Etiquette: How to host an adults-only reception

Sometimes brides are really set on having an adults-only reception – and that’s OK! If your reception venue seems particularly unfriendly for children or if you want to limit the small children in attendance to only family members, you’ll have to find a polite way to tell your guests.

Traditionally, the only guests who are invited are those whose names are on the invitation – if you leave off little Henry and June’s names, the parents should assume you’d prefer to have just adults. However, wedding etiquette is not always common knowledge and some guests might not realize you’d prefer not to have pint-size guests.

How should I tell them?
So how do you tell your guests without hurting feelings? Some brides-to-be have “An adult-only reception will follow” printed on the invitations, but wedding experts say this is not advised because it can seem aggressive. Martha Stewart Weddings recommends calling all friends and family members with small children and politely explaining the situation. If you’re offering babysitting services at your reception, this call is the perfect opportunity to mention that. Otherwise, call guests with small children immediately after invitations go out to give them plenty of time to find a babysitter. If a phone call seems too daunting, you can also send out a nice note on personalized note cards, explaining that while you absolutely adore Henry and June, the formal reception just won’t be much fun for them.

What about the pint-sized participants?
Martha Stewart Weddings says it is never OK to not invite the ring bearer and flower girl to your reception. Parents have spent a lot of time, money and emotional energy – and quite possibly physical energy, too – getting their kids to behave in fancy clothes. If you are unwavering in your desire to have a kid-free reception, you must at least invite the children to some part of the festivities – cocktail hour, for instance, and then provide a sitter for the remainder of the night. However, always keep in mind that it’s perfectly acceptable not to have a flower girl and ring bearer in your wedding at all.

How do I make amends?
Though you’ve done your best to be sincere and straightforward, some guests might be a little offended that they couldn’t bring the tots. One way to make amends is to tuck special treats – like mini cupcakes or toys – into personalized gift bags for each family with small children.

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