In Defense Of Child-Free Wedding And Letting Couples Choose How They Celebrate

There's no right or wrong way to get married.

Wedding day, couple with no children allowed sign Hrecheniuk Oleksii, SatawatFoto | Canva

Editor's Note: This is a part of YourTango's Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.

Apparently, my wedding was “extravagant.” I got married outside on the Irish Coast. I wore a generic second-hand dress, had five guests, and no flowers or frills. But because children weren’t invited, my colleague labeled it as “extravagant”.


It’s not unreasonable to not include children at weddings. But it is unreasonable to boycott weddings that are childfree, just to try and make a point. Sure, weddings with children in attendance can be great fun. But weddings without children present can also be great fun. Ultimately, the guest list is up to those getting married.

Childfree Weddings: Gasp, How Dare The Happy Couple Choose How They Celebrate


The author’s image of her wedding, having just exchanged their wedding vows.

RELATED: I Have Kids And I Think It's Selfish To Have An Adult-Only Wedding

Weddings were once about children, but not anymore

I’m surprised that the data from this recent study featured in YouGov shows a slightly higher percentage of support for child-free weddings than child-inclusive weddings. But this doesn’t negate the controversy and politics child-free weddings incur. For almost 20 years, discussions around children and weddings have flared up regularly. These days, almost half of weddings don’t include children. So child-free weddings are normal. And yet, the resistance toward them can be ferocious.

We don’t have to look far for tales of family drama interwoven with child-free weddings. This plea from a bride-to-be, submitted on WeddingWire, outlines what those opting for a childfree wedding are up against — from family feuds to friendship disintegration. The WeddingWire piece gives an all too common example of couples being manipulated and guilt-tripped into inviting children with the threat of parents not coming if their children are omitted. But like a response to the article suggests, surely a year is an adequate time to find childcare?


There have also been many cases where wedding guests have ignored the “adult-only” invite and taken their children along anyway. In this Reddit post in the AITA category, the poster was voted as the one in the wrong for taking her baby along to a specifically child-free wedding.

“But marriage is about children” is one of the most ubiquitous comments I hear any time I try to defend a couple’s right to have a child-free wedding. If you believe marriage is about children, that’s fine; that’s your viewpoint. But remember, not everyone thinks that. I believe marriage is about love. (Or convenience if you need a passport, but that’s an aside.) Sure, it used to be the case that couples (heterosexual, of course) got married as the first step in the “marriage, house, kids” path that is so fervently rammed down our throats as to how we should live.

I don’t believe people necessarily got married to have children. They got married so they could have sex because — you know — sex before marriage is such a sin. And due to a lack of contraception, children came along whether they liked it or not.

According to this article, seventeenth-century England saw marriage as a means of creating a “social, economic and political unit” where the man ruled over his wife, children and servants. So, maybe historically, marriage was synonymous with family and having children. But we live in a very different world these days. And isn’t that a good thing?


Now, even people who have no intention of having children get married. Heck — these days, same-sex couples are allowed to marry, gasp, imagine that. And there are also cases of women marrying themselves. Oh, how I wish people would stop inflicting their definitions of marriage on others. Marriage is about whatever the married couple (or individual) wants it to be. I will not be having children; my marriage is about love, partnership, and commitment.

RELATED: Bride Wonders If She Is Wrong For Charging Parents Who Brought Their Rowdy Kids To Her Child-Free Wedding

There is no one way to celebrate a marriage

I’ve attended weddings in Australia, Canada, America, England and Scotland. I’ve watched vows exchanged on beaches, vineyards, hotels, and marquees. I’ve danced uninhibited on tables at some weddings while walking around rigidly, hardly daring to breathe at others. I’ve stood at the front, delivered speeches at some, and faded into the background at others. I’ve helped craft table decorations for DIY weddings and gazed incredulously at the glitz and glamour of others.

I’ve held babies while parents grasped an opportunity to spin and twirl. I’ve scooped toddlers into my arms and swung them around to the soundtrack of their giggles. I’ve shared a cheeky cigarette with the rebellious young teenagers hiding from all the other adults.


Despite vast differences between all the weddings I’ve attended over the years, one thread of commonality weaves them together. The couples planned and executed their special day exactly how they wanted it. For all these weddings, I showed up as a guest — privileged to be invited to share the special day — and helped celebrate however the couple wanted.

