A Case For Inviting Children To Your Wedding

Because cousins are magic

A Case For Inviting Children to Your Wedding | A Practical Wedding

By Anonymous

I am from one of those big, boisterous families where everyone lives on the same street and works together in a litany of family businesses. We have a restaurant where family gatherings from birthday parties to funerals are celebrated with three generations present. It’s beautiful. And I didn’t even know about this until maybe five years ago.

My parents moved an hour away from the town where everyone else lives before I was born, so we weren’t there for any of the birthday parties. My mom and dad would still see the family at weddings, but kids were not invited to the weddings. My mom maintained her close relationship with her cousins on the phone and at the weddings throughout my childhood, but I can’t remember meeting them until I was twenty-five years old.

When I moved back to my home state a few years after I finished college, suddenly I started to be included. Now that I was no longer a child and no longer “out of town,” I got invited to the weddings. Big, boisterous weddings… of people who were strangers to me. But only some of the weddings, because as a second cousin, I’m usually too far down the family tree to make the cut.

Fast-forward to my own wedding planning. Because my fiancé and I are the last people in our social group to get married, all of our friends come with spouses and most of them come with two or three kids. Most of our friends live out of state, so if we don’t invite their children, some of our closest friends may not be able to attend our wedding at all. My fiancé and I are paying for most of the wedding ourselves, and we decided that it was important to us to invite children, both so that our friends would be able to come, and because it seemed incongruous to us to celebrate creating a new family, which will be open to children, with a party that is closed to them.

My mother and I have argued over the guest list, because she wants to invite all of her fifty first cousins. The usual solution in her family is to make up for the extraordinary number of first cousins by excluding children. But because we plan to invite children, we need to limit the number of adults attending to stay within our budget. I just could not understand why my mother fought so hard for us to exclude people with whom we do have a relationship in order to invite more adults that are essentially strangers to me.

Eventually I realized that the cause of this impasse was twenty-five years in the making. Weddings are family reunions. If you don’t invite the next generation to them, you will end up with a generation of cousins who don’t feel connected to one another. My fellow second cousins and I just don’t know each other. We didn’t grow up together, playing tag at our older cousins’ wedding receptions and making faces at each other during long church ceremonies. We’ve got our own families now, so when we do attend weddings, we’re sitting at different tables, instead of all together at a kids’ table. The big, boisterous family that my parents and their cousins now enjoy is not going to be like this anymore in a generation. When our parents are no longer organizing the parties, I doubt that we will remember to reach out to one another. And that’s the close side of my family. The other three sides of my family are not nearly as close.

Kids become part of the family through being included, even if it’s “boring” for them. When all the kids are off together, making noise and being raucous, adults may not like the noise, but the kids are busy forging the bonds that will keep the family together in the next generation. Having an adults-only reception may seem like a good solution in the short term. It’s cheaper, it’s more fun for the adults, and many kids are bored by weddings. But a lot of things that are good for kids and families are boring, expensive, or tedious.

Some of you will probably still not invite kids to your wedding. That can be okay—but if you make that choice, keep in mind what the unintended consequences may be. And make an effort to invite them to the birthday parties, BBQs, and baby showers.

Photo by Lisa Wiseman

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  • Kait

    We struggled with this when planning our wedding too. It gets even more complicated when my family is over four times larger than mine.

    We ended up drawing the line at first cousins – any age. We were limited on space and that made it possible to ensure all of our generation were able to come.

    Great post with interesting perspectives.

  • My mom and I argued about this when planning my wedding too (she was paying, but this wasn’t about budget). I wanted to invite the 4 children of my dad’s 2 cousins who live in California along with all of my husband’s cousin’s children. Her opinion was that children don’t belong at weddings. My position was that I would never have known my dad’s cousins who lived 2000 miles away if we hadn’t been invited to their weddings. I wanted all those kids to know us.

  • Erin

    I can’t imagine not having had children at our wedding. To me, a wedding was a celebration with family and friends – and both of those groups include kids. I mean, it’s the start of a new family, for goodness sake! I /loved/ watching my friends’ kids run around on the dance floor, and it made me think wistful thoughts about when our own baby family would expand.

    I remember weddings as a kid. I remember gaining a sense of what that ceremony meant, of how people acted, of how adults treated this occasion. I feel like it shaped a lot of things that I wanted out of my relationship as I grew up. It is, in my opinion, an important touchstone for kids to be able to attend the ceremonies that mark important events in our lives. How else will they learn to understand those events?Weddings, funerals, showers, parties. As you touch on, their lives shouldn’t begin at 25, or 18, or whenever they finally count as an adult and another milestone hits. Teaching children about these occasions and how to behave during them is an important part of tying them to culture and family and friend groups, and it’s an important part of teaching them about life.

    For me, when it came down to it I was far less attached to a quiet, perfectly-run, no-interruptions type ceremony and reception than I was to the joy that is having all our family and friends able to attend, and the joy that is watching kids be kids.

    • TeaforTwo

      Absolutely! I remember reading something from Miss Manners in which she pointed out that just as eating dinner together as a family every night is how kids learn table manners, attending weddings, funerals, etc. is how they learn to take part in those occasions.

      • lady brett

        i was reading something similar recently about how much more time kids spend with peers than with adults, and it basically said “we let our kids socialize each other for 18 years and then wonder why they aren’t suddenly well-socialized adults at the end of it.”

      • KC

        It seems like some of this is age-dependent, though, right? (speaking as someone who had kids at her wedding [different KC!]; our wedding was structured in a kid-friendly format, so it was easy to make the few extra decisions [no candles unattended during the reception] to make it fine for kids to run around while the parents talked)

        Yes, there’s some continual modeling, but there’s also some “you’ll get to do that/go to that/participate in this when you’re older”. (see: bars, the opera, etc.) I’m not knocking any kid-friendly operas, or, say, matinee performances of the Nutcracker, or kid-friendly weddings, but there are a lot of things where “you’ll get to go to that when you’re *12*, isn’t that exciting!” [or 15 or 18 or 21 or whatever] makes more sense.

        I suppose, I think it’s okay for there to be Adult Only times or occasions, as long as they’re not so all-encompassing that the kids never get practice at not being the continual center of attention and sitting still and being quiet. [which: attention span and physical capabilities are also age-dependent to a degree, so… yeah. I think it’s better to have age-correlated shorter/smaller introductions to How To Act Properly And Enjoy Classical Music and then let the kids free, but that’s me.] And I think it’s fine for some of those to be weddings, as long as the kids are still getting some practice somewhere at how to not be the center of attention. :-)

        • Alison O

          Definitely agree that there are plenty of adult-only events that are “when you’re older” kind of things. Most of them aren’t opportunities for kids to connect with extended family/community members anyway, though, so there wouldn’t be the unintended consequence (using the OP’s words) of not having your kids develop the ties that bind, so to speak, with the people you want them to know well. For far flung families or other extended networks, weddings and funerals are often rare opportunities for everyone to be together.

          As far as structuring events for kids goes, I think the reason some people recoil from the idea of inviting children is that “kid-friendly” for some folks (not responding to how you understood it specifically) has come to mean catering very specifically and overtly to children’s needs, as opposed to just having kids be allowed to be there and not having a format SO scripted and formal and passive that children can’t possibly conform even for short periods of time. It’s like they’re afraid kid-friendly means a wedding that feels like Chuck E. Cheese’s or a Wiggles performance (scary). I am more in the camp of, have a wedding how you want it, and if you invite children, then it’s the parents’ job to adapt things for their kid or not as necessary, or not bring them altogether.

          To your point about candles, I would think that if a child cannot resist messing with them, they shouldn’t be unattended anyway because they will probably find other means of mischief. And if the candles are so precariously placed that they cause an outright child safety concern, they’d also probably be a safety issue for intoxicated guests (dry weddings aside). :-) I like that in the Montessori world, quite young children use real glass cups and (not extremely sharp) knives from a very young age so that they learn to handle things with care and precision and develop their coordination and sense of responsibility. (Of course, this involves a lot of observing to identify when is the right time to introduce a child to the new ‘adult’ thing and then a lot of modeling and explicit instruction and gradually diminishing supervision, not just willy nilly giving kids access to things they’re not familiar with.) If there’s a mishap, it’s unlikely to seriously harm the kid, but it’s more likely to send a strong message about how to handle things than dropping a plastic cup with a spill-resistant sippy lid is.

          • KC

            I noted candles because when I was a kid, I loved playing with candles. (usually while camping) And a lot of fancy clothing is unexpectedly flammable (so, kids who have played with candles before and know how to do so safely play with candles -> kids who have not played with fire before think it’s okay to do -> potential hazard if candles are unattended and not circumscribed). So, knowing that unless they wandered into the kitchen (which: our caterer would have either enlisted them or chased them out, depending on the kid…) or unless they literally pulled a table over (surprisingly hard to do) or built a pyramid of chairs (which they’d be more likely to be noticed doing), there weren’t going to be any major hazards for free-roaming kids. Whereas fire can be an initially-quieter problem. :-) I’m not saying that candles at a kid-containing wedding would be bad, honestly, it’s just that our space was large, there were multiple different groups of people there, and I wanted the kids to be able to run around wherever they wanted to in general and wanted “their” adults to be able to let them as far as possible, so candles on far-flung tables (where there might not be proximate adults) seems like it wouldn’t be a great plan for our space and for the range of ages and responsibility levels and, um, common sense of the kids attending.

            Also, I didn’t care about having candles. So there’s that. :-) I’m sure we could have figured something out if we had particularly wanted candles at the reception, and certainly not meaning to imply that if kids are around, you can’t have candles. It just was one of the safety things that we decided to not have to think about, given our crew. :-)

          • K2

            We didn’t have candles at our wedding, as far as I remember, but the presence of kids wouldn’t have kept them away if I’d wanted them.

            Yesterday I was at an engagement party, complete with a dozen or so kids (from 8 mos up to 12 years) and tea lights in glass candle holders. It didn’t occur to me as a safety hazard, and the only reason I remember was that my cousins (9 and 7) came up to show me “something cool,” where one held ice in his hand, then put his hand over the lid of the lid of the glass and waited until the flame was extinguished, “because your hand is cold and the flame is hot.” We had a little talk about oxygen, they learned something, no one got hurt, and everyone had fun. Kids can handle a lot more than they’re often given credit for.

          • KC

            I’m also a huge fan of the Montessori “give them real things” thing – but part of that is that they are taught how to use and respect the “real things” on a continual basis. If a kid has never interacted with something that isn’t plastic or otherwise unbreakable, they don’t have as many of the movements/assumptions that are needed when interacting with something that is breakable (ditto for kids who have had pets vs. haven’t). So I think keeping an eye out for the lowest-level-of-training/capability when you’ve got a mix of kids from different backgrounds, and being aware of what that may result in (recognizing that a broken plate is definitely not the end of the world!), is maybe a good thing. Again, it’s probably a know-your-crowd thing. :-)

    • Caitlyn Hodges-Morrissey

      Love this! For me, I wanted a boisterous, casual party, so having kids there felt right. I have first cousins who are elementary school age, and I wanted them there. As a queer person, I also loved that my young cousins would get to experience my marriage to another woman- one of the aforementioned young cousins was proudly telling her friends that you can marry a boy OR a girl.

