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Kids at Weddings

Kids At Weddings

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I never thought I’d be writing you, but I’m having trouble resisting posting passive-aggressive updates on Facebook and Twitter requesting help from my friends, so here goes.

My fiancé and I just went to his sister’s wedding. It was a bit of a wake-up call for me, as I hadn’t really comprehended how different his family is from mine. Most of the differences were fine and some were wonderful, however, one glaring difference has just caused a big fight between us and put a stop to our own wedding planning. His family always invites children of all ages to weddings, and it causes a lot of upset feelings when children are not invited. My family, and my parent’s friends, do not invite children to weddings. Until now it had never occurred to my fiance that children wouldn’t be invited to our wedding, and vice versa for me.

Here’s the twist that makes compromise a bit difficult. I don’t particularly enjoy having lots of children around. One or two children, one-on-one, that’s fun. Many children, especially at events not designed especially for children? Not a big fan. Kids get crabby, some parents aren’t attentive – and in the case of the children at least, I totally understand. They’re still learning and no one can expect them to behave like little angels all the time. And even the most engaged and attentive parent can’t actually control their children, they can only guide them. Which is why I don’t always think weddings are the best place for kids. At my own wedding – a high-stress, chaotic day – I worry that I might start crying, or even worse, snap at the kid or their parent.

Several of the compromises we have thrown around have already been dismissed so I would like your advice and the thoughts of your readers. Some background info – the venue isn’t a hotel (backyard type wedding), and my fiancé already dismissed the idea that we set up a special event for the kids to go to instead of the wedding – like a pool party or movie or game night. We want a fairly casual outdoor wedding, so it wouldn’t be possible to set the time back late enough that it would be too late for kids to attend, and we wouldn’t have the excuse that the event is too formal. It’s either kids at the wedding leaving me a ball of annoyed stress, or a very unhappy fiancé with no guests on his side (he says his family will boycott the wedding if the kids aren’t invited – it’s happened before, and the other couples were trying to save money, not evil, mean, migraine-prone women like me who are easily annoyed).

Maybe you and your creative readers have some ideas for an amazing compromise? Or should I resign myself to a courthouse wedding and dinner with our parents (which is where our argument left us)?


Hmm. Okay. Call me a people-pleaser like poor Oh Crap from Wednesday’s column, but I feel compelled to warn you up front that you are probably not going to like my answer.

You don’t think kids belong at weddings. I generally agree, with a couple exceptions. I don’t think kids belong at evening formal weddings that stretch long past bedtime,  at fancy non-kid-friendly venues. Casual backyard-type weddings? I don’t think it’s at all inappropriate to have children, provided there’s enough space and nothing dangerous like open, unfenced pools. But even this depends on the couple.

The couple. Who are always perfectly entitled to their preference about kids or no-kids. But NOT just the bride. Your fiance says not inviting children will cause a lot of upset in his family, to the point of boycotting the wedding. Oh my GOD. You just…can’t let that happen. Full stop. Sure, you disagree and think they’re all being crazy and unreasonable and it’s your daaaaay too, but…gah. Welcome to married life. His family is going to be YOUR family.  In fact, go ahead and start thinking of them as YOUR family.

Is a huge kerfluffle over kids at the wedding REALLY how you want your big introduction to them to go? Being the bride who hates children? (I’m not saying you do! But I can guarantee that’s what members of his family will think, given the general details of the wedding that don’t particularly scream “NO KIDS”. And I would also bet cash money that they’re a family who knows how to hold a grudge.) I get that it’s not what you pictured, and even though I’m a parent I hate kiddie birthday parties with the heat of a thousand suns because there are just. so many. children, but I feel like you might be imagining a worst-case scenario for you (misbehaving kids stressing you the hell out) that STILL isn’t as bad as the worst-case scenario for your fiance (family strife, boycott, etc.). This isn’t a case of what you want vs. what he wants. It’s what you want vs. what his entire family and side of the guest list wants.

So. Yeah. I don’t see any way around it, unless you do decide to overhaul your wedding concept to destination or elopement or to a venue with rules about children. His family traditions count too. This will probably be the first of many traditions you not-so-secretly find to be annoying. I admit I’m a little concerned that it turned into a huge fight and an courthouse impasse — is the wedding stress really already running that high? Even without kids in attendance, is it possible that you’re just struggling with some serious anxiety to begin with? You’re already calling your future wedding day “high-stress” and “chaotic,” which…not exactly what most brides have in mind, especially this early in the planning phase, when you should feel like you still have the power to do whatever possible to minimize wedding-day stress.

Have disagreements about his family/your family or differing backgrounds come up before? You mention the recent wedding as being the first time you comprehended how different his family is from yours. That’s a loaded statement, and I’m guessing you’re talking about more than just wedding guest lists. Again: You’re marrying into this family. If you have problems with them, talk about it now, preferably in pre-wedding counseling, and not during fights over every Thanksgiving and Christmas from here to eternity.

But stepping back to the wedding: You’re going to proceed and do everything in your power to reduce your stress level. To stop with the fears that your day is going to be out-of-control chaos and migraine-laden because one little thing went wrong. (Kids misbehave, sure. BUT SO DO PLENTY OF GROWN-UPS, particularly at weddings.) I really think you should look into hiring a professional wedding planner, or at least enlist the help of a few friends on the day of the wedding. Delegate everything. Put people in charge of everything. I’m assuming some of the kids in his family are pre-teens and teenagers, no? Hire them. Pay them a few bucks to serve as babysitters, little-kid-entertainers, general-child-wranglers. Set up a kids’ table or tent (somewhere hidden, if possible, away from the food and tables and dancefloor or whatever) and stock it with crayons and a Wii or whatever else would appeal to the ages in attendance.

And say it with me: Your wedding day is going to be fine. Beautiful! Low-stress and casual, not high-stress and chaotic. A wonderful day celebrating with your family and his family — including your new cousins and nieces and nephews. Plus, you already know that you’ll never have to find a babysitter for your own hypothetical kid at any and all future family weddings.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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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  • camille

    June 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

    My husband and I had a backyard reception at my parents house where kids were welcome…we had 80 guests and 20 of them were ages 1 through 10. It was a fantastic time, and, in the end, we barely interacted with the kids because they were so busy playing in the yard. The key to the successful day was the crapload of toys we picked up at the dollar store to keep them entertained…foam rocket launchers, balls, gliders, bubbles, those skipping things that go around your ankle. I think we spent maybe $40, and it was easily the best money spent on the day (the rocket launchers were a particular hit). There were always adults milling about so the kids were supervised, but the younger kids generally followed around the older ones so there wasn’t a lot of “tending the children”. It was informal and catered with passed hors d’oeuvres, a fruit and cheese table, and a bar for the adults. There was kid’s food (chicken fingers, french fries, and a few other things) set aside at table for them, and the bartender made special kids drinks with umbrellas and crazy straws (also a hit). Everyone went nuts over the chocolate fountain (my mom thought chocolate fountains were tacky, but realy…Chocolate. Fountain. Flowing swiss chocolate? Heaven!), and there were times when I needed to back my white-clad self away from a chocolate-covered child,but no catastrophes . The reception started at 3pm and those with young kids generally left by 6, and those with older kids stayed later. Childless people stayed until 11 or later. It was so. much. fun. and when we see most of these kids now (2 years later) they still talk about “the time we went to your party and played with the kids and the launchers and had umbrella drinks and chocolate dips”. I’m going to remember this day forever, and the wonderful thing is that I think most of our guests will too.

