Deciding whether to allow kids at your wedding can be tricky: is the extra cost and potential disruption worth it? Rebecca Lees investigates.
Is it ever okay to ban children at a wedding or should they be an integral part of any big day?
For many couples, their wedding is firmly a family affair, with excitable children adding to the occasion.
For others, the thought of all that noise and mess - not to mention the extra cost – simply makes them shudder.
But child-free weddings can cause lasting offence, so is it selfish or commendable to say no to nippers at your nuptials?
Why invite children to a wedding?
There’s something to be said for the warmth and joy children can bring to a wedding.
Well-behaved pageboys and flower girls can enhance the ceremony and bring families together, as well as looking adorable in the photos.
A "no kids" policy can also be difficult to implement practically.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the average age for marriage is now 34 for women and 36 for men, and it’s unlikely you’ll have reached this stage in your life without at least some family and friends having children.
And, quite apart from the horror your guests might feel at their darling offspring not being welcome, they simply might not be able to attend if they can’t line up childcare.
'We wanted our friends to enjoy the day'
When Helene and Rob, from Surrey, got married in 2010, they opted not to invite children other than Rob’s nieces, then seven and nine.
Solicitor Helene explains: "Rob and I wanted a celebration with the people we love and those people are, basically, all adults.
"Lots of our friends were parents but we rarely see the kids.
"Neither of us has a large family and we didn’t want our ceremony ruined by screaming children.
'Messing about or talking'
"At most weddings we have been to, kids have been messing about or talking loudly during the church service and you can’t rely on parents to take them out if they are misbehaving.
"So it was basically a choice of having them there and taking the consequences, or not having them.
"We spoke to our friends and, firstly, they could all get childcare and, secondly, were happy - dare I say excited - that they would have a day off.
"And, although it wasn’t really about cost, of course children would have massively added to that.
"We don’t regret not inviting children for one moment. Only one person was put out by our decision, but that is a consequence we will have to bear."
How to keep kids happy at a wedding
Etiquette experts Debretts advise "sticking to your guns" whatever you choose and sending a note explaining your decision with the invitations.
If you feel that turning away children would simply upset too many people, hiring an entertainer or a wedding crèche could help achieve the right balance.
Kristen Harding of Tinies Mobile Crèches says: "We attend lots of weddings and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that bored children equal naughty children."
Kristen has these suggestions for a harmonious ceremony:
- Consider hiring entertainers or nannies, or simply lay out toys and games. If you have the space, set aside an area for children, such as a separate room or their own gazebo.
- Think about seating arrangements. While it can be nice to have all the children together it’s also likely to be louder.
- When it comes to food, go simple. Don’t expect children to eat the same thing as the adults, especially if they are really little. Having said that… avoid tomato sauce.
- Set up a reading corner with beanbags and cushions. The kids can chill out while parents keep an eye on them.