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Is it okay to say no?

There are many challenges that come with deciding whether you’ll be inviting children and plus one’s to your wedding.

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The first choice is quite possibly the simplest – will you invite any at all? The second choice a little harder – if only some, then which? The third – how to communicate clearly who’s invited, is more of a logistics kind of question, and the fourth – how to gently let down those who are not is definitely the least fun of the bunch.

Muddy children in their gumboots
Photo Credit: Ben Wicks via Unsplash

I’ve lumped children and plus one’s into the same category because, quite simply, they’re not all too dissimilar – while the reason that you choose not to have children may be a little different to the reason you choose not to invite plus one’s, ultimately the politics of the situations are the same and the people on the receiving end (those you are and aren’t inviting) will have pretty similar reactions. After all, whether it’s their child or their partner you’re choosing not to invite, it’s still someone incredibly close to their heart.

Let’s start at the beginning –
1. Will you be inviting any children or plus one’s at all?

Chances are, you’re already having difficulty with keeping the guest count low. Whether it’s for money reasons (smaller weddings are definitely cheaper) or simply because you want an intimate feel, reducing the number of plus one’s and children at your wedding is absolutely one way to keep attendee numbers low. In regards to children, it could be as simple as wanting their parents to be able to relax and not be watching kids constantly, or it could be that you really just aren’t that keen on having kids running all over the show or crying right at that crucial moment.

Whatever your reason I’ll start by reassuring you – it is perfectly valid! Your wedding is something you’ve invested hours of time, effort and a lot of money into, you really don’t need any good reason to make a decision, other than – because you feel like it. In the same breath though – make sure you’re ready to explain your choices to friends and family, there’s always a chance someone takes it personally, and if you handle the situation well it won’t have to result in offence.

2. If only some, then which?

So you’ve made the decision to cut back on children and/or plus one’s but you’re not entirely sure that you want to put all children or all plus one’s in the same boat. Fair enough. But how will this look to your guests when they turn up to your wedding and there’s another child there – potentially even younger than their child who they were asked not to bring? It’s a touchy subject and the key here is to be open with communication right from the get go. It’s totally fine if you’re planning on allowing your closest of friends and family to bring their children or plus one’s but you aren’t allowing others to, what’s not so fine, is keeping that a secret.

If you’re open and truthful with everyone your guests will understand that those parents have had to travel further and couldn’t leave their children behind, or that those children are close family members and they mean a lot to you. Whatever your reason, be clear, be open and don’t hide behind a lie – it’ll come out eventually and it’s better to deal with it upfront early that to have the issue arise on your wedding day.

Small child suited up and holding a camera
Photo Credit: Andrés Salas via Unsplash

3. How to effectively communicate who is and isn’t invited (without being rude)

One reasonably common method is to subtly list the names of every invitee on both the invites and the envelopes. In some cases though, this could be too subtle and having only the names of the parents or main guest can be easily misinterpreted as being a formality rather than an intentional exclusion.

If you have a blanket rule about no children or plus one’s that applies to everyone then you could include this in a rather blatant sentence on your invite (politely of course) though you will have to be sure to clarify exactly who classes as a child (or plus one) – guests keen on bringing their child or plus one could unintentionally twist your words, mentally excluding their situation from the exclusion note and leaving a rather awkward situation when they turn up on the day, plus one and children in tow.

Another option is to include a line on the RSVP card that states exactly how many seats you have reserved in the hope they will make it. There’s not really any way to misinterpret – “we have reserved 1 seat in your honour…” after all.

4. The gentle let down

If you’ve taken the time to word your invites well then chances are your guests all already know and the hard work is done for you. Of course, there may be the odd person who tempts fate by reaching out and asking for an exemption but it’s easy to let them down gently if you stand by your word, use the same reasoning you’ve used with everyone else (e.g. the truth!) and re-iterate that while you’d love to have them there, you simply can’t make it work.

The key here is to be polite, be gentle and if you do have a valid reason (which I’m sure you do), then tell them! People tend to understand a lot better if you start with “I’m sure you’ll understand” and finish with a perfectly good reason. It can also be a lot of fun to offer alternatives to guests who you really can’t afford to include on your guest list. Suggest a brunch catch up instead, or arrange a date to go out for drinks to celebrate! That way they still get their chance to congratulate you, and you get a sweet outing – it’s win win.

A wooden sign nailed to a tree reads, "Eat, Drink and Be Married"
Photo Credit: Ben Rosset via Unsplash

Who you invite to your day is totally up to you, and with so many external factors influencing who you can invite there’s bound to be a few people who you’d love to have but just quite simply can’t. Hosting a massive wedding with every connection you’ve ever met is not for everyone and there’s no reason to be embarrassed, ashamed, or worried about it.

Be clear from the get go, give people time to take it in and stand by your decisions. You want all your guests to feel loved and welcome and if they turn up to your wedding only to very suddenly find out that they were subject to a rule that others weren’t, well, it’s a sure fire way to cause chaos. Another case where clear, honest communication from the start can work absolute wonders!

If you’re having trouble, feel free to flick me a message, I’d love to give you a hand!

Or if this is something you’ve been through yourself, add your insight to the comments! Let’s help each other out and come up with some creative ways to say no – gently.


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