Can We Put "Adults Only" On Our Wedding Invitations?

adults-only wedding etiquette

Photo: Jessica Craig-Martin

It's difficult, and often impractical, to entertain children at a wedding, and more and more couples are opting to have an adults-only wedding reception. But what's the most polite and tactful way to communicate this info to your guests? Our etiquette experts are here to answer your wedding-guest questions in our daily post.

We've decided not to invite children. Can we put "adults only" on the invitation?

If you've decided to keep your wedding an adults-only affair, that's completely your decision and most parents will be ecstatic to have a night out without the kiddos. But even still, this is a touchy topic and putting "adults only" or "no children, please" on the wedding invitation is not the right move. Though it may seem like the easiest way to get the message across, it's a little too in-your-face and sensitive guests may bristle at that note. Instead, take a more subtle route: First, tell your parents, wedding-party members, and other close relatives and friends, so they can spread the word if any guests ask them.

Secondly, also include this information on your wedding website, if you have one. And finally, address your wedding invitations in a clear manner to indicate that the names on the invitation are the only people invited to the wedding (for example, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" means just the couple; "The Smith Family" would mean that their little ones are welcome to come, too). Most people will get your drift and will RSVP for themselves. Others may not be as observant and will RSVP for themselves and their children. If that happens, the next step is to call and explain that due to "budget constraints" (always the most understandable excuse, even if it's not true) you decided to invite only adults. If they're upset—and they might be!—stick to your guns. Your guest list is your decision. Whatever you do, don't make exceptions for your favorite niece or to get someone off your back, because if you do, other guests will take offense once they notice.

While this may seem much more complicated than writing "adults only" on the invitation, it's only awkward when certain guests do not gracefully accept the fact that their kids are not invited. Definitely be prepared for some pushback and hurt feelings, but don't give in and change your mind. But if it does become a real problem with a lot of guests, look into hiring a baby sitter or two to care for the kids during the reception. Ordering a few pizzas and paying for a few hours of supervision will likely be more affordable than having them at the reception, and their parents will still be able to relax and enjoy themselves at the wedding.

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Get personalized planning advice, exclusive offers and must-read wedding news.

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from