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Brides vs. Babies

Sep18

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I need a little reassurance that I’m not totally in the wrong here.
I’ve never been married, and when I do get married someday it won’t be anything close to a big or formal event…so maybe I’m not sympathizing enough here? My friend is getting married in a few weeks and I am her maid of honor. I live a few states away now so all of the typical maid-of-honor duties have been filled by all the friends and family that live near the bride, plus she’s been planning the wedding for years (engaged for over a year and even had her dress before she was officially engaged! she’s had wedding on her brain FOR-EV-ER) so there wasn’t any decisions to be made that she hadn’t already thought out and overdone. Anyway, the problem- I have a 1.5 year old who is still nursing and so I’m bringing her along with me to the wedding. Just the two of us. (I know a 1.5 year old doesn’t need to nurse, but I don’t want to force her to wean so abruptly) I plan on having a friend hold her while I’m standing up and during pictures but I think it’s fine that she sits with me at the “head table” during the reception, right?
The bride has emailed me asking if I’m bringing a helper to watch my daughter and specifically mentioned the time I’ll be sitting at the head table…so is she just being a nervous bride-to-be? a jerk? Is she reasonable and I’m clueless? I replied that I have it covered for the ceremony/picture time and didn’t mention the table thing…because I was kinda pissed…and confused.
Also, if my daughter really loses it, how bad would it be for me to carry her on my hip as I walk down the aisle? I don’t anticipate this coming up but I guess I’m thinking worst case scenario here.
Thanks,
Rachel

Long-time readers know I am the LAST person to cut out-of-control Bridezillas ANY slack, but I admit I’m sympathetic when it comes to the topic of small children at weddings.
1) No one wants their ceremony interrupted by a wailing/shrieking/fidgety kid. I didn’t. I still wouldn’t.
2) Formal weddings and receptions are not particularly baby/toddler/small-child friendly to begin with (afternoon receptions smack dab in the middle of naptime, evening parties lasting until the wee hours of the morning, drunk adults, weird fancy foods, etc.), and yet…
3) If you go ahead and declare your wedding a child-free zone, you’re bound to have a few of your guests declare you a selfish jerk. So you let people bring their children and just pray pray pray that they keep those children relatively under control and that your ceremony WON’T be interrupted by a wailing/shrieking/fidgety kid.
Despite having two rugrats of my own…I still mostly agree that really formal weddings are no place for really small kids (for their own comfort and enjoyment as much as everybody else’s). Which means: If you don’t want to hear anything other than someone completely agreeing with you on all counts, go ahead and stop reading. I’m sorry.
As maid of honor — even one who has been mostly uninvolved in the process to date — you’re not a guest, you’re not there for a fancy night out, you’re a wedding attendant. And you attend to the bride. The bride may call on you for a lot duties throughout the night. (The last time I was a MOH I did everything from yelling at caterers to rounding up relatives for photos to holding the bride’s dress up while she peed.) Regardless of whether or not your friend’s wedding decisions and priorities are anything you personally can identify with, by accepting the maid of honor role, you’re accepting everything else. (Within reason, of course.) If she doesn’t want children at the head table — whether because of seating space or photos or simply because the idea of a grabby up-past-her-bedtime toddler knocking over champagne glasses doesn’t appeal to her — well, she does indeed have the right to insist on that. It’s her wedding.
From a by-the-book etiquette standpoint, there’s no real iron-clad right-or-wrong answer here. Children in the wedding party (flower girl, ring bearer) typically don’t sit at the head table — they sit elsewhere, with their parents. Children of the bridal party members CAN sit with their parents…or at a nearby table, or at a designated kids’ table. It just depends. Ultimately, who sits at the head table is totally the call of the bride and groom, and comes down to personal preference. Some brides and grooms dislike the inevitable family-splitting that comes with a head table and skip it completely, or opt for the two-seater sweetheart table.
I can totally understand, though, why you would be taken aback — since she made it clear that your daughter is welcome in the first place (and she did, right? you didn’t just assume and announce that your daughter is coming?), it would stand to reason that she would understand that your daughter needed to sit with you. That would certainly be the most considerate thing to do, and not unheard of in the Grand History of Head Table Seating Charts. But then I keep circling back and have to admit that I kind of see where she’s coming from. It would be one thing if your daughter was seven or eight years old and there was a reasonable expectation that she could behave. A one-and-a-half year old? That’s a tough, unpredictable age.
So…she might be worried that you’re going to be so preoccupied with your daughter that you won’t be available to perform the MOH duties and “be there” for her during the reception. You will be expected to give a toast, probably, so maybe she’s just assuming you’ll want/need someone to hold your daughter anyway? She might have assumed that you were bringing a sitter or helper and is now freaking out over the idea of a toddler at her head table and it’s not what she wanted and you’re going to be so distracted and she doesn’t know how to tell you flat-out that it bothers her and maybe she’s writing to a different Internet advice columnist RIGHT NOW OMG. Or maybe she’s completely overestimating how important the whole “picture-perfect head table” thing is and the amount of time a bride and groom ACTUALLY SIT THERE. It really…tends to not be a whole lot, you know?
Basically, I would go ahead and try to find someone else willing to sit with your daughter during the actual meal and toasts, but also try not to think of it as a really big deal, like you’ll be separated for hours. The bride will get up and spend so much time circling the room and dancing and doing sooooo many other things besides leisurely enjoying her chicken-or-fish that your daughter can make her way back to your lap in no time. The bride is obsessing over minor details because that’s just what brides do. Accommodate her ahead of time and I think you’ll both be surprised at what a non-issue this *really* ends up being.
As for your last question…apologies if I’m humor-tone-deaf here but you were kidding, right? About carrying your daughter down the aisle? That was a joke? Because NO. No no no no no no. If your daughter freaks out and melts down, she gets TAKEN OUTSIDE. AWAY. OUT OF EARSHOT. By someone else, while you walk down the aisle for your friend. I mean, maaaaaybe if this was some kind of super-casual family-friendly hoedown on the beach and your daughter was the flower girl who suddenly refused to walk down the aisle and awwwwww, you carry her and everybody laughs and teases her about it until her college graduation. Maybe. From the sounds of this wedding, though, absolutely not. If the worst-case scenario happens, you find somebody willing to bail on the ceremony out of respect for your friend, the other guests…and yes, respect for the occasion itself.
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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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21 Responses to “Brides vs. Babies”

