“The only person my three-year-old daughter Bella was used to being left with was my mother, and she was at the wedding,” Haylee tells Harper’s Bazaar. “Plus, we like to do things as a family of three and I don’t like excluding her.“
Becky Morris, founder of MumsyBox, also had to RSVP no to a friend’s ‘no kids allowed’ wedding this summer too. It was a shame, she says, as she’d have loved to have gone but she wasn’t going to leave her three-year-old and six-month-old son, who she’s still breastfeeding, to attend a wedding two hours away.
“It’s difficult when people expect parents to choose between attending a friend’s wedding and leaving your children with someone or not going at all,” she says. “It would have been difficult for me to leave them with someone, especially due to their ages.”
A survey of 20,000 couples conducted by Bridebook revealed that 55% invited children to their wedding, indicating that soon-to-be-wed couples are fairly evenly divided on whether or not to have children on the guestlist.
When taking into account money, children’s behaviour throughout a church service or parents who want to let their hair down rather than worry about their toddler, you can understand why it might be simpler to implement a sweeping ban. On the other hand, when guests feel they aren’t able to attend a loved one’s wedding because they don’t want to – or can’t, for whatever reason – leave their children, it can ultimately cause some tension.
So, is there a right decision? What are the factors which lead people to deciding one way or the other, and how do people affected by such enforcements actually feel about it? We investigate.
No to having children at weddings
When Laura Cottle, a pre-school teacher, got married in 2016, she and her husband were on the fence about inviting children until they eventually opted not to.
“We didn’t have children or nieces or nephews at the time so it wasn’t that relevant for us,” she says. “I also work with children so it was important for me to have a day without little ones around my feet.”
Their wedding was held at a working water mill – “not exactly the most child-friendly venue” – and most of their guestlist, even the ones with children, were completely on board with this decision, they found.
“Our friends said it gave them no option that they just had to get a babysitter that day,” she laughs. “Friends also said they’re usually undecided if they should bring their kids to weddings anyway.”
When consulting my best friend on this, a mother of two, she confers: “No-kids weddings are my favourite kind of weddings. You get to dress up, have a lovely time and enjoy the day without having to worry about wet wipes or tantrums.”
Now a mother to two twin boy toddlers, Laura actually treasures her decision because “it signifies a different time for us – before the babies.”
Kerry Conway, a content creator for parenting site Channel Mum, was another who said no to having children at her 2016 wedding, mainly due to space restrictions.
“All my family have quite a lot of kids each so to invite them would have doubled the numbers, meaning we’d have needed a bigger room that I actually didn’t like as much, while also increasing the price,” she tells us. “It was a bit selfish and some family were annoyed with my decision, but it was my wedding day after all.”
Kerry has her own children now and so has had to turn down some weddings because of it, including one of her oldest friends’ upcoming nuptials where she can’t go as she is still breastfeeding.
“I don’t regret having no kids at our wedding as I know a lot of people were happy to enjoy the day without them and it did make the day less stressful,” she reflects. “In general, I do think weddings are more enjoyable for the guests without their kids there, but the bride and groom do need to understand this isn’t possible for everyone.”
Lucy Hume, managing editor of Debrett’s Wedding Handbook, acknowledges that the presence of children at a wedding “can be contentious”, so its best to be upfront, honest and straightforward with your reasoning if it’s a no-go.
“Telling guests can be awkward, so be diplomatic and explain your reasons, such as limited space,” she advises.
Wedding expert Rachel Darke explained that the decision of whether or not to have children at a wedding often comes down to budget; after all, any child older than a baby is another mouth to feed. She too suggests, “as with everything wedding-related”, to be as clear and concise as possible when explaining your decision.
“It’s your wedding, so your decision. Don’t over-explain the reasons why,” Darke says. “An all-out ban on children is likely to cause offence to some, but you can explain that you are limited on numbers. If guests express annoyance, explain that you found the decision difficult but your budget is limited – or that the venue has restrictions on numbers and you have to draw the line somewhere.”
Yes to having children at weddings
Sarah* was recently invited to a family wedding where the invite said children were not invited “so everyone can let their hair down and have a great time” – but it ended up upsetting a lot of people. Family abroad couldn’t come as they didn’t want to leave their children behind.
“It’s a couple’s prerogative to invite whoever they want to their wedding,” she tells us. “Personally, I loved having children at our wedding. Watching them laugh and play added so much to the event. We wanted to share our love with our families and children are part of the family, so excluding them was not even something I considered.”
Abigail* is getting married in the autumn of 2020 and also is looking forward to having children share in her special day.
“I’ve been to weddings without children and I actually prefer the atmosphere when children are there – lots of small people running around and busting moves on the dance floor,” she says. “It’s one of the rare times in life when you can have all generations of your family together in one place and I think that’s something to cherish.
“I also think it is hard to ask busy parents to go to the effort of travelling to a wedding and then asking them to arrange childcare. The only limit would be headcount, so if we get tight on numbers we might have to limit it to children of close friends and family.”
While inviting children to your big day can make it extra memorable for some, the experts say there are some important things to bear in mind if you are including kids.
“Special provisions such as a crèche or nanny at the reception could be considered. A child-friendly menu might be necessary too and children’s food may be served earlier than adults,” Hume says. “It may be advisable to seat all the children together, perhaps with a childminder to keep them occupied, though very small children will probably want to sit with their parents.”