By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine
A couple are complaining to the Church of England after their noisy toddler was ordered out of their wedding. But more and more couples are banning children altogether... risking the wrath of family and friends as they do.
All brides want their wedding day to be perfect - no rain, no family rows and no spots.
But what about noisy kids? While some believe youngsters add to the happiness of the occasion, others envision wedding vows drowned out by screams.
A vicar took a dim view of a toddler at a wedding service in Staffordshire and ordered his removal from the church. But it wasn't any old toddler, he was the son of the bride and groom, who have complained to the Church of England.
One of the first dilemmas that bridal couples must grapple with is the guest list and invariably the "kids or no kids" question has to be answered.
Barry Long has been a wedding planner since 1974 and he says it wasn't much of an issue until about 10 years ago. Now he estimates about half of weddings stipulate that children are not allowed.
"It's definitely become more prevalent. We do more than 200 weddings a year and the last seven were all saying 'no children'. I think it's because children are more disruptive than they used to be and brides are worried they will ruin their day."
The increasing use of video means that a potentially screaming child is viewed very differently now, he says, but it can cause problems. Close family members may stay away out of protest and some guests react badly when they leave their children at home but see other youngsters there.
"It can get really bad and ruin the whole day and that's why I say to brides 'if you're going to do it, do it for everyone'."
It's advice that Patrick Boyle has gone against, despite resistance from both sets of in-laws. Only children of close family will be allowed to attend his wedding later this year, because, he says, he and his fiancee want to avoid the event resembling "Disneyworld".
"We took the decision that most of our friends would love a weekend without them anyway and this has proven to be the case in the number of people who have replied yes.
'I said no kids and no Time Lords'
"I do think children add to the atmosphere at weddings, and seeing them playing together adds to the happiness of the day. But when there are so many it can get over the top and there's also a cost because catering firms still charge for kids' meals as much as adults."
But such a policy can cause rifts. Rhonda Williams, in her 30s, refused to attend the wedding of a close friend for that reason and their friendship still hasn't recovered.
"The invitation said 'absolutely no children'. It was quite aggressive and there was no explanation. So immediately we were slightly put on the defensive about it."
They arranged childcare but it fell through so they asked the couple if they could bring their two children.
"We had no alternative and they knew our children are very well behaved. But the bride was quite unpleasant about it and so I said that on principle I wouldn't go and I stayed at home and looked after the kids."
Rhonda thinks brides can become too obsessive about every detail of the day and forget that a responsible parent will remove a disruptive child during a service or speeches.
Some brides do get carried away, driven by the image of a "perfect" celebrity wedding, says wedding expert Carol Richardson of website Confetti.
TIPS FOR BRIDE AND GROOM
Ask the vicar for their views in advance
Explain reasons in the invitation
Be stoical if guests can't attend as a result
If children are coming, provide toys or entertainment
"It can split families and it's about respecting each other's wishes, which on an issue like this can be difficult. But you need to get it out in the open early so everyone knows where you stand. And be prepared for a rough ride."
In the past, mothers played a larger part in the arrangements so family friends were among the guests, she says. But these days, couples are older, they are more likely to be paying for the event and therefore have a clear idea of what day they want.
"They're scared children will ruin it. But others say they're part of the fun. So there are two camps here."
There's no right and wrong answer, says Darren Noel, director of website Hitched. "If you look at it from a lighter perspective, you might only be upsetting a few parents by not inviting their children, but children could upset all of your wedding guests if they are not well behaved. The decision is completely up to the bride and groom-to-be."
Julie Smith, 49, made her wedding child-centric by providing goody bags, giving them roles in the ceremony and starting the disco with music for the youngsters. The children's meals were junk food-free and each table had children on it.
"I am constantly dismayed by the brides who don't want kids at their wedding as they will spoil the day. I think in this country children are treated like a hindrance and we still take the attitude 'children should be seen and not heard.'"
And whatever views you hold now, it could change when you become a parent. Catherine Lewis had a "no children" policy at her wedding more than 10 years ago, but now the mother-of-three regrets it.
"I look back and think how mean we were. How hard would it have been to have organised a room at the reception where we could have had a bit of childcare and entertainment for the young ones?
"After all a wedding is a family occasion. The thought of us saying 'no children' now makes me feel awful."
Some names of interviewees were changed at their request.
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
My husband and I were invited to the wedding of one of his good friends. At the bottom of the invitation was written "No ankle biters, please." I thought that was awful.
I am from continental Europe, living in London for many years and I cannot believe what I reading!!! "Some people" have lost all sense of common sense in this country... banning children from weddings... as if they were some sort of nuisance? And what next? Well maybe if the kids of "Some people" were better brought up and looked after in this country, maybe they would behave better. What a selfish attitude! You want to invite your friends but not their kids! There is something wrong here.
I think it is entirely the bride and groom's decision. We had children at our wedding, and it added hugely to the happiness of the day for us - but it's not for everyone. We have had to miss quite a few friends' weddings because of a ban on children and a lack of childcare, but that is their prerogative and, whilst sad, not the end of the world.
My brother had a big engagement party last week - no kids allowed - only mine! She was an angel and passed out at 9.30 allowing the adults to get on and enjoy themselves. As for her going to the wedding - I'm hoping she'll be a bridesmaid but if she's not I'll understand they don't want children there and won't be offended - as sweet as my two-and-a-half-year-old angel is there are times when she is a pain and in the middle of someone's wedding she would be bound to start singing bob the builder really loudly! I'm all for no kids at weddings!!
