Adults-Only Wedding


    A bride asks how she can tell her wedding guests that there's no room for children without offending anyone.

    Dear Miriam,

    Because of space limitations, my fiance and I decided to make our wedding adults only. The wedding is in the afternoon, so we realize that a lot of people might assume kids are included. We're thinking of adding a line in the invitations to make it clear that it's only adults, and we also want to put something on our wedding website. How can we tell our guests there's not room for their little ones at our wedding, even though we love them to pieces?

    Adults-Only Wedding

    Dear Adults-Only,

    Simply addressing your invitations to the adults that you're inviting lets people know who you are asking to attend. As literate adults who have presumably attended events before, your guests ought to have the good sense to realize this. They might not, though, so you're smart to think about other strategies for making your intentions explicit. 
    Your invitations (or at least your envelopes) already indicate who's invited, so I would not include anything on a printed invitation that says "adults only." Instead, around the time that you mail them, send an email to the parents on your guest list, personally if possible, or a mass email if that's all you can do. Say something like, "We just wanted to acknowledge our disappointment that, due to space limitations, we aren't able to include kids at the wedding. We really hope that won't prevent you from being there, and we also hope we'll be able to celebrate with your whole family at the aufruf/picnic in the park/hotel lobby/whatever other kid friendly something might be happening during the wedding weekend." You can say some version of that on the wedding website, too. You can also use the words, "adults only," on the website if you'd like since that's a less formal and also more detailed explanation of the festivities.
    Depending on where your guests with kids are coming from, you could offer to help them find babysitters. If someone's coming from out of town, it's actually kind of prohibitively difficult to figure out childcare in a new city, so putting them in touch with local friends who have babysitter connections might be the difference between those friends attending and not attending. You also could ask a couple of local guests with kids if they'd be willing to organize some group babysitting, or consider putting a couple of out-of-town guests in touch with each other to collectively bring a sitter to the hotel. 
    As I wrote about previously (though to a guest, not a bride), there are some circumstances where it makes sense to ask if you can bring your baby along (note: NOT a toddler). To that end, you should be prepared for anyone who's currently nursing an infant to ask for an exception, so decide in advance how you want to handle such requests. Also, if you have any close relatives with kids who you DO want at the wedding, feel free to include them and just be prepared to explain your decision to any friends who ask about it (not because you have to justify yourself, but because you want people to understand the situation). You can also include something in your email to parents like, "We can only include family members' kids." Of course, if you can't even include them, do think about what accommodations you'll be able to make to enable  your family to participate. 
    It's likely that most of your friends with kids have also planned a wedding (or at least attended one), and they'll understand the variety of pressures you're under. While, as a parent, I can attest that I might at first be mildly annoyed at having to find a babysitter, such an invitation also provides a rare opportunity for my husband and I to be somewhere together and stand a chance of both sitting down to eat at the same time. In fact, not so long ago, we were invited to a wedding along with the kids and opted to leave them at home while we had a night out. So some of your guests may actually be relieved that you've made the choice for them.
    As long as you're forthcoming, respectful and genuine about your decisions, your guests will, hopefully, be the same, and they'll want to celebrate your marriage the way you want it celebrated. Since you probably have about a million other decisions to make, too, cross this one off your list and move on.
    Mazel tov, and be well,