Author Topic: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation  (Read 4225 times)

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kp

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Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« on: August 25, 2014, 11:45:44 AM »
BG/ I’m a part-time mom in that DH and I share custody of his son, DS, who spends half the year with us and half with his birth mother. We have, therefore, developed two different social networks: families with children around his age, and professional, childless couples. As is expected, when DS is with us, we socialize the most with the other families with children, and when he is away, we socialize primarily with other childless couples. I love hosting/attending parties, and we have had several grown-up gatherings at our home for our childless couple friends, as well as kid-friendly events (with water balloons or other activities available) for our families-with-children friends. /End BG

So this weekend I threw a huge party at my house, inviting a large cross-section of the different areas of my life, and it turned out to be a big party and everyone had a great time getting to know people they otherwise wouldn’t have met.

DS is currently away and on the invitation, I thought I made it clear that it was a grown-up party, in that I invited couples specifically (“you and your husband are invited to...”) and indicated that it was a cocktail-type party. I didn’t say “no kids” on the invite, but most people read through the lines that this was the case and hired a babysitter. Several people contacted me directly and asked if they could bring their kids. I made it clear that it was intended to be a grown-up party, but if the kids came we’d find something to entertain them. I wanted it to be a flexible/fun environment and figured if parents brought their kids to a non-kid-centered event, then they knew what they were getting into and could corral their kids as necessary.

As it ended up, two people brought kids, who spent the evening playing outdoors around the fire pit (supervised by parents of course), and it seemed like they had a good time. Several other families-with-kids bowed out and decided not to come since they didn’t find childcare. Since the kids contained themselves outdoors, many grown-ups partied on indoors and there wasn’t much crossover between the groups.

Here is my question. There has been some talk on Ehell about the propriety of designating “no gifts” on a party invitation, but I wonder what the thoughts are on “no kids” or “children discouraged?” I wonder if it was unfair of me to allow kids after I had given the impression on the invitation that it was a kid-free zone? Was it unfair to those people who hired babysitters for the night, or those who bowed out at the last minute for lack of childcare? I was perfectly happy to have the kids around for the party, but I did try to discourage the idea upfront, since I hadn’t arranged any kid-friendly food or activities ahead of time.  Should I have handled this differently at any point in the process?

Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

lowspark

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2014, 12:02:07 PM »
Yeah, I think it was unfair. You either were ok with kids coming or you weren't. If you were, then the people who got a babysitter because they thought kids would not be welcome, and people who didn't come for lack of child care, were mislead. If you weren't, then you should have said, "no kids" when asked instead of saying it was ok to bring them.

I'm assuming not everyone asked. So those who assumed no kids but would have rather been able to bring them sort of got the short end of the stick. And, if everyone had asked and everyone had brought their kids, it likely would have been a very different party.

I think it's absolutely fine to say, "no kids" or "no one under 21" or whatever criteria you want to set. A cocktail party is usually meant to be adults only but sometimes you have to spell that out or people bring kids anyway. It is perfectly ok to have events where kids are not invited. There's no rule that says if you invite people with kids, their offspring are automatically included.

GregariousIntrovert

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2014, 12:38:01 PM »
I don't think there is any problem with "Adults Only Please" on an invitation.  It seems a little gentler than "No Kids", as it emphasizes who is included, not who is excluded.

Venus193

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2014, 12:39:14 PM »
Yeah, I think it was unfair. You either were ok with kids coming or you weren't. If you were, then the people who got a babysitter because they thought kids would not be welcome, and people who didn't come for lack of child care, were mislead. If you weren't, then you should have said, "no kids" when asked instead of saying it was ok to bring them.

I'm assuming not everyone asked. So those who assumed no kids but would have rather been able to bring them sort of got the short end of the stick. And, if everyone had asked and everyone had brought their kids, it likely would have been a very different party.

I think it's absolutely fine to say, "no kids" or "no one under 21" or whatever criteria you want to set. A cocktail party is usually meant to be adults only but sometimes you have to spell that out or people bring kids anyway. It is perfectly ok to have events where kids are not invited. There's no rule that says if you invite people with kids, their offspring are automatically included.

I agree. 

What is with people these days?  The words "cocktail party" should be enough to say that it's adults only.

jaxsue

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2014, 12:41:11 PM »
IMHO a kid-free party should be just that. If I went to a party, expecting it to be adults only, and found that some people had been allowed to bring their children, I'd be a bit put out. It completely changes the dynamic. Note: it would lead to any flouncing or rage, but I'd be disappointed. I am totally okay with "adults only" on an invitation.

m2kbug

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2014, 12:53:06 PM »
People called you and specifically asked if they could bring their kids, to which you responded yes, so they did.  I think if you didn't want children around, when these people called, you should have said this is intended to be adults only.  They could either hire a sitter or stay home, either way, but you granting permission while expecting them to "get the hint," was not the best way to manage the situation.  As a parent, I'd be rather miffed that I thought this was for grownups only and made arrangements for my kids, and other people brought their kids.

