Baby Talk: How to include or exclude kids from your event

Many couples struggle with the decision to allow babies at their wedding or not. Some decide to have little ones as participants in their ceremony, such as a flower girl or ring bearer, and others may be open to having families of all makes and models at their event.  I’d like to explore with you some options for different ways to involve little ones, ways to politely exclude them, and things to consider when you have kids at a wedding.

Inviting Moms/Parents to your Wedding:

As a host of an event, when you invite people with young kids, you have to be willing to accept whatever decision the parent makes regarding whether or not to attend. You’ll need to be particularly understanding about new moms! Here is just one example, taken directly from an online forum where people were discussing challenges with having a baby around the time of a wedding.

“A good friend of mine is getting married out of town (4 hr drive away.) I’ll be having a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks, so the baby would be 9-11 days old when she gets married. I also have a toddler who will be 1.5 yrs. She’s not inviting children to her wedding (including newborns apparently!) She recently texted me asking if my husband could DJ her wedding and I told her he can’t because we can’t leave a newborn to attend the wedding. I was willing to get childcare for my toddler, but not for my newborn. She didn’t text me back but she’s been texting with a mutual friend saying she’s mad about it and that I should be accommodating and get a babysitter. I figured if she really cared to have us there then she’d let us bring the baby. I’m super pissed off now because I can’t even believe how unreasonable she is being. How is it a surprise that someone with such a new baby wouldn’t be attending?! It’s not like I’m a bridesmaid. She doesn’t have kids (clearly) but I wished she cared enough about my children to make an exception.”

I see drama like this unfold all the time! It’s pretty silly to get your britches in a wad over someone who can’t attend your wedding because they have a baby to care for.  Please be open about understanding what it is that new parents endure, and why they might not be able to just drop their baby off with a sitter, especially if the wedding is quite a distance away.  The baby may be nursing. The baby may have health issues.  There may not be an adequate care-giver that the family has access to. And the mother may not be ready to spend time away from the baby who she just began to bond with.

Another mom responded to the inquiring mother in the forum with the following:

“1) Your baby will have zero immunity at that point.
2) You will have JUST had a MAJOR surgery. C-sections are no joke. To even expect you to wear a seat belt at that point, let alone come to a wedding, is absurd.
3) You do what you need to do and forget about her feelings.
4) She needs to hire a DJ who doesn’t need to be bonding with his newborn and taking care of his recuperating wife. Oh and also taking care of his toddler so his wife can recover from major surgery.
Dump this ‘good friend.’ She sounds horrible.”

I agree 100% with all points.  Thanks, hive mind, for chiming in to talk some sense into the inquiring mother.

How to Politely Exclude Kids:

A dear friend of mine is hosting a holiday party in a few weeks, and her invitation tactfully says:

“We prefer adults but love your kids so a sitter will be available during your time at the party.”

A total class-act!  I have always loved the courtesy of providing an on-site babysitter for your guests who have kids.  Whether it’s a small house-party with some neighborhood kids, or a professional company who is providing childcare at a large wedding, it’s a great option to ensure that your friends can enjoy themselves without having to leave their kids so far away, and for an incredibly long time. With this method, parents have easy access to their children, and in most cases the cost is absorbed by the host as a courtesy.  It says to your guests, “we really want you here!”

If you are looking for other ways to let your guests know that kids are not included in your event, here are some do’s and don’ts of communicating your wishes:

  • Do not put “Adults only” directly on the invitation. Instead, consider “Number of adults attending” on your response card.
  • Do include as much information as possible on your website, including a polite indication that your event is adults only.
  • Do clearly indicate on each invitation who is invited. “Mr. & Mrs. John and Mary Smith” is a good indication that their child is not invited.
  • If you feel it is necessary to reinforce your wishes, (maybe you heard through the grapevine that a guest planned to bring their child, irrespective of your wishes,) a thoughtful phone call to some parents who are invited is a nice idea. You can let them know how much you enjoy the company of their kids, and you’re sorry you weren’t able to include everyone who is so dear to you, but you hope the parents will still be able to attend and celebrate the big day. Talk about it like it’s a date night for the couple!

How to Include Kids

A few years ago, we planned a wedding for a couple who had a 7-year-old daughter, and she had many friends in attendance at the wedding. In order to entertain the young ones, it was an over-all family-friendly event that included a separate area for kids to play and some extra entertainment to keep them amused.  A strolling magician performed during cocktail hour, which not only entertained the kids, but the adults, too!  In the kids play room (we used the bridal suite at the venue) we brought in an origami artist to do demonstrations and help the kids create their own pieces to take home as favors.

We also enlisted the help of a babysitting company to provide licensed and bonded care for the little ones.  These agencies are great because you know the kids are going to be in great heads with trained professionals who are CPR certified and know exactly how to handle rambunctious children.  They come prepared with movies, games, and nap supplies!

Some of our favorite babysitting firms are:

If you want to have kids attend your reception, consider having a kids table with fun activities like coloring books or a large roll of paper on the tabletop with crayons for the kids to get creative!  Whatever you do, make sure the activities and toys are age-appropriate, and be sure to let the parents know you’ll have these amenities available for their kids, so they can feel relaxed about preparing to bring their kids to the party.

Photo by Michelle Frankfurter

Ultimately, you do what feels right for you as far as including kids or not.  Remember, this is your event, and it’s up to you to decide who is included. Be respectful of other people’s decision to attend or not, and if you’re able to make accommodations for kids, know that the parents will appreciate the gesture and enjoy their time celebrating with you!  As always, if you are going to provide accommodations such as a babysitting service, it is best to budget for this expense up front.


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