    I hope you’re able to embrace the idea of a big all-ages party and enjoy your day (which will be fantastic, low stress, and FUN). In the end, its just a day and not something that should tarnish your relationship with your soon-to-be husband or his family.

  • Morgan

    June 4, 2010 at 11:51 am

    We wanted a childless wedding. We got married at 7:30 at night. Dessert buffet and open bar, no meal. Totally kid unfriendly, and we let everyone kind of know it upfront. We still had about a dozen kids show up – mainly in nursing age but not all. One kid cried through the whole ceremony – I think – I was pretty in the moment and didn’t really notice. Did it matter one BIT? Did it ruin anything? Of course not. It even made for some cute picture. It’s really only as bit of a deal as you make it – and I was to focus on the love and the family and the friendship and the open bar.

  • Diana

    June 4, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I went to one wedding with about 30-50 children in attendance. The keys were to 1) hire babysitters, 2) set up a children’s play area off to a side with toys, 3) arrange child friendly food, probably served earlier than the adults meal. If you do all that, the kids will have a great time and you won’t have to interact with them at all.

  • Erin

    June 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I’m with Amy on this one. You are going to be so busy the day of the wedding chatting to all of your guests and dancing with your new hubby that you will barely notice they are there. Seriously. Don’t start a war with his family before you are even married or you will regret it. Let this one go and focus on the happiness of the day- everything will fall into place. (And congrats!)

  • sarah

    June 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    When we got married, my brother and (current) stepson were both 6 years old. So many people asked if there would be kids at the wedding – it boggled my mind because OF COURSE. Those two could have cared less about being there, being included, etc, but for the family it was a statement that every member of the family is valued. 
    We had our ceremony on the beach & I provided goodie bags for the kids with quiet activities (coloring, bubbles) and snacks (blow pops & goldfish) because if you are asking kids to sit still for 15 minutes, you have to give them something to DO. 
    The reception was at a rooftop bar, which in & of itself isn’t child friendly, but lent itself to a non-stuffy atmosphere. Kids were sent to me to give me a hug & say congratulations (so sweet!) and I have awesome memories of little family units tearing up the dance floor to Stevie Wonder. 
    We also had a single cake for us to cut (we knew very few people would eat the cake), and people could have it if they wanted some, but the caterers also brought TONS of  ice cream novelties (like you would get from an ice cream truck). They were the hit of the reception for the adults and kids. 

  • Julia

    June 4, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I also saw some red flags reading about how big of a fight this turned into. Some may say finances are the biggest reason people divorce, but I think boundaries/in laws are a close runner up. You have to decide if dealing with a family like this is a dealbreaker for you, because this will not be the last time they threaten to boycott an event or generally try to make your life a living hell if you disagree with “their way.” If your fiance sides with them every time, or bends over backwards to keep the peace, the marriage will never last. It will be fight after fight. So I agree a compromise needs to be met, whether that’s having a destination wedding with a less formal at home reception, or something else you come up with. But you have to both agree otherwise there will be resentment. And get some pre-marital counseling, stat. The differences in your families probably should have been discussed prior to getting engaged, and you need to get on the same page about how you are going to handle in-law issues from here on out.

  • lolismum

    June 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Had a formal wedding of 300 people, about 30 kids, never even noticed them. People are eating,drinking, chatting, dancing, it’s a big party, why even pay attention to the kids, they are not your problem. A kid play table sounds great, especially at a backyard event.

    And, yes, I agree with Amy, there are some serious underlying issues here that have nothing to do with kids. I think you should address them before getting married.

  • Cheryl S.

    June 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I’m with Amalah on this one. Formal wedding? No kids. [There were no children invited to my formal evening wedding. One table of people boycotted on my hubby’s side.]

    BUT, if you are having a backyard, informal wedding, AND this is going to cause WWIII in the family you are marrying into, you MUST invite the children. PERIOD. Like Amalah said — Welcome to the world of marriage compromise.

    I also agree that if you are this stressed out already, there may be some deeper issues you need to look into before you get married.

  • JCF

    June 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    We had a cocktail-party type wedding reception in my parents’ backyard with about 130 guests (maybe a dozen or so of them were under 10), and I honestly never noticed them. I mean, yes, I was walking around chatting with guests and noticed that there were children, but nothing screamed CHILDFEST about the event. As far as I knew, everyone behaved, and there was live music, there were towering food tables, and lots of kid-friendly food and beverages (nothing special and specific for the kids, but just lots of yummy finger-foods), and the kids just had fun. Chances are that (especially with the type of wedding you described having) the kids won’t be an obvious feature and you’ll be so busy talking/dancing/whatever that you won’t notice or care.

  • Christen

    June 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I, too, am in the throes of wedding planning and I think the guest list is the biggest point of contention for any couple/family. And it sort of leads me to wonder if your stress level is more about feeling out of control in this decision? I am by no means calling you a control-freak here, and I feel you (we are having a kid-free wedding and some friends have been cool while others are annoyed) but I also know that it’s not necessarily about the children themselves. It still costs money to feed them, set up the extra entertainment area, hire sitters, etc and that can make a casual daytime backyard affair feel overwhelming. If that’s the case, delegate the organization of Kiddie Land to your fiance or his mom or a trusted family member. And I’m going to agree with Amalah here that this wedding is about you two as a couple and the joining of your families. His traditions and values count, too, and this is just the first time you are going to be mixing up the crowd. And please…try to have some fun with this – the wedding planning, the day itself, the excitement about this new chapter. Or at least don’t let every disagreement devolve into “Fine, let’s just go to the courthouse!” unless that is actually what you both want. (Full disclosure: I am totally guilty of doing that in the beginning because I couldn’t handle the buffet vs sit down dinner debate – WTF, me?)
    Best of luck!

  • Christen

    June 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    PS If this really IS about not wanting a celebration with kids hopped up on sugar tearing around or having to walk around the Slip-n-Slide in your wedding dress…may I suggest you two throw (or maybe your side of the family would host?) an engagment party with a more grown-up vibe. Invite both families and some close friends, but make it an after 6 cocktail party. You get the adults-only event, his family still gets to drag all their kids to a wedding.

  • Belle

    June 4, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve never even been bothered my kids at a wedding. They always always always entertain each other if there are enough of them and they are around the same age. And I certainty don’t think, even if they are misbehaving, that it will even come to the bride’s attention. Parents, friends, SOMEONE usually has an eye on the children. Brides aren’t babysitting…

  • Dmom

    June 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    We had a very limited budget at our wedding but still wanted the big formal shin-dig that you always dream of. (That incidentally MY HUSBAND always dreamt of, I wanted to hit a beach somewhere with umbrellas in the drinks and get married at sunset, but…ehh)
    Anyway, we ended up having 64 people, inlcuding us and out children and we stated no children from the get go simply because EVERYONE we know has kids and it would have doubled our guest list. We had a couple of exceptions…1) our 9 year old nephew who we are both really close to and was our ring bearer 2) our nephew from out of town whose parents were uncomfortable with a babysitter they didn’t know and 3) our own daughters who went home to their babysitter shortly after dinner and the cutest daddy daughter dance you’ve ever seen!!
    It all worked out. However, if you’re having a backyard informal wedding, there’s really no way to say no kids. You’ll just have to hire a sitter, provide some kid entertainment and get on with your life.

