How to tell your family that your wedding will be adults-only

Guest post by stingzgrrl

I want to send an email to our family members letting them know that the wedding will be adults only. It’s important to me that they hear it directly from us; if it travels through the grapevine, we are both almost positive that it will come out so horribly twisted. While I still can’t control the way anybody interprets the message, doing it this way at least allows us to control the words that they see/hear.

My future husband Joe’s family is tight-knit, and I think most of them rely on each other for babysitting services, so I don’t want them to be completely surprised when they start getting things in the mail that say “adults only.” While they obviously won’t be able to make arrangements so far ahead of time, it’ll get them thinking about finding alternative childcare arrangements that don’t involve a family member.

This was really difficult to write, so I’m glad I’m giving myself plenty of time before I send it, but here's what I've come up with…

Hi happy family,

I hope this email finds you well! Now that we are officially about a year and a half away, I wanted to let you know about an important wedding decision that Joe and I have made.

After looking at all our possible options and having many difficult discussions with both moms and each other, we’ve decided that our wedding will be an adults-only event. We’re working hard to make sure that this is a fun night, and we want you to be able to enjoy yourself without worrying about what your little ones are getting into.

Please know that this was not an easy decision for us to make. We understand that the nature of a family event means that many of your go-to sitters will be unavailable. While it’s obviously too early for you to make other arrangements now, we wanted to give you plenty of advanced notice so that you wouldn’t be surprised or caught off-guard when you start getting things from us in the mail.

More information will be forthcoming, but we really wanted to make sure you had plenty of notice about this issue.

I know this makes things a little more difficult, but we do hope that you’ll still be able to join us.

Love you all and see you soon,

Heather and Joe

How are you dropping the “no kids allowed” bomb? Any copy-and-paste wording you'd recommend?

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Comments on How to tell your family that your wedding will be adults-only

  1. We’ve been making phone calls to family members with children – so far, this has been well received. We haven’t delved into the friends’ list yet, but hopefully there will not be an issue there, either.
    We made allowances only for our two young nieces (in the wedding) and nephew. All three will stay until cake and then a babysitter will come and pick them up. Since we’re getting married on our one niece’s birthday (Halloween), we wanted to have a cake just for her, and we wanted them involved in our wedding while still allowing my sister and brother-in-law to relax and celebrate with us.

  2. We’re including a cute informational pamphlet with our wedding invitations that will address the no child issue. We’re going to include the movie rating box with a “This Event is Rated PG-13 for adult language, adult humor, and recreations of movie gore.” We really felt that a Halloween horror movie themed wedding was not a place for children, and also that they’d probably rather be out trick or treating anyway. In addition to that I do not like children and am very uncomfortable around them. For our closer relatives we just told them in person. The Crow broke it to his mother that his two nieces don’t make the cut, and my mother handled my aunt regarding her 10 year old granddaughter. He had to deal with a huge guilt trip but stood firm, and seeing it on paper will reinforce the fact that it’s rated PG-13 for more reasons than just “Brink doesn’t like kids.”

  3. I know when one of my husband’s cousins got married they said no kids. My SIL freaked and ended not going (we did not go as we already had plans arranged that weekend). I told her ASK when the cousin meant by no kids. Usually when some people say no kids, they usually mean 13/12 or under. Her kids at the time were 16, 13, and 10. On the flip side if you can’t trust your 16 year old kid to babysit the younger ones over night (wedding was 300 miles away from where they live), then something is wrong. Plus they are close with their neighbors across the street to check in on them.
    I think also it is the culture of the family. In my family weddings have always been adults only. But to the credit of my husband’s side of the family, one of his cousins did hire babysitters and a clown and put the children in the church basement during service and during reception, they rented a small room next to the ball room and carried over the “children’s party” at the reception. While probably expensive to hire 2 babysitters and a clown all day (from around 9am – 5/530pm on a Sat), parents where happy and the kids were happy.

  4. A lot of my cousins have wee ones (i.e. under 5), so many of them are happy to have a night with just grown ups! The only way we’re telling them is through early STDs and the wedsite. One of my fiance’s cousins who lives out west we’re going to call directly, since she may be flying hundreds of miles to get here.

