Wedding Etiquette for Parents

Miss. Tracy joined our friends at The Rhode Show live to discuss wedding etiquette! Watch it here!

Spring is coming, which usually signals the beginning of wedding season for many new brides to be. At this time, chances are you are either planning a wedding or you will be invited to one.  But during this wonderful time of planning, it always seems to bring up several questions about whether to invite children or not? Brides often wonder if it is proper etiquette to invite all children to the wedding or just your immediate families’ kids.  Maybe you just want to include the children who are actually in the wedding party? These questions can be tricky and often illicit very passionate responses from all parties. So many brides tend to tread lightly on this subject…and often to their dismay.  

It’s fair to say that children definitely brighten our days and often display delightful humor and have a way of spreading laughter to an event like a wedding, but on the flip side a crying baby or over-tired and irritable toddler can be distracting for some guests.  With that in mind, some brides opt to welcome children at their wedding while others tend to take the adults only approach.   This same struggle is often seen with guests as well, should they ask a bride if their child can attend?

So what is the best practice or approach to take when tackling this question?  Here are some tips that may help.

Let’s start with the advice for Guests…

If you are invited to a wedding, you need to look at the envelope to see how it is addressed.  If your children are invited, the envelope will include the words “and family” or be addressed to all the individuals in your family including your children’s names. If it is addressed to just “Mr. and Mrs. James Brown,” your children are not invited, but if it is addressed to “James, Susan, Bobby & Sally Brown” then Bobby and Sally are more than welcome to attend. 

Do NOT call the Bride!

If your children were not clearly invited to the wedding, do NOT call the groom, the bride, in-laws to be, or parents of the bride to ask if they can come.  Often children are omitted from the invitation list because the bride and groom are limited to the amount of people they can invite either for budgetary reasons or by seating arrangements.  Calling will only make them feel bad or frustrated. The bride and groom have enough to do and stress about, don’t add this to their plate!  One exception:  if your children are not invited and you are travelling from out of town for the wedding, it is OK to reach out to the bride, a maid of honor, or the bride’s family to ask for child care recommendations in the area (a babysitter, etc). 

In General

If your children are under the age of 16, unless they happen to be in the wedding (the flower girl or ring bearer) or the bride and groom explicitly invite them, do your best to find a babysitter and leave them at home.  A wedding is about the bride and groom, it is not the time to show off your new baby or your preschooler’s “cute” new eating habits!

Next… advice for the Brides…

Decide who is invited and be clear about the cut offs

If you are the bride and don’t wish to have children present at your wedding, first do not feel bad about it!  It’s your day; you get to pick who is invited and design how the day will go!  Just bear in mind that you may have to cut right to the chase by adding phrases such as “adult reception” or “# of seats have been reserved in your name” to your invitations and/or response cards in order to be clear about who is and who is not invited.  You may also want to choose a clear cut cut-off age, i.e. no one under age 16 or 18, etc, to help make decisions easier.  Plan ahead to make it clear who is invited if you don’t want to wind up in a mess of inviting cousins, nephews, the neighbors children and so on.  Lack of a clear cut off could put you in a bind of saying yes to some but no to others and could cost you a lot of extra money!

Have a child friendly game plan!

If you decide that children are allowed, plan ahead to have things at the reception to help keep them entertained.  Or, consider hiring a chaperone, a teenager that is willing to entertain the children, help keep them out of trouble, take them to the bathroom, etc.  If possible ask your venue if they have a room where things could be set up for children only where you could have a craft set up or perhaps show a movie. 

Seating Charts

If children will be invited to your wedding make sure you seat families together with other families, either at the same tables or within the same area of the room.  The last thing a guest without children wants is to sit at a table with a lot of kids.  Putting children together will make the night run a lot smoother and will make it more fun for the kids!  Don’t forget to add a kid friendly option to your menu too. Most children will not eat fancy food or fish, filet or other rich foods. They prefer fun foods; your venue may offer a kids meal at lower price.


Your day is special and will go by very fast. If children are present and something starts to go wrong, have your photographer get it on film. One day you will look back at this and laugh at it.  The decision to have children or not at your wedding depends on what you and your spouse-to-be want.  Just remember to factor in cost, seating, entertainment, and the fact that it will most likely be a long night for children. 

Resources: Family matters, The Knot, and Intimate Weddings