No Kids Allowed: We Want Our Wedding Day to Be About Us


If we invite them, it won’t be our day

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

woman and child walking down the stairs

Q: I have a dilemma regarding children at our upcoming wedding. We don’t want any there. We love children, but we have a number of good reasons why it should be just adults (location is a vineyard with an open dam, farm machinery, and electric fences close by, and there will be open fireplaces inside). The other factor is that if we make even the slightest exception, it will have a ripple effect of everybody else wanting to know why their kids were excluded when others weren’t.

The dilemma part of this is that we don’t know how to broach this with my fiancé’s mother. She has a sometimes unhealthy amount of attachment to her only granddaughter (fiancé’s three-year-old niece), and has made many comments in the past about how she can’t understand why anybody would opt for a no-kid wedding and that your nieces and nephews are just as important as your own kids. I also heard on the grapevine that she has been telling people that our niece will be a flower girl for us, which is completely wrong. The main problem is that if we invite just our niece, then we would have to invite our godson, and we couldn’t leave out his sister, and then our best man would wonder why his toddler wasn’t invited too. A line has to be drawn somewhere, and it’s so much easier if that line is that no kids come at all.

The other factor is that we would really like my fiancé’s family to actually be mentally present on the day—as his parents and his brother, rather than running around after our niece the entire time and playing Dad and Grandma and Grandpa. My fiancé comes from a family where the focus has always been squarely on his brother and subsequently his daughter—it would be really nice if there were one day that could be about us and our marriage.

I feel like we have a battle ahead of us, and we’re completely unprepared. His mother is used to getting what she wants, but we are not going to bend on this and need a way to counter this pressure. Any words of wisdom for how we can manage this situation and prevent it from blowing up into a fight?

—Can’t Aunt

A:

Dear CA,

Well, it might become a fight. That’s the unfortunate case with any old wedding decision. I can give you polite ways to handle it; I can encourage you to stand your ground. But it still might be a fight. So, as ever, it’s just a question of is this a fight you care to have?

If the kid typically outshines you, she’ll manage to hog the attention no matter what. If she’s not invited, his mom will spend the whole wedding sighing about how much she misses the little cherub, passing her phone around to show everyone photos. Family dynamics don’t typically change, even for special days.

Those weird family dynamics aside, kids don’t really steal the limelight at a wedding, not truly. For starters, the focus isn’t always totally on you anyway (and it would probably be really awkward and uncomfortable if it was). But throw some kids into the mix, and not much changes. A bunch of stuff is happening, some folks are paying attention, others are chatting, others are checking a thing on their phone, and okay maybe a few are checking to make sure the small ones have enough juice and haven’t spilled anything down their fronts. But trust me, it’s nearly impossible to outshine the wedding couple, no matter how tiny and adorable you are.

Beyond that, if you do end up deciding to invite a kid or two, you really don’t have to worry about rippling effects. I could see you easily inviting the niece (and maybe even the godson) and drawing the line there without anyone getting ruffled. It’s nice to have a hard and fast rule, but everyone understands making exceptions for family. Inviting the niece doesn’t sound like it would snowball the way you fear.

But it sounds like you’ve made up your mind, which I totally get! It is completely fine to decide to have a wedding for adults only. So if that’s what you’re doing, your issue is just communicating it to your family in a way that’s going to make it as easy on you as possible. Best advice? I’d really focus on the safety issue. If the place is unsafe, it’s unsafe. Nothing you can do about it. Not everything is made for kiddos.

And then I’d just brace myself. It might be a fight! She might make a stink! You can’t control how people accept your decisions; all you can do is try to make them fairly (which you are). That makes this a really good time to practice boundaries, to start laying that foundation of, “Mom, you don’t get to dictate everything.” That doesn’t mean she’s going to like it, and it doesn’t mean she won’t push your boundaries again in the future. It’ll just hopefully get easier and easier to stand your ground.

