Children Circumstances: Excluding children from a wedding

by epi on January 18, 2012

Q: We received an invitation to an out of town wedding that included our child’s name, but the reception card says ‘Adults Only.’ What is the appropriate way to handle this situation?

A: Many brides who elect to have adults only weddings never think about the impossibility of parents from out of town being able to bring a child to the ceremony and then have any sort of responsible child care for them. It is of course impossible for you to arrange for this, not knowing anyone you could hire as a child caregiver. When the child is in the wedding party and then excluded from the majority of the reception, you are in the same bind with no one who can assume responsibility for your child. If this is the case and it is simply impossible, you will have to send your regrets, even if the child is being counted on as an attendant. You apparently didn’t know he/she would be excluded or you might not have accepted the invitation for her/him to be in the wedding. The alternative is to tell the bride that you can’t be there unless she can screen and vet a responsible babysitter who can take care of your child for you can hardly leave a child alone in a hotel room!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Maggie January 18, 2012 at 1:52 am

I don’t think the child was included in the wedding here. The question appears to say that the child’s name was included on the invitation (which presumably also included the invitation to the reception with the “adults only” designation). If that’s correct, this is a bit confusion. I would guess your child HAS been invited to the wedding but perhaps not to the reception. I say perhaps because your friend, by including your child’s name, MIGHT have recognized the out-of-town dilemma and made your child an exception to the “adults only” rule. If I were you, I’d try to feel out the situation delicately, perhaps by checking with the mother of the bride or a member of the bridal party to confirm what was meant.


Alicia January 18, 2012 at 9:03 am

Asking teh bride or groom who are the only ones who will really know the answer can put them in the position of saying the kid was invited when they really were not. The options seem to be decline for the whole family , decline for one parent and the kid and then accept for teh closer parent to the couple , or find childcare and accept for the adults. The words Adults only are clear that only adults are wanted. Additionally other parents will be miffed if this kid attends and their kid was excluded by the Adults only. Yes there is a mixed message but the message of exclusion is clearer then the message on inclusion. ( which could have been an address book mistake where the kids name is in their address book list)

The exception is if your kid is old enough that they could be considered borderline adult ie teenager. A teen may be included as an adult.


Elizabeth January 18, 2012 at 9:32 am

If I received an invitation like this, I’d be confused. The easiest and most natural thing to do is to call the bride or groom and just ask! “Hi Beth, I saw that little Timmy’s name was included on the invitation, but that your Reception is adult’s only. So is Timmy only invited to the ceremony? If so, do you know of any child-care options during the reception?”

If the invitation actually is for the kid to come to the ceremony and not the reception, and they aren’t providing any child care, then just decline!


Jody January 18, 2012 at 9:52 am

I think it’s within a bridal couple’s rights to have adults-only events, they shouldn’t feel obligated to include children. That said, I think it should be “all or nothing” — if one event is adults-only, both events should be adults-only. The OP is well within his/her rights to decline the invitation; if the bridal couple asks why, the reply can be to the effect that since the child isn’t included in the reception invitation, they’re declining because of the difficulty in arranging child care.


Gertrude January 18, 2012 at 10:28 am

Here’s another option: Ask the bride or groom! Don’t be afraid of asking him/her, so long as it is a sincere request for unbiased information, and not with the intent to pressure him/her either way.

I find that if I want an honest answer, and I do not want to sway the person who I am asking, I ask the question in the way that the answer-er can respond in the affirmative, if they are saying the “difficult” answer. That way, they are comfortable answering it honestly. Psychologically, it is easier to say “yes” than “no”.

For example, rather than say “Is Tommy invited to the wedding”, where “no” is the difficult answer, and the bride/groom may feel pressured to say “yes”, as it is the easier answer, ask: “Just wanted to confirm, are you having a child-free wedding?” Therefore, either the bride will respond “Yes, but I am making an exception for Tommy” (in which case, bring your child, and keep an eye on him/her), or she will say “Yes” (in which case, don’t bring your child, and don’t pressure her/him either way). In the end, always thank the person for clarifying.


Kate January 18, 2012 at 11:17 am

If the child’s name is on the invite, they are most certainly invited…. regardless if the reception card states “Adults Only”. I agree with the other responders – please call the bride! If it is an “Adults” reception (live band playing, large number of people there, loud surroundings not suitable for small child or baby) there is a great possibility that the bride has arranged child care in one of the hotel or country club’s meeting rooms. Possibly for a nominal charge ($20 or less) your child will be cared for by wonderful babysitters & have a wonderful time playing with other children – and you’ll have a great time dancing & talking and not be pulled on by a child who only wants to leave. Check her wedding website to see if this information is given there.
Like everyone has said, please call the bride!


Jim February 3, 2012 at 9:16 am

Here’s my situation.
I am the best man at my brothers wedding. He is getting married and it is at a small venue.
I was told that it will be immediate family only for the ceremony but after-wards family and friends will meet at a nice venue.
Here’s the problem, when he said immediate family only he meant only myself my sisters, our Mom and Dad…No Spouce…
My wife is totally upset that she is not invited as are my teenage kids who are very close to him.
The ceremony is at a house which is small but is this ok? I mean shouldn’t he change the venue to a place that can at least allow us to bring our spouses?
If I am wrong so be it, but my wife doesn’t even want to go through getting a dress, travel expenses nor the effort as she feels totally disrespected.



