Ok, I admit it, I am a bit of an Etiquette Snob (comes with my career)
In truth… there is no “proper” way to do this… as you’ve outlined in your Original Post
BECAUSE saying so in anyway is considered RUDE
BUT unfortunately, the truth is that Weddings these Days are expensive.
So more and more people are opting to just have Adults at their Receptions… and to be honest with full meals costing $ 50 to $ 200+ per person, I can certainly understand the motivation (most folks don’t want to pay $ 200 for a 12 year old, never mind a 5 year old… and even if the place will provide “child meals”… those can be astronomically priced as well $ 50 for a plate of Chicken Fingers is not unheard of)
Ok, I digress.
It used to be that people understood the practices of basic etiquette…
If your name was on the Inside Envelope you were invited… not there… not invited.
This seems to be less understood these days… so consequently Brides have had to find ways to be a bit more direct with their Guests, while still trying to be polite (being polite in the face of rudeness is NEVER easy)
From an Etiquette perspective, it is ok for at the bottom of the Invite to say… Reception to follow
So naturally it has become in recent years ok to alter that to say… Adult Reception to follow
Sadly, there are still some who can’t follow instructions, read very well… so Brides have now adapted their RSVP Cards to be even more direct
“___ seats are being held in your Honour” … and writing in the exact number that the Invitation is for…
Still tho there seem to be some folks who will balk or insist that their precious children aren’t to be left out and their names have been added to the Reply Card… or the pre-printed number scratched out an altered
In which case, sadly… the Host has to call the offender back to apologize and explain the situation (putting the Host in an awkward situation to say the least)… most who have been thru it say the best plan here is to have a fixed sentence to fall back on “We are sorry, but due to the size of our venue, our numbers are restricted … we understand that this means you may not be able to attend, and we will miss you”
As for the Wedding Ceremony itself…
“Technically” churches are open to the public… so restricting who actually comes out to the Church Service is pretty futile. So if Mary & Bob are coming into town for the Wedding and brought along Baby Sue for the Weekend, don’t be surprised if all 3 appear at the church. Although it would be understood that Baby Sue would be babysat by someone during the Reception
And on that note… having Babysitting services arranged, usually means that there is a greater chance that your Guests who are parents will attend… and also be able to relax and enjoy themselves. Something to think about. (And fewer noses out of joint potentially)
As for Cut-offs. Most Brides allow the Children who have been in the Wedding to attend at least the Dinner portion of the Reception (so Flower Girls, Ring Bearers, Pages, Jr Bridesmaids etc). And then in the process of planning make the decision on whether these children are included for the whole Evening… or that there will be a cut-off time when babysitting will be available for them as well.
Likewise, in planning most couples crunching their numbers, also have to make a call on at what age they will make as their cut-off point for the Adult Reception. So is that 12, 14, 16, or strictly folks over 18 only.
Lots to consider / think about. And no easy chore.
Hope this helps,