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  • Erica Shupe-Dietrich

Are you kid-ding? A Guide to breaking the news that your wedding is kid free

I blame my father for making it impossible for me to resist a terrible pun.

That picture above? That’s my favorite pocket-sized hellion- my niece Lylah, hightailing it away from the big family photo at my own wedding and my mom's cousin in hot pursuit- a great shot captured by Hilary Knegt Photography on my own wedding day. Chances are, if you’re planning a wedding, you have one of two reactions to this photo; “That’s so cute!” or “Oh, hell no!” and you know what? Both reactions are fair.

I’m not here to debate the merits and flaws of having a kid free wedding day. That debate rages on in magazines, blogs, and social media across the internet with considerations on both sides. This post is for couples who have already made the decision to nix ten, $25 plates of chicken fingers or mac n' cheese and embrace the an adult only soiree.

So the question now becomes, how do you communicate this in a way that gracefully sets expectations for your guests? This is such a common question I see come up over and over again on social media, but the poor poster who asks it, inevitably ends up weeding through reply after reply either a) berating them for choosing to have a no kid wedding, b) someone defending them for having a kid free wedding or c) suggestions of cutesy poems or blunt methods of stating no kids. That doesn’t help anyone, but hopefully this will- so bookmark this link and share it next time you come across this particular debate, give a couple some real wedding advice they can actually use.

A guide to telling your guests that your wedding is a kid-free affair

1) Address your invitation only to those you wish to come

This technique is the tried but not necessarily true method of etiquette die-hards. It is definitely the most subtle way of communicating your wishes but it can be so subtle that some modern guests may not get the picture. They may not be able to imagine hosting a wedding without kids, or may automatically assume they are somehow exempt from that rule for whatever reason; they won't be able to find a baby sitter, are traveling from long distances, or are breastfeeding. Overall, this is a solid technique in terms of traditional etiquette, but might not be enough for some guests. If not having kids at your wedding is a priority to you, I recommend pairing it with at least one of the other ideas below.

2) Word your invitation clearly and politely

While it is important to make your wishes known so your wedding day runs smoothly, it is just as important to deliver the message with tact and clarity. I steer clients away from cutesy poems because they tend to send the message that the kid-free day is more of a negotiation than a polite but firm request. These invite guests to call you up with their story about why they should be the exception to the rule, or worse, guilting you into saying 'yes' when you really meant no- which can later mean other guests who didn't call you up becoming upset that so-and-so got to bring their child, and why didn't they.

I also advise against the total opposite; phrases like "No children" (yes, even with a please on the end) which tend to get guests' backs up. While it is your day, being as considerate as possible avoids hurt feelings. Wording that guests consider mean or rude, regardless of the intention, can do harm to a relationship- not just to your wedding plans.

There are folks who firmly believe that weddings are a celebration for family, and simply don’t understand the desire a couple may have to have an adult only day. To get through to these guests, try one of these on for size:

For kids invited to the ceremony but not the reception, try:

“Adult reception to follow” after your ceremony details.

Does the mere thought of a screaming baby or a toddler toppling a floral installation at the ceremony make you cringe? Try using wording that covers both the reception and ceremony like; “Respectfully, an adult affair”.

Want something a bit more lighthearted; “Enjoy the ultimate date night with us!”

From my experience, cutesy poems and exclusive language really only draw attention to the fact that you aren’t inviting kids– often more attention than is necessary, so clear, to the point wording that focus on who is included always works.

3) Drive the message home with a clear RSVP

Still worried things might be a bit foggy? On your response card, try specifically referencing the amount of spaces you have allocated for your guests by stating something like __ seats have been reserved in your honor. This sends as clear as can be tactful message to your guests not only about kids, but also other potential unintended guests as well. But be forewarned; if you dig into wedding lore online, you'll still find situations where couples have received RSVPs where couples have added "and a half" to be cute to attempt tow along their infant, somehow come to the conclusion that one parent and one child is totally what you meant by two guests, or even thought bringing other people along was okay, as long as they didn't eat at the reception.

If you are still concerned about potential problems…

4) Communication is Key!

There will always be that one guest that just doesn’t get the picture. The key is to be polite, firm and proactive if you know this is going to be a potential issue. Take a deep breath and call up that potential problem guest. Try something like:

“A few of our guests have phoned inquiring about bringing their children, and because we have decided to have an adult only day, we just wanted to be in touch to avoid any confusion or upset later on. We would love for you to join us and hope you can still make it!”

Nine times out of ten, your guests will understand and won’t push back- especially if you provide them with a truthful reason. If you do run into someone you feel is pushing you around, don’t feel bad about stating your wishes firmly (but politely) and getting out of the conversation with a simple;

"I appreciate your feelings on this issue, however this was carefully considered by me and (partner), we hope you will respect our wishes."

The key to avoiding unwanted guests of any kind, is keeping communication open, honest and clear from the get go. Be compassionate, but firm. Try offering your time to celebrate with the entire family at another time, but that for the day of the wedding, your wishes remain the same as they have from the beginning.

So kid-free couples, do you have any other tried and true techniques we might have missed here? Let us know on the comments or our Facebook page!

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