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Do I Need To Invite Children I’ve Never Met To My Wedding?

I don't know how rude it is to exclude kids

Q: Dear Amy,

This is sort of a sad statement, but there are no children in my daily life. My sister has no kids and my fiancé has no siblings, so we have no nieces or nephews. None of our friends or family friends have children. So when we were initially planning the guest list and imagining the day, I wasn’t thinking about it at all. Of course we wouldn’t be inviting children, because I don’t know any children to invite, and there would be no need to make sure our wedding is kid friendly.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. While most of my cousins are either my age or younger with no children, my mom’s brother is older and had kids young, so I have a few cousins who are ten-ish years older than I am. I’m not close with these cousins and they live far away, but I’m inviting them to the wedding under the umbrella of “all cousins.” (I did attend two of their weddings ages ago, when I was in middle school. Our whole family was invited, back when we were closer with this part of my mom’s family.) These cousins have children! One first-cousin-once-removed is in college… I think… and the others are probably all under the age of ten, but to be frank, because I haven’t seen these cousins or their families in years, I don’t know their children’s names or how old they are. I’m not entirely certain how many kids each cousin has, and I’ve never met any of them.

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So, when I invite my cousins and their spouses to our wedding, under the umbrella of “all cousins,” should I also invite their children? I would really prefer not to introduce child logistics to the wedding, but I don’t know how rude it is to exclude kids. If I just invite Cousin and Spouse on the invitation, they won’t assume I’m also inviting their children, will they?

I have no sense of the etiquette here because the people I’m close to in my daily life don’t have kids. Help!

—second cousins, twice the drama?

A: Dear cousins,

Oh good, an easy one. Do not invite these kids!

There are lots of great reasons to invite children to a wedding. Perhaps you have children in your life you know and love and want there. Possibly you have adult people you are close to who, for whatever reason, will not be able to attend without their children. Maybe your family simply invites children to everything and its not worth it to you to deal with the flack if you don’t.

Fortunately for you, none of these seem to apply! Seems to me like the worst-case scenario here is you don’t invite these children, who you have never met, and then maybe your cousins, who you barely know, don’t come. Oh well!

If things were that easy, wedding advice columns wouldn’t be a thing of course. You are completely correct: if the invitation is to Cousin and Spouse, they should not assume their children are invited. I will concede that it seems many people find the concept that if you want to invite someone to a party, you need to do so by name, and if you aren’t invited to a party by name then you can’t come, bafflingly complex. If your cousin responds to ask, politely, if the children are invited, I will attempt to bite my tongue about that. But you are certainly entitled to respond with a gracious version of “No, children aren’t invited.” Since they are your mom’s brother’s kids’ kids, it probably makes sense to also give mom a heads up about this.

Look, some people just like to make drama. I can’t guarantee these cousins you don’t know aren’t the type of people who will simply show up with their uninvited unwelcome children, or that your uncle won’t choose this very moment to decide he can’t possibly function without his entire extended family around him. But I think exceptions to no-kids should be sparing and reserved for people you actually know and care about attending your wedding, and for you, these cousins aren’t.

—Amy March


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