      We did decide to have a kid’s area, which was just a corner of the reception space with a mat on the floor so they could sit and hang out (thanks, preschool director Aunt!), and some toys that the parents in attendance brought. In my experience, this let more of the adults enjoy some break time- the kids could hang out there so they weren’t getting so antsy during long conversations, etc. This was part of the community feel we were going for, and it isn’t for everyone. For us, an aspect of marriage we really wanted to focus on was the way our families are now joined together, and so we wanted as much of our family there as possible.

      As other commenters have stated, I agree that it’s a “know-your-crowd” thing. Will the parents in your group take the kids outside to burn off energy if the kids are getting out of control? And will it bother you if the parents of a young child has to step out during the toasts? Etc.

  • Kelly

    I appreciate your post. My fiance and I don’t have young cousins, but many of our friends have small children (including one family friend with 8 kids). So “family togetherness” wasn’t an issue for us with respect to whether or not to invite children. But it was important to us that the wedding be small, and it grew to a larger size than we wanted (~120) without including our friends’ kids, so including the kids would have put us over the limit at our venue. Our solution has been to include the children at the welcome BBQ/rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. This idea has been well-received – the kids have a chance to feel included in the festivities the evening before, but the parents get to have a night out to themselves for the wedding.

    • rys

      This makes perfect sense to me. I’ve been at many weddings where parents of small children spent the whole time chasing them and didn’t actually enjoy themselves (their words). The argument for kid-inclusion makes sense to me when you’re talking about older kids who can interact with one another without constant supervision and a lot less sense for younger kids who do (in which case providing (or arranging for) a babysitter is great, especially for out-of-town guests as the kids can hang out and the parents can enjoy a night out). Almost all of my friends with small kids have said they’d rather go to a wedding as adults, rather than as parents, so including kids at other events but not the wedding seems pretty win-win to me. And I don’t think there will be any dire unintended consequences.

      (I should note that a) this is pretty much what my family has done — kids start to get invited around age 8-9 — and b) 10-year-olds can be amazing dancers.)

      • Kelly

        Thanks. My friends’ kids are, for the most part, ages 4 and under. I talked with several of my girlfriends with children, all of whom said they would prefer not to have them at the wedding/reception – so I’m pretty confident there are no hard feelings. And, like I said, we’re not excluding any family members in the process. Hopefully a win-win!

      • Alison O

        Kelly’s set up sounds like it would work well. Aside from that, though, if kids are invited to the main event, I think the responsibility is with the parents to anticipate what level of care their children will need, and decide whether it will compromise their experience of the event, in which case they can arrange for the children not to attend. The onus is not on the wedding planners (bride, groom, whomever) to save people from themselves. To me it would be like not serving alcohol at a wedding because some of your guests might drink too much and feel sick/embarrass themselves/etc. If the kids running around or the drunk guests bother the hosts personally, though, then it makes sense for them to be the ones to make the necessary preventative arrangements.

      • “I’ve been at many weddings where parents of small children spent the
        whole time chasing them and didn’t actually enjoy themselves (their

        Shouldn’t you let the parents decide that? Maybe you could gently tell them “Your kids are welcome, but you are also welcome to make it a grown-ups date night and leave your kids home.” It just seems silly to me that people make this decision for their friends and relatives (i.e. not invite kids because the parents wont want the kids there) rather than let the parents make up their own minds.

        If you don’t want kids at your wedding, make THAT your reason, not this other thing.

        • rys

          If I were making the decision, I would own it as mine–I have a number of reasons I doubt I would invite small children to a wedding.

          That said, given the concerns expressed by some that they may be made to feel bad
          for not inviting children, it seems reasonable to point out that there are people who won’t mind being invited sans kids. Likewise, if one is uncertain about the decision, this knowledge might help alleviate some pressure around the choice. Ultimately, it’s a choice for the couple to make, but there’s no reason not to share observations that provide data points — anonymous, web-forum data points, but data nonetheless.

    • Meg

      Yeah I baby sat my nieces for a few weddings my sister went to with her husband, they were much needed nights of fun for young parents!

  • Kat Robertson

    My wedding will definitely be on the kid-heavy side, maybe even to the point where it gets a little crazy. But we are also the last couple in our social group/families to get married, so if we want our friends, cousins and siblings there children are part of the package. I honestly couldn’t be happier about it – Fiance and I both love kids and the idea of wedding-as-family-reunion means a LOT to me since I’ve moved away from everyone!

  • Beth

    We absolutely loved having kids at our wedding and at the event the night before. We also had kidsitters for both of those events. This was, seriously, one of the best investments. I talked with all of the moms before the wedding and the ones with small babies all said that they would prefer to keep the babies with them throughout the night, but the moms with kids (ages 3 and up) were thrilled at the idea of have kid-sitters on hand. We ended up hiring two local brothers (age 19 and 21) who have experience as camp counselors and they were awesome! We also had a quiet room available for moms who wanted to nurse or just have a space to have some quiet time with their baby. We had a changing area in that room since the restrooms at our venue didn’t have changing tables. Everyone was just so comfortable and felt taken care of, which was what we wanted for our guests.

    And the kids also had a blast on the dance floor during the reception. It was really fun to see them having such a good time. With a little pre-planning, having kids at our wedding was everything we hoped it would be.

    • Sarah E

      I just want to give a fist-bump for hiring male childcare-givers :-)

      • Beth

        I have 5 nephews and many of the kids attending were boys, so it totally made sense. And they were adorable and even sat and did some crafts with the kids who weren’t into the running around craziness that my nephews were into. They really were a perfect fit. And they helped with parking in our grass lot, too!

  • Jen

    We are having a lakeside weekend wedding and we have 20 children on our guest list and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The kids at our wedding will be adding so much joy and energy that I know the older generations in my family will appreciate!

  • M is for Megan

    The 25 year span is really well presented! I loved reading this piece after a long bad weekend. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. As usual, I love APW for the many different perspectives it brings.

    My extended family is small, so there haven’t been any weddings in it my whole life yet (we’re first) and we went to all big events (50th anniversaries, graduations if possible, Christmas). But, I lived 500 miles away from the rest my cousins, and definitely was/am not as close to them as they were with each other. Sometimes I feel pangs about that.

    As we’re the first of our generation (family and friends both) to marry, and there are only 2 children invited because that’s all of them that we know/have in our families! I’m glad it’s been so easy with us and I’m very curious how it might be in 5-10 years or so when our cousins start to marry and we have kids.

  • Laura C

    This is awfully convincing (and really lovely), and yet … having kids means having to make 20+ hard choices about the adults on our already too-big list. Having kids means having to fight with my FMIL that yes, my friends’ children who I held as babies while they were still in the hospital, or who I spent days babysitting after their mother died, are as important as my fiance’s cousins. We’re going to have kids at the rehearsal dinner — it’s a backyard barbecue. We’re going to tacitly let some people bring their kids to the ceremony. We’re going to provide a list of local sitters, and we’re going to help families get together to share sitters so that their kids can play together rather than being alone with a sitter. But for us, having no kids was a way to have one fight that kept 20+ off our guest list rather than 20+ individual fights about the people who we couldn’t invite as a result of having the kids.

  • emilyg25

    A kids-free wedding was never an option for us because my husband is a beloved uncle. We didn’t want a formal reception anyway, so it worked out well. It was awesome to see my cousins running around with his nieces and nephews. Two of our young cousins stood to speak during our Quaker ceremony. His little nephew impressed everyone by breakdancing in the middle of the dance floor. Best of all, it felt really good to be a big, inclusive family, and to embrace the craziness that can sometimes come with that. A wedding with children isn’t right for everyone, but it was perfect for us.

  • I think that this post brings up an incredibly important idea, that your guest list may have unintended consequences. My partner was adamant that we invite all of his cousins, even the younger ones, while I could have been happy limiting the guest list to 18+ so I could invite more friends. However, I’m glad that we made the decision to invite all of our cousins; many out-of-town family members will not attend without their children (something we learned from my brother’s wedding), and I remember bonding with my cousins at family weddings when we were little.

    Eventually, no matter how close we stay to our cousins, our families will become too diluted to invite everyone to everything, or to even keep our families as close as they currently are. But I do think that people should think twice about excluding some/all children.

  • mimi

    I totally agree. I grew up far away from my cousins and I’m definitely closer with some now than I am with others. We got married in August and had my nephews and niece (all under 5) in the wedding, along with my husband’s cousin’s daughter. I have two cousins with infants and my husband other cousin has one, so they were all there too. It was fun to see the next generation babies and for them to interact with each other.

  • TeaforTwo

    For us, there was never any question about having kids at our wedding – between us we have six nieces and nephews under 7, and we want them there. If we have those kids, our cousins and friends get to bring theirs. All told, there will be about 20 kids under 10 at the wedding, and it’s going to be…bananas. And totally adorable. (We’re having a daytime wedding, so while some of the kids may be terrors from not having had a nap, it is an easier timeline than if we were planning dinner and dancing late into the night.)

    We only invited a small handful of friends to the wedding (about 4 or 5 each), and leaving kids out would have meant getting to include a lot more big people. But for us, weddings are about family. And our families are big and include a lot of kids. But we hope that one day we’ll have a big family with lots of kids, and so starting out by not having them there wouldn’t have been a good fit.

    (That said: we are absolutely having childcare in another room, to spare the parents from trying to make their kids act like adults, and to spare the kids from sitting through toasts and boring grown-up chatter. And the playing that will happen in that room is how my cousins’ kids are connecting with each other, and figuring out that they, too, are part of a big and boisterous family.)

  • Kayjayoh

    Aside from the fact that my fiance and I are having our wedding in a children’s museum (which seems like a gimme) both of us have family and friends with small children who are super important to us *and* a number of out of town guests who wouldn’t be able to come without babes in arms. The only awkward part is that we don’t even get the venue until 5PM, which means things will go past bedtimes. But the venue is near the hotel and we are providing quiet napping space with pack-n-plays and sleeping bags for when they are tuckered out, and hiring babysitters to mind the youngest during the dinner and entertainment. I’m hoping it all works out.

    • MisterEHolmes

      City Museum in St. Louis, maybe? I’ve heard that’s both a great venue and a really fun place to go!

      • Kayjayoh

        Oh I love City Museum! Not there, though. (I’m pretty sure some of the same designers were involved, but our local children’s museum isn’t quite on that scale.)

  • Jacky Speck

    At the last couple weddings I’ve been to, kids were having even more fun than the adults! At one wedding, I think the dance floor was entirely populated with children (plus my fiance and I, because we’re pretty much just big kids), and there is nothing more adorable than a bunch of kids dancing. Both my fiance and I have tons of kids in our families, and I couldn’t imagine not inviting them to our wedding.