  • Bonnie

    June 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    We had a pretty informal outdoor wedding just last year and of the 80 guests in attendance, about a dozen were 12 and under. Let me tell you I didn’t even NOTICE there were children there. Not only are you going to be too busy doing things like pictures and cake cutting and garter/bouquet toss, and the millions of things you’re expected to do before you can even sit down! Or maybe it just seems like that afterwards because it all goes by so fast. I agree with what everyone has said so far and they were all thins I was thinking of while reading your letter. A) wedding planning shouldn’t be stressful unless you’re down to the wire and things keep going amiss, and from what I gathered from your letter you’re nowhere near that point B) you shouldn’t ANTICIPATE the wedding being stressful. If you are, then why even have a casual wedding if it’s just going to freak you out. Maybe elopement is better in that case. C) KID’S TABLE. If we had expected our reception to last more than the (maybe) two hours it did go, I probably would have done it, but like everyone said, the parents will take their kids home long before the rest of the guests go. If you’re expecting a long reception I can pretty much guarantee that by the time you’re done with all the traditions and it’s just time for dancing, the kids will be long gone. If you’re still worried, though, take Amalah’s advice and hire a babysitter, set up a kid’s table with some toys and kid friendly food and you won’t even notice them.
    Lastly, omg premarital counseling! I made sure I had a DAMN good idea of the family I was marrying into before we even got engaged. I completely agree that something like that can totally destroy a marriage if you truly never bothered to find out as much as you can beforehand so you can either prepare yourself for it or decide it’s too much. I get sometimes the family lives in another part of (or another altogether) the country, so you really can’t get to know them beforehand, but in those situations the family’s probably not likely to be around for more than just the wedding and other VERY important future events, so maybe it’s easier to deal with (see: my husband’s slightly crazy Aunts.)
    Good luck!

  • Ginger

    June 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    This exact thing was the biggest fight in my own wedding planning, between myself and my mother. Our end solution?

    We had a separate area for kids during the ceremony, when I thought it was really ok to be like “hey this needs to be quiet and calm and about us and these words” and then let the kids do whatever during the reception. We offered a side area with a movie, some toys and games and treats for the ceremony (and a babysitter), and then their parents were free to leave them there during the reception or they could come and go as they pleased. The reception was such a party that we barely even noticed the kids. We only ended up with one upset parent during the ceremony (and of course, her kid was the one who was out of control the whole night), and everyone else thought it was a nice way to include, but still have that quiet time.

  • Martha

    June 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I think this is great advice, Amy. I had a backyard type wedding and I think kids do fine at this type of wedding. I really valued the presence of my entire community at my wedding – including kids.

  • Eris

    June 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I wonder if the future bride is worried because the children were a nightmare at the wedding she just attended? All the other comments mention wonderful weddings and ideas but I have many cousins and have been to literally dozens of weddings and I have witnessed nightmare child wedding scenarios. Is “A” reeling from shell shock because she witnessed the worst possible outcome of having children around or is she just worried like any normal person would be?

    Out of 30ish weddings I’d say children were only a massive disaster at a couple, mostly screaming, yelling, or crying during the entire ceremony (not their fault, really, since the parents DID NOTHING), then causing scenes and fighting and screaming and behaving like monsters at the reception, but, again, this was really a parent issue. Kids will be kids and have fun, get tired, whine a bit, but then there are devil children and their awful parents. The question I ask is this: Did something tip “A” off that she was in for the former? Because if not I’m otherwise on board with all the comments and the advice. But if she did witness child wedding hell then there is a bigger issue with the way his family behaves, or rather, what they consider acceptable and whether she can live with that the rest of her life.

  • Kate

    June 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I want to jump in to commend Amalah on her wise advice.
    I also want to add that as a mother (daughter is 20 months), I ALWAYS make a point of asking specifically if children are invited to whatever wedding we’re invited to before deciding whether or not to go.  We’ve never “boycotted” a wedding out of spite/never taken offense if our daughter is not invited, but since many of the weddings we’re invited to are hours away, logistics do sometimes come into play as to whether or not we accept an invitation.  
    I say so that if you DO have a child-free wedding and certain relatives don’t end up coming, you may find it in your heart not to take it personally and not automatically assume they are “boycotting” out of principle or as way to show their frustration at you.

  • Missy

    June 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    When I got married (in the Dark Ages, 10 years(!!!) ago. Shut up, I was an infant at the time), we had a ton of kids at the wedding. I had 5 flower girls in the wedding, too. It was pretty traditional in both our families to include kids, plus almost everyone was coming in from out of town. 

    And guess what? It worked out JUST FINE. The kids had fun, there was plenty of ginger ale to go around, and we set up a kids room with a couple of hired teen babysitters. There are some great pictures of little cousins all wrapped around my big ol poufy skirt. Way fun!

    One of the main reasons it all worked so well was that I had decided MONTHS befoe the wedding not to stress. Just not to do it. Whatever happened, happened. As a result, I had a fantastic, fun family wedding that I still remember in vivid detail a decade later. 

  • Karen

    June 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Forget the kids issue for a second. There’s a sentence missing from the original post: “Hi Amalah – I love my fiance very much and want to find a solution that respects him and his family’s tradition of including children at weddings.”

    Maybe I’m being too blunt, but if I were the guy, I’d turn and run for the hills before hitching up to someone who expects her wedding day to be chaotic and stressful; and admits to considering passive-aggressive Tweets as a potential outlet for communication.

    Would definitely recommend marriage counseling as a neutral forum for closing these sorts of gaps. Amy and the commenters have said all the rest!

  • Julie

    June 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Since you mention you like kids in small, one on one situations, if possible I’d recommend getting to know some of the kids who are likely to attend from his side of the family in those kinds of small, one on one situations before the big day. That way it won’t be “OMG, KIDS!” it will be, “Hey, there’s Billy and Suzy. And isn’t Beth cute in her new sundress.” (Of course, this may not be possible if there are lots of long distance families.)
    Other than that, I second all of the advice above, including the “If you’ve seen reason to think that THESE specific kids will be hellions, then be more aggressive in your compromise negotiations, otherwise, relax and set up a kids table and you’ll probably hardly know they’re there” vibe.

  • Amy in StL

    June 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I think it’s a huge red flag that her fiance is siding with his family instead of trying to work something out with her. I was married to a man who always took his mother/father’s side in every decision. She really needs to decide if she’s willing to turn over her whole life to his family’s whim or if she wants to live her life with someone who is on her side. Also, I think people are wrong who say if it’s an outdoor, casual wedding children MUST be invited. I don’t like kids at a wedding, I’ve never been to one where there isn’t some monster ruining tables or smearing poo on the chairs. I think she should run far, far away from this weird family.

  • Amalah


    June 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    “I’ve never been to one where there isn’t some monster ruining tables or smearing poo on the chairs.”

    Man, I’ve been going to the WRONG weddings then. 

  • lolismum

    June 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Seriously Amy in StL ? Smearing poop on chairs? Are you kidding us? I have never ever seen children do that and I have been to dozens of weddings with kids and a million and four kiddie birthday parties. I have never ever seen poop on any chairs. Good grief, what kind of weddings are those?

  • Becky

    June 4, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I have to agree with a lot of the others that I would be really surprised if you’ll even notice the kids. I’ve been to a number of weddings, most of which included kids, and yet I can’t pick out a single incident or memory of a child that stands out. I can, however, remember the guest that got way too drunk or was dancing inappropriately or had a fight with her boyfriend. The fact is, adults can misbehave just as easily as children (and unfortunately there’s no one around to tell them to behave). I guess what concerns me more is the amount of stress you’re anticipating. Whether or not you have kids at a wedding, things can and sometimes do go wrong and it’s up to you how you react.