    I’m thinking of having a family-friendly pre-wedding event to make up for the lack of kids at the wedding, so people don’t feel (overly) slighted. Stag and does are the norm in my family, but
    drunken shenanigans aren’t really my thing, so I’m thinking more of a carnival thing in the afternoon for the kids.

    • I really like the idea of the pre-wedding family-fun shindig! A carnival sounds fun, you’ll get to see the little ones, and the parents can feel like their kids were ‘part’ of the wedding celebration.
      ps. – My first thought when I saw “STD” was sexually transmitted disease, though I figured one wouldn’t give any diseases to tell people something 🙂

    • “Due to the limited space in our venue, our wedding will be adults-only with the exception of nieces and nephews the brides. Unfortunately, we cannot grant “plus ones” to all of our guests. If there is somebody special you would like to bring, please contact us and we will consider adding to the guest list as space allows. We are trying to include as many family, friends, and loved ones as we can. Thank you for your understanding.”

      This is what we have on our website, but save-the-the-dates haven’t gone out yet. Do you think this is appropriate?

  5. We just told people that we had limitations on space, and while we loved their children very much, it just wasn’t possible to accommodate them. We had 7 children there, immediate family only. We made personal phone calls to those friends who had children. Some chose not to come and it was sad, but it was going to create a situation that we weren’t going to be happy with, and I am so glad we did it this way. A few friends thanked us for creating an opportunity for them to go out for an evening without the kids.

  6. We told family members individually at our engagement party (for those who were present), and then via phone calls for everyone else. Initially everyone seemed okay with the idea. We also put a note on our website and in the invitation as a reminder. For some reason a lot of people said they didn’t remember ever having that conversation with us, which led to a HUGE firestorm once the invitations went out and everyone “discovered” that their children weren’t invited. Several close family members didn’t end up attending. (Interestingly, all of our friends with kids had no problems with this, and loved the opportunity for a date night/weekend by themselves – it was all family who caused drama!) If you’re going to tell people well in advance, my recommendation would be to remind them again before invitations go out, to try to minimize any fall-out.

    We also picked a venue that required us to take out a large insurance policy if there were going to be people under 21 present. We thought it would make the conversations about children easier (there was an article on OBB years ago along those lines), but we just got a lot of flak for not picking a kid-friendly venue.

    (Maybe our families are just really petty – hopefully others won’t have the same problem!)

  7. No problems so far for us. We made it clear on our website and the invitation that our venue was not child friendly and that we were not including children 10 and younger. Since most of our family members with kids that age are out of towners, we are offering a baby sitting service for those kids (offsite, not at the venue). If anyone is bothered, no one has said anything to us! FSIL was actually super excited to have an excuse to leave the babies for the night 🙂 We’ve just been trying to frame it as a win-win-win: Kids are safe, kids aren’t bored out of their minds at a grown-up party, parents get a night off.

  8. Thus far, all of the ‘kids’ that would be involved are 10 and above, with most being 12 and will be above 13 by the time our wedding rolls around. They are all very mature for their ages (or at least are well behaved), so I have thankfully not had to deal with this! Besides… They can keep each other entertained.

  9. For out of town guests who might have to bring their kids, but they’re not allowed at the ceremony, I had a friend who found a local babysitter and had the kids come over to her house while the guests were out enjoying the wedding. It’s not always reasonable to think people can leave their kids at home, especially if they’re really young or the venue is far away.

    • I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving my child with a stranger. Most parents wouldn’t be.

  10. A friend and mine got married recently and was having trouble deciding how to un-invite all the kiddos. Her theory was that parents wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy themselves while having to look after their little ones. But instead of enforcing a no child policy she set up a kid zone away from the main reception where an outside vendor brought arts, crafts, cribs, bubbles, movies, and games. They had a staff of babysitters and after dinner they even treated the children to a magic and juggling show followed by face painting and balloon twisting. It turned out to be the best of both worlds where the parents had a great stress free time and all the kiddos had a blast as well.

    • Um, I want balloon sculpture at my (entirely hypothetical) wedding now. Thanks, hahaha!

