As we mentioned there are very valid reasons for children not being invited to weddings and there are valid reasons parents may not be able to attend without bringing their children – they can’t afford or find babysitters, or at worst, you offend parents who think their children are darlings and should be anywhere they are!
There are many “people stress” sides of inviting children to a wedding. If you have not made concrete plans yet it is strongly advised to figure out who among the possible guests has children - their ages, whether family of your guests live nearby to babysit, and whether some are out of towners. Also important is whether your families have small children – this becomes very sticky because the wedding is a mini family reunion and to uninvite children means you could be creating world war three in the family since aunts, uncles, and grandparents may only see their grandchildren or the little ones at weddings.
For my wedding I was at the beginning of the wedding trend so I only had one friend with a son (but a local mom who babysat for her a lot) and a cousin with two out of town children (I wasn’t going to not invite those children.) I did ask my cousin if he wanted me to coordinate any babysitting onsite or offsite and he declined but said the kids were used to being in church and would behave well. There were a few others here and there with kids but definitely not enough that I knew it would be a problem. They were local folks and I knew they went out without their children. I also had an evening wedding so they wouldn’t want their very small children there anyway. (One friend didn’t bring her spouse because he was the babysitter. I hadn’t met him so it wasn’t a huge deal.)
One of the biggest mistakes I see made and read about in wedding planning books, articles and magazines is the (false / simplistic) notion that if you do not write the names of the children on the invitation, it will signal to parents that the event is child-free. I have many issues with this advice. In no particular order the problems here are:
- Waiting until 6-8 weeks before a wedding to say it’s kid free when you knew 13 months ago is potentially asking for BIG feathers to be ruffled. Parents are often aware of needing to buy their children new wedding clothes, babysitters can be hard to find, and if the parents expect the kids are invited they may be talking up the wedding and practicing good behavior for the big day.
- Expecting everyone to know wedding etiquette is a lot to ask of anyone, especially most of your guests who are long ago married or who are so used to bringing the children they wouldn’t even notice the lack of their names.
- Not confronting known-issues by this non-confrontational method is going to nothing but bite you back. If you are well aware of hurt feelings it is much better to get it out in the open as soon as you know the event is kid free rather than letting people assume kids are invited and waiting til the very end. Besides – if some people throw world war three and tell you they refuse to come, hey, at least you have a better sense of the guest list!
- Pregnant guests who may have small babies are going to be super sensitive to the ‘kid factor’ and if they know it is kid-free or kid-friendly, they will rest easier knowing if they will be able to make it or find a babysitter.
So what do you do it people insist on bringing their children anyway? Number one rule is “blood talks to blood” when there is conflict. If this is your fiance’s uncle who insists on bringing his kids, the best person to respond is your fiance’s parent who is related to this uncle. Generation-to-generation will be much more effective and respectful than you trying to have at it with this person you barely know and have no history with.
If you have no support from anyone about this being a kid-free event I would strongly consider why you are having a wedding and not eloping. If you are going to anger every single person in the family for “your day”, you may need to reassess the perfect wedding day and how you can make it a hospitable event for everyone. It could be as simple as a huge family slumber party at someones house with a few nannies, or renting out a few suites in the hotel and hiring babysitters (or the older teen relatives to babysit.) As many brides will tell you, the day is so packed and goes by so fast you won’t even notice the kids. Some brides actually feel that kids are SO unpredictable it actually takes away any pressure for the “perfect wedding day” and they are more able to relax!
I can tell you going to my brothers out of town wedding with two small children was a complete and total disaster. For us. My brother and his fiancee did great with the kids but my husband and I wanted to kill ourselves! It was extremely draining since every event started 2 hours after their bedtime. We were in a new city and didn’t have anyone to babysit. My baby girl was also too small to be left alone for hours (the nursing thing again!) so at best we would have had our son in a strange hotel room with a strange person – hardly the best stress reducer for him and us! I can tell you looking back I wish we could have had the option of a babysitter to at least take the kids away. My husband had to leave the rehearsal dinner without his food because our son was going completely loopy from lack of sleep and the restaurant was tiny and packed. Of course being this was family we couldn’t have left the kids at home with my parents like we could have if this was just a friend.
I hope things go smoothly for each of you! It makes it easier when your friends all marry at the same life stage! I joked that my brother (older than me) should have gotten married years ago to prevent all the child maddness.