Last year when our youngest child was just eight weeks old, our best man got married, and the invite stipulated there were to be no children. We didn't mind getting a baby sitter for our four year old and our two year old, but an eight week old baby, particularly one who's breast fed, has to be with its mum. My husband approached his best man, asking if we could bring her and explaining she would take no space or cost money as she was very tiny and consumed only milk - but he turned us down flat. My husband went to the wedding on his own, and we haven't seen the couple in question since. As far as we're concerned, if they can't accept our kids, we're not that keen to meet up with them.
Sarah, Guildford, England
I can understand why some people would prefer no children, but I do think it can be harsh to exclude those who are close. For me my day won't be right without being able to dance with my godchildren and my niece. Also where do you draw the line? An eight or nine year old isn't going to scream, shout and have a tantrum the same as a toddler, but yet I've known people "ban" their nieces/nephews of that age. That to me is too far.
I was a bridesmaid at my aunty's wedding along with her niece from the other side of the family. I was asked to sing a song during the ceremony and the other bridesmaid was asked to do a reading from a favourite book. Throughout my song there was complete silence and then as the first word left the other bridesmaids mouth a little girl (bless her!) created havoc. She decided that she didn't want to sit on her chair anymore and voiced it very openly and LOUDLY! Everyone acted as if nothing was going on... but it was only a small venue, and everyone felt mortified for the bridesmaids trying to raise her voice to an appropriate level so she could be heard over the child. Children are lovely... and yes, I know they are JUST children, no harm meant. But let's be honest, most of us would be more than unimpressed if we had worked hard for months perfecting something for a special moment at a loved ones special day for all of that work to go flying out the window with the child's dummy as they have a tantrum!
Amy, Isle of Wight
I fully understand not wanting kids at your wedding. Too many parents seem to think every little thing their precious darlings do is acceptable. While I have friends with lovely children they can still act up when the mood strikes them and you can't be 100% sure of a tantrum free day. Years ago kids were taught what was acceptable but with so many nannies and career parents who only see their children when they are sleeping, discipline has gone out the window.
The problem is there are too many parents who bring along their children who are either too selfish or too arrogant to control them, or remove them from the Church if they start crying. The parents are used to the sound but don't realise what a distraction it is to a nervous Bride & Groom and also to all those trying to listen. As for the reception, again those selfish parents will allow their 'Little Angels' to run around freely despite the disruption this causes. As the day progresses, the kids get tired but Mum and Dad are still determined to enjoy the day. So you get grumpy, tired kids either crying or throwing tantrums just because it is way past their bed-time. We asked for no kids at our wedding and this was respectfully adhered to by all the guests. It made for a fabulous day and we had no complaints. In fact we even had some thanks for it!!!
Easy - have the reception on a boat - as we did, then the parents won't let the little darlings attend in case they fall in - problem solved! Seriously though I never gave it a thought - children are part of the family I don't think I'd want to marry someone who insisted they were banned!
New Brid, Winchester
My wife and I married about one month ago in Cyprus. The vicar was excellent, he INVOLVED our kids (aged three and seven), I don't think kids should be banned from weddings, it just needs someone willing to step up and take responsibility for them to stop them ruining the bride and groom's big day. I also think that more reception venues should provide an area for the kids as they get so very bored with the day and act up.
Asian weddings are full of children, weddings are family gathering, u have to have children.
If the couple don't want to invite children then that is absolutely their privilege, but they can't then get upset if their friends with children decline to attend. You should also remember that legally the bit in the church or registry office (as opposed to the reception) is a public ceremony and any one is entitled to attend.
Tim, Bath, England
Some brides do not ban children because they think they will ruin their day, sometimes it is just a matter of cost and numbers. My husband's family is very large and we had trouble fitting in all the adults we wanted, let alone children. We were very open and tactful about not inviting children and all bar one couple accepted it - the rest were keen to have an excuse for a weekend away. It is not right to suggest it is done as a matter of noise - my 13 day old nephew was the only baby there (for obvious reasons) and I would have been happy to hear him throughout the day (he was unbelievably quiet), as would our lovely vicar!
Jessica, High Wycombe
I always love to see "sorry, no children" on the invite - it gives me a fantastic excuse not to go myself. Then I can stay at home and enjoy a day with my kids while my wife goes to the poxy wedding.
Speaking as one who is often reminded that he crawled through the vicar's legs at one ceremony, kids make the do. Those who ban them are missing out, and missing the point.
Pete Nightingale, Reading
We have two reasons why we have decided on a 'ban'. One is the size of the venue. The other is I don't like children! I have none or my own (and don't want any!) and have rather selfishly taken the attitude (although I haven't conveyed this to any guests) that I do not want anybody else's children at our 'big day'. I do not want badly-behaved kiddies running up and down the aisle whilst taking our vows, nor do I want any screaming babies in the background. I also don't want any kiddies running riot and getting bored during the evening reception, and you always get one set of parents who let their kids run wild and do not take any responsibility for them. I want a day where the only tantrums are my own and isn't spoilt by other people's spoilt brats! I sound awful, don't I!? But I'm not, really!! :-) Rachel, UK
I remember being banned from a wedding because I was a child - at age 15. I was quite hurt. At another wedding, when I was 14, I wasn't given a cash handout which went round all the children - because I wasn't a child anymore. Some folk just can't win!
I'd be more likely to turn down a wedding invitation if it DIDN'T say "no children". All they add is noise and distraction.
Andy Towler, Malta
Yes it's mean and awful but it's the bride and groom's day not a day out for your family. I would have banned them if I had not run off to Las Vegas to avoid having to make these kind of decisions!
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