    However, I have a bit of a dilemma: one particular group of toddlers in my family is very, very badly behaved and their parents are not good disciplinarians. These kids can NOT handle themselves in public, and their parents can’t be counted on to make them behave. I’m really worried that if they’re at my wedding, they will not only interrupt the ceremony with crying and screaming, but probably tear the entire place apart while their parents sit back and watch. I know someone else in the family will probably try to control them if their parents won’t, but I don’t want them to ruin THAT person’s fun either. I know the generally-accepted ettiquette rule is to either invite kids or don’t, but I really feel like these kids will ruin the night for everyone and don’t want to unfairly exclude the rest of the kids in our family. I’ve heard “set an age limit” in the past, but unfortunately that won’t work because the oldest child in this group is the same age as other well behaved kids on the guest list.

    I’m considering talking to the parents about their kids’ behavior problems, being totally up front about why I really want them to leave the kids at home for a night, but am wondering if there’s a better way to exclude just one group of problem kids without hurting their feelings? (Edited to correct a spelling error)

    • Gina

      That is really hard, especially because parents that aren’t good disciplinarians are likely to have been called out on it in the past–and that much more likely to be defensive. My best friend’s wedding was disrupted multiple times by a screaming two-year-old whose parents did nothing about it, and it definitely put a damper on things, so I would also strongly advise against taking an “oh well, we have to invite them” approach.

      All I can offer is, in the end, your guest list is your guest list. You choose who to invite. If they ask for an explanation, your “totally up front” approach seems preferable to making up an excuse. Because, at that point, the call has already been made, right? And it might result in some hurt feelings, but it also might be the wake up call they need to realize their children will be excluded from events because of unacceptable behavior.

      • Jacky Speck

        Thanks. I think I will ultimately have to give an explanation, because the parents are likely to bring their kids anyway even if I make it very obvious on the invitation that they’re not invited. They have trouble finding babysitters, so I will offer to help them find one.

        I’ve considered hiring a babysitter to be present at the wedding, but am worried that the parents won’t take advantage of that service, or will only take advantage of it during the ceremony. So it would be much better if they’re not present at all. As much as I’d LIKE to have them there, the kids are really incapable of acting like civilized people (sorry, there is just no better way to put it) in public.

        • Alison O

          Could you suggest to them that they might have more fun if they left the little ones at home? Or could you say that while you love kids, you really value the solemnity of the ceremony space (or something), so you’re requesting of all families with young children that any screaming/running children be removed, and maybe the reception has XYZ expensive/fragile/dangerous things so children will be expected to be supervised very closely (and thus the parents might have a better time if the kids don’t come…).

          • Jacky Speck

            That’s a good idea, but I did already try suggesting that they’d have more fun without the kids. I also tried, “I really want to be able to spend time with you, and it’ll be so much harder if you’re busy looking after the kids!” The mom’s response was that she would rather bring the kids because she thought they would have fun, and that they want to see their cousin (me) get married. Sure, I guess they WOULD have fun destroying everything in their path, but that’s not fun for anyone else… And honestly, the kids are young enough that I really don’t think they would remember seeing their cousin get married!

            I don’t think suggesting that they would have to be under close supervision would work either, unfortunately, because the parents are completely oblivious. I feel really bad saying that, but it’s true. They recently brought their kids to a mini family reuinion at a fancy restaurant. The kids ran amok and were a complete embarassment for ALL of us: trying to rip decorations off of walls, running into waiters who were carrying trays, yelling and screaming the entire time. Everyone in our party either said something about their behavior or took it upon themselves to try controlling the kids, but it was useless. My fiance and I even took the kids outside at one point to calm down. The mom came out to get them and asked what was going on. I couldn’t believe that she didn’t KNOW what was going on, but we explained anyway. Her response was something like “Oh I know, they’re just SUCH a handful.” Understatement of the year??? And she didn’t try to start controlling her own children, even after that. Anyway, my point is that the parents seem completely unaware of their kids’ bad behavior, even though people have said things about it in the past. So I don’t think the threat of “you will have to watch them VERY CLOSELY” will mean anything to them. Even if it does, the parents’ idea of “watching them very closely” is not the same as yours and mine.

          • I’d absolutely use this specific example when you talk to the parents. Instead of saying, “Your kids are badly behaved and you don’t control them,” say, “When I last saw them at the family reunion, they tried to pull decorations off the wall and ran into waiters carrying trays. I don’t feel that I can count on them to behave safely at the wedding. I’d love to see them sometime soon at the park/beach/theme park/other raucus-kid-friendly environment.”

          • Jacky Speck

            Oh yeah, I was on the fence about inviting them before and that particular event was the last straw, so it makes sense to use it as an example. The reason I was on the fence is that the mom told me she’s brought them to weddings before and they behaved, but I can’t verify that because I don’t know anyone whose wedding they’ve been to. And, frankly, I don’t believe it. Every time *I* see them, they act just like at that restaurant. It’s why I never invite them anywhere that isn’t either my own home or a playground.

  • MisterEHolmes

    I’m not a fan of the preachy “invite kids OR ELSE” tone here, but more than that, I don’t like that the burden to deal with kids now falls on the couple getting married (or otherwise the people paying for the wedding). If you invite kids, it’s now an expectation that you provide something for them to do, a watcher or someone or a special kids’ room, plus maybe a changing room or sleep room for the littlest ones. While I’m sure there are those here who truly are that thoughtful on their own, the pressure to provide these kid-amenties has been coming at me, personally, from the WIC — it’s just one more thing to pay for.

    I’m not having kids at my wedding, but that’s not because I’m an ogress; we know only one family with kids old enough to behave themselves with minimal supervision, and they said they’d rather have a parent night. All the other will be babes in arms, and their presence will definitely end the party early or at least stop people from dancing and having fun. So I’m not inviting them. I may still provide a babysitter at a hotel or something, but it grates my gears that it’s presented like a hostage situation: Provide childcare for us or we won’t attend your wedding! It’s frustrating to me that the onus is on the people getting married, that I’m expected to include kids, no matter what.

    • rys

      I don’t think you’re an ogress for not inviting kids. It’s your event, and you get to set the tone, the atmosphere, etc. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to want your friends to celebrate you and celebrate with you sans kiddos for one night. There are kid-friendly events and non-kid-friendly events; it’s ok that your wedding falls into the latter category. It’s unfortunate that some parents won’t come without kids, but they’re making a choice too.

    • Kate

      Totally agree on the preachy tone of the post, which is disappointing for APW. And I agree that including children at the wedding creates a whole new burden for the couple getting married. We are going to provide a list of local sitters, and I think that is sufficient. Personally, my fiance and I do not plan to have children, and while I enjoy them in well-behaved doses, I guess I am an ogress because there is nothing I find more annoying than kids running wild and screaming in what is supposed to be an adult setting. To each their own — but I don’t think including children is the right choice for every couple or every budget.

      • MisterEHolmes

        A list of local sitters is a good idea! I may have to steal that. Then again, infants. I have one qualified sitter in mind already; I’ll have to think of more grown-ups. That’s a much better idea than feeling required to plan their childcare choices for my guests.

      • The article isn’t saying that including children is always the right choice. It’s one case. We never intend one post on a subject to be the “end all be all” advice for weddings, so it’s unfortunate to see reactions as if this article is meant to discount other opinions.

        Still, I find the idea of adult settings really interesting (see my other reply). Mostly I wonder where this shift in thinking came in, where parties or weddings or events that are not specifically centered around children have become thought of as adult or not suitable for kids. It’s just never been that way in my family—the kids learn to entertain themselves in the same spaces where the adults are—so it’s just intriguing to see where people draw the lines at where kids are allowed to be.

        • MisterEHolmes

          I’d like to clarify that I feel that this post alone does discount other opinions — “Some of you will probably still not invite kids to your wedding. That can be okay—but if you make that choice, keep in mind what the unintended consequences may be.” Emphasis added — but I certainly don’t feel APW as a whole represents this view. Just this post.

          • I don’t understand quite what you’re trying to say. I think you’re saying that because the readership does not wholly share this one specific opinion of whether or not to invite kids to your wedding, then we do a disservice by choosing to run this opinion because we’re not catering to the wider views of readers. Which I disagree with.

            To pull from a different example, not all of our readers are feminist, and there are many differing opinions there. But running an article for a specific feminist point doesn’t discount opposing views. It simply brings about discussion, which is the point.

          • MisterEHolmes

            It’s not that it’s a different opinion, it’s the tone of the opinion, which casts the opposing idea (not to include kids) in a negative light by implying that we haven’t thought it through, that there will be “consequences.” I don’t think APW is doing a disservice to anyone, just that the tone is so dramatically different from the kind of inclusive articles I’m accustomed to reading here that I found it surprising and it elicited a more negative reaction.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            You know, I think the thing with weddings is that the wedding industry has conditioned us to believe that there’s only one right way to do things. So when opinion pieces on weddings are presented, the message is that you have to listen to them or else. APW will never be the place where “You must invite kids or else!” will be run. But this is a personal essay, and the author learned an important cautionary tale and wanted to share it with us. We ran this post because the entire staff read it and realized they had learned something from it; in fact even the people who DID invite kids to their weddings felt that this was a side of things they hadn’t considered, and a bigger life lesson to be learned as well. That said, we firmly believe that conflicting opinions can be equally true. It is both possible that not inviting kids to events over the long term dissolves certain bonds, and it’s possible that as Amy March mentions below, that that’s perfectly OK. The point is not to convince anyone of anything, but to get us all thinking critically about stuff that’s usually presented one-dimensionally. We’d happily run post on not inviting kids to your wedding. We’d run a post on only inviting kids to your wedding.

          • MisterEHolmes

            Absolutely, and that’s one of the things I love about APW…and why I found this post surprising in its perceived insistence. The thing is, I actually agree with the general premises! I feel that it is great for kids to get to bond with one another at the rare and uncommon large family gatherings. Kids at weddings can be tons of fun and a good thing all around.

            Unfortunately, my situation makes that untenable, and I felt the conclusion of this piece, in particular, was “tsk tsking” me for not making the choice to include kids.

            As I explained to Lucy, it wasn’t the subject that surprised me, it was the tone.

          • M is for Megan

            “We’d run a post on only inviting kids to your wedding” HA!

          • SwitzerlandForThis

            I wanna see a wedding with only kids in attendance – theres no way that wouldn’t be awesome

          • Katie

            The big issue (for me) is the phrase “It can be okay.” No, it IS okay. I think that’s where many people feel the judgmental tone. My fiancé and I aren’t having kids at our wedding, mainly because we don’t feel the venue is appropriate. (There is a pond & a marsh, and alligators occasionally wander around.) But there are also over a dozen children under the age of 5 in our extended families, and that can get crazy really quickly. I don’t think it’s fair to put the burden of “Kids won’t know how to socialize with adults!” burden on a couple planning a wedding in an already very judgemental WIC culture.