    • My sister recently got married and she planned a small “kids party” for the older kids (6-13 or so) that was at the pool on the other side of the hotel. She actually framed it as a wedding reception hosted by her 6 year old son. She ordered pizza and cupcakes and hired a few babysitters (the parents paid the sitter). For her 2 sisters with very young kids and babies (mine included) she hired 2 baby sitters to watch the kids in our cabin. Again, the parents paid the sitter but it took a lot of the stress of trying to find a baby sitter in a town we didn’t live in. Instead of me cold calling baby sitters she had it all lined up for us.

      If you have the ability (or desire) add a line to the letter that offers to either hire the baby sitter (at parents cost) or give some numbers to recommended sitters in the area. My sister just asked a few of her students if they wanted some extra money.

  11. I’m an English teacher, so this may sound nitpicky, but I think a few parts of the letter your posted have a bit of a negative tone, as if you’re setting people up to be annoyed with you. Some simple changes in wording could really help ensure that your message stays consistently positive, which could help people be more open minded to your decision. For example, the sentence “While it’s obviously too early for you to make other arrangements now, we wanted to give you plenty of advanced notice so that you wouldn’t be surprised or caught off-guard when you start getting things from us in the mail,” sounds almost ominous. You could sound way more positive and less apologetic if you changed it to something like, “Since our hope is that the majority of you will be joining us for our celebration, we want to make sure that you have as much information as possible so that you can make other arrangements at the earliest possible convenience!” Also, referring to your decision as an “issue” makes it sound like a problem that needs to be solved, when in reality, you’ve already made the decision. You could change it to something like “our plans.”

    Speaking of tone, I hope that this comment comes across as constructive and helpful, not critical and snarky :-p Best of luck to you!

    • Totally agree. I thought the email came across as way too apologetic as well.

    • Thank you so much for this comment! I had planned to paraphrase the original wording above for my own FAQ, and I really want to convey a positive (though not necessarily apologetic) tone. Do you have any further suggestions for doing so?

    • I agree with critique of that line and would likewise add the suggestion that you remove this one: “we want you to be able to enjoy yourself without worrying about what your little ones are getting into.”

      Its sounds presumptuous, also its somewhat disingenuous. Most parents know that an adult only event is either for budgetary reasons or because the bride and groom are worried about what sort of distractions children might be (and not really about them!). The fact that you are writing the email means you know its a decision that will place an inconvenience on some, so lets not pretend otherwise. Just emphasize the idea that you wanted to be honest and clear about your plans in advance.

      Maybe move “We’re working hard to make sure that this is a fun night,” into the next paragraph, followed by something like, “so we wanted to give everyone ample time to make the plans that best fit your family needs as they relate to our celebration.”

      Good for you for telling everyone so early. That will be helpful for your guests.

  12. We are aiming for an “adults only” wedding, however we accept that perhaps that’s not possible, especially considering the age of our friends. On our save the date website, we borrowed some wording from a music festival we both attend, which goes along the lines of, “While children are welcome, please know there will be no activities for children.” We changed the wording to be a little more friendly, so more like, “If you have children, you’re more than welcome to bring them along, however please know that our plans will revolve around having some “grown up” fun.” We didn’t want to make the point too lengthy or anything, and so far, people have understood.

    • That wording makes it sound almost like you’re actively inviting the kids. Glad there has been no confusion so far though!

      • It finished with “if the grandparents owe you a favour, now is the time to take them up on that!” After reading some more comments here, I can see why some folk need to be more polite and clear than us — we aren’t inviting many family members to our wedding and our friends understand our tone. It was more of a discouragement thing, than an outright ban.

  13. As a parent, I think the best course of action is knowing either way as soon as possible!

  14. I honestly don’t mind BABIES–nursing/bottle fed sized–but I don’t want any over a year old.
    I wish people would just come with who is listed on the invitation .

    • Dee, wouldn’t that make it gorgeously simple?! I don’t understand why people assume that an invitation saying “John and Jayne Doe” means “John and Jayne Doe and their five kids”.

  15. We aren’t having a kid free wedding exactly but no one will be under 16. What made it easy for us is a 50 or less guest list total and inviting people with only a +1. It took out a lot of the drama.

  16. We discussed with the friends who had kids (all 2 of them at the time – that I knew of) and everyone was okay with it. A night out with grown ups sounded great.

