’t want kids at their wedding and you can’t afford to leave them behind, then not going to this wedding is going to be one of those sacrifices.

There it is – a few simple words of etiquette from someone entirely unqualified to discuss etiquette.

Have I sufficiently angered both sides of this argument? Probably. But hopefully I’ve helped avert at least one major wedding meltdown here. If you’d like to help me prevent even more, help a sista out and use the little share buttons at the bottom of this post.

Oh wait – some of you are probably wondering whether we had kids at our wedding!

Though we were nearing thirty, almost none of our friends had kids yet – the one set that did, left them with the grandparents because they were fully committed to getting schnockered. So the only kids in attendance were the five nieces/nephews on Drew’s side (as briefly corralled in the photo below) – Ava was our flowergirl and Ian was our ringbearer. Both performed their duties in an entirely satisfactory manner, one with perhaps slightly more enthusiasm than the other.


You know, I don’t even remember whether they were well-behaved (I’m sure they were), because I remember very little in general of that evening. I know my mom bribed another table to get answers to our Liz & Drew Trivia game and then ran away before paying up. I know someone laid a careful trail of Swedish fish from our candy buffet in the ballroom all the way out the front door of the venue. I know we had a mystery puker outside the hotel and an even more mysterious incident inside.

But that’s about all I got. Because you’re busy as hell and it flies by you in the blink of an eye. So if you think you’re even going to have time to worry about kids being there, you probably won’t. And people, that’s coming from ME!


Why yes, that IS Drew crying in the photo above and wiping his eyes on the vows he wrote on a napkin that morning!

PS, how awkward do Drew and I look posing with children?

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