          • Alison O

            I can see how the “it can be okay” line could be read as sort of wishy washy judgmental “um….yeah, maybe that could work…” However, how I read it is that it CAN work DEPENDING on what your goals and priorities are. If your goal is to have a strongly connected extended family, and weddings are the only/primary opportunity for those people to connect, then having weddings without kids is not okay (not like, morally wrong, just not serving your priorities). If having an adults-only wedding for whatever reason(s) is a more important priority than having the strong family connection, then it makes sense (is “okay”) to not invite kids. I found the OP’s personal story to be a helpful example of how people discover their priorities and the unintended consequences of not recognizing them explicitly, in wedding planning or otherwise.

            A kid getting eaten by an alligator at your wedding would make for a great story, though.

        • Kate

          “Some of you will probably still not invite kids to your wedding. That can be okay—but if you make that choice, keep in mind what the unintended consequences may be. And make an effort to invite them to the birthday parties, BBQs, and baby showers.”

          This article is OBVIOUSLY meant to discount the opinion that kids should not be invited to weddings. And it’s making a judgment about other people’s choices — exactly the type of judgments that are often frowned upon on APW. Is it okay to support a bride’s decision to wear pants instead of a dress (a great decision that I can get behind, by the way) but not her decision to exclude children from her wedding? My fiance and I have limited resources, and we have chosen to spend those resources on our close friends and adult relatives who are, in my opinion, far more likely to enjoy a wedding ceremony and reception. I prefer not to be warned about the “unintended consequences” of that decision.

          • As a moderator, I’m going to ask that you please consider your own tone. It is not “obviously” meant to discount the opinion, because that is not the type of content we seek out. It is only how you (and others) have interpreted the tone of the piece.

            I read the last paragraph differently—not as a warning but as an aside. Ie, “Not inviting kids to your wedding is okay, but think about including them in other things, for their sake.” Which is in large part why it was not cut. It didn’t sound preachy or judgmental to me. But that’s a difference in reading, and I am not actively planning a wedding any longer so I have no more stake in the conversation.

            If that’s the way the last paragraph comes across, then I apologize for that miscommunication.

        • rys

          I think MisterEHolmes and Kate clarify why the post implies there is one correct way.

          Kids learn how to conduct themselves by being in particular environments, but I don’t think 2 year olds learn that. “Kids” constitute a range of ages, behaviors, and personalities, and their ability to listen to, absorb, and learn behavioral cues varies (tremendously) accordingly. The particular event matters too — I see a wedding as different from an annual holiday party, even if the latter is mostly an adult event, and if kids are invited to the holiday party, they’ll start to figure out how to behave at adult events. And if they’re not invited, they’ll learn that adults have parties too. I remember watching my parents get dressed up for events I wasn’t invited to, and that’s important for growing up: just as kids need to learn how to behave around adults, so too do they need to learn adults have their own friends and do things with their friends without kids.

          • Alison O

            I actually think 2 year olds can absorb it, but for sure in different ways and smaller amounts, and it’s the parents’ job to manage the situation (and leave if need be).

            I was thinking about different kinds of events, too, but it’s funny because I think we came to sort of opposite conclusions. To me, as the poster and some other commenters shared, weddings are inherently about family, and in many families they fill the role of a family reunion. (And funerals…) Things like holiday parties, Super Bowl parties, work parties, just for fun parties, art gallery openings, wine tastings, etc. are less likely to function as quasi family reunions. So I’d be more apt to have kids at my wedding, but pursue adult-only options by other avenues.

          • Anon

            I like what several commenters have said about the need for kids to learn adult behavior from interactions with adults – I had never thought of that before and agree it makes a lot of sense. HOWEVER, I have unfortunately witnessed the reverse. Often, “adult-oriented” gatherings completely devolve when kids are included. During visits/outings with friends who have kids, the kids’ needs/behavior tend to completely overpower the social dynamics, so that basically all the adults are either tending to the kids or commenting on their behavior/needs. Most of my friends are now parents, and I really miss having uninterrupted conversations with them. Yes, parenthood is a huge part of their lives, and yes, I want to have a relationship with their children. But, there is also a need for adults-only socializing. Like everything else, moderation is key.

        • lady brett

          i think the idea of adult setting came directly from lax expectations for kids’ behavior. so instead of the general understanding that this is a space in which folks need to be polite, it is now a no-kids space.

        • KC

          Historically and geographically and class-wise, there have been shifts between “but of course children are included” and “but of course children are not included” for various events and even portions of life. Since today’s culture is fairly fragmented, I would assume that different people have different intuitions about this and about what ages you start integrating kids, etc.

          (personally – being a different KC than the one above – I was all about having the kids at the wedding, but remembering the specific parts of weddings that I hated as a kid, I snipped those. It worked well, *but* we weren’t having a super-long sit-down formal reception where people had to sit and be quiet for any length of time, and it was not an evening wedding, so there wasn’t a “now all the parents have to leave because of bedtimes” time, either. So, it was easy to have kids there and the kids couldn’t really screw anything up just by being kids [we did choose to not have any lit candles at the reception, though]. It would be different if it was super-formal or if there were very-breakable things or if the presence of kids meant that song selection would need to be… altered, etc. In those cases, then saying “nope, you’re not old enough to stay up and taste your first champagne” seems like a sane option; there are things you are introduced to when you’re older.)

          I’d also note that this would be a good reason to have non-wedding family reunions; lower expectations [sandwiches and a park would be okay!] and also getting to mash everyone together without worries about whether so-and-so will get inappropriate-for-children-to-hear after a couple glasses of wine, or whether the kids will break things, etc.

      • Alison O

        Well, I would say your wedding, as you intend it, “is supposed to be an adult setting”, which is fine–like you said, to each their own. Weddings are not adult settings a priori. If anything that seems more like a WIC-promoted idea because fancy glam events for adults are more likely to run up a high bill. (That’s not to say that fancy glam events can’t be a great time.)

        Also, I’m curious, have you had invitees requesting/demanding a list of sitters, or is it more of a vague pressure you feel to provide it? The only scenario in which helping my guests in this way would make any sense to me is if I had children of my own and were hosting my wedding close to home and thus would have a reason to be able to recommend sitters. I love children, but it’s not my job to take care of others’ (although it used to be–I taught first grade :-)). I think you are generous to be going out of your way to help the parents among your guests out!

        • Kate

          It’s not going to be a “fancy glam” event. It’s a brunch wedding at a restaurant followed by a rather bare bones after party at a brewery. So no, not fancy glam, and we are not trying to run up a “high bill” but instead stick to a reasonable budget and a small guest list, which is one reason we’re not including kids (and based on other comments, that seems to be a common motivation for a kids-free wedding).

          I am providing the list because I thought it was courteous thing to do, although we only have two out-of-towners with kids, and they both may decide to leave them at home. This list was created by my friends with kids who live in the city where the wedding is being held.

    • I think mileage varies on this topic, but this is only *one* case for inviting kids to your wedding, *one* perspective. It’s not meant to cover every instance, such as if you only have one or two kids in the family. It’s meant to showcase how sometimes, for extended family, weddings do double-duty as reunions, and how that can affect the younger generation when they aren’t invited. In the case of myself (and you, if I read correctly), my sister’s 1 and 2 year olds were the only kids that would have been at the wedding, so it just made more sense for them to stay with her mom-in-law, for her sanity that weekend. It’s just a different case, you’re not an ogress (though it’s a fun word).

      As far as the kid amenities at weddings go, I will say I dislike that, on a wider scale, there seems to be this unspoken obligation to provide children with their own activities that separate them from the adults at events, or during holidays, etc. It’s one thing to have kids sit at their own table during a meal, but it’s quite another to isolate them to a playroom or a “kid friendly” area until they suddenly graduate from those spaces into the adult world. Then they’re in this entirely new environment with no idea how to act in it, because they’ve been kept completely separate from it in most instances. I think in a lot of cases these days, we isolate children from adults and then become frustrated when they don’t act like adults in social settings. How do they learn? Those are just my wider thoughts, this morning.

    • Alison O

      That’s interesting. I have not found that to be true at any of the weddings I attended. The responsibility for caring for any children parents brought rested solely on the parents. Parents who didn’t want to take care of their own children made their own arrangements to leave them with other relatives or babysitters who weren’t attending the wedding, whether at home or closer to the venue, if it was out of state.

    • Eh

      I haven’t been to any weddings where they have a “watcher” or a kids’ room or a sleeping room. At our wedding we gave each child an activity book (I made it on my computer based on one from a friend’s wedding) and a box of crayons (this kept them entertained during supper) but this was not an expectation of my family or friends. Also, our centre pieces were board games so we had kid friendly ones at tables withkids (I heard that there was a mean game of snakes and ladders at one table). I was at a wedding where there was a kids’ activity area but that was just toys and games at the back of the reception hall (the couple had kids so it was toys that they already owned and not an additional expense.

    • lady brett

      is that really a thing? good lord, i thought that as a parent my kids were my responsibility. if i take them to an event, i know damn well what i’m getting into (that being probably a lot more fun and a lot more work than staying home – and the knowledge that if they can’t keep up the expected behavior we can’t stay, the end.).

      though i will say, it’s not a hostage situation, it’s just a reality of parenting: sometimes childcare is simply not an option, and if i can’t get childcare and my kids aren’t welcome, my only choice is to stay home. it’s not personal, it’s just a fact. (edited to add: i’m not saying this to imply you need to invite kids – that’s a totally valid personal decision either way.)

      • MisterEHolmes

        Sorry, to clarify, it’s not the parents who I feel make the wedding more of a hostage situation: it’s articles from non-APW wedding sites that make me feel like I’m over a barrel.

        And yes, the weddings I’ve seen and attended lately have all gone out of the way to provide kid-friendly areas with babysitters (so those kids are arguably attending a different “wedding experience” from their parents, anyway!). And several venues pointed out their places that “would be great to keep the kids occupied.” I am labeling this a Thing.

        • lady brett

          with a capital “t.” yikes! =)

      • Kathleen

        Agreed. It never occurred to me to have an adults-only wedding (because my 5 year-old cousins are just as cool and just as much a part of my family as my 35-year-old cousins, and I want to celebrate with them just as much), but it also never occurred to me to do provide anything out of the ordinary to cater to them. They can sit quietly at a table when necessary, or run around playing when possible, or leave the room if they have to, or dance like crazy on the dance floor – pretty much just like all the adults in attendance.

        (And I gave some thought ahead of time to which of them might end up in the Hudson River, given our venue’s location. But the parents of those who might have knew as well as I did what their kids were prone to, and parented them, and no one went swimming.)