  • NGS

    June 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Just to reiterate what Amalah said: I am forever the member of the family who hates children. I emphatically do NOT hate children, but I do not enjoy huge gobs of them together. My husband and I stuck to our guns (a few people boycotted) and didn’t invite kids. We had our 18 month old niece in for about ten minutes for family pictures and sent her away.

    But my inlaws? They STILL talk about how much we hate kids.

    My husband and I were on the same page, though. We were a united front. But I wish I had relented, if only because of the now years of talk about it. Please consider the consequences thoroughly.

  • Txmama

    June 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    As usual, Amalah is dead-on here. The whole tone of the letter is really weird to me, although I can see where “A” is coming from.

    I do think it is not OK for the groom’s side to just assume all the kids are invited; that’s something the people doing the inviting get to decide.

    But I agree with 90% of the rest of you; kids, in general, do well at weddings. And when they don’t, in my experience, the parents take care of them! It’s very bizarre to me that it seems like the bride anticipates having to intervene in kid situations at all during the reception. Um, why would you be doing that?! No parent is going to let their child annoy you, the bride, of all people!

    And I 100% agree with the other responders that there are deeper issues here that need to be resolved.

  • Alison

    June 4, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    What about guests that are out of town? I’ve been invited to two weddings this summer that are plane rides away. I have a one year old that’s still nursing, and that I don’t get to see nearly enough already because I work full time. Do I (a) spend even more money on the wedding weekend so I can take my daughter along and hire a babysitter I don’t know at the destination; or (b) leave her at home for three days (ugh) and run off to pump every few hours. One wedding was a cousin, and I just didn’t go, the other is close friends, so I’m going, but I’m not very happy about the situation.

  • Anne

    June 4, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I am part of a big Irish family, and my mom wanted to invite all twenty-something of her first cousins (nearly all of whom have children), so we decided on the rule of thumb “no kids other than first cousins of the bride and groom.” And then we hired a babysitter on site to watch the young children of my mom’s cousins. The parents seemed to LOVE that option, because they could pop in to check on the little ones, but could also have a good, adult time. There are so many different options for how to handle this that you should just identify what exactly makes you anxious about this and then be creative! Is it that you don’t want a disruption during the ceremony? That would be totally understandable, and then maybe you could get a babysitter to watch the kids under 4 just during the ceremony. I can’t imagine people objecting strenuously to that. The point is, you have to decide what exactly you are worried about happening and then figure out how to avoid that, rather than just reflexively saying, “NO KIDS!” when it is obviously important to your fiance and his family that kids are part of the event.

  • ali

    June 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    We had kids at our wedding that sounds like a more formal affair than yours and had no problems at all. Actually, they made the evening really fun and were a blast to have on the dance floor. We had a candy bar instead of more typical favors, and the kids LOVED that (not so sure about their parents-ha). It’s all about attitude and how you choose to deal with the situation. If you decide to have a good time and have a fun day, you will. If you decide to be stressed out about everything and everyone’s potential actions, you won’t have a good day (kids or no kids).

  • Christina

    June 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    As someone who is getting married in two weeks and is pretty much just waiting for the ceremony to start because I have all the details set (what? I’m organized, okay.) I have X tips for you:

  • Christina

    June 4, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Apparently you can’t paragraph your comments…1. Disengage about family. The best choice I ever made was to just not discuss his family unless he asks. Don’t complain about them, don’t say anything. You will save yourself drama and help your marriage if you just take a deep breath and assume everyone means well. They don’t mean well but it doesn’t matter. 2. I personally called the mother of every child we invited (my family and his) even before they got invites and asked them what I could do to make their life easier regarding child care. I reminded them that only they know their child so if they needed a sitter or just the option of a cry room or just some toys I could do that for them, I just needed notice. This made me look like the super accomodating person but also made them realize they needed to have their shit together on this topic. 3. EYES ON THE PRIZE. During the planning I have had to yell that to myself in the mirror. Usually, when I am also reminding myself of tip #1. Keep your eyes on the prize: you’re getting married to someone you love and that is what matters. Eyes on the prize…

  • Me

    June 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    We did not want kids at our formal wedding. One couple did show up with their baby. They looked completely foolish as it was obvious they went against our wishes. For the most part majority of both sides of the family were supportive.

    We are bringing our 1 year old son across the country with us for my BIL’s kid friendly wedding. If they did not want children, my son would have had fun with my parents. It would have fine with us if they wanted it kid free.

    Knowing where I am coming from I agree that you must be cautious as it is also your future husband’s day. I am sensing this has more to do with kids no kids. This sounds like a control issue – who “wins” the kid no kid argument. Is it really that important?

  • gizella

    June 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    so, I was the bride that did not invite kids, but I personally called each of my friends that had kids to talk about it with them. All but one couple did not actually want to bring their kids. I only had 50 guests due to finances etc, so it didn’t turn out to be a big deal. One couple was surprised, but ended up coming anyway and had a blast. However, I just went to an AWESOME kid-full wedding, where they hired a sitter to hang with the kids in the way way back, so that the parents could also have a great time. I know have a kid (how ironic!), and don’t always want to bring my kid to a wedding, but it was nice to know that there was some room to breathe at the event. Having a 2 year old at a wedding is not really fun for you, the 2 year old or anyone…

  • Life of a Doctor's Wife

    June 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I totally 100% agree with Amalah.

    But I want to add, I am very similar in that I am not a kid person, and I was super stressed over the idea of having kids at our wedding. But the instant I mentioned it to my mother, she put her foot down and said it would be too offensive to her sisters to leave the kids out. So I gave in because my stress around kids was less critical than the prospect of creating a rift between family members.

    And you know what? It was totally fine. The kids had their own table (I love Amalah’s idea of hiring the older ones to babysit, and having some games is fab) and they did their own thing and I barely even noticed they were there.

    It’s pretty amazing when I think back on it how much I was willing to overlook or ignore – and I am a total detail-oriented, anal control freak type. The day was just wonderful though, and the happiness totally overwhelmed my urge to nitpick.

    I hope you have a wonderful wedding and that you are able to endure a little kid stress in order to keep your in-laws happy.

  • md

    June 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    am i the only one bothered by the complete inflexibility of her fiance’s family? doesn’t “invite our kids or we will boycott your wedding” seem a bit controlling? what other things will the family be dictating in the years to come as her then-husband continues to spinelessly accede to their wishes? and the argument that she should give in because otherwise the family will continue to bring it up for years? really? i guess it’s good to know at the outset that decisions will be made in deference to his family’s passive-aggressive tendencies.

  • Aimee

    June 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    This is one of the biggest reasons that we will be eloping!

    I am with all the commenters who find large groups of children overwhelming and stressful. People automatically assume I hate children since I am childfree by choice, which is just not true at all. Since I already have to defend myself against these accusations (made without provocation on my part! I like most kids, really.), I am not going to add to it by having a big wedding and no kids. I would rather deal with the bitching about us not having anyone at the wedding instead of not having children. It is easier for us, and more romantic for us, and truer to our personalities to elope. It has taken a long time to get to this point, but here we are.

    The ONLY thing a wedding should be focused on is the creation of a NEW family. That is what it is. It isn’t a family reunion or a platform for beliefs, it is a celebration of a brand new family.

