Is it okay to ban children from your wedding?

Photo by 4events

Yes, is the most efficient and quickest way to answer the question, ‘is it okay to ban children from your wedding?’ Of course it is more than okay to ban children. It’s your wedding day, your rules, your preferences, and so your day to do as you choose. It might not make for the most popular decision with some of your friends and family, but let’s face it, appeasing ALL the wishes/desires/needs of your wedding guests is not a marriage clause that you’ll be signing up for, so you really are under no obligation to do stuff on your wedding day that you don’t want to do.

This subject is a pretty big deal because depending on what type of couple you are and what kind of wedding day you want, this is something that can really affect your big day. All over the internet recently, there was a story about a couple who asked their wedding guests to leave after they turned up to their wedding with their children, even though the invitation clearly stated that it was a child-free event. Yup! So people, it’s something that does need thinking about and addressing correctly!

The kids debate

First of all, I am going to side with all of the couples who are toying with the idea of excluding children from their wedding day or have outright, hell yes, already made the decision.

Let me just state for the record that people who ban children from their wedding day do not hate children. Okay, sure, maybe there are some couples out there who are self-confessed, can’t-stand-the-sight-of-children kind of people (they do exist!), but a) I’m pretty certain they mean them no harm and b) they do not account for the majority of couples who opt not to have children present on their wedding day.

Not allowing children on your wedding day is not about disliking children, it’s about wanting the day to not be affected by children’s random behaviour and noise. I have a child. I love children, BUT I 100% understand and support couples who do this.

Photo by 4events
Photo by 4Events

Children, especially children under five are a law unto themselves, no matter how many of us parents may think we have our children under control. Children are adults in progress. They are still learning society’s rules about what is and isn’t appropriate in public. They are yet to have their wonderful sense of personal freedom of expression curtailed by what we adults think is right or wrong. And so when we put children into highly organised and formal social settings, it perhaps is a huge ask on our part to expect that their behaviour falls in line with that of all the adults present.

Babies cry. Really loud. They get restless and fidgety. Toddlers whisper as loud as they speak and shout instead of speaking. They say and do whatever they want because they’re toddlers. They play up when they’re tired and hungry and events always seem to coincide with when they need a nap! Older children who we think ought to know better, don’t! It’s hard for them to stay quiet for prolonged period of times. They have loud questions that they want the answers to, there and then. No they can’t wait until afterwards. The device that they’ve been given to distract them isn’t doing its job, and they want their parents to fix it ASAP. No they can’t wait until afterwards. It’s no-one’s fault. It’s just how it is.

So you can see why having children present at a wedding is something which needs to be considered and needs to be weighed up. You need to think about what kind of person you are, and how annoying it will be for you to have all of the above happen to you on your wedding day.

As a Wedding Celebrant, I have seen it all. Weddings where children are not invited and weddings where children are invited. I’ve had wedding ceremonies where there were children present who I didn’t even notice until afterwards because there were so quiet and non-obtrusive and on the contrary, I’ve had weddings where some of the children’s presence was very distracting, uncomfortable and in some cases, threatened to disrupt the flow of a wedding ceremony. Weddings where you could see that others, including the newlyweds were visibly unimpressed with a child’s behavior. Not good!

Children or no children?

The only people who can decide if they want children present on their big day or not, is the couple themselves. And usually there is one of three decisions that you can make.

  1. Ban all children
  2. Allow children ( but give a damn)
  3. Allow children (and give no damns)

Ban all children

To save yourself any headaches, the long aching headaches that can be associated with children, you may find it is far easier just to have an outright ban on all of them! It’s really easy to include some lovely, friendly wording with your wedding invitation to explain why your event is child-free. You may have external reasons which support your decision ie the venue may not be appropriate for children, but even if you don’t, simply explaining that you’re event is going to be a child free one, full stop, is and should be enough. Hint: don’t call it a ban! Ban is a bit strong, and whilst I’m using it all over this post, I know it would sound harsh on an invitation, as banning something is seen as quite a negative thing to do. Like the thing being banned is problematic to begin with, which is not the best way to get parents on your side! And hey, there may be lots of your friends and family members who might enjoy the idea of attending a child-free occasion.

How can you ban a cutie like this? Oh, I’m sure you could! Photo by Pedro Bellido Photography

A couple of things to think about if you’re going for an outright ban. Whilst some of your friends and family members might enjoy the idea of attending a wedding without their own children, do bear in mind that you might alienate some good friends or family members who have children. There will be or might be some people who cannot get childcare or simply don’t want to leave their kids behind for an entire day, or longer. So you’ve got to weigh up which is more important to you, not having children present or potentially not having good friends and family with children present at all. I have also had weddings where most children have been banned except for newborn babies and a couple of nieces and nephews of the couple. So sometimes, banning children doesn’t need to be an outright exclusion of all children, but just a reserved invitation for the children of your closest family and friends.

Allow all children but give a damn

Couples in this category are couples who have really thought through every aspect of what it means to have a child present at a wedding. They are happy to have children present but their presence does not mean that they want their event turning into a massive child-fest. So maybe couples like this have more structure in place for children and rules about what they can and cannot do.

For example, I have had a wedding where children were present but during the ceremony the couple had hired babysitters and had created a crèche area where all children were invited to attend whilst the ceremony was going on. I thought that was an awesome idea! I’ve also had other weddings where there are more provisions and entertainment for children.

I’ve also been asked as a Celebrant to let parents know that if their child is playing up at any point, they are free to leave the ceremony area ie encouraged to do so. From experience, it does seem like many parents face a dilemma when it comes to their child being disruptive during a ceremony. They can’t weigh up which is more disruptive. Staying with the child or leaving with the child. Often parents just need to be told that it’s okay to remove unsettled children and that’s the problem solved. A quick disruption is much better than a long-winded, unyielding disruption.

If you think this is probably the route you’ll take with your wedding day, from the weddings I’ve seen where having children present didn’t seem very problematic, it was because the couple really put a lot of thought and effort into how to accommodate and handle their little guests.

A flowergirl at a wedding
Some children are no bother at all. Some. Photo by Agata Jensen Photography

Allow all children and a give no damns

What I mean about these types of weddings is where couples are happy to have children present and really don’t give a damn about how they are. Not in a bad or irresponsible way, but more in a ‘kids will be kids,’ kind of way. These are usually couples who have young children themselves, but often not, or couples who belong to a big network of family and friends with children, and so they readily accept that having children present on their big day is part and parcel of their wedding. So couples like this tend to be more relaxed in their approach to having children present. They might not be so bothered about a bit of noise or bad behaviour during their ceremony, or the speeches, and they generally have a much more chilled vibe for their day and want children to be a part of that.

Whichever vibe you go for, they all have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, you have to go with what is right for you and not feel pressured to include children when you really don’t want to. If you feel that you have no choice but to have children present then think about what provisions and plans you can have in place to make it a smoother process. And don’t be afraid to have rules/guidelines in place to help parents to help you have a nicer wedding day experience that isn’t marred by bad or disruptive behavior by children.

And if you do decide to say no to children, then go for it! It’s your day, you’re paying for it, you’re getting married, the end.

About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. Her mission is life is to encourage couples to see the importance of their wedding ceremony and to get married in just the way they want to. Make sure you catch her on the Engaged and Ready Wedding Podcast, here or on iTunes and Stitcher.

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