How To Have An Adults Only Wedding

Adults Only Wedding


Many people invite the children of their family and friends to the wedding and designate a special area for the kids during the ceremony and the reception. But having kids at your wedding doesn’t come without caveats. Can you choose to have an adults only wedding? Here’s how.

John Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Maureen Woodman, a wedding planner for on and off‑site catered events at The Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about how to have an adults‑only wedding.

Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman:  Hi, John. Thanks for having me today.

John:  Sure. Maureen, is it appropriate to have an adults‑only wedding, and when?

Maureen:  Absolutely. What’s that old saying? “Children should be seen and not heard.”

Reasons to Have an Adults Only Wedding

John:  Right. Some people might feel like “There’s a lot of kids in my family,” or maybe, “There’s only a few kids in my family, and it’s going to wreck the mood,” or something like that. What are some of the reasons that people would want to have an adults only wedding?

Maureen:  I think that the place for the kids, absolutely, is in the front. Nothing better than a cute flower girl, ring bearer, junior bridesmaid, all those under 12 people.

It really makes for the photos. Most likely they’re your niece or nephew, or your stepchildren, or somebody really close to you. I think they’re absolutely perfect at ceremony, and then through your photos, they’re there with you.

I’m sure they’re going to be with you if you’ve invited them through your whole life, so they definitely mean something to the bride and groom, but then I think you need to have the babysitter come and scoop them out of there.

John:  You’re saying that it’s OK to have kids involved in the ceremony and then not have them come to the reception afterwards?

Maureen:  Right, if you have to have children. Then, I think when you have the children there and you try to get them into the cocktail hour, now they’ve been confined for about three hours, between getting ready and getting their hair done and they’re in a fancy dress and tight shoes and they’re uncomfortable, and the little boy has a tie on, and he wants to rip the tie off.

Now they’re running in and out of the people. They’re hiding under the buffet tables. They’re breaking glasses all over the dance floor. They’re taking the waitresses to help them.

Maureen:  They’re coming at the bride with a glass of cranberry juice and we’re afraid it’s going to go all over her dress.

This is when they seem to get a little antsy. At the cocktail hour, they actually seem to be the most rambunctious, and I think it was because they were honed down for those three hours prior to the wedding.

John:  Just sitting in a chair during the reception, or whatever.

Maureen:  Yeah. “Be good. Be good. Be good. Be good. Don’t move. Be good. Be good. If you get through this, you can do anything you want. OK.”

John:  Then just set them free and they go crazy.

Maureen:  Yeah. Then they take off.

Activities for Adults Only Weddings

John:  What kind of activities would take place at a wedding with only adults? Is it different than a wedding with kids?

Maureen:  It’s not so much that they’re different, it’s that they’re disrupted. I think it’s very difficult when there’s small children ‑‑ again, remember these are your brothers’ and sisters’ kids or your children or someone else’s, and the people are trying to give the toast.

Again, when you’re giving the toast, it’s hard enough to keep the guests quiet, never mind the kids quiet, and some of the toasts are quite long. When the bride and groom start to do their first dance, this is another time when I’ve seen the kids just get right up there on the dance floor and start break dancing or pulling on them.

Same thing, the parents are like, “No, not now.”

John:  They want to have a nice first dance, and then everybody’s laughing because there’s a little girl dancing out there.

Maureen:  The other thing that we see happen quite often is one of the parents ends up missing out on the wedding because they are stuck holding the children the whole time. So the other partner of that couple is out having a good time and drinking and dancing, and some daddy is usually carrying the little flower girl around, or vice versa.

It also takes away for the couple that has the children, again, most likely your brother or sister, or your best friend, because again, you wouldn’t be inviting children of people that you don’t know.

I think that, that causes a little friction that day for the wedding party in particular that nobody really anticipated was going to happen, or the grandmother, who would be the mother and father of the bride or groom, ends up taking care of that child so that her other kids can have fun at the wedding.

And now the grandmama has all got the kids hanging off of her, and she’s trying to be the hostess or the host of the wedding and go around and do what she’s supposed to, but she’s taking care of that child.

There’s a lot longer thing to think about, and a lot of times what happens is that there’s a selfishness there that the person with the children may think, “Oh, they just don’t want my kids there that day because it’s all about them,” and it really is all about the bride and groom that day, but it’s not a selfishness.

