Weddings and uninvited children
Whether or not people understand that an invitation is extended and addressed only to specific people-this protocol governing invitations is not passé. It’s an obvious and longtime practice where ONLY the designated family member’s names written on the envelope are the invited guests. Children who are invited have their individual names included on the inside envelope with their parent(s) name. Teenagers receive their own invitations. This current and enduring protocol obviously signifies that ONLY named persons are invited guests. Most people with any sense realize this–but, you are right. Some do not. Your concerns–and many others–would be eliminated if everybody learned more about their social obligations and served others by practicing basic etiquette. It’s not rocket science-its simply considering others and complying with a few common sense rules.
About wording: Including “educational” wording on your invitation is risky business and provides opportunity for hurt feelings. I know of no correct way (neither do any of the other various etiquette authorities consulted) to tell people on an invitation that some aren’t included –nor should you have to do this. Better that you consider a few of the following suggestions.
First, you, your family members, and the bridal party watch for opportunity to discreetly spread the word, with sincere regrets, to those who might assume their children are included. Tell them, “I’m so sorry we can’t include the children.” Let them know why–that budget and space constraints mandate a limited guest list. This shows you care for their feelings.
Please know that you are not the first to struggle with this issue. When you find your guest list outgrowing your pocket book, rather than an “open invitation”, consider sending announcement cards to long distance friends and acquaintances who may have difficulty attending or have their own budget constraints. Wedding lists do not mean inviting everyone a person knows. Announcements show that you value your relationships without expecting a gift. They are a thoughtful and considerate gesture when a wedding list grows too large. When in doubt, however, as whether or not to send an announcement or invitation to someone, I would opt on the side of sending the invitation, thus putting the ball in my friend’s court. This gives them the option of acceptance or regrets.
Here are a couple other things to consider: If you go the “number” route on a response card, some may think they can bring un-named others along if they give you a head count and then you are in a worse pickle should they decide to invite and bring along their five or twenty children. If you write “Mr. & Mrs. So and So Only” or “No Children” on the invitation, the invitation takes a negative tone and becomes a direct exclusion. Therefore, to solve the problem of uninvited guests as well as for orderly flow, some hosts send out pew or table assignments on a card after the guest’s acceptance is known–a labor intensive (and more costly) solution.
For a private reception (usually in a different location from the ceremony) you will include a “reception following” card only inside the wedding invitation for those you want to attend and that’s the best way to address your concerns. There should be no mention of the reception in front of uninvited people–especially not at the wedding ceremony. At the end of the wedding ceremony, ask the officiating pastor to dismiss and thank everyone in attendance at the wedding for the honor of their presence, without mention of the reception.
In addition, you might consider using the reception card as an admission card for each guest that you want to invite. Thus, if only Mr. and Mrs. Jones are invited (and not their five or twenty children), only two cards are included with their invitation. This type of card is most often used when a ceremony or reception occurs in a building open to the public. The card is presented at the door and generally reads:
Please present this reception card
Name of place
Date of reception
This polite message indicates that the invitation is only for specific people. It also protects the hosts from party crashers, uninvited people or the general public.
Lastly, in this imperfect world, you may have someone show up who did not receive a card. In this case, grin and bear it…they obviously think much of you and the bridal couple. Your care on how to best handle this is a common dilemma and one that shows the need for all of us to learn more about our social duties so that we treat one another without presumption or self-centered actions that cause undue hardship on another. I suspect many of your friends, like you, know that protocol matters and they won’t bring uninvited children.