One fool-proof way to have an adults-only wedding (+ invitation wording!)

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My Little Satyr

How can I make it clear from my invitations that while I love kids, I don't love them at my wedding? I want to have no kids at my wedding, but I don't want my guests to be mad at me. Is it even possible?


As usual, my recommendation comes down to being proactive instead of reactive. Instead of making it negative (“How can I say ‘NO CHILDREN ALLOWED'?”), simply pick a venue and time that support adult-only activities. In other words, have a night wedding at a 21+ venue like a bar or lounge. There's nothing like an 9pm ceremony and a dude checking IDs at the door to keep the kiddlets away.

It might sound like I'm joking, but I'm totally serious. It's pretty much impossible to have a child-free afternoon wedding without hurting someone's feelings, because it's clear that you're the one making and enforcing the NO KIDS ALLOWED rule. Then people get frustrated with you. As a guest, most don't want to hear about what they can't do at your wedding, who they can't bring, or what they can't experience.

Weddings in family-friendly locations like parks and gardens and restaurants and churches are usually family affairs, and you're fighting a challenging, uphill battle trying to turn these family venues into something they're typically not. When you try to say “no kids” at a venue where kids are usually allowed, it makes you the meanie bouncer who's in charge of telling your guests what they can't do. (“Yes, I know it's a lovely garden with a big lawn to play on, but please understand NO KIDS ALLOWED.”)

But a bar? It's obviously an adult-only venue, and bar weddings and bar receptions are awesome. When you have your wedding at a swanky lounge or reserve a rooftop hotel bar for your reception, it's not your responsibility to enforce the rules or figure out how to word the invitation. You can outsource your bouncer duties to the guy at the door checking IDs and the liquor control board.

On your invitations, just note (Venue is 21+) on your invitations. Here's an example of a lovely design that we hacked example text into:

Cadillac Wedding Invitations
Cadillac Wedding Invitations

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Comments on One fool-proof way to have an adults-only wedding (+ invitation wording!)

  1. Honestly, this post kind of makes me sad. I am choosing to not have small children at my evening wedding, and while we don’t have a venue picked out, I definitely don’t want to have it in a bar. Our reasoning for no children has nothing to do with not liking them or being a meanie, but rather not being able to afford them and being limited on space. So many of our friends and family have small children that if we were to allow them to bring all of them, we’d have to cut 30 of our friends off our guest list. To us it’s more important to have our friends who love us present at our wedding than kids who don’t want to be there. I realize some people will be angry that they can’t bring their kids, but weddings are expensive and they should respect our wishes.

  2. I like the idea of having a playground nearby so bored kids can be whisked away to play. It might be stated that “Playground(s) in the vcinity, please bring a child chaperon so the kids can enjoy it when they wish” most parents would be smart enough to understand what that means. Having kids myself-I think talking to the owners of very small children(babies especially, who some parents do not feel comfortable leaving with a chaperon) to see if they would be comfortable having a close(closer than their car, but not with in ear shot)tent or building that they could nurse, play and hang out in if the baby becomes a screamer.

  3. While we arent serving any alcohol, and arent having our wedding at a bar, the simple timing of our wedding gives a nice, clear “no kids” sign. 7 to midnight? What sane parent brings their child to that? We also have a little note on our wedpage saying that “due to the evening timing of the wedding, as well as the historical nature of the location, we regret that we can not accomodate any children”. People immediatly imagine their munchkinds breaking some 300 year old antique, and understand the rule.

  4. Perhaps it is important for couples arranging their weddings to consider ALL the possible responses they may receive and the alienation they may be inviting (perhaps even unsuspectingly). It could help them make an informed decision for the happiness of themselves and their guests.

  5. One thing I’m doing at my wedding is providing a childcare specialist. We’re paying to have her hang out for several hours during the wedding. There’s a great little playground, craft table, and a quiet library with books and DVDs for cranky kids. But you could also do something similar, paying a retainer and then telling parents that children are invited to this kid-party event (which just HAPPENS to coincide with the same hours your wedding is happening!). She’s charging $25/hour flat rate, no matter how many kids end up hanging out! If cash is tight, you can tell folks that a sitter is available, and then break down her rates so parents can pay. But I think it’s nice to give them an option, instead of blasting the “NO KIDS ALLOWED” at them (which I know you’re not trying to do).

  6. I want to start by saying Dave and I LOVE kids, but we wanted to have a grown-up party and that is part of how we ended up choosing the karaoke bar.