    Unfortunately, with some last minute invitation swapping with my dude’s friends, we had a guest who was not warned. I’m not sure he would have been able to come if he hadn’t brought his daughter who was under 1 at the time. It turned out fine but I had to take a deep breath when I saw a kid there. So if you have a number of guests who do have children, I’d recommend a follow up call by someone just to be clear that that does include their child, it’s for good reason, and you still love them regardless. Then just take a deep breath if something goes awry. 🙂

  17. We’re in our 40s, so almost all our friends and family have children of various ages. We have never wanted to have children ourselves, and definitely want our celebration to be an adults-only affair. We are making an exception for nieces and nephews (most of whom are older than 13 anyway) BUT we are contacting our siblings ahead of time to find out if they actually WANT to bring their children. If they do, we’ll put them on the invitation. If they would prefer to have an evening sans kids, then we’ll put adults-only on their invitation too. I realize that allowing some kids and not others can create additional problems, but we are close with our nieces and nephews – and not so much to the children of most of our extended family and friends.

    Our save the date cards will say “invitations to follow for this adults-only affair”. Our web site will go into a bit more detail, saying something like “We love your kids, but for a number of different reasons, it is important to us to have an adults-only party. We are not able to provide a children’s room at the reception, but if you are traveling and interested in securing childcare, we would be happy to ask our local friends if they can make recommendations.”

    It may mean that some people can’t or won’t come, but I’d be amazed if anyone who knows us well will be shocked by our decision. I do not want our reception to feel like romper room! It just isn’t us.

  18. I remember going to my uncle’s wedding at 8 years old. Only for the fact that all the cousins went, I would have been even more bored out of my tree than I was — my cousin/best friend and the other cousin her age were flowergirls, so they were always together for photos and stuff (needless to say, I felt a bit excluded). The other girls were all older so I couldn’t really hang out with them, so I was stuck playing with the boys while wearing an all-white outfit that I didn’t dare get dirt on. We weren’t allowed to bring any toys or books, so if we didn’t dance or club together to play we had to sit at an empty table with our dad… :-/
    From that perspective, I know that a lot of kids don’t enjoy weddings. It’s all about the grown-ups, you have to wear stuffy clothes that you can’t move in, and you have to talk to people you don’t like seeing at the best of times (e.g. other flowergirl…).

    At the same time, some kids love weddings and hanging out with the grown-ups. We did have fun dancing for a while, and our otherwise-stuffy uncle took us to the burger joint across the road because the dinner wasn’t to our tastes. 🙂

    R’s nieces and nephews are all good friends, any kids on my side are either infants or not too shy to ask to play, other kids are all the same ages, and a lot of our guests are either parents or love kids. The venue is very family-friendly as well, and I’ve started plotting a “mess-up box” of toys and craft bits for extra entertainments.

    TL;DR: We couldn’t leave the kids out, but if the people the day is about feel that they don’t want Little Billy and Betty there, Billy and Betty probably won’t be too upset — for long, anyway. Get them some pizza and a rare treat and they’ll forget they weren’t included. If Mom and Dad get upset, Mom and Dad can pay for their places at the reception as well as a babysitter and outfits that B&B hate and will probably throw up on..

  19. I copied/pasted your note onto my wedding event on Facebook and it was very well received! This has been something that has been on my mind for a really long time, but I didnt know how to say it the right way without upsetting a LOT of people. I have 23 nieces and nephews, and most are younger than 10! I love those kids to death, but I already know how chaotic it can be in a room on Christmas day with that many kids! And my wedding is gonna have a lot of glass and candles so I really can’t have that many kiddos! Thanks for this super helpful post! 🙂

  20. So… here’s a pickle, I also don’t like kids (youngest in the family and literally no cousins so I have not grown up around kids and they stress me out and make me nervous until they are about 10) and have paid for a nanny to take the 3 children (2 nephews that are 4 and 5, and a neice to be that is going to be 2 at the time of the wedding) and babysit them all day – bring them for family photos – and thats that. My fiance was on board with this from the start of planning. Now all of a sudden after some stupid fight about the cake (apparently I don’t listen to his opinions and just make decisions on my own but I asked him what cake he like best and he was like “meh whatever” so I decide on my own and then get accused of not listening to his non-verbal opinions) He wants his neice at the ceremony. I’m 100000% dead set not having any small children at the ceremony I don’t care who you are I can’t deal with a temper tantrum when I say my wedding vows. I’m frustrated. I need to vent. And I feel like I’m just done with wedding planning.