  1. MLB Sep 18 at 11:28 am Reply

    The MOH is completely in the wrong and I have 3 small children. From the letter she has assumed she can bring her daughter and is being incredibly rude. A 1.5 year old won’t wean during a wedding ceremony and reception. She needs to find a sitter or step out of the MOH role. Even if she steps out of the MOH role, she still needs to find a sitter for the wedding or not go. It’s not about her and she is making it about her.

  2. Jean Sep 18 at 11:40 am Reply

    I totally agree with you Amy…especially about the walking down the isle thing.

  3. Melissa Sep 18 at 11:42 am Reply

    GREAT advice. Although one comment — maybe the bride “made it clear that the daughter was welcome” because she didn’t feel as though she had a choice. The Mom sort of put it as “she’s breastfeeding, therefore she needs come, or else wean.” If put to the bride that way, the bride may not have felt she had a choice. She may not have realized or felt comfortable asking about pumping or solids or w/e (hey — as an expectant mom, I have no idea how often babies that age breastfeed. I assume they’re off the every-two-hour schedule, but beyond that … no idea). So, maybe the bride agreed, thinking there really wasn’t an alternative, but now, rethinking things, she realizes that it’s not unrealistic for the two to be separated for a few hours.
    And I REALLY agree that making sure you have someone to hold the baby for ceremony and pictures doesn’t really cut it when you’re the MOH. Being in the bridal party means, essentially, being on-call the entire day (and sometimes the entire weekend). It’s not unrealistic of the bride to expect that of you. And you can’t really be there for her if you’ve first got to find someone to watch the little one. Especially since I wonder how well the baby will take to being passed off to others.
    Ok, so now this is three comments, but I also don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to ask the mom to help you find a helper for the day, since you’re not in your hometown. A lot of brides, esp for formal weddings, even provide babysitting for guests (usually as a way to bridge the gap of not wanting kids running around, but not wanting to have to be a bad guy and actually say no kids allowed).

  4. Bliz Sep 18 at 11:44 am Reply

    Of course we don’t know Rachel’s daughter, but I would think that being held within view but out of reach of her mother during the ceremony– a confusing situation– might be stressful. If it were my daughter I’d be keeping an eye on her and stressing out if she started to fuss at all, and I wouldn’t be able to focus on the matter at hand, which is pretty important when you’ve been chosen by the bride as her MOH. Furthermore, I wouldn’t want to put my friend in the difficult position of deciding if the child is making enough noise to warrant going outside and missing the ceremony. So: if it were me, I’d find a local babysitter (ask your friends in the area– maybe they know a teenager who will be happy to do it for a reasonable price) and let my baby play outside the church and meet up with me afterward.