I think to say "adults only" or "no children please," would be perfectly fine, and if people call and ask, you have to say no, only adults.  "Cocktail party" should be pretty easy to understand, but then people call and ask anyway, so speak up!  If it has to be spelled out, spell it out. 

Lynn2000

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2014, 01:01:46 PM »
I agree you were sending mixed messages. In effect, you rewarded the rude people who flat-out asked if their kids could come (despite reasonable hints to the contrary), and you punished the people who acted correctly (hired a babysitter) and expected to enjoy a child-free evening at your party. In practice it seems like it worked out okay this time, but next time the weather or kids might be such that it doesn't.

I think it's fine to write something on the invitation like "adults only," "21 and up only," etc.. If you want to just say "cocktail party" or whatever, that's fine, but if people call and ask about kids, tell them no--not, "Well, I don't know if they'll enjoy themselves..." but no. If people come to the door with kids, yeah, that's tricky, but really it's perfectly okay to tell them, "Oh, I'm so sorry, there's been a mix-up, this isn't a kid-friendly party. Don't worry, I'll save you a plate of food while you take them back home and call the babysitter." Otherwise, again, you're rewarding the rude people and punishing the polite people.
~Lynn2000

Aquamarine

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2014, 01:08:27 PM »
I think instead of saying “No Kids” on an invitation I would say “This will be an adult only event”.  I think saying “Children discouraged” will just make everyone with kids think it doesn’t apply to them, so there's no point in going with this. This should never have to be spelled out on an invitation but sadly, so many people either were not taught basic manners or are entitled that you do have to spell it out for your own sanity.  You also must be prepared to turn someone away at the door if they show up with their kids to a childfree event.  Whether or not people can find child care is not the problem of the hostess, yet some people will try to make it so.

If think it was horribly unfair to the people who were polite enough to hire sitters only to find that others had dragged their kids along.  I can promise you that at least a few of them were very disappointed.  Either host a family event or a strictly childfree one, there really is not any middle ground, to me, it should be one or the other.  That way your guests will know if they wish to attend or not.  Children completely change the tone of an event so you really need to decide whether children are invited or not and then rigidly stick with that decision, no exceptions!

Practice ahead of time what to say to people who whine as to why their kids can't come and their various excuses.  It will make it easier for you when the time comes to use them and I promise you it will.
Always be polite, even to nasty people. Not because they are nice, but because you are.

rose red

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2014, 01:16:02 PM »
I think it's unfair too. Some missed the party and others arranged for babysitters. I can just imagine how they felt when they showed up and saw kids there, or heard about it later.

kp

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2014, 01:38:59 PM »
Thanks everyone for your thoughts. My suspicions were confirmed that it was probably not kosher to do. It did work out ok this time, but as Lynn said it could have easily imploded. I will make better efforts next time to make the dynamic pristinely clear in the invitation.

At this point should I do something to reach out to the potentially offended guests? or just let bygones be bygones and vow to do better next time?

Also, is there a way to make an event kid-friendly but not structured around kids? We have been to parties that are particularly about kids, which invite families, have a simple cookout, water-slides, etc. But then the people without kids are kind of isolated. Is there a way to meet in the middle where there is a kid-friendly space and a no-kids space, or is this just impossible to achieve in a single party?

Lynn2000

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2014, 02:34:54 PM »
Re: the party that just past, personally I wouldn't draw attention to it. If someone should happen to mention it to you, you could say, "Yeah, I kind of botched that, sorry," but I wouldn't preemptively apologize to people. Some people probably didn't really mind and others might have thought the parents just rudely showed up with their kids without prior approval, and even though it's okay etiquette-wise to turn someone away at the door, people understand that's hard to do in real life, so they might have thought it was that kind of situation. If anything it makes the ones who brought kids look ruder than they really were, since you told them it was okay, but again I think it's pretty awkward to bring it up--if someone says, "I can't believe Sally brought her kids to your cocktail party!" you could say, "Er, actually she asked first and I told her it was okay. I know, I shouldn't have done that..."

I'm no party-person, but I've been to a lot of casual gatherings that were family-friendly but not specifically geared towards kids (the way a child's birthday party might be). Perhaps you could start by listing what, for you, makes a party adults-only vs. child-geared, and use those lists to meet in the middle. For example, I wouldn't rent any kid-centric equipment (like bouncy castles), but I would get the box of sports equipment out of the garage and maybe pick up some dollar store bubble solution. Kids will figure something out when they're playing outside. It would be good if they had a place to play, like the backyard or the basement, where they were somewhat separate from the rest of the party (so the adults could chat) but also easily accessible to their parents.

