Holy Hell, can this one bring the outraged parents out of their closets. So irate can guests become, you'd think you'd announced you were clubbing kittens to death for the evening entertainment. And the issue at hand...? Kids or no kids at your wedding. That's it. Seems simple. And it is, in theory. Ask yourself, "Do I want kids at any part of my wedding, does my partner want kids at our wedding?" That's it. You may be bribed, begged, blackmailed or cold-shouldered into changing your mind, but don't budge. Agree on your 'children' policy, stick to it, and be prepared to back each other up at every turn, because dissenting parents will seek out the weakest link and hunt you down like a baby gazelle.
Tip 1. CRYSTAL CLEAR
Be VERY clear from the start (as early as your save-the-date cards) with your guests what your policy is -- no babies, only over 5s, no one going through adolescence, etc -- so there can be zero misunderstandings. Spell it out, otherwise people will choose to interpret in a way that suits them best, but don't be aggressive. "ABSOLUTELY NO CHILDREN" in large bold caps across your stationery is probably not the best way to go, even if you think it'll be necessary to hammer the point home. Maybe try one of these, 'Unfortunately we're unable to accommodate children. Thanks for understanding,' or 'We respectfully ask that this is an adults-only ceremony and reception'.
Tip 2. THE NAME GAME
If children are welcome, actually put their names on the invitation or do what a friend of ours did. She sent out separate invitations, designed by her own kids, to all the children on the guest list, making it clear exactly what their day was about (movies, games, cake) and when. It was ultra-helpful to parents, and the kids felt involved, not just tag-alongs.
Tip 3. WEDDING VIGILANTE
If you can find one, ask a diplomatic friend or relative to have a gentle word with parents beforehand, and ask them to remove noisy children during the service or speeches. And be honest about what would be a disruption for you -- the slightest shuffling, bawling, a running commentary, hand-stands up the aisle... A husband at the wedding, for whom even the hint of crying baby makes him want to poke someone's eyes out, will volunteer to do this for pleasure every time.
Tip 4. PASS THE BUCK
Don't be guilted or swayed by wheedling or stroppy parents who think their world will end if they leave junior at home. If you think you'll cave in every time you're asked, or are squeamish about offending, pass the buck and the phone calls to a strong-willed but polite relative who'll happily carry on saying "no" on your behalf. And tell them not to report back with all the names you're being called. Point out the pros of an adult-only party: freedom, adult company, adult language, and did we mention freedom. Some parents will actually love you for the excuse to leave their kids at home.
Tip 5. SULKY GUESTS
Some guests will interpret a no-children policy as a personal attack. They'll sulk, stay away and pointedly not send you a gift. If you care, a few phone calls to those you think might be most hurt or take the decision personally can save friendships and family ties. If you don't, it's an easy way to cut idiots off your guest list and out of your life.
Tip 6. TMI (TOO MUCH INFORMATION)
We've seen brides advised to give an explanation for a no kids policy on the invitation itself, but that seems like a) no one else's business and b) asking for trouble. Do you really want to say in print, we can't afford it/hate kids/want to get smashed and pass out?
Tip 7. ALL OR NOTHING
Allowing some guests' children but not others, will unleash uproar. A blanket ban causes the least hard feelings.
Tip 8. JESUS CHRIST, KIDS ARE HARD WORK
Don't ever minimize the effort it takes to keep children occupied, and the pressure this puts on parents. Adults relax way more if their children are happily catered for elsewhere. The key is separation: have supervised child-friendly areas, children-only tables at the reception with crayons and toys on the tables. Plan a whole separate event for small things with the attention span of one minute, who pee every two minutes and whose sleep patterns are crap. Lay on movies, Lego, activity packs, entertainers, coloring equipment, an outside play area, babysitters and somewhere for young ones to sleep. You don't have to splash out cash: beg and borrow sacks of toys and crayons from friends and download free activity packs from the internet -- this one is super cute. Make children's food junk free (ish, it's a party) so they don't end up freewheeling across the room, to be found hallucinating in a corner at 3am.
Tip 9. DRAW THE LINE
Which brings us to: where do you draw the line about who's still a kid and who gets to be with the adults? Sticking older teenagers with really young kids is lame, you're pretty much making them substitute babysitters and they'll quite rightly be cross. Group the older children together as much as you can.
Tip 10. DIY ALTERNATIVES
If you can't afford to lay on childcare, ask family and friends if they'll make a rotation, an hour at a time, to take responsibility -- Obviously putting the tee-totallers at the end of the evening shift and leaving out the whack jobs altogether. One of our batty dads was once tasked with watching the sleeping grandchildren at a celebration for a short time. He totally forgot why he was there, bolted the door to their room and went on his merry way.
Stay strong and carry on.