Holding on to those boundaries means you’ve got to make sure you’re on the same page with your partner. He’s cool with no niece? He’s alright if this turns into a Thing? It also means you’ve got to hear out all of the various reasons your mother-in-law will throw at you for why you’re wrong. It could mean having some ready-made compromises tucked in your back pocket, like offering to invite the niece to the rehearsal dinner. And if she doesn’t let up, it may mean eventually saying, “Hey. We’ve talked about this, we care about your opinion, but you know what our decision is, so I’d rather not hash it out again.”

Kids or no kids, rest assured, CA. You’ll have plenty of attention on your wedding day (but, you know—not too much).

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTIONPLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • mimi

    Is it a destination wedding? If so, arranging for childcare can be very complicated. My brother got married at a ski resort this past summer and everyone had to travel to the resort, mostly from out of state. We ended up having to bring a babysitter with us, and a couple of

  • Jessica

    One thing to consider is how many comments about missing the grand daughter are going to replace the attention given to attending children. We were kind of boxed into our 2 year old niece being flower girl, and got push back on every aspect of how we wanted her to do that action. If we had not had kids at the wedding, I’m sure my husband would have received comments about how the “whole family isn’t here” and “we just wish [niece] were here, she would love it!”

    So, cost, benefit, effort.

    • idkmybffjill

      Thisssss. And also which is worse. I am a person who would be more bothered by comments AT my wedding about a done deal decision than I would be about family dynamics that already exist.

  • Amy March

    I think kids can absolutely steal the limelight at weddings! They walk down the aisle adorably, they dance in the middle of everyone’s way preciously, they look so sweet everyone wants a picture with them. I love kids, but let’s not pretend her worries are an exaggeration. Especially when her finance’s family has repeatedly shown that if adorable toddler is there, she is the focus.

    I agree though, it will be a fight. I’d start by asking who is paying. If the answer includes his family, seriously reconsider. If not, I’d stick with “this is an adult event, at an adult venue, and we can’t accommodate kids.” You could draw a line at just your niece easily, you just don’t want to. Which is perfectly fine but don’t throw out arguments you will lose. Ditto that you want them all to be focused and present. They’ll never admit they might not be and will be defensive. You just don’t want kinds, simple as that.

    • G.

      Right on — and stated much more directly and concisely than I just did :)

    • Violet

      Not only is it true that kids *can* steal the limelight at weddings (we’ve either seen it firsthand or can trust other people when they tell stories), in this case because of family dynamics, it seems fairly certain she *will.* I don’t think it’s an exaggerated worry at all. That might not make the ensuing challenge from MIL any easier, but it might make it more worth the effort it will undoubtedly take to hold firm.

    • RW

      Well these are if the children are in the wedding. If not, then maybe the dancing – but an outgoing adult can steal that show just as well. ;)

    • Linzenberg

      Kids absolutely steal the limelight and we chose not to have them, but I’ve gotta share this one example of mini-limelight theft: Years ago at a friend’s wedding, during part of the mass (not super-quiet, but still), all of the sudden from a pew in the front of the church I hear the flower girl say, “I don’t *wanna* be a princess anymore!”

      I don’t think anyone else really heard it (we were practically behind them), but I immediately knew all the conversations that had occurred in the months prior and just DIED giggling into my hymnal. (I believe she remained a princess for the remainder of the day and did not abdicate.)

      • idkmybffjill

        UGH yesss kids. I love child limelight stealing moments, personally, but they for sure happen. At a friends wedding recently the ring bearer pulled both flower girls down the aisle in a wagon (they were like…..3 and an infant), and the infant just CRIED all the way down the aisle. It ruled it was so hilarious and perfect.

  • Lauren

    another thing to consider– are you prepared for your fiancé’s brother to have to decline to attend due to your no child policy? Or if he has a spouse, his wife? As a new mother, I can’t tell you how crappy it is when my child isn’t invited to things (particularly something as big as a family wedding) and I am therefore unable to attend due to impossibility of finding a sitter my child will agree with besides a family member.