    • I might be too late on this reply, but, here goes. So we had this fight. Except I didn’t have it with my fiance, we had it with his mother. At least 5 times. As a couple, we decided that we didn’t want kids at the wedding, so no one under 18 gets an invite. Period, the end, next decision. Now, his sister has a son who will be 3 by the time of the wedding that she is in the process of adopting. Since she’s adopting him, even though they’ve had him since birth, he was a foster child, and she couldn’t travel much with him (state restrictions, etc), and they only JUST found out that they’re going to get to adopt, so most of their family hasn’t ever met him. So in the 5 lengthy arguments about kids at the wedding (along with a huge story about how Fiance and SIL were excluded from Uncle’s wedding back in the day, which Fiance was like whatever we obviously didn’t miss it we were like 5), basically what comes out is that the reason she’s really upset is because she wants the family to meet him. So, I blurt out, of course he can come to all the events the day after (we’re doing a brunch and an open house reception) and the rehearsal dinner (we’re letting our bridal party with kids bring their kids since it will be a casual BBQ type deal). But, our wedding will be a formal, black tie, four course meal type affair. No kids. SO, this is the compromise that everyone has come to. Because the important thing was him meeting the family, MIL is satisfied.

      My point: maybe talk to him about WHY he wants his niece there. If she’s super young, she won’t remember being there. Maybe he’s really close to the niece’s parent (his sibling) and wants to honor them in some way, so perhaps you could find a different way to honor that sibling (in a way that endangers the serenity of your vows less). If its about some other family member, that’s ridiculous because its not their wedding and you should make decisions as a couple about your wedding. But if its some other legitimate reason, like they’re really close (not sure how you can be super close with a child young enough to have a tantrum), then I got no help. But I hope its not the last one and that this helped?
      Good luck! Stay strong!

  21. We addressed it in our wedsite FAQ:

    Can I bring my Children?
    While we love small-humans, as this is an evening affair we request that it be adults-only party. Think of it as a night of fun for you!

  22. It was a tough decision to not allow anyone under 21 (and not in the bridal party) at our 3-day summer camp wedding, but the wording came to us pretty easily:

    Ages 21 Plus ONLY

    Got kids? We love kids! But after a lot of thought and planning, we decided to require that all wedding guests be over age 21.
    The only underage people at the wedding will be those in the bridal party, siblings of the bride and groom and baby sitters who will magically whisk them away to a private cabin before the party gets in full swing.
    The bride and groom have to put the alcohol license in their names and don’t want to worry about underage drinking on their big day.
    There are bears, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, endless woods and streams that make unsupervised children a bad idea.
    It’s a Party, Party. With loud bands all night, unlimited drinking and fun festival shenanigans, it’s just not the right atmosphere for kids.

  23. Very helpful! I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t even thought about calling our family members with children; I knew that getting everyone’s emails wasn’t likely to happen, but we were just going to put it on our website and hope the information would reach everyone. I think that calling would be a great way to spread the word, without it getting twisted as it went through dozens of family members.

    We both love the kiddos in her family (there aren’t any in mine), but I really did not want to worry about children being noisy during important moments of the wedding (call me a bridezilla!). Our venue also has a max cap of 130 people, and if we included all the children in the family we would be at close to 170! We know that some people are going to be unhappy about our decision, and we know some people are likely not going to come because of this, but it was a decision we are happy with.