    • M is for Megan

      I will say simply that I think it’s important to draw a distinction between “How we did it and what we think about it,” and “You must do this,” — I am definitely guilty of feeling defensive sometimes when I read someone’s opinions that differ so greatly from mine. The author here has strong feelings (and a good personal example to back them up!) but ultimately it is each person’s choice, end of story. I don’t find, “Hey, consider this!” to equal “Invite Kids Or Else.” This specific story is just another facet that many people (myself included) may not have thought about.

      Your wedding is not an imposition, as Alison O. below/above, points out. It’s frustrating to feel like that stuff is coming at you from the WIC, and I’m sorry you’ve dealt with that. But…even if you wanted to invite kids, you wouldn’t have to provide that stuff if it’s a hardship for you. Your adult guests are adults, and can cope as they need to (regardless, I’d say, of what they feel entitled to.)

    • I think the pressure to provide special stuff for the kids is absurd. Yes, our venue has rooms upstairs that we can use for nursing moms/sleepy kids/etc, but that was purely a bonus and definitely not a must-have (the other place we loved didn’t have any sort of extra space and the *only* reason we ruled it out was the price). I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding that provided babysitters or special kid activities to keep them occupied, and you know what? People dealt with it. A wedding invite is like any other invite–figuring out what to do with your kids falls on the parents.

      That being said, I don’t think the “having kids there will prevent people from having fun” argument is 100% fair either. Mainly because I don’t think that’s a call anyone but the parents can really make. If you don’t want to invite kids because you think they’ll be rowdy or misbehaved little monsters, or you’re hosting a very formal event, ok, I get that. But to say “I won’t invite your kids because then you won’t have fun” seems a little presumptuous to me.

      Also, even though I may disagree with the thought process, no, I don’t believe you’re an ogress. Ultimately it is up to the hosts to set the tone for their event.

      • Gina

        “But to say ‘I won’t invite your kids because then you won’t have fun’ seems a little presumptuous to me.” Exactly. We had guests whose children were invited choose to hire a sitter instead because they wanted it to be a night for just the two of them. I don’t think inviting kids forces guests to bring them!

      • Kayjayoh

        If I were the sort that felt “judged” by random internet comments, this type in this thread would probably do it. :D Fortunately I’m not that type and am not taking it personally. However, I’d like to explain my logic, in case someone else is in a similar situation.

        The way I see it, for me the children are not just the kids of my guests, they are also guests themselves. We are specifically inviting kids, and I want to see to their comfort and enjoyment as well. The older kids will have the run of the place. The five and under will have the run of a smaller area that is more geared for them in scale and in scope. There will be a few college-age minders, in order to help keep things working properly, because one of the things guests that young need is supervision. There will be resting areas because small children aren’t likely to be awake until 11 and a comfy place to rest is easy to provide. But they aren’t being kept segregated, because there is also a lot of reasons for the older guests to wander to that area. Nor will anyone give the side eye parents who bring their younger children to other parts of the reception.

        I’m not doing this because of WIC. I’m not doing this because anyone pressured me to. I’m not doing this because I don’t think parents should be responsible for their own kids. I’m doing this because these children are all part of my world, part of the people I love, and part of what is important to me. And since I insist on being able to have them there, I will be sure to provide for their needs as tiny guests.

        • MisterEHolmes

          It is absolutely fantastic that you have the means and heart to include kids in your celebration. Sounds like it will be a fun time.

          Re: my being presumptuous, it’s fine to disagree. In fact, I hope I’m wrong. But in the last wedding I attended, the mom (never the dad, grumble) of a young child had her kid in her arms for the entire wedding. It did kill her ability to interact, have an adult conversation, or dance. So maybe it’s selfish of me (I’ll own it!), but I want my adult guests to do ALL those things at my wedding because it makes things more fun for me (I don’t want to dance alone!), ..so I’m not inviting their kids.

          • Kayjayoh

            Well, the tiny kid in arms thing is another reason I’m having minders…I want to provide for my tiny guests and my tiny guests’ adult counterparts. :)

            As for “having the means” is it mostly about setting our priorities. *This does not mean other people need to do this.* Having kids there was a priority for me. Having a fancier sit-down dinner, a dj or a band, lots of flowers, etc were not. We aren’t spending a lot of money on our wedding (as weddings go) but we are choosing to spend it in different ways and on different things.

            I certainly see reasons for both having and not having kids at weddings. I see this post as being for the folks who are on the fence. Maybe they would like kids at weddings, but they haven’t been to weddings with kids and they think it just isn’t done or that it will be a problem. I don’t see this post as being a lecture for people who don’t want kids at the wedding, any more as I see the posts about the joys of having kids as a lecture for people (like me) who aren’t.

        • Alison O

          I think your explanation of not doing it for the WIC makes sense. This is how you want your event to go, and this is the kind of hospitality you are glad to show to your guests, big and small. When people make these arrangements for children really begrudgingly or resentfully, though (which I’ve seen happen), I think is when they might do themselves a favor by analyzing where the pressure is coming from to do it, and possibly not proceeding or changing their approach.

        • Honestly, I really not trying to sound judgey, so I’m sorry if I came across that way at all, to anyone. I think it’s totally valid for the bride and groom to decide that they either want to invite kids or not. If people invite kids and *want* to go above and beyond, awesome! I just don’t think people need to feel pressured into going above and beyond, since in my personal experience most kids seem to enjoy themselves regardless, but that may be a “know your crowd” situation.

          Alternatively, if they decide to not have kids that’s totally ok as well, but if their *only* reason is because they don’t think the parents will have fun, I don’t think that’s really their call. I don’t think they’re a jerk for using that logic, I just don’t think it’s the best argument for not inviting kids.

    • Kayjayoh

      Well, to be fair, a *true* ogress would be certain that there were children at her wedding. Of course, they would be on the menu with a sauce Robert, but still…. :)

      • MisterEHolmes

        “oooh, your baby is so cute! I just want to eat him right up!” Om Nom NOm NOM!!

        • Kayjayoh


    • Holly

      As a mother – and a bride (soon to be wife in less than a week) I felt absolutely no pressure to provide daycare or baby changing station or any of that other stuff. I would not expect it at a wedding either. My son is 11 and says he doesn’t dance. Did we feel the need to provide other entertainment so he could enjoy the wedding and the reception? No. Did we plan our wedding with kids in mind? Nope. We did provide a buffet so everyone could eat their hearts out, ice cream (my family is allergic to gluten), music, and family. Our wedding is also an evening wedding so it’s going to be semi-fancy.

      As someone who was invited to nearly every wedding as a child, I fondly remember weddings because we got to dress up, we got to dance, and depending on how late it got – run around without shoes on, eat food (sometimes a good amount) and there was always cake (didn’t know I was allergic until a few years ago). Was there “other” entertainment? No. Was I expected to behave? Always.

      Why are we treating people like they lose their minds when they get invited to a wedding?! I’m
      completely confused why we feel the need to entertain or provide these things for guests. I assume that parents are capable of finding their own babysitters if they want them. I do not need to provide a list. I also assume they have diaper bags and know that the items they would need that go in them if they are going out in public. These are things parents think of prior to going out in public in any other situation. And children should be able to figure out how to sit still for a wedding ceremony (they do it in class, or church if people go), and they should be able to have decent table manners (they go out to eat with their parents sometimes, right? Or perhaps their parents eat with them at night?). If they are too little and might fuss, then the parents can show up after the ceremony if they want. Then again, perhaps I am assuming too much. I’m looking at that part as a mother and how I would behave and expect my son to behave (including his younger years). A little over 25% of our guests are children (under the age of 18). I expect that their parents will act like parents if they intend to bring their children and make sure they don’t knock stuff over or completely ignore their offspring. I expect the kids will behave when they are supposed to and I expect that they will have a good time. They should expect a wedding, food, music, and ice cream from us.

      P.S. If you don’t trust little fingers around open flame, get the LED battery lights and resell them later if you want.

      • MisterEHolmes

        A girl yesterday in church, maybe in 2nd or 3rd grade?, used the back of a church pew as a ballet bar, putting her naked dirty feet all over to top/back. And her mother was right next to her as she did so during a prayer. Shockingly inappropriate behavior! While that family isn’t invited to my wedding anyway, not all parents can be relied upon to make sure their kids behave.

        • Holly

          I guess that’s where you need to know your guests (know your audience?) and see if it’s appropriate to invite kids. I feel like that’s what this post was trying to say, in a roundabout way. For our family it works. It might not work for everyone. I’ve learned that expectations are usually met if you clearly state them to people. Also I would have said something to that mother and probably been slightly nasty about it. I’ve done it at restaurants, and other places in public. Yeah, I’m “That Lady.” (I’ve had other names replace “lady” before too.)

  • Caroline

    We always were going to invite kids. I’ve never been to a wedding without kids, and can’t imagine it. We both adore kids, and as a child, I loved weddings. Running around with my cousins and the cousins from the other side was part of what made the new in-laws feel like family. Plus, the dancing, loved that as a kid.

    I’m just sad we will have so few kids at the wedding. Somewhere between 3 and 10, because we are marrying in our early 20s and a lot of our friends are starting to marry but not having kids yet.

    I just love having kids running around having fun, whether at synagogue, at dinner parties, whatever. It’s one of the reasons I want a big family. They add so much joy, and I can’t imagine not having that energy at the wedding, plus the delightful little ones we adore.

  • Gina

    Thisthisthis: “Weddings are family reunions.” Excluding children was never an option for us, just because we believe in inviting families rather than individuals. I understand that people who aren’t close to their friends/family members children or who don’t like children in general might not feel the same way, but for us it added so much richness. My extended family doesn’t get together that often and I was so honored that everyone came out for our wedding. I remember vividly attending my older cousin’s wedding when I was about 10 and the impression it made on me, so to dance with that cousin’s 7-year-old daughter at my own wedding was such a joy.

    For those concerned about the expense: Ask your caterer if they will cut you a deal on kids. Our caterer originally said “no charge for kids under 5” and I got him to agree to charge us half price for kids 5-10. :)

    • Kat Robertson

      I definitely love caterers who will give you a break on the cost of kid’s meals. My caterer is charging us nothing for babies/toddlers and all kids under 12 are 1/5 of the price of adults. That definitely helped encourage my “bring on the little ones” attitude!

      • Lindsey d.

        Your caterer would be surprised by my 8-year-old nephew, who recently out ate his 6’4″ father at an all you can eat steak place. He regularly eats more than his dad (and has about 3% body fat to show for it. Ah, the metabolism of the young and athletic).

        • Kat Robertson

          Haha, yeah, I definitely know some adults who eat a lot less than kids in full growth-spurt mode!!! Especially when the time comes for dessert and a lightly supervised cake table…

    • Eh

      There was no question we were going to have kids at our wedding but it helped that the caterer we used doesn’t charge for kids under five and charges half price for kids 5-12.