    Another possible alternative if you don’t want to go that route – hire a professional babysitter. I was just at a wedding that had 20 small children in attendance. The couple chose a venue that had a seperate room the were able to turn into a playroom and they hired a professional babysitter to stay there and supervise all night. Both the parents and the kids LOVED having that option and it worked very well.

  7. This is a really brilliant idea and tactful way of handling the adult reception. For others who are generally okay with having kids at the reception but are concerned about cost, check with your caterer for kid-friendly alternatives on the menu. Our caterer is providing chicken fingers for our little guests, and the kids are not included in the overall headcount for the “adult” meal and bar.

  8. After thinking on how to tactfully say “Please don’t bring your children to our fabulous pirate-themed affair” my partner and I decided to add a line to our invitation:

    “And ye be warned: All parrots, dogs, and children will be fed grog and rum”

    It was funny enough (and in context enough) that we avoided at least some (although not all) of the child-free drama.

  9. rachel – i think the reasons you stated in your comment are reason enough for your friends to not bring their kids! Who doesn’t understand cost or room on the guestlist? I’m having similar issues and I can empathise – whilst I love kids, I want my school friends whom I’ve known for 15 years to attend the wedding before my cousins young toddlers.

  10. This is good advice in general, but not very good advice to the questioner. If she’s working on invitations, chances are she’s had a venue booked for quite a while.

  11. Brilliant idea! I have to say, I would just find a place where there is a playground nearby, and hire several babysitters for children under the age of 6…

  12. So, whereas the babysitter idea is a good one in theory, I think that one of the biggest reasons people want to exclude kids is the cost… that was most certainly our reason! We had to concede and invite kids of those friends that are travelling to be with us, but for the local ones we kept it simple. Each of them had a personal call from/or chat with us where we explained that we had to invite kids from out of town, but we knew they had babysitters they could rely on. We also emphasised the fact that they could enjoy a night out away from the kids!

    This seemed to work a treat… I think they all appreciated the personal touch, rather than a generic comment on the invite.

  13. I can’t believe that people assume their children are invited, no matter what the location! And I have children! I would just make the invitation very clear – we had pretty formal invitations – Mr. and Mrs (or whatever) on the outside invite, and first names on the inside envelope. No kids names, no kid invite. If your invites are more informal, you could maybe find a way to tweak the response cards so that they can respond if 0,1, or 2 people are coming. That pretty politely (hopefully) indicates that no more than two people are invited. If someone can’t come because they can’t get a babysitter, that’s their loss. It’s your wedding – you only need turn it into a daycare if that’s what you want. If people call you with hurt feelings, you can try to spin it into a positive – I don’t know any parents that don’t want an afternoon away from the kids every once in a while. Of course, you have to be understanding too if not inviting kids means your best friend from across the country can’t come because she can’t leave her kids home for three days. The “no kids” rule can cut both ways.

  14. I have two kids and have been invited to kid friendly and non kiddie weddings. I was totally cool with my kids not being invited to a friends wedding. That is the couples day, their way, their vision. I would just say that it needs to be TOTALLY no kids, or kidapalooza, and to pick and choose who gets to bring kids, would be wrong. I for one, do not view weddings as a place for kids. It just seems like a forced bore for them. What 2 yr old wants to get fancied up, stay clean, be quiet for extended ceremony time, then eat food they probably dont dig. And what parent wants to deal with that stress? It ends up being a good experience for the parents to have a lovey time out with friends. Good luck!!

  15. Maybe we are just lucky – or maybe it’s a function of the fact that most of our friends with kids have to travel to our wedding – but although we did invite kids very few are coming. Most of our friends feel like freshangela, in that they are very happy to leave the little ones with the grandparents and have a weekend away, just adults.

  16. Boo. Sssss.
    Kids are cool, and they are usually the LIFE of the party. In my humble opinion.

  17. I can’t believe that people would get upset that you don’t want their little ones screaming through and ruining your ceremony. I’ve got nieces and nephews that will have to come if I want my siblings there, but that’s it! I think relatives are different than your friends’ kids; I’ve got no problem with telling people they can’t bring them. My fiance’s friend has a son who shrieks almost constantly in any situation-no WAY is he coming. I’d say if people really want to get offended because their kids can’t come,they weren’t such good friends to start with. It is YOUR wedding, YOUR way.