    • Amy March

      The child is three. Surely there is some other human being who can watch her for a few hours? Since when do kids have to “agree” with a sitter?

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

        Some of us can’t trust a sitter, I say somewhat jokingly and really referring to myself. In the non joking realm, I am SUPER picky about who I trust either my dog or my kid with. I interviewed twice as many dogsitters as I checked out daycares because we’ve had a horrible experience. After leaving my beloved dog with husband’s friend for ONE day, people who seemed very sensible, caring, and intelligent, he died suddenly and unexpectedly because they didn’t follow our very specific instructions NOT to feed him before walking him and letting him run around. He’s a large dog and they’re prone to bloat. They ignored that one instruction, he ran around, suffered from stomach torsion, and died under their porch of bloat. It broke my heart and my ability to trust anyone I don’t know very well instead.

        Extrapolate that to a kid that I actually had to carry for many months and give birth to, and I’m not leaving my dog or my kid with just any other human NOPE :)

        • Amy March

          Obviously not just any other human being, I meant that there exists out there another person who can watch your three year old kid, not suggesting you just plunk them down in a Target aisle and hope for the best! But if you refuse to put the effort in to figure out how to get a sitter for your brother’s child free wedding, no fair painting him as the inflexible one who doesn’t value family at big life occasions.

          • Another Meg

            “But if you refuse to put the effort in to figure out how to get a sitter
            for your brother’s child free wedding, no fair painting him as the
            inflexible one who doesn’t value family at big life occasions.”

            I think this is the big takeaway here. If it’s someone you’re close to, and you still don’t want to find a way to make it work….it says a lot about your priorities.

            I understand there are always exceptions, but come on.

          • J.

            Thank you so much for this phrasing! We had a child-free wedding and I got pushback from two of my cousins. One cousin came to the wedding while his wife stayed in the hotel with their son. My other cousin (his sister) emailed me that attending the wedding wasn’t possible since the only person she trusted as a babysitter was her mom (my aunt, who would be attending the wedding and thus unavailable as a babysitter). They each made the right decision for their families and I’m happy for that. But I certainly wasn’t going to take any crap about “not caring about family” from her.

            Also, and only tangentially related: nearly everyone invited to our wedding from either of our (midwestern, conservative) hometowns considered our wedding “highly nontraditional.” (I think this was because it wasn’t in a church?) Because of that, nearly everyone assumed that kids wouldn’t be invited (since how can we do all our salacious nontraditional rituals in front of the children???) so it went down pretty easily for most.

          • norawallis

            Yes! We got a lot of passive-aggression but no actual complaints directly to either of us. People who wanted to be there tried to figure it out; most were able to make it work but some weren’t, and nearly everyone understood all around. It sucks to not be able to invite everyone and their entire army of loved ones of all ages and sizes, but that’s the reality of having a big, expensive party when you’re not a Rockefeller.

          • idkmybffjill

            “not suggesting you just plunk them down in a Target aisle and hope for the best!”
            Dying. Dead.

          • laddibugg

            If you can’t trust anyone else with your children what in the world is going to happen when they start school? I suppose that is where helicopter parents come from.

        • idkmybffjill

          “Some of us can’t trust a sitter”… I don’t have kids but I DO have friends with kids and the reality is that I know most of their situations re: childcare. If I had a friend who I knew would never ever under any circumstances leave their child with a sitter, that’s something I would take into consideration if planning a child free wedding. I would say, though, that folks who will never ever use sitters (or family members, or leave one parent at home, etc, etc) are the exception, not the rule, and it would be sort of silly to plan for that – especially if you know your friends and family reasonably well (as I assume one does when inviting them to their wedding!).

          • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

            I’m pretty sure my family’s bizarre in that NONE of them would ever use a non family member sitter, but I forget that that’s unusual. That IS why we couldn’t have considered a no-kids wedding ourselves. 95% of my family would have stayed home! :D

          • idkmybffjill

            Totally a “know your people” sort of situation! No shame in that. :)

      • Lauren

        Is that judgment? I’m going to assume that you don’t have a sensitive child at home.