  24. We LOVE tiny humans. I put myself through college and grad school as a nanny and preschool teacher. But… We had super limited space. So we had one 6-week old nursing infant, three 12-year old boys (2 of the bride’s cousins and the groom’s nephew), and one 8-year old girl (groom’s niece and our flower girl) at the wedding. That was it…
    We thought addressing our invitations to Guy and Girl Last Name would be enough, since they did not say The Last Name Family. But apparently that wasn’t clear enough. So my husband and i, instead, had to field phone calls, texts, emails, and several awkward in-person conversations re. the no children policy.
    Our party line was, “Oh we LOVE your kids!! We wish we could invite every single person, but with such limited space, we really need to keep it adults only. Thanks for being so understanding. :)”
    I had my guy add that part to help imply that we didn’t conceive of another option for them other than coming sans tiny humans.
    Calling or emailing ahead of time would have been way smarter. Or maybe including it on our response cards.
    There is a time and a place for tiny humans, and about 95% of the time it is with the adult humans.
    Just not at our reception.

  25. Hi, I’ve got a problem with no-kids thing. We’ve put it on the website, wrote invitations only for parents… but there’s a couple of my friends who’re coming from another country & can’t leave their 2-y-o daughter there alone. Okay, I said, bring her to church, our 1,5-y-o nephew will also be there, but for the dinner we get her a babysitter. – No, my friend says, we don’t need a babysitter, we’ll take her with us to the dinner & entertain her ourselves. If you don’t mind…
    And I mind, because the rule is one for all. And my husband’s sister will create a drama that the nephew is not allowed and some distant friend kid is. I tried to be polite & emphasize that the event is 21+, there’s no entertainment or place for the kids. No use, he just won’t give up.
    I must admit, I only invited his wife out of politeness & really hoped she’ll stay home with the girl. But they seem completely insensitive. What do I do? 🙁 there must be no kids.

    • If someone is attending your wedding from abroad, it would be gracious of you to recognize the effort they are putting into being with you and make a compromise.

      • Why? If it’s your wedding, you’re Paying for it. It’s their choice to go or not. If they can’t find their own babysitter then they should decline the invite. Not make a bloody fuss. They should be grateful for an invite and be gracious not demanding.

  26. I feel like the whole no kids thing is a little insensitive to certain patenting styles. As someone with a 3 year old who practices attachment parenting, I can tell you that I have never left my son with anyone but family and he has never been babysat over night. I have no desire to leave him over night yet either.

    • Some parents may find it offensive but I absolutely will be holding a child free wedding. If leaving Jr. is such a big deal I will understand if they stay home. It is an honour, not a right, to be invited to a wedding. I’m certainly not paying for all of my cousins kids at $35 a plate just because mommy can’t let go. As for the infants who don’t need a plate, I’m not interested in hearing other people’s kids screaming as I say my “I do’s”. People spend tens of thousands of dollars to have their dream weddings and I’m going to do what I can to make sure it’s enjoyable for me, my fiancé and the other couples who want to have a fun night out!

    • Then simply politely decline. At my first wedding, my ex’s uncle had a six year old who had never been left with a sitter. We held firm, they declined, and all was well.

  27. Hi I got married just before Christmas and it was adults only, we just put a small line on both our save the dates and main invite saying ‘unfortunately children are not invited’. We didn’t have much of a discussion as we both felt it’s not really an environment for children. We also send a text/call to SIL and other people who had to travel, we had a couple of heated discussions but we explained our reason and stood our ground, even my nieces from Australia didn’t come, I live in the UK and my brother told us quite late in the year they were flying over for Christmas. Too be honest my nieces didn’t care and luckily they knew the babysitter and stayed with us the night before and on the wedding night so we’re close by. A couple of guests couldn’t make it but we’re still friends, ultimately it’s the bride and groom day not anyone else’s, so guests should respect the decisions they’ve made. Everyone had a fab day/eve and glad to have night off.

  28. I see nothing wrong with an adults-only wedding and making your wishes known early enough so guests can make arrangements. I was initially concerned that some people would be put off by having to leave their kids at home, especially those coming from out of town. However, the kid free request was met with surprising enthusiasm for a night out among adults.

    I sent save the dates, but haven’t written invitation language as of yet. I would hope that a Friday night wedding (and choice of venue) would signal that it’s not a child-friendly affair, but intend to include, “Ceremony begins at 5:30 PM. Adults only reception to immediately follow,” on the invitations.

  29. Simple. Blame the venue! This is going on mine…
    “We politely request that you do not bring children due to the capacity of the venue. Thankyou.”
    And no, I don’t feel bad about it! But I am just dealing with an evening reception here. Good luck everyone!

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