Q: My fiancé and I are getting married this August at a wonderful little bed and breakfast out in the country. It’s about an hour from the city I grew up in, a destination for many of our out-of-state guests, but not terribly inconvenient for our local friends and family. When starting to think about our guest list, we early on made the very difficult decision to not invite children to our nuptials. Being among the last in our friend group to marry, many of our loved ones have little ones that we adore, and the decision was not one easily made. Our reasons are varied—from concerns about safety of the venue, which has a pond and free ranging animals that could nip at little ones; to preference, we want an adults-only shindig; to practical, over twenty children under the age of three would overwhelm the guest list; to a simple, if selfish, desire to be the main focus of our wedding day.
For the most part, family and friends with children have been understanding and accepting of our decision, with one, very notable, exception. My matron of honor is my best friend of over half my life, a wonderful first-time mother, and the only member of “my side” of the wedding party. When my fiancé and I decided upon our no-children policy a year out from the wedding, when her son was a few months old, I told her as gently and kindly as I knew how, sharing our reasons and that while I think of her child as my nephew, we stood by no children, no exceptions. She shared her desire to not leave him for the wedding, stating that she planned on breastfeeding at the time of the wedding, which, as a nurse, I support, and know it’s much easier done when mom and baby are close to each other. At the time I hoped that, as he grew and she acclimated to being a mom, she would accept our decision and make plans for a babysitter for him for the day of the wedding. I guess you could say we left it then as an impasse—my hope for her to understand and accept, her belief that her son was the exception.
Since then, we have offered members of the wedding party rooms in the bed and breakfast for the night before and the night of the wedding, and she has stated that her son will be staying with her and her husband at the bed and breakfast. I see this as a slippery slope to him being there for the entirety of the wedding. I honestly do love this child as my own family, I revel in his milestones, I send baby clothes every month as he grows before my eyes over FaceTime, but I feel it’s incredibly unfair to make an exception for him and not for other friends and family with young children. As both my fiancé and I are members of very large families, we had to make very difficult decisions to have a guest list we were comfortable with and have had to turn down requests for older children and plus ones, both because of venue limitations and to stand by the policies we set for ourselves at the outset of wedding planning. I also feel fairly strongly about a fourteen-month-old sharing a house with the wedding party the night before and the night of the wedding, and this goes both ways: I don’t want to be woken up by or wake up a child. Other members of the wedding party are leaving their (equally young) children with family to take a childfree weekend.
I understand it’s a personal choice, and I don’t want to push her into something she is not comfortable doing in parenting her son, but I also, very selfishly, want to have her attention the day of my wedding, as I gave her mine the day of her own wedding. She is my best friend and we normally have amazing communication about difficult issues, but surrounding this… I feel like she isn’t hearing me. Any guidance would mean the world to me!
A: Dear Anonymous,
It’s time to be super direct. Your last conversation was a little foggy and didn’t have a complete resolution. So, this time, be very clear. “You mentioned that your baby is coming overnight. Who’ll be watching him during the wedding? Like I mentioned before, we’re not having any kids join us for the wedding at all, at all.”
Notice, I didn’t say to tell her that she can’t bring him overnight. You’re allowed to have a kid-free wedding. But, you get six hours. You can’t dictate who your friend stays with, even if it is a cozy situation. You can’t demand that she leave her kid.
You also can’t really, practically expect “full attention.” From anyone. Even your bridal party. Like I’ve mentioned before, people are coming to celebrate you, they’re excited for you, but they have lives. You’ll get to be the focus, don’t worry. But not completely, and you probably wouldn’t really want that anyway (everyone staring at you and only you for six hours sounds pretty awkward, doesn’t it?).
In this specific instance, especially, your friend has other things to think about. She’s responsible for the well-being of another human, and that doesn’t change simply because she dropped him off at grandmom’s. Your other friends are leaving their kids home for the full weekend, and that’s awesome for them! But chances are they’ll also be texting the babysitter for a check-in, wondering aloud if they’ve fallen asleep, and scrolling through their phones to look at the same cute photos they’ve seen a billion times before (it’s an illness; we can’t control it).
Not only is all of that likely, but your friend is a source of nourishment for her kid. At fourteen months, meh, she might not be nursing very often, or she could be nursing several times a day. Either way, she’s still bodily and hormonally connected to her child. If she doesn’t bring the baby along overnight, she’ll probably still need to duck into a bathroom to pump (and probably during your wedding, too). She might have to leave at an exact time on the dot to relieve the sitter. She might have to step out to take a phone call when he takes a bad fall or won’t eat his peas. She forever has something crucial occupying a portion of her brainspace.
This is where our wedding visions butt up against reality. You’d like to just whisk your friend away and be her only concern for forty-eight hours, I understand that. But in real life, she’s a mom. You’ve gotta be willing to flex the ol’ vision. Everybody else in her life (am I projecting?) is expecting her to either be fully one hundred percent flat mom-person, or conversely to completely pretend she doesn’t have a kid. She’s a mom now, and that changes some things, but it doesn’t change her. She can still be there, be supportive as you prepare for the wedding, tear up with you as you recite your vows, pass you a champagne when it’s time to break it down to “Single Ladies.” And also dart off to the ladies room to express breastmilk. This new role doesn’t change who she is, but it does add a new layer. It’s better for you both, for your friendship as a whole, if you embrace that she’s still your friend, and she’s fully a mom. Make room for her new role. Don’t force her to segment her life, to segment herself.
Sometimes things fit into nice clean boxes. We can create black and white rules about “No kids at the wedding!” and mean it across the board, no exceptions. We can have a whole wedding weekend where everyone is lighthearted and carefree and goopy babies don’t exist. But most times, we need to deal with inconvenient reality. In this instance, the reality might be, “No kids at the wedding, except for this one baby that’s staying at the bed and breakfast where we’re staying because the mom is still breastfeeding and she’s really important to me.”
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