When Michelle Hudson began planning her 2014 wedding, the New York native knew she wanted an adults-only celebration.
"A wedding cost so much to begin with, plus it’s a long event for kids," Hudson told TODAY Parents. "I would’ve been thinking about how loud the DJ was, profanities that may have been in certain songs, if there was going to be space for kids to get energy out without disturbing other guests … it was a no for us."
But even with a clear "adults only" message on her invitations, Hudson hit a snag.
“A couple from my mom’s guest list responded and wrote in ‘+ child’ on the RSVP card,” Hudson said. “It caused a whole slew of issues and caused a rift between my mom and her friend.”
Hudson said the couple wound up not attending her wedding, because they could not bring their child.
“That was totally OK, but it was just such a horrible situation and caused so much extra stress even before the wedding,” she said.
Child-free weddings are becoming more common, Sarah Brehant, a wedding planner at Brehant Creations Events in Connecticut, told TODAY Parents. But that doesn't mean they're controversy-free.
The debate over children at wedding rages on internet forums and Reddit pages, with brides sharing stories about families and friend groups torn apart by a simple “no children, please” on a wedding invite. Meanwhile, some parents are debating the morals of family members and friends not including kids in their love-filled celebrations.
“Most weddings aren’t an appropriate setting with all of the drinking, dancing and partying,” Brehant said.
By the time Ariana Hayes and her husband, Alex, were ready to tie the knot in December 2019, the couple had attended more than thirty weddings together and knew exactly what they did — and did not — want when it came to their own celebration.
For the Philadelphia couple, that meant an adults-only wedding.
"We wanted a black tie wedding, and for our friends to be able to celebrate entirely with us, and each other," Hayes, 33, told TODAY Parents. "We found that having children at weddings changed the dynamic of the party. Not for better or for worse, it’s just that the presence of kids changes the vibe."
Hayes explained that the decision was practical.
"Only a handful of our friends and family were parents (at the time), and we didn’t want those individuals to have to worry about bedtimes, potential meltdowns or sensory overload, or even just keeping up with their kids while trying to simultaneously enjoy themselves," Hayes said, adding that none of her invited guests balked at the couple's request.
She added, "We also had a 240-plus person wedding and making it a kid-free celebration meant we could invite more of our friends and family."
Now a mom herself, Hayes told TODAY she stands by her decision, and would not be offended to receive an adults-only invitation.
"I don’t even think I would want to bring my child to most weddings," she said. "I want to be able to devote my attention to celebrating the couple."
Casey Ferri, of Charlotte, North Carolina, got married nearly thirteen years ago, and opted for a child-free wedding. Today, as a mother, she told TODAY Parents she would make the same choice again.
"It's always a good reminder that someone’s wedding day is about them — not me as a guest, and not about my child or who I have available to babysit," Ferri, 35, told TODAY.
Not all people enjoy the idea of child-free weddings.
"I think that kids are a part of a family and should be included," Hannah Suhr of Pennsylvania told TODAY Parents. "I also think they bring added joy to a celebration like a wedding. It seems it is rarely a child who messes up a wedding."
Suhr, who is a mom, said she did not like kid-free weddings before she was a parent, either.
"I am not at all offended or upset if someone chooses differently," Suhar said. "I respect that everyone planning an event — wedding or otherwise — is entitled to plan it according to their desires."
Emma Kaveney, a mom of two in Maryland, told TODAY she "firmly believes" it's up to the couple to decide how they want their special day to look.
"I also believe that the couple should understand that me not attending, because I can’t, won’t, (or) don’t have viable childcare doesn’t mean I don’t love and celebrate them," Kaveney said.
Tips for couples planning an adults-only wedding
For couples trying to navigate planning a child-free wedding, Brehant recommends:
1. Make it clear.
“Put on your RSVP card that it’s adults only, or specify the amount of seats reserved for them so your guests don’t assume they can bring their kids,” she said.
2. Give options.
“If you’re having a destination wedding or even a local wedding, perhaps you could put the name of (a) nanny or childcare service on your wedding website to help people with a resource if they want to bring their kids on the trip,” Brehant told TODAY.
3. Keep them occupied.
Alternately, Brehant said that if couples want to include kids, they could ask their wedding coordinator to set up a kids station at the wedding or reception to keep youngsters occupied.