Children at weddings

The vexed issue of whether or not to invite children to weddings is a perennial topic on Mumsnet. Whether you're a parent, the person getting married, or both, here's what you need to know

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If you are the wedding guest

Child-free weddings cause seemingly boundless indignation in those with children. Many of us can hold forth at some length about how weddings are family occasions and should be full of children enjoying themselves and breaking things. We should shut up already.

Folks are entitled to prefer not to have children at weddings. Indeed, some people with children themselves prefer child-free bashes because it gives them the chance to get trashed and be foolish without any infant eyes upon them. À chacun son goût.

So the prevailing Mumsnet wisdom goes:

  • If your children's names are not on the invitation, assume they are not invited. If there is any ambiguity at all, ask - and ask politely and early.
  • If you have a breastfeeding baby, explain to the betrothed people that you can either bring your kid or not come. It's just a practical thing. But don't get too huffy if they say no.
  • If you do bring a baby or small child and it kicks off during the ceremony, remove it at once.
  • If there is no childcare laid on, you obviously remain responsible for your children. Bring some age-appropriate distractions - toys, magazines, drawing materials - and don't allow random pillaging and wiping of chocolate on bridal gown. Remove offspring at a suitable stage. Do not lose consciousness beside the wine fountain.

If you are the bride or groom

  • Be very clear on your invitations about whether children are invited. That doesn't mean just addressing the invitation to the parents and hoping they get the message. It means explaining that you are not having children at the wedding/ are only having a few family children / are only having babies.
  • Sometimes hurt feelings and misunderstandings can be avoided by having an actual conversation on the actual telephone.
  • It's fine not to invite hulking great children to the wedding but a bit daft to exclude itty-bitty babies who don't take up a seat or add to the catering bill. And if you exclude them you are probably excluding their mothers.
  • Not inviting people's partners is going to cause offence, particularly if you start making judgments about which ones have been around long enough to merit an invitation. Have a wedding you can afford and invite people who are in couples as couples.
  • Similarly if you have graded invites: some people get to come to the ceremony, some to the dinner and disco, some people are allowed to stand outside the venue and sniff the canapés on the wind... you are going to offend people. Especially if you invite some people to one bit and then another much later bit so they have to furtle around a remote village with nothing to do, waiting for your festivities to resume.
  • If you are inviting children and you can afford it, laying on some babysitters or child entertainment is a great way of ensuring adults can become inebriated enjoy themselves.
  • Disposable cameras or colouring books, paper, crayons and pencils can help guest children get through the speeches.
  • Colour schemes (for guest clothing) and dress codes annoy everyone. Which could be fun; it's a matter for you.
  • Most people are used to and have no objection to a wedding list. Some will become confused and upset if there is no list. But many people will get squeamish if you ask for a cash donation towards your purchase of a yacht / honeymoon. There is not necessarily any logic to this.
  • Don't make everyone eat hog roast.
  • Be sensitive about whether your wedding is going to cost your guests a fortune. You can have it on a beach in Barbados if you want. Just don't expect anyone everyone to come.

We'll give the final say to Mumsnetter LeQueen: "Your actual wedding ceremony should be very much designed towards your personal taste. So, if that's exchanging your hand-written vows in a copse of oak trees whilst a harpist plays in the background, then fine (probably going to cause a few smirks, but it's fine). But the reception should be geared towards pleasing and entertaining as many of your guests as possible."

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Last updated: about 2 years ago