  5. Lindsey Sep 18 at 12:01 pm Reply

    Um…wow! Rachel, it is really not about you or what you would do when you get married. It is about a (presumably) really good friend and one of the most important days of her life. You are there for her!

  6. LB Sep 18 at 12:08 pm Reply

    Wow. Just wow.
    Amy, you did a fabulously tactful and PC job telling this girl that she is in the wrong here. Yes, the topic of kids at weddings is something every person has a differing opinion on…but for the MOH to want to have a baby at the head table potentially causing a scene for the bride or GASP! want to walk down the aisle with a screaming kid?!?! Just NO. That shows a complete utter lack of respect for both your friend and the importance of her wedding ceremony.
    I cannot stand a Bridezilla just as much as the next sane person, but this bride doesn’t seem to be one. And this girl is her maid of honor! Especially if you haven’t been able to take part in many of the pre-wedding festivities and duties it is even more important you be there for her 100% on her wedding day—or you shouldn’t have agreed to be her MOH.

  7. Daisy Sep 18 at 12:13 pm Reply

    A suggestion based on what I’m doing for my wedding in may… if you want to skip the what-ifs & who’s watching the wee one & making sure the bride is being attended to, perhaps ask if her officiant or family in the area knows a nice young lady of high school age who would be willing to come pick your daughter up from the ceremony & take her back to your hotel and watch her there? Just a thought. Then you’d be separated for a few hours but would avoid a lot of the issues that seem to cropping up here. I’d also suggest you speak to the bride, sooner rather than later, about what her expectations were for your daughter, if for no other reason than to be on the same page. That way, if something is really going to upset her at least you will know (rather than inadverdently upsetting her when you walk away from the table to calm your daughter down, or skip a photo moment to attend to a diaper and create a whole new can of worms). Our wedding is a no-child zone (later ceremony & reception, no food until 8 pm does not create happy kids) but we told everyone with kids that our officiant had high-school aged daughters & the youth ministry at the church had agreed to keep the evening free if someone needed a sitter at their hotel for their kids. Those families are packing some DVD’s & getting a local pizza delivery number and all will be well.
    Good luck!

  8. Lauri Sep 18 at 12:15 pm Reply

    As a Mom & former Bride
    Your child is too young to be at this wedding.. even with a helper…. she will most likely see you and want you and probably at key moments when all eyes should be on the bride.
    Like Amy said… at 1.5.. that is an unpredictable age for the most behaved of children.
    it is not right to have your child at the head table or to walk down the aisle with you.. unless she is in the wedding party as a flower girl or something.
    This is a day for the bride and a cute little toddler can steal the brides thunder
    I think you are being clueless here

  9. Kailee Sep 18 at 12:19 pm Reply

    Amen, Amy. Amen. You are spot on.
    Even though a big, poofy wedding isn’t necessarily YOUR thing, it is HER thing. and she wants you to be very much a part of it by asking you to be MOH, even though you don’t live in the same city.
    It’s a bride’s day. That’s just the nature of a wedding. And you’ll get some time with your daughter after dinner and toasts. After that point the bride is busy doing SOOO many other things. But, when she asks you to tip the DJ or help put gifts in the car or something, you need to pass your daughter off to a designated helper, and do you MOH duties.
    Yeah, weddings can be silly, and the bride does tend to get mired down in the details, but it’s just one day! Relax, have some champagne, and enjoy it with the bride! Don’t take things personally or get pissy. After a few months you can laugh with your friend about some of the things that WERE SO IMPORTANT, but on the day of the wedding, you kinda have to just sack up and smile.

  10. Marnie Sep 18 at 12:43 pm Reply

    Completely agree with Amy, and echo what Daisy said above: Ask the bride or one of the bride’s family members (maybe one with kids?) if they can recommend a sitter who can come to the wedding and supervise and entertain the MOH’s toddler. Her daughter will have way more fun anyway with a teenager who’s completely focused on keeping her happy than she will with a mother who keeps getting pulled away.