A lot of times the bride and grooms are in an uncomfortable situation. They don’t know how to tell their brother and sister not to bring the child, but it’s really because they want their brother and sister to have fun at their wedding.

How to Let Guests Know It’s an Adults Only Wedding

John:  Right. How do you recommend people go about that, then? How can a bride and groom tastefully tell their guests that they’re inviting adults only, and that, “Hey, your kids maybe aren’t invited”? How do you go about that?

Maureen:  The bride and groom need to have that conversation with the people at hand, the immediate family and the wedding party because that’s really where the example is going to start. “Well, if the wedding party can bring their kids, then we can bring our kids, too.”

That should be done in a conversation. I do not think it’s appropriate to hold back this uncomfortable communication and conversation and just get an invitation that shows up and says, “No children.” That would be hurtful.

I think that could come off as hurtful, where if you had a conversation with them ahead of time and just communicated your feelings that they would probably understand. In the end, they’re going to be fine.

There’s also a situation here you have a wedding, people get invited, and somebody just had a baby. That’s completely different. The baby may only be like four to six weeks old. They don’t leave the baby with anyone yet.

Now a newborn is a completely different story. They’re not going to be running around. They’re usually very well behaved.

John:  They’re usually sleeping most of the time.

Maureen:  They’re sleeping most of the time. The couple that’s coming may not stay the whole time, but again, they’re close to you, and they don’t want to miss this.

John:  They would literally not be able to come if they couldn’t bring the baby with them, because they’re not at a stage where you could just leave a baby with a babysitter.

Maureen:  Exactly. That’s a whole different thing, and I think that that’s appropriate. I think that’s a conversation that the guests should have at that point in time with the bridge and groom.

“We really want to come. The baby’s only going to be three weeks. Even my mom and dad are invited to the wedding, as well, so I really don’t have anyone that could come, and I don’t think we’re even going to stay, but I really want to see you and your boyfriend get married.”

I think that is completely understandable.

John:  I think that would be OK, too, for a bride and groom, as they’re talking to some of the other people who have older kids, to say, “Hey, we’re not inviting kids to the wedding. I just wanted to let you know that before you get the invitation and you see that it says, “Adults only,” on it.”

“My sister is going to have a small baby, and she is going to be able to bring the baby, just because she wouldn’t be able to come otherwise, but that’s the only child that’s going to be allowed at the wedding.”

Again, just communicating that to all of your guests so that. I think they would understand in that case. They’ve had kids obviously, so they know the difference between having a three‑year‑old and having a three‑week‑old.

Maureen:  I think that that is the way to do it. I do think you should make the exception and tell them about it, but I know everyone will be a lot happier if those kids are not let loose on that dance floor. Because they can get hurt.

People are drinking. They may have inappropriate language. Who knows? They’re having fun. They are adults having fun.

Now, if you decide that you want to have an outside picnic clambake wedding, and it’s more of an informal kind of situation and it’s in a big field and the kids can have fun, then I would say hire a babysitter.

Bring along somebody that’s designated to take care of the children. Make some group activities. Have some games available. Make sure that the parents are all comfortable with this person that you’ve chosen, and then you could have that setup, as well.

I’ve seen that work out fine, too, but there’s somebody else in charge of the children that’s not a guest at the wedding.

Hiring a Babysitter for an Adults Only Wedding

John:  I was actually going to ask that, next, if you have ever seen a sort of daycare set up for the kids. Again, let the parents know, “Hey, the kids aren’t going to be invited into the reception,” or maybe at a certain point in the reception they’re going to be asked to leave.

“But we have this other room set up, and we’re going to have somebody who is watching them,” or like you said if it’s an outdoor wedding, “They’re going to be able to run around, but they’re going to be over here on this side of the field and we’re going to have some activities for them.”

You think that that’s OK?

Maureen:  I think that works out lovely. Again, you might come from a really large family and your boyfriend comes from a large family, and that’s important to you. But you would have to design your wedding around that because you can’t have them come to the sit‑down dinner.

It’s just not going to work. They will go out of their mind.

John:  All right. That’s really great advice, Maureen. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Maureen:  Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.

John:  For more information you can call us at 978‑768‑7335.