Being a wedding guest comes at a cost

The lack of, or cost of, childcare is another common pushback I hear in resistance to child-free weddings and is outlined in this article as a reason why some invites are declined. This wedding guest even expected her childcare to be paid for.

Childcare concerns are valid, but I wonder if those pedaling this line know that including children in wedding guest numbers isn’t free. Look, I get it. I’ve missed out on some weddings over the years due to finances. One wedding that springs to mind was during a particularly difficult time in my life. I was skint and had no car. Plus, I had two beautiful dogs, and no one was available to look after them. I couldn’t afford — emotionally or financially — the stacked-up cost of transport and extensive travel, accommodation, a doggie sitter, and the overall stress of it all. And that was my choice.

I didn’t for one minute think the couple getting married should invite my dogs. But there’s a thought — maybe we could ask for our dogs to be invited to weddings. I mean, why not? Now, that would be fun. Being a wedding guest comes at a cost and it’s not just financial. As someone who spent over a decade working shifts, I once used my entire year's annual leave allocation to attend weddings. I think all the couples should have arranged their wedding around my time off, don’t you?


So sure, tell us you can’t attend a wedding because of childcare. And perhaps sometimes this is a genuine reason. But I have a sneaky suspicion that this is usually just an excuse launched in an attack of indignation and defiance. Because I guarantee childcare would be found if an all-expenses paid, adult-only, luxury weekend away was on offer.

Why are children not invited?

Sometimes, children not being invited to weddings is a numbers thing. The numbers would have trebled if I had had a big wedding and invited all my friends’ children. Sometimes, the couple doesn’t want children there. And that’s OK. Remember, it’s their day. Weddings are not a right or a free-for-all. Although, I know of someone who tried to give her wedding invite to her child as if it were a ticket to a concert.

So yes, children not included at weddings can be about finances or guest numbers. It can also simply be that the couple doesn’t want children there. This is not anti-children, nor does it mean the couple doesn’t like children. Most of the couples from the child-free weddings I have attended are now parents. Given almost half of all weddings are childfree, and 81% of married women have children, statistics support the fact that many people who have childfree weddings go on to have their children.

Let’s also be sensitive to the childless. I know of a few couples who desperately want children and are struggling with infertility. They took the tough decision not to invite children to their wedding as they were still in the throws of grief and didn’t want their day to be full of little painful reminders of what they felt they were missing out on. Ultimately child-free weddings have pros and cons.




RELATED: Mom Brings Baby To Childfree Wedding After Refusing To Leave Him With Family Babysitter

Boycotting child-free weddings is a you-thing

My colleague, who labeled my simplistic wedding as “extravagant” due to its lack of children, has adult children herself. So, child-free weddings don’t cause her a direct inconvenience, yet she told me in no uncertain terms that if she were invited to a wedding that didn’t include children, she wouldn’t go. And she’s not alone. Several comments to this piece on Mumsnet say they don’t “do” child-free weddings.


Wow. Of all the things to be intolerant about, people choose to begrudge and judge how others celebrate their marriage. I can’t help but feel they are making other people’s day about themselves. And that by boycotting a wedding, they think they are making a point and standing up for…checks notes…erm…

This isn't even about children; it’s simply about showing up for the couple getting married in a way that respects and honors them. If I were to boycott weddings I had any sort of negative opinion about; I would have missed several, including the one where I wore a poo brown bridesmaid dress. But I’m not a jerk. So I wore that jobby (Scottish slang for poo) dress and danced like a rockstar, adding energy and vibrancy to my friend’s big day. I can’t even remember if the children were there or not.

In case you missed my point, I’m not saying weddings should all be child-free, nor do I think children should always be invited. I’m simply daring to suggest that weddings can be amazing, both with or without children. So, to all those getting their knickers in a twist over childfree weddings — suck it up, buttercup — it isn’t about you. Sure, lay down your gauntlet, be up in arms, and boycott that wedding: Grrr, you fierce beast you. But ask yourself what you will achieve by being dogmatic in your thoughts and rigid in your actions.

Even if children aren’t invited, would it be so hard to make an effort to celebrate the wedding of friends and loved ones in harmony with their wishes? You never know; you may even have fun.


RELATED: 22-Year-Old Bride Decides She Wants A 'Childfree Wedding' — So She's Refusing To Invite Her 20-Year-Old Friend

Ali Hall is a writer, reader, runner, thinker, and conversation starter. She is a former police detective with a degree in psychology with sports science and an advocate of destigmatizing the childfree choice.