        Children are pretty hard wired to not go anywhere/stay with a stranger. It’s evolutionary, and it’s unkind (borderline cruel) to leave your child somewhere where he or she does not feel safe, whether or not the child’s perception is accurate.

        • Amy March

          Yes. It absolutely is judgment. And who said anything about a stranger? Is it not possible to hire a caretaker they know from daycare or preschool? Find a sitter and introduce them to your child gradually, at first staying home, then leaving for longer periods gradually? To prioritize socializing your child so that you have options?

          Absolutely, I am sure that there are children who simply cannot be left with anyone. But I don’t think it’s anywhere close to most kids. Leaving a child with a carefully selected babysitter is not cruel, and claiming it is is a pretty harsh judgment on all the decent caring parents who do it as a matter of course.

          • G.

            Right and this can be planned for in advance. It’s not a last-minute, “hey my wedding is in 2 days, can you come” invitation. If there are no babysitters/family friends/college students in the parents’ phone (rolodex seems so quaint!), surely one could start looking, introducing, acculturating in advance, which, frankly, will be beneficial the next time something comes up. Which it will. Because no one goes through child-rearing without needing to call on some help at some point.

          • Violet

            Your comment reminds me of a time when I was very young and we were awakened in the middle of the night by my mom, explaining that my dad had to go to the hospital (kidney stones) and our neighbors (also parents of our friend) were going to stay with us while she went with him. Socializing your kid to people other than family is a way to keep them safe in emergencies. No one wants emergencies, but let’s not pretend these things don’t happen. I’d rather prepare my kid in the way you describe then be in that situation and stuck.

          • idkmybffjill

            This is a REALLY important note.

          • G.

            Yep. When my mom went into labor with my sister, her college roommate + husband came over to stay with me, so I woke up to “Aunt C and Uncle B” (my parents were into labeling lots of people aunts and uncles, regardless of actual family status). I wasn’t quite 2, but I was fine. Throughout my childhood, there were assorted moments when my parents needed someone to step in (or dropped us off somewhere) and so they did. A medical emergency or a funeral is going to happen at some point and be hella more last-second than a wedding….my parents were prepared with an array of folks and we all survived, quite well, even :)

          • stephanie

            Just coming here to say this! We’ve had a handful of long-time sitters in my son’s almost 8 years, and with all of them… my husband and I met each 1-2 times, and then our son met them once, and then we said BYEEE and he was totally chill and fine with the sitter. In fact, he loved two of them dearly. Some kids are flexible, and some aren’t, but I think generally… most children can quite happily be left with a sitter (and most parents can find a sitter they trust) for a few hours.

          • savannnah

            This is a great approach. I’ve been hired as a wedding sitter a handful of times and most of the time it was great and I got to hang out with some great kids and infants for a few hours. Occasionally I’ve had situations where parents have delayed introducing their kiddos to sitters for whatever reasons and it can be a nightmare. I’ve had 3-4 year olds scream for hours because they’ve never spent a night away from their moms before. Not fun for me and not fun for kiddos. The more trusted sitters are a normalized part of a kids life, the easier events like this become.

          • idkmybffjill

            “The more trusted sitters are a normalized part of a kids life, the easier events like this become.”

            This this this this this.

          • stephanie

            YES

          • AP

            I mean…I was a babysitter throughout high school! (Weren’t most of us?) I sat for all my mom’s friends’ kids as young as 18ish months. I think I started sitting at around 13 years old, the age you could take the babysitting safety course at our local hospital. Kids loved me, and it was how I earned money. Win/win.

          • Jen

            It is such a privileged though that there is a work around for everything you think there is a work around for. Not everyone is you and not everyone comes from your background (or has your interests or priorities). Also- do you have kids? For that matter- are you married? Come on.

          • savannnah

            Case in point.

          • idkmybffjill

            I think it’s pretty shitty to say that only married people can have opinions on weddings. Having a childcare solution is something *most* parents have. If you have someone in your friend group who doesn’t, you probably know that. It is the exception, not the rule, and to pretend otherwise is a little bonkers.

