Kids At Weddings
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.Published June 4, 2010. Last updated July 22, 2017.