Updated: Feb 7, 2019
When it comes to children at a wedding, our view is that you really have four options. 1) Allow all children; 2) Disallow all children (unless they're nursing); 3) Allow children of all ages and provide some form of childcare; 4) Institute a cut-off age. Below we outline some of the finer details along with some Pros/Cons, Dos/Don'ts, and Pro Tips.
Our first piece of advice is simple: determine your children-policy prior to sending out your invitations. For example, if you decide that you’re not going to allow children under the age of 12, you’ll want to include that on the invitations. Our second piece of advice is to read through the following four options and consider carefully. When improperly administered, a child policy can leave you dealing with hurt feelings. And you have enough to deal with, right?
Allow All Kids
How to administer: simply indicate on the invitations, “children welcome” or “children invited,” But keep in mind when planning seating and food that your sister and her husband just became a party of 4.
They love you and they want to be there. You love them and you want them to be there. The benefit here is that everyone gets what they want
They make for great memories and adorable photos, and these last a lifetime
No one will have to cancel attending because they couldn’t find childcare
You guessed it: crying/fighting/laughing, especially at inopportune times
The potential for major headaches depending on how much supervision is required
It can get pricey depending on the lengths you’ll go through to keep them occupied: it can get
Disallow All Kids (unless they’re nursing)
How to administer: keep it positive. Don’t say “No kids,” or “No children.” In fact avoid “no” altogether. Use more positive language like, “adults only,” or “grown ups only.” Also, you don’t need to explain yourself. So don’t feel the need to say something like, “we’re trying to save money, so please don’t bring your child.”
It makes planning a little easier because you'll be able to estimate a more exact number of attendees instead of wondering who is and isn't bring a child(ren)
Depending on what lengths you’d be willing to go to keep them pleased if they were invited, this could translate into significant savings
There are probably plenty of young family members that would give anything to be there, so they'll feel left out
Kids, for all their trouble, do make great memories and adorable photos. You'll be missing out on these
You might end up with a smaller wedding than anticipated because childcare can be hard to find
PRO TIP: Don't allow some kids and not others. This is a quick way to sow discord in a family
Invite Children & Provide Childcare
How to administer: Include on the invitations that children are welcome. There’s a number of ways to do this. So generally speaking, just make sure you have three things. An area large enough for the younger children, a person responsible enough to keep them under control, and some form of entertainment. Even if you gave them arts and crafts to make, like a Congratulations Wedding Card from construction paper and glitter, you’ve accomplished something they’ll appreciate. Of course, what they really want is a bouncy house.
Even if you have the smaller children nestled away in a designated area for crucial moments, it’ll help ensure that your special day goes a little smoother
With a little accommodation, everyone gets to be involved in your special day
Parents that have a hard time finding a sitter will still be able to make it
Depending on your chosen venue, space might be tight, creating a challenge. If you set up a kids-only area 20 feet away, did you really accomplish anything?
This will be one more thing that you need to have coordinated on the day-of
PRO TIP: Get some trusted teens in your family tree to do this as a wedding gift, if you can
How to administer: Include this on your invitations, and avoid negative language. Instead of “no kids under 11 years old,” you can indicate: “children over the age of 11 welcome,” or “children over the age of 11 are also cordially invited.”
Probably less headache than if all the children in your inner circle were to attend
Nobody is going to cry out loud for no apparent reason during a critical moment in your ceremony
It’s an arbitrary way to slice down your guestlist, which can translate to sizable savings.
Seriously, the younger they are, they cuter they are in a suit or dress
It may mean some parents aren’t able make it because they can’t find childcare.
PRO TIP: Don’t decide on an age until you’ve fully considered which children will and won’t be there as a result. You don’t want to set it at age 8, then your favorite niece/nephew can’t come. But you don’t want to set it at age 9 because that other little hellion of a niece/nephew will be there!