Should Children Be Included In Your Wedding Festivities? Part 2: The Decision
Part 1 of this blog set the stage for the question posed here: Should you or should you not include children on your guest list? In Part 2 we will discuss how to arrive at a decision.
I like the practical advice of Sandy Malone in her article written for Brides.com. She advises you to first figure out how much each guest is going to cost and nail down your guest list before deciding. At that point, you can decide whether or not you can AFFORD to invite children. If you can’t afford the extras, then you must decide if you wish to drop some people off the list to offset the cost of the children or to not invite the children. I think that seems brilliant if you are on the fence about what to do. It is a concrete way of thinking about it and allows you to decide who you most want to have celebrate with you.
The other important consideration is your vision for the perfect event. Have you spent hours and hours on Pinterest trying to make a magazine-worthy, formal and sophisticated event? If so, kids might not be the best ingredient to add. Adding children to an event often yields a very different end result. It is really a matter of what you are trying to create, what your finances can afford and how much of an “unknown you can’t control” you are comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way.
There are many advantages to being child-free. You don’t need to consider whether or not to have a children’s table, kid’s menu and activities to keep them busy, special favors or a myriad of other details. However, do remember that ultimately that is not your responsibility. It’s the parent’s job to keep their child entertained and under control.
While that’s good advice, refer back to my remarks in Part 1. Virtually every parent thinks what their child does is special and a treat for all to enjoy. But, in truth, not every parent does a great job of reining them in, especially when alcohol, great music and fun people are involved. And, remember, you may need to step in if unattended children are putting themselves at risk.
However, while Elissa Strauss of Slate.com feels magazine-worthy, child-free events have “the emotional warmth of an airport first-class lounge”, I don’t agree. One of my all-time most hysterically fun weddings was a black-tie event held at the Yale Club in New York City. Everyone had a blast…at least those of us dancing with our napkins used as dew-rags on our heads did! (Perhaps a bit too much champagne….?) As Elissa further states, “Children lend festivities an element of chaos and unpredictability” which “guests will see as an invitation for improvisation”. That might well be true but nowhere is it written children are essential to having a great time. (See: “too much champagne” above ).
If you decide not to include children, Nancy Mattia, of Martha Stewart Weddings, says you should be prepared for some pushback. Many parents will choose not to attend, some will leave early (but others may whoop it up!), and some parents may even have the audacity to ask you why the flower girl(s) and ring bearer are included. [Author’s Note: Miss Manners and I find this unfathomable!] But remember, while flower girls and ring bearers might be “small people”, they are members of the wedding party regardless of their ages.
Speaking of pushback! Writing for Popsugar.com, Laurel Niedospial pulls no punches and emphatically states: “By telling parents that their children are not welcome at a celebration, in essence brides are telling parents that they themselves are not welcome.” WHOA!!! Ms Niedospial is definitely entitled to her opinion but I couldn’t disagree more! Parents and children aren’t enmeshed into one being. If your child is invited to a kid’s birthday party that adults aren’t invited to, does that mean your child is not welcome at the party? Are you going to stomp your feet and insist you be there too? Or have your child miss the fun? What’s the difference?
Some would recommend a compromise….include kids in the reception but not the wedding. While that may sound great, logistically it’s difficult for parents and don’t be surprised if you get a lot of wee ones at the ceremony too. Having an extra room with babysitters at the venue is also a suggestion I’ve heard but this opens up a lot of expense, not to mention liability issues. If you are on a budget, this just might not be all that practical. What we’ve seen at Stonegate Manor when this has been tried is that parents rarely avail themselves of this.
At the end of the day, only the Bride and Groom can determine how “spontaneous and chaotic” they want their evening to be. Be honest with yourself about your vision. Make a decision and stick with it. If you allow one exception, you open up a whole can of worms!
A note to parents who might be reading this. If invited to a child-free wedding and you are unable to find a babysitter or can’t afford one, DO NOT WHINE. The reality of being a parent is that you have to make choices and some aren’t fun. But, that’s not the bride or groom’s problem. Wish the couple the warmest congratulations and tell them you will be with them in spirit. If your children ARE invited, bring stuff to keep them happy, occupied and fed. It is NOT the couple’s responsibility to entertain your kids or provide special kid-friendly foods. It is your responsibility to help prevent unnecessary chaos and interruptions and allow your friends, the Bride and Groom, to be in the spotlight. And first and foremost, you may long to let your hair down and relive your former life with your college friends but you can’t. You have children to watch. Many needless tragedies have occurred because everyone thought “someone else” was keeping an eye out.
Let’s all agree to honor the wishes of the Bride and Groom and work together to maximize their joy!
Part 3 of this 3-part series will explore options for how to tactfully let your guests know what your decision is.
Elissa Strauss: You Don’t Have to Invite Kids to Your Wedding. But You Should.
Nancy Mattia: Five Truths About Having a No-Kids Wedding
Laurel Niedospial: Should I Invite Kids to My Wedding?
Prudy Nelson has attended hundreds of weddings through the years. In addition, she has 30+ years experience working with children and raised two of her own. She is the owner of Stonegate Manor, Southwest Michigan’s Premier Estate Wedding Venue located 90 minutes from Chicago. Stonegate Manor is very friendly to kids, so long as they keep their parents close.