Brides vs. Babies, Round Two
I have an advicely question which needs the opinion of a parent completely unrelated to me. I’m planning a wedding. It’s far away, still, but of course, everything hinges on the guest list. Trouble is, we have two guest lists. One list of adults only, and one list with children included. It’s not a huge list either way, but adding children jumps the list by 25 or 30. I managed to skate around choosing which list to use through the whole “choosing a venue” process (holycrap I still can’t even talk about that), but I’m not going to be able to avoid it much longer. I have to decide: Am I having an adults only wedding, or will children under 18 be invited as well?
Of course, there are complicating factors.
1. Due to the ages of my cousins on my father’s side, there is no reasonable “cut off” age to apply across the board. We’d be dividing between siblings or telling just one of my dad’s 6 million brothers that he couldn’t bring his children.
2. I think the idea of a wedding with all of my 16 thousand cousins and kids’ friends running around and having a blast would be awesome. I think that a wedding with only adults, no kids to watch, no one having to take their children home early, would be equally awesome. I genuinely like BOTH ideas.
3. Hiring an on site babysitter and other various “kids table” or separate kid facilities have already been discussed and tossed out as unworkable in this situation.
4. My entire family already thinks I hate children. Excluding children would just confirm this in their minds. That aggravates me, as I do not hate children.
5. I kind of feel that an evening wedding with a late reception and open bar really isn’t a kid-friendly event, but I also feel that weddings are family-centric events.
So here are my questions. As a parent, how do you feel when you get an invitation (say to a wedding) that doesn’t include your children? Insulted? Excited for a child-free evening? If you got an invitation to a wedding that DID include your kids, but was an evening reception (going to 11pm or so) with an open bar, do you bring them? Do you feel obligated to bring your kids if they are invited, or make a decision based on your mood or what kind of evening it is? Do parents keep an eye on their kids at such events (I admit it – most of the kids I’d invite are great, but a couple are complete jerks not above sticking their hands in a cake)? Is it a bit “less fun” if you’ve got to watch your kids the whole evening, without anything really to entertain them? Do parents need to leave these events early to take children home? If I do decide to exclude children, how do I explain that it is not out of any animosity for kids (I DON’T HATE KIDS!), but simply because we’ve planned an adult evening? Tell the truth, there are people who are going to be pissed, aren’t there?
If you read the comments on the LAST question I tackled about kids and weddings and brides (oh my!), you probably got the picture that this is one of those AWESOME topics where 1) a lot of people have strong-ish opinions about it, and 2) nobody really agrees with each other.
So hooray! Congrats on THAT one. Moving on.
If you’re really just after what I would do, with my own children…I would be absolutely totally fine with you not inviting them. I mean, they’re LITTLE. They go to bed at EIGHT. By 8:30, they’re practically gremlins. One of them requires regular access to a changing table and destroys everything, and the other probably couldn’t find a single palatable thing to eat on a wedding buffet if his life depended on it, unless you had the entire event catered by Annie’s Organics. I am one of those parents who WOULD keep both of my eyes on both of my children the entire time, and would DIE if they put their hands in the cake or knocked over a centerpiece or farted during the ceremony.
There are times when being with your kids is really, really fun. A formal evening wedding and late reception and open bar is just — TO ME — not one of those times. I would not think twice about contacting our sitter before sending off our two-person RSVP. (We’ll eat whatever’s fanciest. Unless there’s ribs.)
If you did invite them, I would probably be a little surprised, a lot touched, but unless it was during the day, or there was information provided about on-site child care, or I had your personal assurance that it was going to be a very casual, laid-back event with dozens of other children to act as bad-behavior camouflage…I’d likely still leave them at home.
But then again, we’re talking LITTLE KIDS here. You mentioned the lack of a clear cut-off age and I really feel you on that. If my boys were…I don’t even know…9 and 12? Capable of eating chicken or fish without protest and generally behaving like real human beings after 10 pm? Or even 6 and 8, and at an age where busting moves on the dance floor is fun for them and hilarious for everybody watching? Perhaps then I’d be bit more on board with saving money on a sitter and bringing them along. (And on the flip side, if I only had one very small baby of the stick-em-in-the-sling-and-go-about-your-business variety, who could be counted on to nurse and sleep and not much else, I’d definitely rather bring him along.)
There’s also the whole “out-of-town wedding” aspect. If you’re expecting these families with children to travel further than a reasonable drive…I could see the no-kid invites becoming a bigger deterrent. Travel costs, possible hotel stays…PLUS needing to find and pay a stranger to watch your kids? People may understand, but they may also just not be able to commit to that.
Have I talked in aimless circles enough? God.
So. If you look at your list and see a high percentage of out-of-towners with kids…I think you might want to include the kids. I know you said hiring childcare or doing a kid’s table isn’t feasible…but what about aiming for something a little less organized? Any teenage cousins with some babysitting experience who could be persuaded into having a couple much-younger “charges” for the night? Some baby-crazy 12-year-olds who could be called to hold babies outside the ceremony or while parents get to sit down and eat? (Hell, we had the teenage sons of a couple invited families act as parking valets in exchange for $20 and tips. A lot of kids find weddings to be boring anyway, and are happy to have something to do.) Could you swing a small table off to the side somewhere with paper, crayons, some other craft-y activities in case kids get bored and looking for mischief? Fake flowers so kids can create their own bouquets, coloring pages of wedding cakes or getaway cars to decorate?
But. Here’s where I take wishy-washy to new heights: you are entirely within the non-Bridezilla realm even if you only invite adults. You’re obviously thinking this through and thinking about your guests and your family and pleasing everybody. But look, if you can’t invite the kids for some reason (guest count, budget, venue limitations, etc.)…OR EVEN IF YOU JUST DON’T WANT TO…give yourself a break. It’s okay. Evening wedding! Late reception! Open bar! Most parents get that it’s not really time for a big ol’ playdate. And some people might not be able to come and some might even be pissed that you did not include their preshus snowflakes. Bwah. More cake for everybody else then!
If you do decide to go no-kids but want to stave off any (real or imagined) bad will from snubbed parents, maybe try to organize some shared-sitter/drop-off locations? (And by “organize” I mean “delegate to someone local with kids who would enjoy feeling useful.”) A couple houses, a couple sitters, as high of a kids-to-sitter ratio as parents feel comfortable with (or is, you know, legal). Then multiple guests can split the cost of the babysitters, and out-of-town guests won’t have to stress over using an agency or finding someone responsible.
(Oh. If you do decide to go adults-only, there is always the chance that somebody will ignore the names on the invitation and bring their kids anyway. Happened to us, though we weren’t necessarily going no-kids, we were just trying to stay really, really small. They sent back their RSVP card with the printed TWO crossed out and wrote THREE. So. There is also that.)
Ultimately, just figure out which wedding is the one you REALLY WANT. Kids running around, getting down on the dance floor, saying hilarious things to your videographer? Or a nice grown-up evening out where everybody can stay as long as they want and dance the night away without worrying about the unsupervised 14-year-olds who managed to swipe a bottle of peach schnapps from the bar and are now puking in the rose bushes?
Published October 2, 2009. Last updated October 29, 2017.