On the other end, I wouldn't have expensive, hard-to-eat food like whole lobster--I would go with hamburgers, tacos, pasta, etc. that can be easily eaten by someone without the best dexterity. You can still have some pretty sophisticated food that way, but I would just make it more low-maintenance. I would set it up buffet-style and let people sit where they wanted--place cards, courses, this wine must be drunk with this food, etc. would be too formal for a casual family-friendly event, I think, and too easy for kids to interrupt, thus irritating people who would wonder why the kids were there if this was the party you wanted.
~Lynn2000

DanaJ

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2014, 02:43:39 PM »
Also, is there a way to make an event kid-friendly but not structured around kids? We have been to parties that are particularly about kids, which invite families, have a simple cookout, water-slides, etc. But then the people without kids are kind of isolated. Is there a way to meet in the middle where there is a kid-friendly space and a no-kids space, or is this just impossible to achieve in a single party?
When I was a child and there was a grown-ups' party that kids could attend, some kind of neat activity was arranged for the kids in the basement, while the adults had their cocktails upstairs. It was usually something like pizza and a movie on the VCR and/or a Lego buiding competition.

For aults-only parties, the invitations often said someting along the lines of "Parents' Night Out" to suggest it was an evening away from the chaos of little tykes.

m2kbug

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2014, 03:15:19 PM »
I wouldn't necessarily say it was "bad manners" to question children being allowed.  If every time I go to the OP's home for a party, kids have been welcome, and then I get this invitation that implies adults only, I might not be sure about the kid/no-kid situation and call and ask.  I don't think it's wrong or bad manners to question.  This does leave the host having to define clearly what her expectations are and to say no.  No hard feelings for me.  While uncomfortable on both ends, at least for myself, all I need to do is double check that this is an adults-only event, so I can make arrangements.  I would think I would have a general understanding of the parenting schedule with my friend at this point, but might not be clear on the schedule.  I'm on the every-other-weekend rotation and know the dynamics very well.  Let's just double check. 

Aquamarine

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2014, 03:59:07 PM »

At this point should I do something to reach out to the potentially offended guests? or just let bygones be bygones and vow to do better next time?

Also, is there a way to make an event kid-friendly but not structured around kids? We have been to parties that are particularly about kids, which invite families, have a simple cookout, water-slides, etc. But then the people without kids are kind of isolated. Is there a way to meet in the middle where there is a kid-friendly space and a no-kids space, or is this just impossible to achieve in a single party?

Say nothing further about the party, it's over with, just resolve to do things differently in the future.  I have never seen a middle ground regarding kids at a party without it ending up being all about them.  Some parents can't even have a conversation without their kids yelling for their attention every 5 minutes and kids will change the tone of all the conversations there.  Make it a family friendly event or a childfree event, if you do anything different you are going to continue to have issues, hurt feelings and disappointed guests.   You seem to be struggling to find a middle ground and IMHO it doesn't exist, you have two choices regarding parties, pick one and then zealously stick with your choice, no exceptions made for anyone.
Always be polite, even to nasty people. Not because they are nice, but because you are.

Raintree

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Re: Kids/no-kids on a party invitation
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2014, 04:42:17 PM »
Also, is there a way to make an event kid-friendly but not structured around kids? We have been to parties that are particularly about kids, which invite families, have a simple cookout, water-slides, etc. But then the people without kids are kind of isolated. Is there a way to meet in the middle where there is a kid-friendly space and a no-kids space, or is this just impossible to achieve in a single party?
When I was a child and there was a grown-ups' party that kids could attend, some kind of neat activity was arranged for the kids in the basement, while the adults had their cocktails upstairs. It was usually something like pizza and a movie on the VCR and/or a Lego buiding competition.

For aults-only parties, the invitations often said someting along the lines of "Parents' Night Out" to suggest it was an evening away from the chaos of little tykes.

Exactly, and I think there is a huge difference between having a few kids there who can play quietly somewhere while the adults mingle, and having lots of kids there with the whole thing revolved around making sure the kids are entertained, and having kid-friendly food, etc.

Maybe in future a babysitter could be hired to keep the kids occupied in a separate area, or just really have the whole thing "adults only." Although for the party in question, a couple of parents brought kids who were capable of playing unobtrusively together outside, not all parents/kids are like that and if everyone brought their kids, it would change the dynamic. So better to say no to everyone rather than allow only the parents with well-behaved kids who can create their own fun outside.