Ask the Expert: Child-Free Weddings

Question: We’re not having any young children at our wedding (except for our nieces and nephews in the bridal party), but I just got an RSVP back from my cousin, with both of their kids included, even though it was only addressed to him and his wife. We didn’t specifically say "adult-only reception" on our invite — is the confusion my fault? How do I break the news without offending them?

No, it’s not your fault, says Sonia Mele Forcina, owner of Details, a stationery, invitation and gifts shop in Center City. “A wedding invitation should be addressed to the people invited. If you are inviting someone with a guest, the invitation should read ‘Mr. John Phelps and Guest.’ And if children are invited, they will either receive their own personal invitations or their names will be listed under their parents on the envelope,” she says. “That is the purpose of having the names and addresses personalized on the envelopes.” 

Unfortunately, the situation you describe does still happen, says Mele Forcina — so here’s what you can do: “Call them and politely tell them you’re sorry, but the wedding is an adults-only reception, except for your immediate family. Let them know that you would like for your guests to enjoy themselves and to not have to worry about running after their children — because most guests will look forward to a night out, almost like a date night! Be polite and use kind words so as not to offend them, but be honest. This is your wedding, after all, and you have every right to request an adults-only reception.”

And Mele Forcina does have one more tip, bound to make your parental guests happy: “If you have guests who are traveling from out of town who are bringing their children, you can offer to help find — or actually provide — a babysitter to watch their kids during the wedding.”