If you have children IN your wedding party this could get a bit more tricky. This is tricky because it is not ideal to just provide a general statement similar to "adult-only" if you will have some (i.e. immediate family members' children in attendance or even as part of the wedding party) children in attendance.
For mine and Ryan's wedding, as an example, we do not have children part of our ceremony or wedding party (it's incredibly small), but we are allowing nieces and nephews to join in as guests. If you have a target guest list number, then you need to be conscious of your guests' children. Inviting the children to attend could add 20+ to your list before you even know it. For some of you in the planning stages, that is perfectly doable--you have the budget and space to accommodate even your third cousin's grandchildren. But for some of you that just won't do.
So, with that said, there are several ways you can get the message across:
The Mr. and I chose to share this information on the RSVP page of our wedding website:
"With the goal and vision of a small, intimate gathering of their nearest and dearest family and friends, the bride and groom kindly request that only those listed on the invitation join them for the ceremony and reception."
On that page we chose to go with the angle of a small, intimate gathering. It is really not polite to mention a tight budget to those outside of your immediate family and closest friends. With the line "only those listed on the invitation" (italics added) that means we will list out each guest we are requesting to attend.
I also really like the way Jordan McBride goes into detail about "How To: Gracefully Avoid Uninvited Guests".
Here are some other ways to get the message across:
- You could add on your wedding website (by the way, this information is not acceptable on the invitation): "We wish we could include all children, but we are, unfortunately, only able to invite the children of immediate family." or "Adult-only celebration" (although, again, that is tricky if you DO have children coming at all--that particular guest who had to hire a babysitter and sees children at your wedding might get a little upset if she does not realize that they are children of immediate family members). Then add a positive sentence about how excited you are for them to spend the afternoon with you in celebration. Never end in negativity!
- You could also make it very clear on the RSVP card, such as: "We will be setting aside ___ seats for you at our celebration. Please let us know if you will be joining us!" Then include a space for them to choose "Yes" / "No" or something clever, and possibly include a line for them to write how many seats of the ones set aside for them they will be using. If you invite a family of 3 and you have listed 3 seats set aside for them, yet only 2 are able to attend, they will need a way to clearly indicate they only need 2 of 3 seats.
- The last option would be an additional invite for the reception. This isn't recommended if your ceremony and reception are at the same location. This is commonly done, though, and you would include the line on this separate reception invite: "Adult-only reception" etc. If you did this, you would need to put on the invitation that the reception is invite-only.
Best-case scenario is babysitting is included during your ceremony and reception for guests with children. If you are able to provide such service, you could share the message this way: "In order for parents to better enjoy themselves as a couple, the bride and groom request that this be an adults-only reception. Professional babysitting will be provided at the hotel/venue/etc." But more on what to do and how to entertain children at your wedding in the upcoming Part 2.
It will be very important to monitor the RSVP's coming in. If you get one that comes in and it looks like the parents were a bit confused, it is necessary to address this right away. If they RSVP their children, then either you, your mother, future MIL, or better yet, the wedding coordinator, needs to gracefully let them know (with regrets) that you are unable to accommodate children for your celebration. Using the Goal and Rule from Jordan McBride's post will help with this part if it comes down to it.
Keep in mind that not everyone will be happy with every single decision you make about your special day. There are some parents that will be over-the-top offended, but this day is about you, your groom, and those nearest and dearest to you. Don't let their sour attitude spoil your big bash!