  • KC

    I found this essay to have an unnecessarily ominous tone. My spouse and I love all the children in our family, but we had an adults-only reception because we felt it was more appropriate for our personalities, the venue, the tone of the meal and the music, etc. Mostly all our parent-friends and family arranged for childcare to be able to attend, and many commented on the opportunity/excuse for nice adult night away. Kids at the wedding, no kids at the wedding – it’s a different theme and a different type of celebration, and they can both be awesome. Why only those not inviting children have to consider the “unintended consequences” seems kind of curious to me.

    • rys

      Yep. Perfectly reasonable to choose not to have kids, and I don’t think anything terrible will come of it. Frankly, if I were planning a wedding today, it’s the choice I would make too.

      • Kate

        Completely agree.

    • Reposting this from below. I read the last paragraph differently—not as a warning but as an aside. Ie, “Not inviting kids to your wedding is okay, but think about including them in other things, for their sake.” Which is, in large part, why it was not cut. It didn’t sound preachy or judgmental to me. But that’s a difference in reading, and I am not actively planning a wedding any longer so I have no more stake in the conversation, which is probably why I came at it differently.

      If that’s the way the last paragraph comes across, then I want to apologize for that miscommunication. This isn’t meant to scare readers into inviting kids.

      • KC

        I don’t think your intention was for anyone to feel badly by running this post.

        A suggestion might be, when publishing a passionate “do it this way” argument (which – in my opinion – this post became when it switched to the second-person narrative at the end) to include another essay from the “other side” along with it. That way those who are already actively planning their childfree wedding don’t finish reading and feel panicked that they’re doing something wrong.

  • Kid free was never an option for us either. We have 6 nieces and nephews (ranging from 5 years old to 8 months at the time of the wedding) and a lot of other family and friends with small children (plus, about 90% of our guest list is from out of town). One of the reasons we even love our venue is because we have the run of a small mansion, including some quiet rooms upstairs that would be perfect nursing mothers or sleepy kiddos.

    I mentioned to my sister that we were debating about trying to include her older kids in the ceremony (they’re super bubbly so we thought they’d enjoy being involved) and she warned me that you have to be prepared for *anything* when wrangling pre-schoolers. Yeah, I get that, but I’ve also never seen a wedding ruined by a flower girl freak out. At my cousin’s wedding her sister was MOH and sister’s son was the ring bearer. Well, her son had a *complete* meltdown when his mom started walking down the aisle, chased after her. attached himself to her leg and she had to drag him the rest of the way down. And you know what? People laughed, the wedding continued as planned, and that kid will have embarrassing photos of himself like everyone else in the world.

    • Caroline

      Yeah, I’ve been to weddings like that. The little kid walking down the aisle freaked out, and the parents carried them down the aisle. Everyone laughed lovingly then the wedding continued. I get that for some people, kids might not be the energy they want at their wedding ( a previous poster mentioned not enjoying when kids are running around being loud and slightly disruptive.) but I love having kids around, even when they are loud and disruptive.

      • Also in our case, our guest list is mostly family so I see it like any other big family get together. My aunts and uncles will be crazy (and probably drunk), the kiddos will be running around having fun–it’s just what happens. We really don’t have “quiet family dinners” with my relatives and in all honesty my aunts will probably be rowdier than the toddlers. Ultimately I think it depends on what sort of atmosphere you’re used to at events.

  • BD

    Although this post gives a great argument for inviting kids to weddings – I can’t say any of it is wrong – I do believe that inviting kids should depend on the couple getting married. We definitely invited kids to our wedding (my nieces were part of the bridal party, and several of our friends/family could not have attended if they could not bring their children with them). But we also had a small wedding, with a short and sweet ceremony and the casual reception was outdoors where they couldn’t have destroyed anything, or screamed too loudly to bother anyone. I can understand why a couple having a formal wedding with a longer ceremony and many more invitees wouldn’t want to invite kids, and I couldn’t blame them for it.

  • EF

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not having kids there — it’s all about your personality, too. My fiance and I are very adamant that not only are we never having kids (both of us feel so strongly about not wanting kids, it was brought up on the second date, as a ‘if you want kids that’s fine, but let’s not waste each other’s time then), but we’re just not fans of them. We work jobs where we are never around children, and are the kind of people that would pay extra to be in a ‘kids-free’ zone of an airplane.

    My older siblings all have children, multiple — I have 12 nieces and nephews. I talked to my siblings early on to discuss children coming, which is somewhat complicated by the fact I live overseas. And at least in this case, my siblings are all happy to travel without their kids. One sister is looking at it as a vacation, the first time in 10 years of marriage that she and her husband will get to have time together without children.

    We’ll also have tons of free-flowing booze and a killer party, but not one that kids would enjoy. And that’s fine. My sisters had children at their weddings and liked it, especially a little ring-bearer, but I’m not traditional enough for that anyway.

    Usually APW isn’t as preachy as this article, which is one reason I keep returning to the site. It’s often a ‘look, here’s one way to do things, but your way is cool too!’ rather than this article’s tone. So I’m a tad disappointed, and maybe I’ll take some heat for not wanting kids around, but I seriously doubt that I’ll regret it.

    • M is for Megan

      I definitely don’t think you will take heat! Your wedding sounds like it will be a rad party that’s not right for kids. Totally cool, and best decision for you. The core of APW to me has always been “do what’s best for you,” and we expose each other to the different sides, and maybe argue a bit, but not to judge. And as I consider APW a magazine-style blog with myrid contributors, I think strong opinions are totally fine (on both sides) and to be expected, and it’s well to remember that one person’s article is their opinion, and not a website-wide espousal of Must.

  • hey nonny nonny

    I actually disagree on principle (and fairly vehemently) that weddings are inherently family reunions. Certainly, in a lot of families’ traditions they become a makeshift family reunion, but at least for us, our wedding is about celebrating our union with only our nearest and dearest. But then, I’m also not one who believes that blood ties are any more important or worthy than the ties you choose. (I’m even more vehement about this belief.)

    Admittedly, that HAS been a source of some struggle with our guest list — because while my fiance has the same views, let’s just say that the Latin American side of his family, uh… doesn’t. That’s a big cultural difference that we are trying to honor as much as possible and as much as we feel comfortable with. Ultimately though, the day my partner and I declare our commitment to each other within our already established community isn’t the time for us to try to connect with, say, my cousin who lives 400 miles away whom I’ve spoken to 5 times in my life. Honestly, if we aren’t willing to pick up the phone and call each other on a regular basis or try to establish a relationship before and after big family events, why should my wedding be the time to do so? Obviously this is just me and if you want to use your wedding as the time to reconnect or connect for the first time, more power to you. It’s just not for me and I don’t feel like I’m doing it “wrong” for not buying into that.

    However, I do agree that having kids at weddings is delightful. In that sense, it is a big celebration of your community down to the smallest members. I’m definitely having kids at my wedding and I look forward to it! Plus kids are so cute on the dance floor.

    • M is for Megan

      “But then, I’m also not one who believes that blood ties are any more important or worthy than the ties you choose. (I’m even more vehement about this belief.)”

      Fresh off an argument with SIL where she insisted family trumps friends always (ummm, no), I say: hell yes.

    • “But then, I’m also not one who believes that blood ties are any more important or worthy than the ties you choose. (I’m even more vehement about this belief.)”

      Hell yea. Fistbump to that.

    • hey nonny nonny

      And I feel like I should note that I know it can be frustrating for writers to constantly have to pad all of their writing with things like, “Weddings are family reunions. …Unless they aren’t for you and your family, which is totally cool, this is just my opinion.” Obviously, by writing an opinion piece, you are sharing your opinion! I realized that acknowledgment wasn’t clear in my comment, so I feel like I should add it. I still personally totally disagree that weddings = family reunions, but I know APW wouldn’t publish a piece that truly makes absolute declarative statements…at least not without room for healthy, productive disagreement/debate. :)

    • Alison O

      I would agree that weddings aren’t inherently family reunions, but I do think they’re inherently about family because that’s the point of getting married, is to make the person your family (legally/officially, though I would respect as a family any group of people who want to call themselves family regardless of relation or number of partners or legal status, etc.). And as you explain, it is totally RAD that the person is not blood-related (usually…there’s an example of cousins a few generations back in my family with interesting results…) and you get to hand pick them! So I would say marriage (of one’s independent will) is the ultimate statement that the ties you choose are just as important as those you don’t, and both can be family.

      Not specifically in response to your post… I understand the post as saying, if there are people you care about that you want your children to be connected with, now or someday in the future, your kids need to actually experience that community and interact with those people, and weddings might be your best shot at that if they are unique opportunities to have everyone from far off places in the same place at the same time.

      • hey nonny nonny

        Oh, I agree. But the typical idea of a family reunion (and I think certainly in the writer’s opinion) usually means a big joining of one’s extended blood family. I just personally don’t have any connection to a pretty large number of my extended family and I’m okay with that… to the point that I would actually be resentful if anyone tried to force me to share an extremely intimate day with them because it’s ‘what is done’ or because ”Brad hasn’t seen your Uncle Michael in AGES and this is the perfect time for everyone to get together!! …Oh, Brad is Minny’s son. …Minny! You remember Minny!’

        Again, if others want to involve everyone connected to them by either blood or friendship or anything, great! But my partner and I tend to be very private, particularly about our relationship, and very choosy about our close relationships, so that probably colors my views as well.

        But I really like your interpretation of the post and LOVE the idea of a wedding being the ultimate affirmation of chosen bonds. Both of those ideas actually a big part of our planning philosophy and why we are including kids. We’re just not including random kids, ha. :)

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Fistbump. If I have to hear “blood is thicker than water” one more time in my life, I may explode.

      • Incognito

        Agreed. It seriously trivializes those of use who have bad relationships with our families. I consider many of my friends to be better family than my actual family ever was. There was no way they’d get the cut to be replaced by family members I don’t care about.

        • Emma

          Definitely. I’m not at the stage of planning my wedding yet but I’ve known for years that on my side there will only be one blood relation invited (my mum).

      • Fun fact: the original “blood is thicker than water” phrase meant more that those with whom you have shed blood with/for is a stronger bond than those whom you shared the same womb/family (water). It wasn’t until the 1800’s that it got switched around to mean that family was more important than non-family. History!

        • Elizabeth

          THAT is fascinating, and I *love* it

    • Laura C

      Yes! I’ve been to a couple family reunions. They were filled with people I barely knew and with whom I had little in common. That’s actually not what I want for my wedding…

    • Completely agree. The “weddings are family reunions” line really jumped out at me because I’ve specifically said a few times that weddings are NOT family reunions. I mean, for some families, they might be (and if you can afford that/choose to prioritize it, great!) but I don’t think it’s fair to put the responsibility for hosting family reunions on the new couple. I was actually left wondering why the author’s parents/aunts/uncles etc. didn’t just have family reunions so the cousins could get to know each other.

  • Sara Downey


  • Lindsey d.

    While I get the OP’s point, I think it should be couched as “children of the family.”