    I think you and your fiance need to sit down and decide as a family unit (the family unit throwing the party!) what would be best for your new family. That may be giving in to the sense of entitlement your fiance’s guests have (and excuse me? If I am invited to a party, I am CERTAINLY not going to bitch about my hosts’ decisions, especially for a momentous occasion like a wedding. I am going to go and act happy and be joyful and positive and sweet as my parents raised me to be gracious and courteous. After helping to plan my sister’s wedding, I am just shocked at how badly people behave and the rampant narcissism.) and inviting children, or it may be giving in to your family and not inviting children.

    Sorry I have no helpful suggestions here, but geez, this topic really gets under my skin. I just hope that you two can find a way to celebrate in a way that is pleasing to both of you.

  • Jenny

    June 4, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I kind of agree that you might have to allow the kids to the wedding just to keep the peace. And I suppose that you have already made up your mind, but I really think kids at weddings can be a really, really great time. The are fun at the dance and do stuff that make everyone laugh. There is nothing cuter than a picture of the bride dancing with a little kid. I will have the exact opposite problem as you because I will want everyone to bring their kids to my wedding, even if they want a night on their own 🙂

  • JenVegas

    June 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Aimee above said that “The ONLY thins a wedding should be focused on is the creation of a NEW family,..” And that’s true. By nature weddings are a FAMILY event, about family. (Family meaning both blood relations and the folks you just call your family, you know?) Kids are part of families and in my experience as a fairly recent bride, attender of weddings (as guest, bridesmaid and flower girl long, long ago) and organizer of weddings kids are a great thing to have at a wedding. They make for adorable pictures, everyone loves a little kid on the dance floor and for real? You will not even notice them. Even the most stressed out, control freak of brides that I’ve worked with was completely oblivious to the little things, like kids, on their wedding day. Seriously, I know one bride who didn’t even realize that the bagpiper was out of tune when she made her entrance. And, to put it in perspective for you, at my own wedding the few under age 4 kids that did show up were perfectly mannered and had a great time. The groomsman who decided to get wasted before the wedding and pass out in the pews immediately following the ceremony…yeah that was a grown up.

  • Liz

    June 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I had a backyard wedding and invited kids. I barely noticed them, and they had a great time. So did I! Honestly, you’ll be so busy visiting with friends and family that you won’t really be aware of the kids. By the time it’s your wedding day, you’ll have let go control over all those details you’re obsessing over right now. You can finally enjoy the party!

    I still hold a grudge against an aunt who didn’t let me come to her wedding when I was 5.

  • M

    June 4, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    I am also in the minority view that the answer should not be “you must invite kids, end of story.” There are indeed good reasons to seriously consider having kids at the wedding – namely, your future husband’s feelings, as well as the feelings and comfort of those guests with children that you want to be with on your wedding day. But I have never had any patience for family that threatens to boycott a wedding.

    This is the beginning of your marriage, which is going to be a lifetime of negotiations. It is understandable that this is difficult because you are new to the process. I have found that getting really specific about each person’s concerns, hopes, and visions can help. Tell him what you are imagining in your head when you see kids at your wedding, and he can do the same. Getting to the heart of the matter can help make progress.

    As for your request for creative compromises:
    1. If your fear is a ceremony being disrupted, but don’t care as much about the reception, discuss kid-friendly activities/childcare for just that part.
    2. It sounds like a lot of commenters have had good experiences at weddings where childcare and child activities are onsight, but out of the way of the adult activities. If done the right way, this could actually make you look super kid friendly (win for family politics) and address your concerns about the kids.

    It can be difficult in a marriage to figure out how to strike the right balance of compromise for the sake of family peace vs. standing your ground on things that really matter to you (whether or not anyone else appreciates it). Best of luck for figuring out a tricky situation.

  • Erin

    June 4, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Honestly, I didn’t even notice the kids at my wedding. I was too busy greeting people and drinking champagne. My mom put together little goodie bags for them with coloring books and slinkies and things, and they were all fine. They ranged from age 2 to 10, and the 10 year olds were old enough to have fun being part of a grown up event, and the little ones just had a blast dancing and stuff. No one got cranky or threw a tantrum, and we’ve got some fabulous video of a 2 year old, a 6 year old, and a 10 year old break dancing with my brother’s 23 year old friend.

    I’m not a huge kid person either in this type of setting, but honestly, I promise you, you will barely notice them. Pinkie swear.

  • APL

    June 4, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    I know others have posted similar scenarios, but for what it’s worth, here’s what happened with us… I love kids (especially since I am a new mommy to a fabulous little girl), but I did NOT want them at my wedding. I even went so far as to hire a babysitter for the ceremony just in case some showed up, because the thing I REALLY didn’t want was some kid babbling away during my vows. Well, how did that go over with the fam, you ask? My side of the family ignored it and brought kids – and one talked through the whole ceremony – and my husband’s side….UGH. My MIL just went behind my back and invited all of them (7 under the age of 10, all of whom I had never met), which made me look terrible, and adding a whole table plus linens plus centerpieces plus meals, plus UGH. dammit. MY wedding. (Three years later and I definitely still hold a grudge for that one.) HOWEVER, I did not even notice most of them and the ones I did notice were ridiculously cute out on the dance floor and made some pretty great memories. It wasn’t a kid-friendly wedding – late start time, a little more formal than a backyard – but those kids had a blast and everyone had fun watching them, and I’m glad they came (though still hocked off that MIL cost me so must strife and money less than two weeks before the wedding). Moral of the story? Better to give in than cause your fiance so much family drama, even if it goes against every fiber of your being, and I promise you they will end up adding some fun touches to the wedding day. (Also, the wedding day was a breeze and flew by….the rehearsal dinner day? Now, that was the stressful one).

  • charlotte

    June 5, 2010 at 7:39 am

    I appear to be in the minority here….but let me just say that I love kids, and whenever I get married they will absolutely be there, I haven’t ever considered not having them……But I don’t believe that someone should be forced into something they’re not happy with because a family threatens to boycott.

    Hello???? That’s blackmail!! Any loving family who wants to be at the wedding of their son, brother, nephew whatever should not place conditions on that. I can’t believe it! “we want to see you get married, but only if you do it our way”? That raises my hackles so much, it provokes me in to saying well sory you feel that way, see ya when we get back from honeymoon!! People like that aren’t worth your time or effort, and so definitely not your compromise. How dare they???????????????????

  • Kimm

    June 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

    For during the ceremony, what about hiring a couple of babysitters, putting the kids in a bedroom or 2 at the venue-if it’s a house- watching movies or playing games. That’s what my brother in law did. Then the kids came to the reception. I think that’s a good compromise. The kids won’t interupt the ceremony, but they can be a part of the wedding at the reception.

  • kari weber

    June 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I agree with Charlotte that the situation here is frustrating. On one hand- I don’t have a problem with kids at weddings. We had a very formal afternoon wedding and the kids came- and I couldn’t even have cared less. We didn’t have any problems at all. But- why is his side being so unreasonable? On the OTHER other side though…. his family being manipulative or evil may have NOTHING to do with her fiancé. He doesn’t control their behavior, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t want them at his day. Perhaps it SCARES HIM to think that his family would make this decision, and he would just rather have the kids than fight this fight.

    Just sayin’

  • Rachel

    June 5, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I had a somewhat-formal wedding of about 180 people (ceremony at 6, all my bridesmaids wore floor-length black dresses, almost nobody wore jeans, etc) and like your fiance’s family, my family has never had a wedding where kids weren’t invited. I would (very roughly) guess that we had maybe 30-40 kids under 12 at mine? And we didn’t provide any type of kid “games” or “activities” or anything. And everything was fun. None of the kids went wild, a lot of them had a blast dancing on the dance floor (I have several adorable pictures of my 6-year-old ringbearer break dancing) and nobody had a meltdown or fit or disrupted my wedding. Unless you count my 3-year-old flower girl (hubby’s niece) who got up on the stage when my dad was giving the welcome speech and said hi. But that was freakin’ adorable.

