Inviting Children to your Wedding Reception

It is a privilege, not a right, for guests to bring their children to a friend or family member’s wedding. You and your groom are free to decide whether or not to include children among your invited guests. Even Emily Post says so. Before making your decision, consider the feelings of your big and little guests, and then weigh some of the information and options listed here.

What a child thinks.

Weddings, as seen through the eyes of small children, are stuffy, formal affairs that are excruciatingly long. How many times have you seen yawning or napping little ones at friends’ weddings?

Picture yourself as a six-year-old.


You’re dressed in your best clothes, forced to sit quietly in one place while the bride and groom say things to each other you don’t understand, and then made to sit again during a long meal in a big room with a bunch of adults. There are all sorts of enticing opportunities to play tag, hide-and-seek, or I Spy, but your parents won’t let you.

What’s a kid to do?

Play with the food on her plate. Eat whatever candy she can find in the wedding favors. Lean on the back of her mother’s chair while sucking on her fingers, still sticky from cake frosting. Jump up and down on the chair rungs when her mother isn’t paying attention to her. Mostly, what a kid does is come up with great ideas to relieve the boredom and have fun, (by running, yelling and bumping into people), and listen to her parents tell her that she cannot do them.

What the parents think.

Parents may or may not be relieved when they discover that their children aren’t invited. Most will understand and welcome the chance for an adult night out. Other parents are going to be offended. They view weddings as family affairs and resent having to find and pay a sitter. You can’t please everyone, so make whatever decision is comfortable for you and stick to it.

Pros of inviting children.

  • Parents will appreciate not having to find and pay a sitter.
  • No ill will is created among families because children aren’t invited.
  • The party will be a family affair, and most grandparents enjoy this tradition.
  • When other children are present, it provides a social outing for them, too.


Cons of including children.

  • If they are bored they may misbehave and upset the good time of others.
  • Kids need a special menu.
  • You may need to hire a sitter or two to entertain the kids, so the adults can mingle and dance.
  • Short activities for kids should be planned to keep them occupied and out of mischief.

Inviting certain children.

You may choose to invite only those children of a certain age, for instance, aged 12 and older. Or, you may want to invite children of family members only. Whatever you decide, make certain that you have a personal conversation with each family invited about the parameters of your invitation. Don’t let the invitation speak for itself or wait until the wedding day to try to explain why some children are present, when others weren’t invited.

What to do when they’re invited.

Babies and toddlers should be left at home. You might offer to arrange for a couple of teenagers to sit with children at the reception, (at the parents’ expense), or arrange for a mature, group sitter(s) in someone’s home. One sitter should be hired for every four or five children.
Kids enjoy dancing, so be sure to request that your DJ play a song or two in their honor. Ask your caterer about meals for children. Kids under 12 adore hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken strips. Keep it simple. Seat children together, when possible, in one corner of the reception hall. If they make a lot of noise, it won’t matter as much to your other guests. They may enjoy the chance to talk and play and form friendships with other kids.

How to address your invitations.

Most etiquette mavens will tell you that it is inappropriate to write ‘No Children, please’ on your invitations. It might be possible to communicate this idea by only writing parents’ names on the envelopes, but don’t count on it. Again, speak to each invited family and tell them what your wishes are. There’s no need for explanations, but they do need to understand who is invited and who is not.

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