  11. rachel Sep 18 at 12:48 pm Reply

    yes i was kidding about carrying her with me down the aisle… and yes, she has talked about my daughter being there at the wedding from the beginning, she even has a special “kids corner” (books/crayons/etc) at the reception hall for all the children that are invited.
    i already have a sitter for the 6-7 hours of pictures/ceremony so i will extend it through dinner…

  12. Clare Sep 18 at 1:01 pm Reply

    I was the MOH at my sister’s early afternoon wedding, and my kids attended both the wedding and the reception. My younger son was about 20 months at the time, though he had already weaned. So, similar but not identical situation.
    My boys did fine. I didn’t see them all day while we were getting ready for the ceremony, and I was worried the little one would flip out when he saw me but I couldn’t hold him at the ceremony, but he didn’t even notice me. (My sister the bride was the one who insisted the boys be there; I wanted to drop them off at my in-laws’ house). Granted, he was surrounded by our extended family who were beside themselves play with him, and my husband was in charge of our boys.
    OK, so maybe this isn’t really helping at all! Situations are too different. I guess my point is that having someone watch the toddler at the wedding and reception will not necessarily backfire. That said, I sympathize with the bride here. The wedding sounds like a grown-up affair, and I think everyone (little on included) if she had a babysitter (on-site if possible, so she can nurse if she needs to)

  13. Kimberly Sep 18 at 2:25 pm Reply

    Wow. Amy, you did a very nice job with this. Rachel, you absolutely need to get a babysitter for your daughter so that you can fulfill your MOH responsibilities to the bride. Your longtime friendship, and that you accepted the honor and role of being her MOH, demands it.

  14. bethany actually Sep 18 at 3:14 pm Reply

    I feel sympathetic towards Rachel here, I admit. I’m thinking maybe she comes from a culture or a family where kids are just included in everything, regardless of age. That’s the way my dad’s large Catholic family did things. I went to weddings and receptions my whole life where there were toddlers and babies being passed around from aunt to cousin to grandma if mom was busy, where preschoolers acted as flower girls and ringbearers with all the hijinks that usually ensue in those situations. I never even HEARD of a wedding where children weren’t invited until I was an adult.
    As the mother of a five-year-old, I can understand parents wanting to be able to relax and enjoy themselves without having to worry about soothing a cranky toddler. As a former bride, I can sort of understand someone wanting to have an adults-only party for their wedding…but really, I don’t understand it that much. To me, kids are a huge part of life. Weddings are about creating families, and kids are definitely a part of that.
    Of course it is the bride and groom’s right to plan an adults-only wedding. There are many good reasons to not want kids at your wedding (the aforementioned late hours, mid-nap ceremonies, etc). I would never try to insist my kid be allowed to come to a service where it had been made clear that children weren’t welcome. But I can see where Rachel might be coming from, why the idea of her daughter not being welcome at a wedding might never occur to her.
    I think under the circumstances, Rachel, it would be be a good idea for you to hire a babysitter (or bring along a friend) who can stay in another part of the church or outside with your daughter during the ceremony, and who can be on hand to take care of her if you’re consumed with other duties during the reception. It will make YOU feel better to know that you have someone designated to taking care of your daughter who can let you know when you’re needed for nursing or just some mama time. In fact, maybe that’s what the bride is thinking of in the first place–maybe she is thinking you’re going to be so busy that it would be easier for YOU if you had someone to help with your daughter.
    Good luck!

  15. Cassie Sep 18 at 3:18 pm Reply

    I think some comments were a little overly harsh towards Rachel.
    But, for the most part, I think they’re right. I’m not a parent yet, so I’m not sure how much a 1.5 year-old needs to be breast fed but, at 1.5, she isn’t ONLY breastfeeding, right?
    I think finding a sitter, and leaving her out of the wedding and the reception all together is the best bet. The only other option, really, is a sitter who attends the wedding. Not another friend who would potentially miss out on the ceremony if Baby throws a fit.
    As far as MOH duties go, I think it really depends on the bride. My sister was my MOH, and lives in another state and missed most of the “duties” usually performed by the MOH. Another friend who was a bridesmaid took care of most of those – including holding my dress when necessary :). Once pictures were over, and the toast was made, my sister was free to do what she wanted. However, my nephew, who was about one at the time, went to the ceremony and stayed in the hotel with his grandma (my sister’s MIL) during the reception. That way, my sister had a good time, and didn’t have to worry about him being up and cranky past his bed time.
    If the baby can’t stay at home, a sitter in the hotel is the best option.

