Open thread: How do you have a no-kids wedding ceremony but kid-friendly reception?

Updated Nov 18 2015
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Photography by Brandywine Photography

With 5,000+ posts in our archives, it's rare that we get a reader question that we don't already have an answer for, but here's one:

Any tips on letting family and guests know that the couple prefers no children at the ceremony but all are welcome at the reception?

We've talked about how to tell people that you're having an entirely kid-free wedding, but what if you only want half of your wedding to be adults only? We posted this question to our Facebook page, and y'all supplied some great tips:

Invitation and wedsite wording

We did it! It was a compromise because I wanted a completely kid-free wedding, but my husband wanted kids there. We put this on our wedsite:

"Q. Are kids welcome?
A. While children are a blessing and a joy, we respectfully request the ceremony be adults only. Childcare during the ceremony can be provided at request."

In the end, no kids came anyway (we only invited 2 people with families). -Ashley

I did that! I said, "We prefer that there are no children under 10 at the ceremony, but all are welcome to the reception." -Minerva

Childcare options

Could you possibly provide childcare during the ceremony? Then you could say something like "Please join us for an intimate ceremony. Childcare will be provided so you can focus on witnessing our marriage. Then, pick up your kiddies and everyone can join us for the reception!" -Sarah

I would put on the response card a line for the name of the child attending and a line for their age. The bride and groom will also have to decide at what age the cut off will be for "no kids." If there are young ones (under two), you will need many sitters. Sometimes local youth groups will be able to help for volunteer hours or at a lower cost. Provide some simple snacks and easy cleanup toys/books. -Annette

Your turn!

Who else is doing a no-kids ceremony with a kid-friendly reception? How did you word it? Did you make any special arrangements?

  1. I can see how you compromised here, but if you don't provide childcare during the ceremony, this is extremely impractical and your guests with kids would probably not be very happy. What are they supposed to do — leave their kids at home/at a hotel during the ceremony (and possibly have to hire a sitter), then drive back in between the ceremony and reception and pick up their kids? That seems very complicated and like it would take a lot of time, gas and nerves.
    Also, if I was 9 and was told, "Alice and Bob are getting married, but you can only come to the party after, not to the actual wedding", I would be very sad/confused. "Mommy and Daddy are going to an adult thing, but you can hang out with Aunt Daisy while we're out" would work better.

  2. I think you first need to decide if you genuinely want kids at the reception? This is not a value statement but a real question to ask. At my wedding I didn't have particularly strong feelings either way but my husband could not picture his wedding reception without his nieces, nephews, and young cousins. He felt very strongly about wanting to celebrate with them. So we did an everyone's invited type thing.

    If you all really want kids at your reception (or at least the ones closest to you) my suggestion would be to provide a clear indication that kids are welcome at the reception and then make it easy for the parents to get them their. As a parent of 3 young kids, if I was in that situation without an easy way to get the kids to reception I'd just hire a babysitter and leave them at home. I wouldn't want to miss prime mingling time and cocktail hour to drive home and get the kids. My suggestion organize a baby sitter (paid by the parents) at a convenient location, like the park across the street from the church, or in a hotel room attached to the hotel ballroom, or at an local Aunt's house who can drive all the kids to the reception.

    If you are more like me and don't really have strong feelings about kids at the reception then just say that the ceremony is an intimate adults only affair and the reception is open to all and then leave it to the parents to figure out. The ones who really want their kids their will figure it out.

  3. Its a nice ideea to have a Q&A in your invitation and ask "yourself" if kids are welcome, but it is a sensitive topic nevertheless. We had a similiar ideea on our website a while ago and our readers did not embrace it. When it comes to kids, nobody likes letting them not that they are not welcome. No mather how you tell it. 🙂

  4. Will you be sad if you lose the parents for the ceremony as well?

    Think through the practical timing as if you were a guest. Do you envision parents drive home (or to a hotel) and pick up kids in between ceremony and reception? Would the parents miss anything important to you, like family photos? How long is your ceremony? Would you want to pay for, or want to work, a 20 min babysitting job?

    Honestly, if we got invited to a wedding like this, especially out of town, we would not have hard feelings; but we would probably skip the ceremony altogether and show up for the reception. It's most likely too impractical to set up childcare and transportation back and forth just for the ceremony.

    • Yeah, this is what was bothering me. This is more unusual than the other way around because chances are the ceremony is going to be WAY shorter than the reception, and you're basically asking folks to find a setup for their kids for little more than an hour? That's why people might say it's unrealistic.

      If it was me, I'd just find a sitter for the entire night, or the one who was the least close to teh couple would stay home.

  5. I clearly wrote it on my invitation adult reception and when we were asked, we just explained it's not a kids environment. Nothing drives me more crazy than kids running into people at reception. It was made clear the only children allowed were the ones in the wedding. It worked out really well and the kids abused the photo booth (lol) until they got tired and went to sleep in bridal suite.

    • Well, the question here isn't about how to tell people you don't want kids at the RECEPTION. That's fairly common. The ceremony is usually a fairly short (as in an hour or so) affair, which is why it can be a little awkward to ask people not to bring their kids to that

  6. We wanted the opposite! Kids are welcome at the meal and the reception, but we put a note in the FAQs that the party would be getting wilder and decidedly adults only after dark (not an unreasonable curfew in August). I am hoping that will be enough to get the little ones to clear out by then.

  7. We're having a Quaker ceremony, which takes place in silence and is therefore not kid-friendly. For those reasons, we're including on the invitation that because of the nature of our ceremony, we ask that children only join us for the reception. Our reception is in a park, and the whole town is in a very public transportation friendly city, so buses, bike lanes, etc. are available. It makes no difference to me whether they bring their kids or not to the reception, so if they decide they don't want to go back, that's cool. But if they have a relative who can watch them during the ceremony and bring them for the reception, that's also cool. I don't think it's unrealistic. Nor do I think parents only have the option of sitter or no-sitter. They can also get a sitter for a few hours, let an older child watch the younger, or have a relative. Life isn't so black and white.

    • Us too! We're just providing childcare during the service (our meetinghouse already has a dedicated childcare space). We might have kids enter right after we say our vows, since we'll be having a large wedding with lots of non-Quakers in attendance, and the 2nd half of the ceremony probably won't be that quiet anyway ^_^.

  8. We made the difficult decision to invite only immediate family and grandparents to the wedding ceremony. I say difficult because I would have preferred ever fewer wedding guests, unlike my partner who felt VERY constricted by not being able to invite a favorite aunt, uncle, cousin, etc. At the time, none of our siblings had any children so nobody who was invited for the ceremony needed a sitter. We also held the wedding the day before the reception (same location) and part of our decision to keep it intimate was to minimize the burden of travel and lodging for those with children. We did get some static from extended family (some with kids) for not being invited to the wedding, but nothing we hadn't anticipated.

    As for wording, we used "wedding celebration" as our preferred descriptor. Our website gave a brief explanation about the reception (aka wedding celebration) but intentionally did NOT provide any explanation/details about the wedding ceremony. Our printed invitations for the reception read: "Together with our parents, we invite you to attend our wedding celebration! Reception begins at 5:30… time, place, etc."

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