    Is there a reason your family never invites kids to weddings? I don’t really understand that. Is it because there just aren’t really a lot of kids in the family, and your fiance’s family has more? Or does your family prefer to do the adult-only thing without the nuisance of kids around?

  • ms martyr

    June 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Like one of the previous commenters, I wanted a simple ceremony with just immediate family and my best friend. My husband wanted a “party” so we ended up with a church wedding and inviting 200-250 people (I really can’t remember)This is to say I can fully understand this bride’s stress coming on early. I was stressed from the moment it was decided to have a “big” wedding which I absolutely did. not. want. I don’t even remember if kids were an issue and if there were any there, except for my husband’s six year old stepbrother. I just wanted the whole thing to be over. Looking over my wedding album is like seeing someone else’s wedding day. I can barely remember a thing, and I was completely sober. I remember thinking that if this marriage didn’t work out at least good taste decreed that my next ceremony would be small.

  • Holly

    June 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    My much older cousin didn’t invite my sister and I to his wedding under a “no children” clause. My mom and grandmother almost didn’t go. Because, guess what? At the time, I was 20 years old and my sister was 16. Ha! Two years later, when *I* got married – we invited them. I think it was a huge wake up call that the one of the “children” who was not invited was suddenly getting married herself.

  • Jenn Bo

    June 6, 2010 at 10:57 am

    My wedding was an outdoor wedding @ 5 pm. There were a few children who attended (maybe about 8-10). We were pretty fortunate that there were not many guests with small children. I thought about having activiites for the kids, but the variety of ages made this difficult. Instead, I found out what each kid “liked”. I made little gift bags with appropriate themes (e.g., animals, dora, thomas, etc.) Then I had the gift bag waiting at the table (outdoor, but I still had assigned seating). I think this helped keep them preoccupied during dinner and the parents thought I was awsome. Honestly – aside from the moments where I focused on the children, I barely noticed the children at my wedding. There were some parents who left by 9 pm, but there were plenty of people who stayed and danced the night away with us.

  • ctags

    June 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    If you’re already stressed about the wedding being stressful and chaotic and it’s a backyard wedding, and you don’t want kids and your future in-laws are threatening to boycott if you don’t do it their way, I say elope. I love being married and I love my husband, but in many ways it was soooooooooo not worth the expense and stress of a wedding. And most of our friends left early before we got to hang out with anyone.

    Or hire a wedding planner. That would also take care a lot of stress.

  • Kerry

    June 7, 2010 at 1:34 am

    I think it’s maybe? kinda? a little unfair to psychoanalyze A’s relationship based on her letter. These days weddings are high-stress and chaotic for a lot of people, from the day they announce their engagement. You’re expected to spend tons of money throwing a big party, all the while hoping people don’t boycott the event for some reason or another. Just the thought of planning a huge event and -holy hell- trying to please 200 people from two different families makes me feel like crying. No matter WHAT you decide about the kid issue, there is no way in heck to please everyone. I agree with Amalah, though… Bottom line, it’s probably more important to keep the peace with your new family. The wedding will go by SO FAST and will be fun once you’re actually in the moment, but you’ll have to deal with these people’s hurt feelings for a lifetime. People know how to hold grudges, even if you never intended to hurt them.

  • Olivia

    June 7, 2010 at 10:06 am

    First, I totally agree with Amalah. Children at family events, and that includes weddings, are going to be a part of your life from now on. Deal with it. Odds are you will barely notice. Most parents know when to leave if their kids starts throwing a tantrum. Second, I see a lot of suggestions for hiring a baby sitter. It’s not a bad idea, but just be aware that not all little kids will stay with someone they don’t know. So, some toddlers and babies will have to stay with mom or dad. My one-year-old would not tolerate being taken to a strange place and left with someone else.

  • tasterspoon

    June 7, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    My wedding and reception were separated by several hours. Kids were invited to the afternoon ceremony, and were well behaved. I vaguely recall that someone started squealing and their parent removed them, but I was so focused on the vows it barely registered. We weren’t videotaping anything, so it truly wouldn’t have mattered to me if we had had a choir of crying babies. I didn’t have to interact with them at all. The reception in the evening was black tie and kids were not invited – mainly due to space and $$ issues. All the parents in attendance (friends, not relatives) assured me that they were grateful for an opportunity to drink heavily and dance freely and not worry about minding their kids for an evening. Another mom mentioned she hated it when kids monopolize the dance floor at a wedding and I had to agree. (We had a swing band.) I had prepared to hire a babysitter and a room at one of the hotels for any out-of-town kids, but no out-of-town parents brought theirs; they were happy to save on travel costs. The two children who did attend the reception were the ring/book bearers (the only two nephews, and from out of town) and, despite the goody bags I’d prepared, clearly did not want to be there. They weren’t bad, they were bored, and their parents left early. THAT SAID, my husband and I went into planning under the (mutual) assumption that weddings include children unless there’s a REASON not to. We had reasons (late/formal/cost/small venue/stated parental preferences), and it worked out (though sometimes I feel a little guilty about the no-kids rule in retrospect just because I have great memories of attending family weddings, even very formal ones, when I was around 10 years old). But a casual outdoor wedding where expense isn’t the issue? The OP offers no justification for excluding kids except her own stress factor. I agree with the commenters who think you’ll barely notice the kids – heck, I barely acknowledged a good portion of my /adult/ guests. There are just so many other things on your mind. Manage the issue in advance by making accommodations for small guests in advance, just as you would for any other special-needs guests, and then forget about it. After that any stress is really all in your attitude. I do think the “boycott” approach is strange, though, unless maybe the OP is just perceiving it that way – possibly the parents can’t afford babysitters and CAN’T come unless they can bring their kids. Pressure for any kind of manipulative reason would get my fur up, too, and I would then solve the problem by not inviting the parents of those children, either. And if it comes up? “Oh, but Aunt So-and-So said you wouldn’t be able to come since we’re not having children, and I didn’t want to send you an invitation and have you feel obligated to send a gift! Really? You can come after all? Why, how wonderful! I’ll put an invitation in the mail right away!”

  • Heather

    June 7, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    i doubt you will notice at the reception…the biggest thing to be would be the ceremony where all eyes should be on you. maybe you could hire babysitters for just that part and then everyone at the reception? we didn’t have any kids at our wedding, it was small…not ever ring-bearer or flower girl, but at the time there wasn’t anyone obvious in the family or friends to play that role so it was easy. so, as a person who didn’t want kids at her wedding either, i would compromise and keep them away from ceremony but mix at reception. it will go by so fast anyway.

  • Lila

    June 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    We had a 5 PM backyard wedding with a tent for the reception and a smaller tent for the kids nearby. We hired some fun teenage babysitters on the cheap, fed the kids pizza for dinner, supplied the tent with toys and games, and bought a lot of silly prizes at the dollar store. Kids and their parents went back and forth between the two tents, but the kids seemed happiest in their own tent, and they were not underfoot during the ceremony or reception. Our main consideration was that certain important folks would have had a hard time attending without their kids.

  • Mary

    June 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    First, I think that this may end up being one of the most blogged about questions you have ever posted. Just saying…

    I agree with Amy that if you do not invite family children you will be seen as the ‘I hate kids auntie’ and you don’t want that. Also, as it is outdoors, I will be in the invite ’em camp…with a caveat.