            Bottom line? Parents can always decide they don’t want to go to things or use babysitters. Other people are allowed to have feelings about what that says about their priorities.

          • Jen

            I didn’t mean to imply that only married people can have opinions on weddings and only folks with kids can have opinions on babysitters. But I do think having experience with a situation gives you more knowledge about what the situation entails. I also think folks can have opinions- but sharing them on a public forum in a way that is going to hurt someone else’s feeling is just not good for anyone.

          • idkmybffjill

            “Absolutely, I am sure that there are children who simply cannot be left with anyone. But I don’t think it’s anywhere close to most kids. ”

            ^ the thesis of Amy’s point. It allows for those who are the exception to the rule. Presumably, those would be the folks who would be hurt by the assumption that almost all parents can’t figure out someone to stay with their child for a few hours. That is surely not a wildly polarizing position to take. Implying that she couldn’t possibly have an opinion because it’s not her lived experience IS a wildly polarizing position to take, which is what you’re experiencing in the reactions to your comments right now.

          • Vanessa

            It does not matter whether she has kids or is married.

          • Jen

            It does have a factor on how much experience she has with finding a babysitter (with the kid anyways. The marriage has to do with all of her strong comments about marriage.) And actually- I asked because I’m genuinely curious.

          • Violet

            I don’t get it- what if she did, and always found it really easy to find a babysitter? What if she did, and always found it a struggle but still never resented her friends’ kids-free weddings because of it? How would that make any difference? All LW is asking is whether or not she can have a kids-free wedding. The answer from Liz and all the commenters is generally in agreement: yes, but she and her partner will have to deal with whatever ramifications arise from that choice (upset MIL, maybe babysitting will be an issue). That’s all. Amy March was responding to one commenter who created a problem of babysitting (because, we don’t actually know if it’s an issue in this case at all), and Amy March pointed out this is a relatively common phenomena for parents to deal with, and that doesn’t make it LW’s fault. It’s fine to say what you’re saying is a judgment call- because it is a judgment call. So is what you wore this morning and what I ate for breakfast. Why is that bad?

          • Jen

            My issue with her statement was implying that it was attainable to get a babysitter for everyone- with the implication that if you don’t/can’t, you are in the wrong. It was just an opinion that could have been delivered as kind advice and not harsh judgement.

          • Violet

            Alright, personally, I’m wrapping up. No, she wasn’t implying the parent would be “in the wrong” for not getting childcare. She was trying to relieve LW of any guilt she may have around not inviting kids to her wedding, guilt that another commenter began trying to compound by bringing up hypothetical childcare problems. There wasn’t advice to give because Amy March was responding to someone else’s comment to LW. Anyway, you’re continuing to stick to these “I was just asking!” and “I just hope people can be more kind” lines (despite saying you’ve read the comments here for years, making it hard for me to fathom you don’t know Amy March’s marital and parental status). So that’s your thing, you’re owning it; I’m just not buying it.

          • annabellekathryn

            Also, finding a babysitter isn’t brain surgery and doesn’t require a steep learning curve. That’s a ridiculous argument! How hard is it for you? Personally, finding a babysitter means asking friends for recommendations and texting re: availability. Am I missing something? Genuinely curious :)

          • Jen

            I think it can be a different thing for different folks. I also think the way it was suggested to find one (with lots of meetings between the sitter and child) could be time consuming and expensive- and not everyone has that ability. I come from a place of working with lots of low-income folks working many hours- spending time and money on finding a babysitter for a sensitive child would be beyond their ability. Maybe this would work for most- but not everyone.

          • working class mom

            Most working-class and lower-income parents I know have had other people watch their kids because the need to work. Whether it’s family, friends, neighbors, or someone else. Sure, there are times when money is an issue, but getting kids used to non-parent caretakers is, in my pretty wide ranging experience with this population, nowhere near the problem it is with middle/upper-class helicopter parents who have the money but not the will/interest. ymmv.