  16. AJ Sep 18 at 3:29 pm Reply

    I was married in May and my maid of honor had a 20 month old. She was traveling across the country and was going to gone from home for quite awhile so her daughter had to come. She arranged to have her sister come and take care of her daughter for the whole weekend. The daughter did come to the ceremony and they sat in the back next to a door in case she became a problem. At the reception I sat the sister and daughter with my flower girl, ring bearers and their parents. There’s no way I would have been ok with a 20 month old at the head table..she was much happier with the other kids.
    Other members of the bridal party thought it was rude for the daughter to be brought but for our situation I felt it was fine as long as she didn’t get in the way (which she didn’t)

  17. Lisa Sep 18 at 3:33 pm Reply

    I was in my SIL’s wedding party when my daughter was 9 months old and nursing. She didn’t take bottles and she cried if anyone held her but me. I had my parents (who were invited, but didn’t mind missing the ceremony) keep my daughter in another room while the ceremony and pictures were going on — she could not see me and no one could hear if she cried. She got fussy toward the end of our time apart, but I was able to nurse her and go back to doing stuff.
    My situation was different because I was probably the least impt person in the wedding party, not the MOH, so it wasn’t a huge deal that I carried my baby around the reception (there was no head table). Also, my baby is my SIL’s niece, so there was some family obligation there to accommodate us, even though now, looking back, we were annoying.
    As for weaning and extended breastfeeding, I nursed both my kids until they were 2.5. When my son was 2, I left him for the first time with my ILs while we went out of town for a weekend. When I returned, he definitely hadn’t weaned in the short time I was away. I feel like an 18-month-old can probably go a couple of days if required, but I could be wrong.
    Hope this helps.

  18. Brie Sep 18 at 3:40 pm Reply

    I was married in November 2008. My nephew was 2.5 years old and my brother and sister-in-law were attendants. My BFF’s children were 2.5 years old and 5 weeks old. She and her husband were attendants. My cousin’s little boy was 3 months old, and one of my cousins was 10 months old.
    I hired a sitter who kept the kids for before ceremony pictures, ceremony, and after ceremony pictures. I knew that my nephew and my friends’ little girl would have a hard time not being able to get to “their adults” so the sitter was the easiest way to ensure that the kids would be entertained and there would be no screaming during the ceremony. It worked wonderfully.
    We didn’t have a head table, so at the reception, all the parents had their kids with them. They were all really well behaved and had a blast on the dance floor.
    I would speak to the bride and ask her about having someone to care for your daughter during the events. If the reception is at a hotel, make your reservation to stay there and have the sitter take your daughter up to the room and let her rest. And you can come and go, to check on her as needed.

  19. Lisa Sep 18 at 4:27 pm Reply

    My wedding and reception were held at the church (large church w/ a fellowship hall) so I paid a couple of high school girls from the youth group to staff the nursery at the church. I think I paid them $25 a piece, and they had the whole run of both nurseries (toddler and infant).
    Worked out very well for all involved.

  20. Alana Sep 18 at 4:56 pm Reply

    I just got married this past summer, at a small, informal, tiny little 25-person wedding and I have to say…even without all the pomp and circumstance I still needed my MOH. She had been abroad for essentially the entire wedding planning period, and came home only a few days before the wedding. But she was awesome and incredible and so loving and supportive and completely 100% there for me on the actual day of the wedding and it is one of the aspects about that day I cherish most.
    I’m all for brides being easy-going and not expecting their guests and attendants to indulge their every whim, but like Amy said, you are still there for HER – not the other way around. I didn’t really understand this until I got married myself, so it’s something you might want to think about. If you love and care about your friend and you agreed to be her MOH, then you should make sure you’re able to be there for her on her wedding day and stay focused on supporting her (which might mean having a helper/babysitter during some of the more important parts of the day). She will DEFINITELY appreciate it!

  21. Isabel Kallman
    Isabel Kallman @AlphaMom Sep 19 at 9:00 am Reply

    I have decided to close comments on this post.
    As you can see above Rachel has now given us more feedback and decided what she will do on the wedding day.
    Unfortunately, we weren’t able to approve comments for a large chunk of time yesterday afternoon and Rachel’s and many others were in the queue.
    Any comments that were left after Rachel’s that we thought she could help use to make the wedding day go smoothly were included (since we are an “advice” column) and others that were no longer relevant given Rachel’s new information were not approved because the point is now moot.
    Thank you all for this lively discussion.

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