    At our wedding, we invited kids of family but no kids of non-family guests. Our friends understood this, or so I thought. Long story short — I ended up losing a dysfunctional friendship over this. So, all in all, it was a win!

    Long story not short — we invited family (with kids) and friends (without), but made sure to let our friends understand our reasoning i.e.: (family, many coming from out of town, not too kid-friendly reception, etc.).

    The invitations were sent and I carefully added each child’s name on the invite if invited (no…’and family’). Replies were received and all seemed well, until a week or so before the wedding when another friend said that ‘E’ was bringing her daughter ‘C’ to the wedding. As ‘E’ was a proper southern belle and had indicated in her reply that only her husband and she were attending, I figured I had too many other things to worry about that week and if her daughter showed up, too bad.

    Well they did show up — to the reception. Yep, they couldn’t be bothered to come to the actual ceremony, but did come for the food. Nice. That’s ok, there was no seat for her daughter (about four at the time), no candy rose, name plate, etc. And ‘E’ did notice. She never said anything to me (hasn’t spoken to me since), but did say something to 1 — a co-work of mine who sat at her table. Apparently she exclaimed that there was no seat for ‘C’ and that I must have miscounted…my coworkers reply was better than anything I could have said myself that day, to whit, “Mary doesn’t miscount.”

    In addition, she then had the nerve to go up to one of our mutual friends (who, by the way, had a son the same age as ‘C’ and who did not bring him) and tell here that she brought ‘C’ because our wedding wasn’t ‘sitter-worthy’ as in she wasn’t going to pay a babysitter when we could look after her.

    Did I mention that the outcome of this is that we are no longer friends and haven’t spoken since (over eight years)?

    So what does this have to do with you? First off — invite the kids — of family. You will save yourself much heart ache. It is outdoors, the family is probably coming from our of town and money may be tight. You will look like an angel and in reality, you won’t really think about them — as all eyes will be on you.

    And yes, there will b some great photos!

    Friends should understand, family will never forget!

    And by the way, if I had to do it over, I would have invited all kids — the reception was outside on a big lawn and they were no bother. Hindsight and all.

    One other note (if you’ve read this far!), I spoke with the other mom (the one who had the boy the same age as ‘C’ shortly after the wedding and was apologetic about not having him come, again explaining that it was just supposed to be family kids from out of town, and I was not trying to exclude him…her reply, “Are you crazy — it was a day out as adults — it was wonderful to not have to worry about looking after him!” So take heart, some of the family may not even WANT their kids there!

    Whew — that was long.

  • Tracy

    June 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    MD said: “am i the only one bothered by the complete inflexibility of her fiance’s family? doesn’t “invite our kids or we will boycott your wedding” seem a bit controlling? what other things will the family be dictating in the years to come as her then-husband continues to spinelessly accede to their wishes? and the argument that she should give in because otherwise the family will continue to bring it up for years? really? i guess it’s good to know at the outset that decisions will be made in deference to his family’s passive-aggressive tendencies.”

    And I completely agree. I’m really bothered by the fact that so many people are insisting that she “compromise” by giving her fiance exactly what he wants. I’m bothered that it’s apparently her duty to respect his family’s tradition, but he is completely free to ignore her family’s tradition. But I’m mostly bothered that the only reason he wants to invite kids is because his parents want him to, and because his family will “boycott” the wedding. Not “be unable to come,” but “boycott,” which means to deliberately avoid, whether you could come or not, because you want to make a point. Why should she bow to these bullies? And more importantly, why would her fiance consider their wishes more important than those of the woman he is about to marry?

    I would take a long, hard look at this situation before continuing with my wedding plans.

  • Emily

    June 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I gotta tell you, my knee-jerk reaction to kids at a wedding is ANNOYING. I just see them hogging the dance floor and the pictures. And I HATE when you look at someone’s wedding album and it’s clear the wedding photographer followed around their sister’s/friend’s/cousin’s kids to try to sell you on “how cute” they are. And everyone knows that ONE kid that will just be a terror at the wedding and you’ll just be waiting for him to reign terror the entire night.
    For all these reasons, I had a strict ADULTS ONLY wedding and had a blast. That said, as more of my friends have kids, I can see the appeal of having the kids around…and even letting them steal some of the spot light. Think of the memories: your best friend’s daughter was only 2 years old when you and your husband were married, so when you attend her wedding in 25 years or so…still married…you’ll have that heartwarming moment, plus you could even give her a pic of herself with you on your wedding day. Maybe I’m just sentamental, but I had the same feelings about kids at weddings until I realized how much these kids mean to people that mean a lot to me.

    And rule #1: in-laws will almost always find some way to ruin your wedding day…whether they are trying to or not, so just don’t even try to avoid it by being a meany now…just go with the flow and remember that the day is about celebrating your love for your husband with the people who love you. And some of them have kids they love, too, so if you want to share it with them, kids may be present. And rule #2, if you can’t have fun on your wedding day b/c you let things stress you out, it’s your own fault. SO much stuff went wrong on my wedding day, but i just strugged it off. I was there to marry the man I love and nothing was going to ruin that. It was the best day EVER regardless of rain on the outdoor ceremony, my dress straps ripping during the bridal dance, and the flowers being totally wrong! Didn’t matter! So chill!

  • Rebecca

    June 9, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I’m totally with the bride here. My husband’s side of the family had a MILLION kids. My side of the family had almost no kids. Our wedding was formal, and at evening, and in my opinion, kids don’t belong at formal parties of any sort, especially in the evening. This extended even to my niece and nephew – I sat them down, told them we weren’t having kids at the wedding, because not all kids were as well behaved as they are (ha). We told both sides of the family from the very beginning that we weren’t having kids at the wedding – my husband’s mom was upset with this, but thank God, my husband was on board with me. Only one person really raised a big stink about it – one of his cousins. I wrote her a nice note explaining that it didn’t just apply to her child, but to all children, INCLUDING MY NIECE AND NEPHEW. She decided not to come. It wasn’t a big loss.

  • Shawn

    June 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I don’t think kids belong at weddings. We hired a babysitter from a pro service specifically for weddings, company parties, etc. Had no complaints and those that chose to have their kids stay with the sitter were thankful. There was a potential of about 15 kids, when the parents heard about the sitter, most made other arrangements and in the end, the sitter had 3 children from 2 sets of prents to look after and all the parents got to stay until the very last dance. Don’t let people guilt you into anything either way.

  • Tracy

    June 10, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Gotta say one more thing and then I’ll shut up. Probably. 🙂 I think some people are losing the forest for the trees. All they see is “kids? wedding? heck yeah.” But look beyond that. This isn’t a question about wedding etiquette. This is a question about a couple making a decision, and who gets to have input about that decision. Instead of kids at a wedding, insert any other decision this couple will have to make in the future, and ask yourself whether it’s appropriate to make this decision based on how pissy his family will get.


    “All the kids in my family went to public school. All the kids in my fiance’s family went to private school. He says if we don’t send our kids to private school, his family will be offended and will boycott the graduation.”

    “All the parents in my family have separate birthday parties for the kids’ friends and for the family. All the parents in his family have one big party for family and friends. He says if we don’t have one big party, his family will be offended and will boycott our kid’s birthday party.”

    Do you still think the writer should give her future inlaws the final say?