          • idkmybffjill

            Preeeeeachhhh.

          • idkmybffjill

            Amy acknowledged that it might not work for everyone.

            “Absolutely, I am sure that there are children who simply cannot be left with anyone. But I don’t think it’s anywhere close to most kids.”

            The long term sitter finding method was a response to someone who wasn’t okay with leaving their kid with someone new.

            Quit it, man. You just don’t like a Amy very much and you’re trying to make it out like she’s this super privileged rude person. Her comments here don’t support that argument and you just seem rude and more than a little ridiculous.

          • Jessica

            I’m sure this would be a much different conversation if the LW had indicated that the niece needed to come because of economic or behavioral situations, and was worried about the limelight being stolen as a result of accommodating that need. That’s not the conversation though. The conversation is that sometimes there are places where children are not invited for a variety of reasons, and how to present that as fact to parents and, in this case, grandparents. Amy’s take in this situation, which could be applied to many other situations, is that there are babysitters for a reason, and the LW has not indicated any reason beyond a doting grandmother why that would not work for their wedding.

            Sometimes I ask APW readers for advice without being able to explain my entire life situation, so I get advice that would not apply well. I don’t have to follow it. I’m grateful that someone took the time to give me their take. Trying to deny someone from being a part of this conversation because you don’t like what their saying, but then blaming it on the fact that they are unwed and not a parent is not OK.

          • Jen

            I didn’t blame, I asked out of curiosity. How much experience does Amy have finding a babysitter? Also there is a difference between advice and judgement. Amy has way too much judgement in the majority of her comments, in my opinion.

          • Violet

            But… opinions *are* judgments. What is the difference?

          • Jessica

            You indicated that you have seen a lot of Amy March’s comments on this site, and that is a good indication that you know she is unmarried and probably doesn’t have kids. You did not ask out of curiosity, you were throwing judgement back at her because you didn’t like what she was saying. It’s hostile and rude.

          • idkmybffjill

            This. I’m so upset about this conversation and I couldn’t quite articulate why, but this is it. Jen has put on a real show about how she’s just advocating for kindness, and defending her rudeness as a reaction to a longstanding disagreement with Amy’s tone. She knew from reading comments Amy’s marital status and said what she said specifically to hurt her. She did. She said those things because she knew they would be hurtful. Rude Rude Rude.

          • annabellekathryn

            Why does it matter whether or not she’s a parent or married? And of course not everyone is anyone! That’s why people come to this site, to get a wide variety of respectful opinions and experiences. And to reiterate what other people have said, not having a babysitter or the ability to get a babysitter when a child is 3 is outside the norm. Of course there are extenuating circumstances. But I have an 18-month-old (who I did bring to a wedding when she was 4 months!) and I’ve skipped some weddings because I decided the $100 plus price tag of a babysitter wasn’t worth it. But if it was a family member or close friend? 100% would find a babysitter. And there ARE workarounds. You can swap with another family if you can’t afford it, you can begin looking for babysitters now to avoid a scramble, or, if for whatever reason your child absolutely cannot have a babysitter due to a complex medical or emotional situation, you can attend the wedding solo and have your partner do the work. Amy is direct but honest and I find her thoughts so refreshing and valuable on this site. And to that point: Having a web of people who love and care for your child is essential. Like someone said, what if there was an emergency? If you can’t leave your child, skip the wedding, but don’t assume that the bride and groom are being unreasonable about their request.

          • Booknerd

            In this specific situation, not wanting to leave your child with a sitter you don’t know, there very clearly is a work around. As stated above, a wedding gives you ample time to find, vet, and gain familiarity with a sitter, which can come in extra handy when there’s an emergency that doesn’t give the time do do all of those things. If someone couldn’t come to my wedding (which was as child free as we could make it) because they “didn’t want to leave their kid with a sitter” damn right I’d be pissed off and question their priorities. It’s not a privilege, its realty.