Alicia February 3, 2012 at 9:49 am

It is totally disrespectful of your wife and of your marriage to not include spouses as you are a social unit.
Only you and your wife can decide if that disrespect is worth her not attending the after event, you not attending either event, or going along with it.
I would consider trying to speak to your brother about how he would feel if his wife was excuded from things this way before boycotting the event.


Zakafury February 3, 2012 at 11:48 am

Certainly you need to have a talk with your brother. Your wife really must be included along with you.

If he refuses, then I think she is well within her rights not to attend at all. You could limit your participation as well, but some serious discussions with both your brother and your wife will be necessary to prevent lasting bitterness.

Good Luck!


Winifred Rosenburg February 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Alicia and Zakafury are right. To add to that, just so you are aware, it is rude to have a small ceremony and a larger reception. No one should be invited to the reception without being invited to the ceremony. If I were your wife, I wouldn’t go just on that grounds alone. The fact that he expects you to go to the ceremony without her only adds justfication.


Katie K February 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Your brother and future SIL’s plans may be thoughtless, shortsighted and rude. Your wife and children may be justified in feeling “disrespected”.

But since you can control only your behavior and your reactions, you and your family need to decide whether you prefer to be “right” or prefer to respond with loving kindness to this breach of etiquette.

Which is the better lesson to model for your children: that your family makes allowances for loved ones who make mistakes, or that you stand on principle, no matter the magnitude of the offense nor the consequences.

Either is a valid position, and could lead to a very important life lesson for your teenaged children.


Jim February 4, 2012 at 11:00 am

My wifes response to all the comments is this, she agrees that this will have life long implications because my family is very dramatic. She feels stuck because we already have our non-refundable tickets. However, she has a sister a few hours drive away that she could stay with. She also knows if she does go through with the wedding stuff that it will involve 3 or 4 days to interact with my family that has offended her so much. Unfortunately, my Mom has complicated this because my brother is her favorite (which I am fine with really) but she hasn’t called or talked to us since we stated this was in poor taste and my wife and kids may not be going.
The funniest thing here is all this happens one day after my birthday which my Mom and everyone were going to celebrate while we are all together but now that has become a free day to do what we please (that’s actually a blessing for me). The ironic part is my Mom made a huge deal about getting together for my birthday and now her only response is that we can do whatever we want that day. In another words it is called off because she disagrees with my wife. Is there another family I can join in this forum please :0)?
Thanks for all the feedback! Jim


Stephanie February 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I say if you really want to go get a sitter at home and go have a kid free time with your spouse!


Courtney D April 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I have a huge family and many many cousins and 2nd cousins. I have always wanted an adult only ceremony and reception, but it also makes sense financially. I plan to arrange sitters ahead of time with a set hourly rate for those with children.


Just Laura April 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm

How very thoughtful!


roweena October 6, 2012 at 3:52 am

my almost 3 year old grand daughter was invited to be a flower girl at her
auntie/god mother’s out of town wedding. her mother was invited to be one of the bridesmaid. 3 weeks before the wedding…bride said there’s no food for the 3 year
old because it’s as expensive as the adult’s plate…now what do we do? since it’s a
family wedding all babysitters are invited and had RSVP already. is it proper to exclude a wedding participant from the reception because it’s expensive and she’s a toddler and “not worth it” per the bride? please help…
thank you…


Winifred Rosenburg October 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm

No, it’s not proper to uninvite the flower girl from the reception. I suggest you ask the bride to recommend a babysitter and drop her off after the ceremony or withdraw her from her flower girl duties altogether and leave her with the babysitter the whole time.


Jerry October 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Yes, the bride is being . . . inhospitable here. If the toddler is “not worth it,” why is she a flower girl?

The way I see it, there are two choices. First, you (or more appropriately the child’s mother) could offer to pay for the plate. Alternatively, you (or more appropriately the child’s mother) should explain that (i) she can’t attend a wedding where her daughter won’t be fed, (ii) all babysitters are booked, and (iii) therefore both she (mother) and granddaughter will be unable to attend the wedding.

The former solution may shame the bride into providing the expected hospitality but, in any case, is likely to preserve family harmony. The latter solution will most certainly cause a lot of family drama. The correct solution depends on how the mother of the child would like the relationship to proceed.

Winifred’s solution would also keep the peace, but I don’t like it because I don’t think a mother should attend a wedding where her daughter has been functionally uninvited because she’s “not worth it.”


Alicia October 7, 2012 at 7:10 am

If flower girl is uninvited then she should no longer be flowergirl and parents and other siblings bridesmaid should say that if this is the case not only will flower girl not be attending wedding but that the parents will not be attending the wedding anyway and yes even as bridesmaid. This is an unacceptable treatment of any guest to be uninvited. Parents need to change their RSVPS as a result and as the grandmother I’d consider if I’d decline the wedding as well.
If the aunt/bride is your daughter I’d sit her down and make her see how horribly divisive to the family it can and will be and what a mean and cruel thing to do to anyone in particular a kid and i’d offer to pay the the plate in lieu of wedding gift.


roweena July 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm

thank you all…
all great responses…we offered to pay for the plate but father of the bride said just bring her a toddler food from outside so we brought a lunch bag & put it on top of the table! at the end of the evening – we forgot to take the hello kitty lunch bag home & bride ended up taking it back to us!
wedding was over & it left a sour taste in our mouth:( still could taste it now…months later…lol.
definitely affected the family dynamics! now…bride is pregnant & my daughter don’t want to attend bride’s baby shower…totally understandable! lol….
thanks again for all your reply…


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