    My nephew and two nieces, who are in the wedding are explicitly invited to the party, and the reception. Neither my fiance nor I can imagine getting married without them there and I’d hate to exclude them from the party, which is daytime anyway.

    I’ve already told our friends with small children (only one couple) that kids aren’t invited and they are looking forward to a kid-free party. However, I will probably implicitly invite the five children of three out-of-town first cousins who probably wouldn’t be able to make the trip without their kids. The only warning is that the kiddos will likely have to sit on their parents’ laps during the ceremony, since we are already pushing it on guests :: seats.

    I have no problem telling friends to leave their kids at home, but I don’t think I could say no to family members, especially if it means the difference in their attendance. You know, it’s only five kids, maybe we’ll just officially invite them anyway….

    • MisterEHolmes

      Do you think the couple who left their kids at home will have hurt feelings when they arrive to see the kid-free wedding isn’t at all kid-free?

      • Lindsey d.

        No, they had arranged a babysitter before they even asked (five months out) and are thrilled to get out of the house. They know my nieces and nephew will be there and I would have no problem mentioning that the other kids were there because it was that or not have their parents there. My friends are friends for a reason — they will understand and not be hurt.

        • MisterEHolmes

          So important to know your audience! I asked because I was afraid of stumbling in to that.

  • Amy March

    I had a somewhat similar experience. My mother has 75 first cousins, but when I was 4 we moved across the world (it surprises me you didn’t make the one hour trip back more often because that seems so easy compared to 30 hours) and as a result have no relationship with my extended family. And it’s . . . pretty okay? We have tons of aunt/uncle like family friends to have those kinds of relationships with, and zero holiday pressure. In my immediate circle, weddings are adult affairs. Us kids built relationships on holidays, summer beach days, camps together etc. It’s true that kids who don’t have those bonding experiences with cousins probably won’t form those kinds of bonds, but a) that doesn’t mean they need to be at weddings, and b) there’s no especially need for the people close to you to be extended family, as long as you have people to love you.

    • Lena

      I was surprised the author didn’t make that trip more often either! All of my family growing up lived no more than 2 hours away, and we got together at least once a month or so for birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, the holidays, a random visit. There’s a lot more going on here than whether or not to have kids at your wedding.

      • Kestrel

        It’s particularly interesting as to how far is too far for some people. I grew up on the other side of the state from my extended family. Because they all could get to each others houses within a 10 minute drive, the 2.5 hours we had to drive was obscene to them. They would never think of asking us to drive SO FAR! to come to birthday parties, etc.

        And then there’s me who currently goes to school 9 hours away from my parents and 8 hours away from my SO. A 4 hour drive is absolutely nothing to me and I do that kind of thing fairly regularly just for the heck of it.

        • Kathleen

          My whole family mostly lives within 20 minutes of each other on the East Coast, and see each other all the time, but I have one aunt who lives in Idaho. I went to Salt Lake City in HS on a class trip, and when she found out after the fact, she told me I should have told her I was going to be “nearby” and she’d have drive down to see me, which seemed CRAZY. It’s a 5-hour drive! We were coming at it from completely different perspectives – I guess when it usually takes a full day’s worth of connecting flights to get cross-country to see any of your family, a 5-hour drive doesn’t seem like much?

    • z

      I’m surprised too– just an hour in the car and you missed *all* the birthday parties? Heck, plenty of people spend an hour in the car twice a day just commuting! I drive my kid 5 hours to see her cousins and sure, it kind of sucks, but I think it’s totally worth it. Maybe there’s something else going on here?

      I have no problem with either kid-ful or kid-free weddings, and I do agree with a lot of the points the OP made, but it just doesn’t make sense to pin the lack of relationship on the weddings when there are so many other opportunities to get together, even if it’s not all as one huge group. Lack of family relationships is a consequence of many people’s choices over many years, not just of the kid-free weddings.

  • Hope

    I love this piece. We give our kids a gift when we make them attend family events they may not enjoy, if the alternative is realizing at 21 that you don’t have real relationships with extended family. Thanks for helping us think about the big picture, and the long-term.

  • KT in KC

    It’s very, very interesting how readers respond to this post from both sides of the argument. Personally, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to this issue at all. Inviting or not inviting children to a wedding a completely personal, individualized choice based on a variety of factors: the bride-and-groom’s preferences, family traditions, family relations, wedding styles, etc.
    At my wedding, I did invite children because it worked for me and my husband, and all our families and friends. We wanted our wedding to be a big family event – yes, a “family reunion” – and it worked. We had a formal ceremony and a formal sit-down dinner – and I even made “kids’ kits” for the little ones if they got bored at any time – but we also had plenty of drinking and dancing and partying. We left everyone to celebrate our marriage their own way – some parents with children left at bedtime, others let their children party all night long with them. Nothing “devolved” into a kid-oriented event. It was still our wedding, and whatever their choices, from what I heard, every guest had an incredibly awesome and memorable time. And that was what mattered most to me and my husband.
    However, I’ve also been to weddings that have excluded children. As a guest, I haven’t resented them one bit, or felt insulted, or stopped myself from attending. That’s the bride and groom’s choice – it works for them, it’s their party, and they can exclude children if they want. I completely respect that, and I don’t think any less of them for it, and my husband and I still have a great time celebrating with them.

  • Alexandra

    I got married this Saturday, and we invited all the kids to our wedding. We sat them with their parents and made sure the tables contained both families at them, and my mother-in-law made these amazing gift bags filled with goodies for everyone under 13. Some of my most memorable moments were talking to my 6 year-old second cousin about her new friend, my husband’s 4 year-old second cousin, and hearing about how much the older girls loved their fuzzy notebooks and markers.

  • NTB

    I’m a children’s librarian, so incorporating children into our wedding was a natural decision. It’s a personal choice for each couple, but for me…I wanted our wedding to be as child-friendly as possible. Many of my cousins are new parents, and I knew that it would be financially harder for them to pay a babysitter $50 than it would be for them to bring their kids and leave a little on the early side. We had games and special crafts for kids at our wedding, and I don’t regret it. The photos are so cute and they made great gifts for extended family. Every couple and wedding is different though. Sometimes, it just makes sense to exclude kids for practical reasons. I see benefits to both choices.

    • NTB

      I should also add that having kids at a wedding is a really personal decision. It added an extra layer of cost that I felt guilty about because I was, admittedly, not the only one footing the bill for our wedding. Just like lots of other wedding decisions, there are pros and cons, and people should not be made to feel guilty or shamed either way. I was such a guilty bride and I second-guessed a lot of decisions I made. Looking back, I wish I would have paid more attention to the bigger picture. I would have been happier. Do what works for you, and people will understand either way. :)

  • JackieD

    I liked this post. I, for one, am glad someone said something along these lines. Weddings ARE family reunions. I grew up close with my cousins, but now only see them at events like weddings. It hurt that 3 of my cousins opted not to come to my wedding (although children were invited). What’s the likelihood that we’ll stay connected emotionally if they’re willing to opt out of something that important to me? What’s the chance that I’ll ever be close with their children (my second cousins)?
    On the other hand, my husband’s nephews and young cousins came (along with their parents) and the day did have the effect of making me feel that I was becoming, truly, part of the family. Plus now we have incredible, professional quality photos of these kiddos that we can use for Xmas presents this year.
    It is true that as we all move away from each other we are beginnign to lose the ties of family….and as someone who had to make a go of it without them, I can tell you it’s much harder and lonelier. I think it’s a good idea to foster these connections with our families before we lose them completely.

  • Years ago when planning a wedding to my ex, I was vehemently against inviting children. When marrying my hubs recently, inviting kids was a definite for us. So I’ve been on both sides of this argument in my life.

    I too read this piece as judgemental or maybe a bit preachy or guilt trippy. While its a little disappointing no one on APW staff saw what so many of us did, like so what? No system is perfect and the fact is that we come here because overwhelmingly APW is the place to escape wedding shame so this piece is an anomoly. No need to do much more than voice your opinion on the piece’s merit.

    Having said all that, I’d like to also point out the moderators seem to be responding to (what to me seems to overall be) constructive criticism with either defensiveness (I didn’t read it like that kind of just repeated again and again) or explanations on how we’re maybe reading it wrong because we’ve been brainwashed by the WIC.

    Maybe everybody’s just got a case of the Mondays.

    • APW fan

      I agree – “we come here because overwhelmingly APW is the place to escape wedding shame so this piece is an anomoly” I LOVE APW but felt the shaming in this case came both from the post (not the end of the world, I can take it or leave it, it’s just one post), but also, and more disappointingly, I feel like shaming was coming from the moderators. I was disheartened by what seemed to me to be defensive lecturing by the moderators. In fact, I will likely take a break from APW because I come here for the opposite of catty and condescending, but that’s what the moderators’ posts felt like to me. :(

      • That’s unfortunate because I don’t believe there was anything or malicious AT ALL in the moderators comments. I just noticed a tone (and can accept I may be overly sensitive) that I wanted to mention.

        I’m taking the knowledge I’ve learned through my own hard work, and here on APW during friendship month and I’m treating the comments as a place where friends discuss things, so I dealt with it as I would with a friend. I’ve said things to my real life friends when their comments rubbed me the wrong way. But I’ve also then let it go and moved on. I’m not trying to tell you how to feel – I respect that you were more bothered by the comments. I just wanted to share my perspective on the situation.

        • APW fan

          That’s a good point, and a nice idea to think of it as I would if a friend’s comments rubbed me the wrong way. I just don’t remember ever seeing the moderators get into it in such a back and forth way and ask posters to watch their tone; I still do feel like it was condescending and a bit snarky. However, now that I think about it more, I may have been overreacting and/or reacting to other things. For example, I’m not a fan of the new site… it feels unfamiliar to me and less warm than the other one did. So maybe that, combined with the moderators’ comments here, made everything feel different and it put me off. But that doesn’t take away from the other fantastic content on the site, and I’m sure I’ll get used to the new layout and soon feel like APW is a (non-judgmental) friend again. :)

  • I’ve been reading a lot of debating/issues with this post, and honestly, I don’t see the big deal. Even if the writer was saying she believes “her way is the only way” then that’s fine right- it’s an opinion piece? Take what you like and leave the rest if you ask me :) That’s the beauty of this site – you say what you mean. I enjoyed reading the author’s perspective, even though we will only be having kids that are nephews and nieces at our wedding. I’m not bothered by her post at all. I welcome strong opinions :) Weddings are blank canvases- you paint on them what you want, the picture that suits you and your partner.

    Personally I think there are too many real issues out there in the world that need our attention than feeling bothered by the perceived tone of a piece on a wedding website. (the coolest best wedding website ever btw)

  • Ali

    I have a couple of friends that I really would want to invite to my wedding who have shown no inclination to check their children’s wild behavior at prior get togethers. To the point that the whole event become about these kids and how they couldn’t behave. And the parents didn’t even try to do anything about it.
    It’s hard, because I have some kids I wouldn’t mind having at my wedding, but I kind of want to say no kids to everyone because of the crazy ones.

