Now Booking Fall 2024 Weddings and Beyond!

The Octavia Wedding Invitation Suite

One of the most challenging aspects of planning a wedding is deciding on the guest list.  I get it, I know exactly how overwhelming and tension inducing this task can be.  It’s going to be such an amazing day and in your heart you’d love for everyone you know and love to be there.  

The reality is, however, that for the sake of your budget, space at the venue and your own sanity, having every single person you know attend just isn’t always possible.  So, most couples reach a point where they start trimming down their guest list to make sure all your numbers make sense.  For some couples this also means making the decision to have an adult-only affair (typically no children under a specified age).

Choosing to have an adults-only wedding is becoming more and more common with today’s weddings, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that addressing this topic with your loved ones can be awkward and in some cases, hurt feelings.

So, what are some ways you can go about having an adult-only wedding and let your guests know in a way that’s kind, tactful and polite?  I’m sharing some of my recommended ways to help you navigate these sometimes choppy waters.

Adults-Only Wedding Etiquette

If you’ve decided that your wedding will be adults-only, the best thing you can do is be clear and consistent from the very beginning.  Even before you start thinking about invitations, make your plans known and spread the word so less of your guests will be surprised by it when the invitation arrives.  Here’s how:

Don’t Make Exceptions

When it comes to deciding on an adults-only wedding, you really do have to take an all or nothing approach.  Generally speaking, you don’t want to be picking and choosing what families can bring their children and who cannot.   It’s just not something you should do so I always recommend that if you have decided on an adults-only wedding then it needs to be.

There may be a few exceptions (I know, I just said not to make exceptions) to this rule when you plan to have a flower girl or ring bearer at the ceremony.  You may also consider allowing a nursing mother to bring her infant but otherwise you really do need to be firm about this rule.  This means that you cannot make exceptions for your adorable niece or your best friend’s twins that you adore because you are sure to hurt feelings and can also be offensive to those parents whose children didn’t make the cut.

Be Clear from the Start

I opened with this but it really is the best way to make sure your guests know that your wedding will be for the grown ups only is to be clear from the very beginning – especially for those families that will have to figure out child care.

Ask your parents, close family and your bridal party to help spread the word.  They don’t need to go crazy by shouting from the rooftops or anything but if they know what you’ve decided then they will be able to help answer questions from other guests.

While spreading your plans through word-of-mouth from the start is important, one of my more recommended ways to get the word out is through your wedding website.  

Share it on your Website

I feel that all engaged couples should have a wedding website that contains a comprehensive list of all their wedding details, regardless of topic.  Your wedding website is another great way to begin spreading the word that your wedding will be for adults only from the very beginning.  The key here, and everywhere, is to be tactful and this may not make everyone happy.  Say something that expresses how excited you are for the approaching wedding day and you really want your guests to have a lovely nigh out, child-free so they can enjoy themselves as well. 

Your wedding website is a great place to share this wording from the beginning – remember your save the dates are a great place to share your wedding website early on.

how to handle adults only on your wedding invitation

Be Smart with Your Wedding Invitations

This is where I come in, and I admit that I take a strong stance on how you should (and should not) handle this on your invitations.  Let me start by saying right now that putting the words “adults-only wedding”, is not appropriate, even if you have seen it done before.  Remember, you want to be clear, but also tactful, especially because this may not be pleasant news for all your guests.

When it comes to your wedding invitations and handling an adults-only wedding, it begins with how you address your save the dates and wedding invitation envelopes.  When making your address list for your invited guests, you will want to address each envelope to ONLY those that are actually invited.

“Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Aurand” without “and Family” or children’s names.

While a bit more casual, you could also address it to “Mr. Brad and Mrs. Bethann Aurand” or “Bradley and Bethann Aurand”

Remember, if you are only inviting the adults, the should be the only ones listed.

If you are concerned that how you address the envelopes wont be enough to clue your guests in, the next step I always recommend is adding a line to your RSVP card that lets your guests know how many people from their family are invited.

“We have reserved _____ seat(s) in your honor.” or “______ seats have been reserved in your honor”. 

 When adding a line like this on your RSVP, you would fill in this space with a 1, 2, 3, etc. based on which family the invitation is going to.  So, if your favorite cousin gets her invitation and sees 2 listed in the space, she knows that only she and her husband are expected.

Another way to handle this on your RSVP (I’ve personally never used this but would work equally well) is to say “Adults Accepting” and “Adults Declining” under the RSVP name line.

Still worried it’s not enough?  Ok, I get it and some wedding pros feel it’s OK to put “adult-only reception to follow” or something similar at the bottom of your invitation but I feel that it seems a bit impolite and even a little cold or exclusive to specify your wishes front and center on the invitations especially because some people may not be happy that they have to find and pay for childcare in addition to attending your wedding.  Flat out saying “adults-only” feels a little harsh.  For a more tactful approach, if you feel you must include wording in your invitations it to add something to your details card.

If you prefer to keep it short and sweet, consider adding:  “This is an adult-only occasion” on the details card.

Personally, I prefer something like:  “While we love all the children in our lives, we have decided to keep our wedding and reception and adults-only event.”

Be Prepared for Some Difficult Conversations

Even if you make every effort (as listed above) to communicate to your guests that you are having an adult-only wedding, you may still receive RSVPs that come with with names of uninvited children.  It’s best to have a general plan on how to handle these situations ahead of time.  Remember, you want to be tactful but still stand firm.

My advice is to remember three things when dealing with these unfortunate situations:

  • Acknowledge your guest’s response
  • Address the miscommunication
  • Express your desire for them to still attend without children

If you receive RSVPs that include the entire family, make a phone call immediately.  Don’t wait or put it off and make a call, don’t email or text, please.  Politely let your guests know that the invitation was actually only meant for the parents (adults in the family) and if you wish, you can say why you have made that decision – maybe it’s the venue, the planned activities, space or budget constraints, etc.

Be prepared and understanding if some tell you that they simply wont attend without their children regardless of whether it’s out of spite or simply that they don’t have any other option.

You also want to be prepared for guests that may ask for an exception or if they can swap invitees because one parent cant attend and they’d like to bring their child.

For requests for exceptions, be compassionate but stand firm with your response.  

“Unfortunately in this instance, you would not be able to bring [child’s name] because we are requesting that this be an adult-only occasion.  We would love to have you there, but we are not going to have children attend.”


“Thank you for your RSVP.  We noticed that you added {child’s name” to your response.  Because we need to keep the seating capacity below the maximum for our venue, we unfortunately are not able to include children at our wedding. [you could use a different reason as applicable]  We apologize for the miscommunication but we hope you’ll still be able to attend our wedding.  We would love to have you there!”

For those requesting or that have swapped invitees make sure that you are clear it’s not necessarily about guest count and more about the type of event you are hosting.

“Our wedding day is very adult-driven and so we have to ask you to make other arrangements for your child / children or use child’s name.”

I hope this helps you feel more confident about making your decision to host an adult-only wedding and how to handle communicating it to your guests!  If you’d like to chat about invitations, hop on over to my contact form and let’s talk!