  18. Jane-
    Very well said. I have always found the “no kids” rule sort of offensive till I read your comment. Then I said to myself “Ahhhh… two names on the invite, two people invited. Of course.” It’s the thing you teach kids early on: some things are adult things other things are kid things. Adults get wine, kids do not. Adults get invited to big people parties, kids do not.

    That said, I’m with Ariel. It probably needs to be quite clearly big person party if kids are not invited. It might not need to be in a bar, but it probably should be a party kids are not interested in. Pick your poison: a evening/dinner party/formal/racy/drug/sex/opera/poetry reading/wine tasting party. AKA, something that’s just not for kids Again, fun garden afternoon wedding with punch and cookies, but no kids allowed… that’s going to seem odd. And possibly mean. Even with clear invite labeling.

  19. We made it easy- we provided a babysitter on site! That way, the parents were never far away from their little ones, the little ones got pizzas and chicken fingers instead of salmon ceviche on cucumber banquettes, and I got to have a garden wedding in the early evening without children! Sure, my stepmother nearly had a cow, but she got over it when she realized how helpful it was to the out of town guests, and that her grandsons would rather be watching Finding Nemo in the basement.

  20. Had I known the demand for wedding babysitters when I was a teen, I would have cleaned up!

  21. It seems like a simple solution, but what about mature kids in the 15-20 age range? That was me, um, a few months ago and I would have been upset if I wouldn’t have been able to go to a wedding because of that. What about an upscale pub? If they serve food as well as alcohol, those that are underage are usually allowed to come in. At the same time, the atmosphere wouldn’t be appropriate for toddlers.

  22. Any brides who don’t want kids at their wedding can send them my way, I have the opposite problem, there are no kids in our families or circle of friends except for our little niece who is the flower girl.(we don’t even have a ring bearer)
    I’m afraid she will be bored to tears (literally)…

    I like the idea of a kid station, some little things to entertain her might help.

    any other ideas?

  23. we’re not allowing anyone under the age of 18 (preferably 21, but FH’s cousin is still going to be 20 at the time of the wedding, so he’s technically an exception) and we’ve made it perfectly clear that we will not tolerate kids at the wedding- we have our ringbearer & flowergirl in the ceremony who are going to go home with their grandmother after the photos. Our invitations are worded precisely- only the persons invited. Our RSVP cards state “__ of (enter number invited) will/will not be attending” so there’s absolutely no confusion. And to make it even more clear it’s openly stated on our website- “Unfortunately, due to space restrictions we cannot allow children at either the ceremony or reception. Since we’re having an open bar, we’re also asking that all guests be over the age of 18.” i swear, after all of that.. if i get one phone call or response asking if they can bring their kids I might just bite their head off.

  24. I am having my ceremony and reception on a very large stationary yacht. I am still worried about how to put it on the invitations! I don’t really care about hurting anyone’s feelings, but I have not met any of these kids, so they should not be at my day. But how can I put that on my invites without making my invites look tacky?
    It would be so rude for someone to bring a child, but that is just my opinion

  25. There are NO kids allowed at our wedding and I am NOT ashamed to say that out loud and to anyone who asks. I personally can’t stand kids and don’t like them near me, so there’s so reason why I would want them at my party. Fortunately everyone who knows me knows of my hatred for children already so most of them aren’t offended, they figured that’d be the case from the very beginning.
    Anyway, the way I’ve inforced this no kids rule is to 1. address the invitations to JUST the parents and 2. have family members and friends remind other family and friends about how much I hate kids.

  26. I think that everyone has covered all bases on this issue, we personally have addressed invites specifically to the parents only, only left a space for 2 names per rsvp and are going to use the family connections to reinforce this with anyone who may be thinking bout bringing a little one. We didn’t write a no kids allowed on invites as when we worked out who may bring kids it was only a small majority.
    We love kids, we have one ourselves but we want our friends to be able to let their hair down and enjoy themselves on our day. We are having a bbq the day after and have made it clear that this will be family friendly and all will be welcome. I think you’ll also find that most people if they aren’t sure bout the kid situation and would call and check first. Whatever you decide bar, park, circus tent this is ur day and should be done in ur way.