  • I love this. So well said.

  • Sara

    I’m a little surprised at the way some people took this article. I find it interesting, how the bride thought back on weddings she hadn’t been a part of and how that affected her planning process.
    I see two points of arguments – one is how the couple feels more strongly connected to their friends and their children than to cousins they barely know, so those take priority. They created their own extended family though relationships with friends and those children are too important to them to leave out.
    The other is how, in a large extended family, leaving the kids out of gatherings had an adverse affect on her family. My parents both come from large families, and we were the out of town kids. Both of my parents are from Ohio, and we live in Illinois. The cousins are all close because of repeated holiday celebrations in town and the ‘kids parties’ that generally went on in lieu of the weddings. But it took a lot more work for my brothers and I to maintain relationships with them – because of age and because of less interaction.

    On the other hand, I see the argument to have no kids at a wedding. Both sides have compelling arguments. To each their own I suppose!

  • Janet B.

    We knew before we got officially engaged that we would not have small children at our wedding. Both of us had been to too many weddings/receptions where small children had wrecked the ceremony (screaming during the ceremony until they had to be taken out), taken over the dance floor (running around, knocking into adults & even getting underfoot during the first dance), stuck fingers into the wedding cake/dessert tables, stolen the photographers attention (literally half of a cousin’s wedding reception album was of a friend of the couple’s daughter hamming it up for the camera), and in general just plain being kids. Now don’t get me wrong we love kids. Can’t wait to have our own (just ask my girlfriend’s whose little ones we babysit for and I steal for my “baby-fix” whenever we see them), but we both have strong opinions that there is a time and a place for small children and an evening wedding & reception was not the place for them.

    So far only a very small percentage of our family/friends in our age group have had children, but there were 8 kids under the age of 13 that were the issue for us as we both have much younger half siblings who are 16 & 17, with one older nephew who is 14 and one would hope that a teenager could behave themselves at a wedding. Luckily for us our venue’s rules about children under 13 yrs of age being on the property helped to back-up our decision to not include small children on our wedding guest list. We shared this information well in advance on our wedding site and by word of mouth.

    Yes, we had some folks decline to attend because they could not bring their children. Yes, there were some hurt feelings. We offered child care services (from a reputable child care agency) at the hotel where everyone was staying. The folks who declined to come to the wedding because their small children were not invited did not want to take us up on the child care options for the evening, even when we told them we were paying for the child care service. The majority of our friends with the small children who did attend, were very pleased to have a night-out/weekend trip without their kids. Everyone had an amazing time dancing/eating/drinking/talking the night away. We couldn’t have been happier with our decision.

  • Bryna

    I would like to say THANKS for this – I was reading an article in wedding magazine the other day on “should you invite kids to your wedding?”. They had a section of people (brides) saying what they were doing for their own weddings and NONE of them were inviting kids. Poor kids get a bad rap, but really… they’re cheap (no booze! tiny tummies!) and know how to party, dude. Kids are fun to have around. I personally can’t imagine a party without the kids I know!

    • Minneso-Kate

      Even though they don’t drink the booze and have tiny tummies, in my planning experience they were going to cost us the same amount of money for food as the adults (no kids menu option). So, all of a sudden a “tiny-tummied” tot was going to cost me $50 to eat a quarter of a meal. Yikes!

      • TeaforTwo

        We have a family member who invited all the kids to the wedding, but didn’t include them in the formal meal. They had a “kids’ room” with some toys, and ordered in pizza for kids, served on paper plates with juice boxes. Remember being a kid? Can you imagine anything in the whole world that would be more fun that a special room without your parents that is FULL OF PIZZA and other kids?

        I know that not all venues would allow that, but I was kind of jealous of the kids at that wedding.

  • LM

    I like how this article brought up the different ways that people can view weddings — it can be a way to firm up family connections, or to accept whatever your family relationships are like at the moment and honor your family of choice. I invited some second cousins that we don’t see very often but whom I like a lot. For me, it felt important to maintain contact with them and I think they were pleased to be invited. However, my husband has a much bigger family than I do, and we had to juggle their traditions of using events as family reunions with our desire not to have strangers at our wedding (we asked our parents to only invite friends that we knew).

    We invited all of husband’s first cousins but did not invite their (or anyone else’s) kids to our wedding. My husband’s cousins are all older, and it would have added 13 kids that neither of us feel particularly close to. We invited the kids to the Friday night dinner although husband and I did a lot of talking about how to make sure it felt like OUR rehearsal dinner and not HIS family reunion. It caused a lot of angst, but we eventually resolved it.

  • Kayjayoh

    Man, reading through the entire comment thread at this point, I’m still amazed at how many people found it “preachy.” 6/8 paragraphs were entirely “this is my personal experience.” 1/8 paragraphs was “this is what I think about including kids in family-adult events.” Only 1/8 paragraphs, three sentences long, had anything like a “you should do this” and even that was qualified. Adults-only wedding/events can be ok, but include the children of families in other ways if you want the extended family to stay a family.

    Not really ominous, preachy, judgmental, or whatever else in tone, by my review.

    • rys

      As KC noted above, it’s the switch from first-person to second-person that shifts the tone from “this is my experience and opinion” to “this is what you should do.” It might be 1/8, but closing with a statement in the second-person is a powerful rhetorical tool. To get all writing teacher for a moment, experiencing discomfort, analyzing the writing, and identifying the cause is not necessarily about imputing intent but about remarking on the power of language to convey more than words alone do.

  • Minneso-Kate

    Maybe I didn’t read the comments close enough (okay, I ADMIT to not reading the comments that closely), but a lot of this discussion is either “Invite ALL the kids!” or “Not a single child in sight, dammit.”

    Is there not room for logical balance? I know that a lot of external pressures get put on us during wedding planning, and especially as it relates to Who Is Invited, but this seems like an easier situation than a lot of people are making it. You can invite kids without inviting ALL the kids. You don’t even have to explain in some whimsical, poetic way at the bottom of the invite whether or not kids are welcome. You can just address the envelope with an “& family” or not. Or whatever your awesome, creative, hipster, DIYer phrase of choice is.

    We invited the kids of family members, but not the kids of friends. Without apologies or babysitters arranged by us, free crayons, or some sort of statement. And out of 200 guests, ONE family whose kid wasn’t “technically” invited brought their marvelously behaved 2 year old to the ceremony only because their sitter wasn’t available that early.

    • MisterEHolmes

      See, that’s interesting to me, because it has always been presented to me as an etiquette situation where it really is all or nothing. Or at least all non-immediate-family kids, anyway. I recall reading more than once in etiquette questions that not inviting all was asking for hurt feelings and unhappy friends/family members when their kid is excluded.

  • Staria

    This is a fantastic piece which really examines a different side of family issues. I have experienced this in my family with my parents deciding it was fine to feud with pretty much all their many brothers and sisters with no thought as to whether their own children might like to have a relationship with their cousins. I now find myself as an adult trying to make connections with my cousins, with varying levels of success. It would be much less awkward to reach out to people if we had a shared history.

    And, relating it back to weddings, there are good choices presented here. If you have a wedding with no kids invited, that’s fine – but consider whether there are other points in your life where you can include and have a relationship with your friends’ and older relatives’ kids.

    (PS to all the commenters saying what a preachy piece this is – honestly?! Some of the pieces on this website are so over the top, preachily saccharine and people fall all over it; yet this person gives a calmly worded point of view and all of a sudden it’s preachy? Jeez.)

  • ART

    I agree with other commenters about the tone, in particular things like: “If you don’t invite the next generation to them, you will end up with a generation of cousins who don’t feel connected to one another.” Wow, that’s a heck of a lot of pressure to put on weddings! I generally come to APW to feel some of the pressure taken off my wedding, not to feel like I’m contributing to the destruction of my family connections…yep, disappointed here, too, even though I’d love to invite kids to my wedding.

  • PurpleHeather

    This post really rung true for me, as my partner and I are planning our wedding for next October, and intend to invite children, including my two nieces, two nephews, their second cousins and our friends’ children.
    The importance of this hit home when we had a ‘just because’ family reunion this weekend just gone. My 6 year old niece looked at me and said “Aunty, who *are* all these people”. Many of the events in our family recently have been funerals, which the young children have not been at, so this is the first time in many years that she and her brothers and sister have been in a room with their second cousins.
    At the end of the reunion, there was a fabulous moment when all the kids were sat at a table together, laughing and playing with some play-doh that my cousin had brought. It was great to see them all happy together when only a couple of hours earlier they had been hiding behind their mums and dads, and I’m looking forward to a similar moment at our wedding.
    Our venue (a heritage railway centre) has a play area with toy train sets, that we will be keeping, and a cinema carriage where we intend to show family friendly movies, to give the children chances to meet each other and have fun too.

  • Jen

    I am a nanny and from quite a big family. I grew up as the big sister and was always taking care of little kids. For those reasons, I feel like not inviting kids to the wedding would be wrong. We are having kids in the wedding and I would feel like we are excluding family if we are excluding kids. I don’t have very clear memories of my relative’s weddings from when I was younger, but I am so happy that I was allowed to be a part of it. Yes, this does mean that some parents will have to leave early because of kids, and that may limit the dancing. But it also means that we get to dance with kids at the reception and my nephew gets to walk down the aisle with me.

    This is not to say that everyone should have kids at their reception, but rather that it depends on your character and the feeling you want from the wedding. I think this article clearly addresses that. The author felt like she was excluded as a child and she did not want to exclude the children of her family now.

  • Kelsey

    I really appreciate your perspective! I’ve always liked the liveliness that children bring to family events, but I didn’t think about how those events are opportunities for the next generation to bond with each other. Looking back, I’m thankful for all the weddings, parties, and even funerals that I went to as a child, because they did help me to build relationships with my extended family.

  • Sara

    We are not having kids at our wedding, not because I don’t like them but because our cousins have about 30 kids between them and our venue is small and personal. I like kids, but it just does not make sense for our wedding and the style of our wedding. So I opted to include accredited childcare information on our wedding website and scheduled the wedding to begin at 6 pm with a dinner scheduled for 8 pm. This way those who do get childcare do not need to be gone all afternoon and evening. I use the following analogy, if I were hosting a dinner party (which we technically are) my guests typically would not assume their children are also invited.

  • Guest

    I love this post. Am about to go to a wedding without children and I think, OK, a great cocktail party, but my heart and soul connect with a great multi- generational event that includes a kid’s table, which is what we had at our own wedding. All the kids were decently behaved and i go to many large afternoon bar mitzvas where kids are all over the place. Seeing them eat, and then ask to go off and play while the grown ups go to hang out and shmooze is part of the magic of life. Being part of a large group is where they learn to be accepted into community and act the better for it,

    However, was once at a wedding where some parents forgot to reign their kids in. A real faux pas. I do not see that as the rule in my neck of the woods.

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