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Brides vs. Babies

By Amalah

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,
R

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.

Published September 18, 2009. Last updated October 29, 2017.
Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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