  27. my cousins are plentiful, their kids are now plentiful as well, same with the FH, but in the spirit of family, they are all invited. I know this means I cannot invite everyone I’ve met in the past year, (although they would have to travel anyway and that is asking a lot of new friends,) but it also means no one I have to stay related to is butt hurt. Some of my fiance’s relatives are the kind to reeeeally hold grudges, and chances are they are not going to shell out the money for their kids to travel to our wedding anyway when they are frankly kind of cheap and might not even come themselves. (A drinking, tattooed bride doesn’t go over well with mormons…) All in all, some kids will show, but it won’t be the end of the world. 🙂

  28. I simply put “Adult reception following” on my invitations. My reception is at my gracious aunt’s house around Christmas and every year she has a beautiful Christmas tree adorned with expensive ornaments. Hoorah! I have an excuse!

    Also, it may be a good idea to give any parent the list of reputable babysitters in the area so they know you have tried to remedy any “inconvenience” you have caused them.

    Now if I could only find a way to tell my future sis in law that I only need one flower girl….

  29. ______________# of Adults attending

    ______________# of Adults not attending

    These are my RSVP cards

    This is how my wedding planner solved my problem. WOOT

  30. But what if you want an afternoon into evening wedding? Ahh … have it on a Sunday. SCHOOL NIGHT!

    I have one couple that I would be concerned about bringing their daughter and I plan to include on the information card “Adults Only Ceremony and Reception” as well as make sure their invitation has only their names and the response card will request a number of adults attending. Since we are printing the invitations ourselves, we can do this custom work.

  31. If I were trying to exclude kids from my wedding, I’d be putting a pointed “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Drugs – god bless hippie friends and family) at the bottom of my invitations. Sure to scare them off!

  32. I also don’t want children at my wedding, so as a result we are looking into hotels that offer babysitting services for the day. Or also looking into perhaps hiring someone at the wedding to watch the kiddies.

  33. Jaimene – Very classy solution, clear, simple, no chance of misunderstanding. I like your wedding planner.

  34. We are fortunate to have a large room at the Inn we are holding our reception at. We’re hiring babysitters and providing a children’s meal and games in this room. We have a separate rsvp card for the kids. That’s how we solved it!

  35. That makes perfect sense…I’ll have to pass this on to a couple I know who wants to have a kid-free wedding, but doesn’t no how to go about it.

    Gershom and I are having kids at the wedding simply because it wouldn’t feel the same without all our loved ones in attendance. Besides the kids help justify the candy buffet I want in place of favors =]

    At the reception, we recruited two of my teenage cousins as reception babysitters for $50 a piece. We’re having a kids’ section with toys, and their table will have a paper table cloth with Crayons at each place setting.

  36. I have been that “not so close family member” who got asked to be a babysitter at a wedding. I got paid to watch my half sister when she was little at my step-mom’s sister’s wedding, as well as several other kids. The bride had a room set aside in the same hotel as the reception with a bunch of videos. I did not know too many people there, so, although I miss out on the cake cutting, mostly I remember that I made some money and made my step-mom and her family happy.

    I want to do something similar, although I am having a difficult time finding something closer than 10 blocks away. I have some close friends who I once lived with who have 3 kids (who consider me extended family). The mom said “I am hoping she has a kid-free wedding so I have an excuse not to bring the kids!” Another friend expressed surprise when she heard that, assuming the kids would want to be there at my wedding since I was such a big part of their lives, but we both pointed out that they would probably not even notice or care or expect to be invited.

    That said, I was sad to not be able to attend my own dad’s wedding when I was 10, but it was a matter of the cost of flying me out there at the time.

    There are only a couple of kids we are sure we want at the wedding, and those are 10 and over. All my cousins have at least graduated from high school, except one, and she is close to graduating. Otherwise, I fall into the category of not wanting to have to cut the wedding list of adults I want to invite just to accommodate for kids I don’t know (children of cousins or friends that I don’t know as well). As it is, I am going to invite a cousin I have never met in person.

    So, yeah, I don’t have the option to have it in a bar, but do have the “evening event” filter and want to provide child care so people don’t have to choose. I just wish it could be in the same building as the event.

  37. I have absolutely nothing against kids. In fact, I work as a nanny… which is exactly why I don’t want kids at my wedding. I don’t need to feel like I’m at work on my wedding day! I am planning on addressing my invitations only to the parents and also putting in bold caps “ADULTS ONLY PLEASE” at the bottom of the reply cards. Hopefully this, as well as word of mouth will work well. Because we also have very limited space. If people start bringing their kids, we could be in trouble!

