Weddiquette: Excluding children from your wedding

2 Nov

This perennial question of brides everywhere—is it OK to exclude children from the big day—is fast replacing the seating chart as the stickiest guest list situation. Rachel Wilkerson of The House Always Wins addressed the matter on Wedding Party this week in a logical way, a way in which I think a lot of brides spin it for themselves (I know I did):

Personally, I feel like asking guests to leave their kids at home is doing them a favor. Yeah, they might complain about having to find a sitter, but they might actually enjoy […] talking to other adults instead of playing mom and dad the whole night. Try to frame it as “Because you’re such good parents, we know you’ll give a lot of time and attention to your little ones and we want you to be able to be fully present[…]!” Seriously, what parent wouldn’t jump at the excuse for a night off?!

A lot of brides (again–including this one!) twist it even further, calling it rude of the guest to even ask the bride if it’s OK to bring the baby, citing the old Emily Post.*  Most parents will get this, but a few will bristle. It’s not unheard of for some parents to decline altogether rather than leave the kid at home, or even for spats to break out.

Only recently has this become the huge debate that it is. In the olden days (and in certain communities today where people tend to have children at a young age), the friends and family of the wedding couple would be lousy with children; it would be not only unthinkable but impractical to exclude them. Today, couples are delaying having children, smaller families are becoming the norm, and social circles are becoming less heterogeneous, so the kid’s table is no longer a given.

Having been to two post-baby weddings (one with T and one without) and another big one coming up, I have now officially viewed the question from all sides. And while my answer to the question hasn’t changed (yes, you are allowed), the thought behind it has simplified somewhat. In short:

A)     Not allowing children at your wedding is selfish.

B)      You are allowed to be selfish at your wedding (if not then, when?)

Sound harsh? Maybe. But before you accuse me of being bitter now that I’m a mom, I’m actually thinking back to when I made the same decision for my own wedding three years ago. While there were no children in my family and few of our friends were parents yet, there were two big exceptions: two of my bridesmaids had babies. I’m talking little babies; one was only two months old. While I was totally cognizant of that fact—I even had some vague awareness that my maid of honor was suffering mastitis at my shower—I just wasn’t worried about it.

I reasoned the same way Rachel did, that my ‘maids would enjoy the excuse to go child-free for a night. I also knew that the grandparents were close by and assumed (never checked) that they would be free to sit. I knew they would want to be free to enjoy the wedding and not worry about keeping the baby (who should surely be sleeping at that time anyway) happy. I was doing them a favor!

In truth, these were all just trappings of the bride’s general fog of self-centeredness (in addition to my mastitis-afied maid of honor, one of my bridesmaids had bronchitis and one was on the verge of divorcing her husband—facts I was completely oblivious too until weeks after). Also–I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried that cute chubby cheeks would still my thunder.

But I’m here to say, it’s OK! A bride is totally allowed to consider herself first on her wedding day. In fact, I propose that she should! As long as she remains kind overall and lets the groom have a say (Bridezillas are not cool), she gets to make like Burger King and have it her way.

Why? Your wedding is the one event in your life that you should look back on with perfect, rosy happiness (God knows it’s not the day your child is born—way too much pain and bodily fluids involved for perfect rosiness). And because of my selfishness (and the selflessness of my amazing girlfriends), I am able to do that. Perhaps that would’ve been the case anyway had my friends brought their babies. We’ll never know.  The point is, I didn’t have to worry about it. That’s something every bride deserves on her wedding day.

*That states only the people whose names are specified on the invitation are invited.

[Photo: Magnetstreet Weddings]
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