  • Christen

    June 10, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    @Tracy: I agree. This is not just about the wedding and kids, necessarily. Maybe it is. But it sounds like this is an opinionated group that bands together and uses their collective powers of boycotting to keep things status quo. And even if it is about the wedding, while I agree that both families need to be accomodated, that means her wishes/reasoning/concerns should at least be heard. Maybe kids = 60 extra people and she is trying to be budget-minded. That’s not being harsh or child-hating, that’s being responsible. And I will shut up now too 🙂

  • The gold digger

    June 17, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I have spent some time trying to please my husband’s crazy, alcoholic, mean parents, who threatened not to come to our wedding. Not a boycott, just, “We’re not coming and don’t marry her.” (Unfortunately, they came.)

    I have tried to figure out how to make them like me, but they just don’t. I realized they couldn’t be negotiated with the day my husband told me that his dad had complained (a year after the event) about how I eat bacon. Yes, you read that right.

    My point is that you will never please everyone. My husband has always stood 100% with me against his parents when necessary. I take this threat to boycott as a bad sign.

    That said, if it truly is just about having kids there, the best wedding I have ever attended was my mom’s second cousin’s formal wedding with the reception that lasted until midnight, with an open bar, sit down dinner, midnight snack and dancing. I was in 8th grade. It set the standard for all weddings to follow. I had a great time dancing with my grandfather and hanging out with the two dozen other kids there. I don’t remember anyone acting up, but if they did, they were probably whisked outside immediately.

  • Nina

    June 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    My brother’s wedding is this Friday. We have a 3 year old ringbearer and a 7 month old son. The problem we’ve run into is both my husband and I are in the wedding party and obviously my parents want to enjoy themselves. Needless to say if my 7 month has a fit no one is there to take care of him. This is the plan out of respect. If the weather is good the babysitter will be at the ceremony with my 7month old and then we’ll bring her home and the three of us head to the reception. If the weather is not good she’ll be at home with the 7 month old and when it gets later in the evening for the 3 year old then he will be taken home too while my husband and I enjoy the rest of the event. We’ll see how this plan works!

  • Jennifer

    June 19, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I got married back in 1998, and I myself didn’t want kids at our wedding either. We did have children in the actual wedding (flower girl), but she did not attend the reception. Neither did her younger brother. I was very luck here-her mother chose to leave with the kids afterwards. She had planned on having a friend come watch the kids, but decided to just leave herself. They would have been the only little kids-none of my brothers, cousins or friends had had children yet-this was my husband’s only sibling. Our reception was 7:30 at night, and I could not imagine a wedding dance floor full of little children. At the time, that horrified me. Now that I have my own kids, I feel differently so I don’t know if my issue was just immaturity or what. I just remembered that there were some older kids there, probably 10-13, but because we got married on a Sunday night, they didn’t stick around long. I see both sides of the issue here-on the one, I would be weary of family threatening to boycott and inlaws making demands…then again, I understand it’s his wedding too and he does get some say! Definitely this is part of a bigger problem-good luck in sorting things out.

  • bridetobe

    June 25, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Why does everyone on this forum think that the bride and groom should hire a baby sitter? Why should the bride and groom pay for a baby sitter for someone else’s kids? It doesn’t make sense to me.
    Our friends don’t even have to be told but for some reason my family just assumes their kids will and should be invited. Wrong.

  • Katie

    February 26, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I just stumbled on this forum.  I got married last December and in the midst of wedding planning discovered what a hot topic ‘children at weddings’ is.  I was really surprised.  Not because I can’t imagine not having kids at my wedding, but because I never imagined having them in the first place.  We had a no-kids day – and it was glorious.

    While I agree that a marriage is a joining of two families, to me that is actually secondary.  It is a joining of two people, and really only those two people.  That’s who you wake up next to everyday.  Family is very important, but at the end of the day, you two need to have each other’s backs, because that’s what the decision comes down to.  Not ‘my mother will be so mad if you do this’ or ‘my uncle will never speak to you again if you don’t do it this way’.  This groom needs (or needed to, depending on when the wedding is/was) stand up for his marriage, not his extended family.  I saw a variety of comments saying he should run for the hills, but I seem to agree with the minority – SHE absolutely should take a hard look at things.  Managing his family is not her responsibility.  Compromise and love, absolutely.  But not bend over backwards for.

    Our wedding wasn’t exactly child-friendly, but we would have made the same decision whether we did it in a country club or in the backyard (it was in-between).  Live band, open bars, great food and 200 people, half of whom had a rare ‘date-night’ with their spouses.  It was all magical.  The only person who seemed to be confused was one of my bridesmaids, who kept trying to find a way to invite her 2-year-old son.  I never backed down – at the end of the day this celebration was about my husband and myself.  Family reunions, holidays, Sunday dinners – those are all about family.  A wedding is about two people promising a lifetime together.  It’s a little sad to me that any bride who doesn’t immediately throw up the tents and hire the babysitter (wedding planning is already expensive enough!) is labeled as a bridezilla or kid-hater.  There will be plenty of time to enjoy and wrangle children when I have my own.

    Now before anybody makes an assumption that I hate family or that I was a diva bride – it’s quite the opposite.  We were very careful to include each other’s siblings, parents and cousins in everything and everybody felt very valued.  His sister actually thanked me for not inviting my niece – at age 2, she really doesn’t know the significance of these events and my sister-in-law would have spent more time watching my niece, like the responsible parent she is, than enjoying herself.  And that was my priority.

  • Bailey

    March 11, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    It sounds like you don’t need a kid free wedding. You need a Manipulative In-laws free wedding! They’re seriously going to BOYCOTT your wedding if you don’t invite kids? This sounds way more childish than anything a kid could do at your wddding. Maybe you need to provide a babysitter for the in-laws, because clearly they’re not mature enough to be in adult company.

  • Kate

    June 29, 2015 at 12:44 am

    I have been in your position, except the situation got to the point where his family boycott the wedding, and refused to come. We didn’t get married, and have since broken up. We wanted a child free wedding for several reasons. It was going to be a small wedding at a heritage venue. (along with a signed cause stating we would pay for any breakages.  A cause no one on his side was willing to sign,even though 100% of the children were on his side. The cause was only required if we had children attend). If we invited our guest’s children (50 guests) there would be 43 children. Our small wedding would have doubled. We didn’t think that it was fair to let some come, and not others. Costs were also an issue. The venue charged extra for children. (Because special ( child- friendly) meals were required for them)). My mother in law also insisted that childminders were required to sit at the children’s tables to supervise them. Also games were required to keep them entertained. My parents were paying for the wedding, and thought her demands were outrageous, considering that they didn’t want children there either. I am so thankful I didn’t marry him, as I would have spent my days fighting his family, and trying to get him to back me up. 

  • Foster

    February 22, 2016 at 1:45 am

    I need advice……..
    Our reception venue DOES NOT allow anyone under 21. It’s a great space, affordable (for our limited budget).
    Suggestions of what to do with the 4 or 5 kids that will be at ceremony but not reception? 
    We’ve already let guests know the venue doesn’t allow anyone under 21. 
    Ideas on activities or things we can get set up to keep the kids and parents happy? Reception is from 4-7 

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      February 22, 2016 at 9:57 am

      You have stumbled upon a much older article. For a variety of reasons, unfortunately we do not respond directly to questions that are left in the comments sections of articles. If you would like to submit a question to advice column please do here: amyadvice[@]gmail[dot]com Please be aware though that a) we don’t have the bandwidth to answer every submitted question, and b) there is a queue, though some questions get answered sooner than others– it’s not necessarily first come first served so it may be worth giving it a shot. Best of luck.