Voices: From wailing babies to bored teens, children ruin weddings – that’s why I banned them from mine

We didn’t have to consider were the various urgent needs of wailing babies, frustrated toddlers and bored teenagers  (Getty/iStock)
We didn’t have to consider were the various urgent needs of wailing babies, frustrated toddlers and bored teenagers (Getty/iStock)

The sun shone, the gathered friends and family cheered, and we walked back between the rows of chairs set out in the garden as a newly minted husband and wife, towards champagne and canapes on the terrace. My new husband and I had nothing to think about but the comfort of our guests and the excitement of being married at last.

What we definitely didn’t have to consider were the various urgent needs of wailing babies, frustrated toddlers and bored teenagers – all of whom can ruin a wedding faster than salmonella in the coronation chicken.

We married almost two years ago, in May 2022. As it was a post-lockdown wedding in the garden, with a small marquee, we were restricted to 50 guests – which meant that if we wanted family and friends to attend, there was no possibility of accommodating their offspring too. We apologised and suggested on the invitations that perhaps it could be a chance for the grown-ups to have a break in sunny Scotland. There was no dissent whatsoever.

Afterwards, many guests insisted that it was the best wedding they’d ever attended – and I knew why. Because for once, the vows weren’t soundtracked by a howling newborn being jiggled by a frantic, embarrassed dad, the playlist wasn’t hijacked by bouncy, kid-friendly pop, and there were no teens secretly minesweeping champagne and throwing up in the bushes.

Admittedly, it was not my first rodeo – when I married my ex-husband back in 1999 there were plenty of small attendees, including my own six-year-old ring-bearer son and my bridesmaid stepdaughters. Our own children were there, and they were wonderful.

But now, in later life, I’ve attended many more weddings, and very few have ever been enhanced by the under-18s. Firstly, kids hate weddings. They’re wrestled into some idiotic Oscar Wilde pageboy costume or flammable flouncy dress, forced to sit through an interminable and inexplicable ceremony without making a noise (though they often do – I well remember the two-year-old who shrieked “No!” like a relentless jackdaw throughout my friends’ delicate and personal vows, as her crimson mother tried to drag her outside), then they’re taken to an endless grown-up meal where people make dull, lengthy speeches. Of course they’re going to kick off!

Meanwhile, older children get high on their own supply of cake, unpoliced wine glasses and indulgent adults, and tear through peoples’ legs like a police chase down the M1, while teens sulk through the disco, dying of mortification because their mum’s drunk dancing to “Groove Is in the Heart”. In the same way I don’t expect children to sit through a long and boring theatre production, I don’t expect them to suffer through the average wedding, either.

Not being responsible for small people also means that adults can actually relax. Nobody’s letting loose when their four-year-old is half an hour past nap time and sobbing on a random great aunt’s bony knee. Without the children, afternoon drinking isn’t a problem. With them, someone always needs to remain grimly sober in case there’s an emergency dash to A&E, or at best, they’re “just sneaking away before the disco” to put the kids to bed. Children at weddings require constant policing, constant shush-ing, and an endless supply of snacks, squash and beeping iPads to maintain any sort of control. It’s not a chance to celebrate the joining of dear friends in marriage, it’s an eight-hour exercise in crisis management.

Yes, people might be offended if their tiny beloveds aren’t invited. They may insist that weddings are a family occasion to be enjoyed by everyone and that children make everything jollier. Sometimes, that’s even true, particularly if they’re your own.

But, generally speaking, if you’re not the kind who enjoys hosting the nuptial equivalent of a year three trip to Alton Towers, you’re better off sticking with grown-ups. They know what to do with a champagne flute, they can eat a canape without smearing most of it on the wedding dress, and with luck, they’ll be willing to dance to your carefully curated musical choices, rather than a Jive Bunny remix.

Do I really want to attend child-free weddings for evermore?

Believe me – I do.