Newport Manners & Etiquette: Children at Weddings

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


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Many questions this month in anticipation of the Fall/Winter wedding season came up this week at Newport Manners, here is our favorite.

Q. What about children at weddings? We have a dilemma.

My fiancé would like to invite his great-aunt and uncle, as well as their grown children and their spouses. This I have no issue with, as I am told they are lovely people and are thrilled to attend the ceremony. The holdup is that they have small children.

Well-behaved though the children may be, I am not overly keen on little ones at the wedding. As my parents are paying for a lovely sitdown dinner at a local country club for our reception, I hardly want to stick them with an even larger bill, which would result from feeding a filet mignon to children under the age of five.

Is there a polite way of wording an invitation to imply adults only? I feel like I may come across as heartless for not wanting little ones. I keep being told it's my wedding and I can have it my way. But I wonder if this may be a step too far.

Thank you so much for your expertise, I have learned a great deal from reading other posts! I look forward to hearing from you!

–AB, North Carolina

A.  Weddings are all about the bride and groom. Not wanting young children at your reception is a common dilemma. It is generally assumed that children attend the ceremony, but are not invited to the evening reception -- especially, if it is a seated dinner.

There are of course exceptions. For instance, if the bride or/and groom already has/have young children and, possibly, there is a group of first cousins the same age. Then you put a ‘children’s table’ together managed by a babysitter or older sibling, such as a junior bridesmaid.

In that case, you would be ‘accommodating’ young children.

In your case, you are not ‘accommodating’ young children for the reception, but if the family is coming from out-of-town, you would offer to find a reputable babysitter for the evening events, such as the welcome dinner and wedding reception.

It would be best to call the parents well ahead of time to say that their children are welcome to attend the ceremony, but the club does not accommodate children at the reception, and offer to find them a babysitter.

Young children can be cute and charming at a wedding ceremony, but in the evening, in a strange place at a grownup event where there is a likelihood of getting a sugar high, they can become out of control and melt down, wander off and get lost, or cause an unhappy distraction that could end in a disaster.


For these reasons, many private clubs do not want to take on the responsibility and do not encourage young children at events where alcohol is served.

On the other hand, if you do have a ‘children’s table,’ you can order ahead of time pizza or chicken fingers for the children. Since they won’t be eating filet mignon or drinking champagne, the charge per child can be negotiated and greatly reduced.

There can be no pussy footing around. You need to communicate to the parent that you will not be accommodating children, but would like to be helpful in finding a caregiver for both evenings. In some situations, the families will stay near the reception location and take turns during the course of the evening events minding the children.

Since you never want to print anything negative on a wedding invitation, you would not mention this issue on your lovely invitation.

You can, however, make it crystal clear on your wedding website that there will not be any accommodation for children at the welcome dinner and the dinner at the wedding reception.
Additionally, by talking to people, you can get the word out that children won’t be attending the evening events, and that a list of babysitters is available on the wedding website.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette and NewportManners.


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