  38. Honestly, if someone told me my son wasn’t welcome, I wouldn’t go. I probably wouldn’t bring him anyway (I do like to get away, and I wouldn’t want to have him bored at a wedding) but being told that I am not permitted to bring him….no way. If I did decide to go, I’d be deducting the amount of a sitter from the amount I’d be willing to spend on a gift. And I probably wouldn’t pass up the chance to say something like “I would’ve brought a present, but we had to pay the sitter.”

    For my wedding, we’re having total kid friendly zone, and an ultra late reception (after everyone’s had a chance to relax for a bit) at an industrial club ala what Ariel mentioned, with no pressure on anyone that they HAVE to attend (or that they’d be missing the wedding if they didn’t). That way, everyone I want there gets to be part of the ceremony without feeling like they have to shell out extra for a sitter, and we get to have our adult party too.

    • I think it's very sad that you would feel the need to ruin the couples' day with a comment like that.

  39. On our wedding announcement we had “Champagne and Cake Reception 8pm” – this helped people judge if this was kid-friendly or not. We also live in Utah, so this was a clear difference than normal weddings here.

    We also politely had our mothers and sisters and friends circulate the word during bridal showers, etc. that this was going to be an adult wedding and to warn people that there would be free-flowing alcohol in an upscale location.

    We only had one family show up with children (besides those that traveled far to be in the wedding party) and didn’t have the kids running around issue.

  40. Why would anyone ever assume their kids are invited?? You’d actually be insulted if asked not to bring them??

    I thought about it for about two seconds and like another poster, realized that if I allowed kids, that would mean I had to cut down on friends. No way!!

    I am having my 4 neices and nephews at my wedding and no other children. It’s kind of easy because I have very few friends with kids and they asked about it and I just told them I wanted my sibs’ kids and that’s it. One friend was relieved- she and her husband do’t get out alone much.

    When kids are around, it’s all about the kids. My friends can’t socialize because they are parenting. They are like 1/4 “there” at the event. And I hate to say it, but in today’s “my kids are magical beings” climate, disciplined children are an endangered species. Some people’s kids are so free to be loud obnoxious little monsters.

  41. Shina,
    I understand that babysitters cost a lot, but each additional child would cost over $100 each (we are including accomodation as well as food) and would exclude and adult guest. Say your babysitter costs you $50 – that sucks, but if I let even 10 kids come, that costs me over $1000 and tha company of people I dearly love

    And gifts? Not that important. I wouldn’t mention anything ever about the cost spent on a gift, or even no gift, either as the giver or reciever.

    I think it’s hard sometimes, bacause parents see them and their child as a unit, while often their friends see them as separate entities. Some times it just isn’t feasable to let children come – and it becomes important to let the parents know so they can make alternate arrangements.

    I don’t really understand how people can be insulted here. I mean, if I told people I hated their children and thought badly of their child-rearing skills, yes,that would be insulting. Having a party just for adults isn’t really that bad.

  42. My husband to be and I both have kids who are 2,3,4. We love kids but cant really afford to have everyone with kids bring them. We are having our reception at a Winery and on our wedding website empahsizing all of the adult things there are going to be to do. We are also hiring a babysitter at our house which is very close to the recetion and telling them that if they want to leave their kids with the sitter to chip in $10 per child.

  43. I’m another one of those who just can’t stand children. I already have my venue reserved for a Saturday morning, and the save the date cards are out, so changing it isn’t happening.

    My FI’s mom suggested I put “Adult Reception” on the invites since there are no little kids in my family and she thinks the parents of the 2 in FI’s family won’t be offended. So….since I have the go-ahead that’s what I’m doing.

  44. Hey,
    I acknowledge the right of every bride and groom to invite, or not invite, whoever they want to their wedding. Kids, like everyone else, are strictly optional. But the kid-hating that is appearing on this series of posts strikes me as a bit offensive. Seeing as how we all spent a good part of our lives beings kids maybe we can not dump on them. Just as each adult’s behavior and personality should be evaluated individually so should each child’s.

  45. I guess my only issue here is that it’s really important to make sure everyone knows their kids aren’t invited, because if they drag them all the way there only to encounter a bouncer (let’s face it: we all have that friend who will assume their child is invited with complete and utter disregard to setting, particularly because most bar weddings involve renting the space which means you are the meanie bouncer who makes the rules), you’re going to have a lot more of a problem.

  46. Alright, ladies. I think we’ve talked this one through-and-through. I’m going to close comments before things get any more hot tempered than they already have.

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