          • Laura C

            Judgment of people who aren’t married/don’t have kids aside, that “has your interests or priorities” part of your comment is key. Everyone doesn’t have to have the same interests or priorities, but Person A doesn’t get to be butthurt because Person B’s wedding isn’t in accord with Person A’s interests and priorities, even if that involves Person A having to make a hard choice about childcare.

          • stephanie

            She can have a well formed opinion on anything discussed here whether or not she has kids or is married. I regularly seek out parenting advice from my friends who DO NOT have kids.

          • Violet

            Yes. Otherwise, where does it end? Like, from now on, I refuse to take any advice from anyone who wasn’t raised in the suburbs but now lives in a city, has one sister, parents who split at the precise age I was at when my parents did, who’s now been in their relationship as long as I’ve been in mine, and whose favorite color is green. Because if not, you can’t possibly have an opinion (also known as a judgment) on my life or choices.
            Geez, I guess my single bestie and I should stop being friends now.

          • G.

            This.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          One of my sisters was the can’t-leave-with-sitter type. She went to daycare, but if my parents left us at home with a relative stranger (say, a teen from church we’d never been alone with before) my sister would scream as soon as she realized our parents were gone until she fell asleep exhausted. My parents didn’t have too many dinner dates until we were too old for sitters.

          But I like to think our parents would have found a work-around if it was something as important as a sibling’s wedding – leaving us not with a sitter-sitter but someone more familiar, like a family member from the non-wedding side. Or having us baby-sat outside our home, which somehow seemed to keep my sister calmer.

      • sofar

        This made me lol

        When I was small, I had a sitter (a neighbor) who I thought was SUPER LAME because she wasn’t that fun and just watched TV and didn’t want to play with me. And my parents were like, “Tough noogies, kid, we have a wedding/party/adult-only thing to attend. Bye.” I survived and learned to have fun by myself.

        Ah, the 80s.

        • Jessica

          Yep.

      • Jen

        Amy, as a frequent reader of the comments on this site, I will say- you seem to have a lot of opinions about both kids and marriages. Just because you are behind a screen doesn’t make the folks on the receiving end less human or interested in receiving your judgment. Let’s try to keep it to helpful comments instead of judgement all the time, eh?

        • savannnah

          I’m surprised by this comment. I don’t always agree with Amy March but I find her comments incredibly balanced and this point in particular is helpful to the LW in normalizing her expectations. Your judgment seems more reactionary in comparison.

          • A.

            And I’ve never gotten the sense that she’s particularly offended when people do disagree with her! She can take it as well as she can dish it. #TeamAmy

          • Jen

            It’s not a strength to make strong and potentially offensive comments to people you don’t know.

          • idkmybffjill

            Like your comments about how Amy shouldn’t comment on marriage or parenting because she’s single? Tell me more about offensive comments.

          • Jen

            Well that’s certainly not what happened. I asked what her experience is, I didn’t forbade her from commenting because she is single. But your version certainly makes a more interesting story!

          • idkmybffjill

            “Also- do you have kids? For that matter- are you married? Come on.”

            If this didn’t imply that she wasn’t entitled to an opinion because she wasn’t married or a parent then….perhaps you should have rephrased it. I think the point you were trying to make was pretty clear.

          • CMT

            Loud and clear.

          • Jen

            My point was- where is your experience? It’s a valid question. And one that needs to be asked. I could have asked it with less judgement and with more kindness, however.

          • idkmybffjill

            It doesn’t need to be asked though. People who aren’t parents know other parents who use babysitters. Or have babysat. Or were children that stayed with babysitters. It’s not like parenthood is this really private experience that no one knows about. It’s fairly public and observable.

          • Violet

            So, making a strong comment isn’t a strength. Okay…
            Actually, I found it offensive that the original commenter insinuated that anyone who’s left their child in someone else’s care without ensuring they feel 100% safe (how do you do that with a pre-verbal child, by the way?) is “borderline cruel.” So I guess every single mother who’s taken her child to daycare is borderline cruel? No.
            People take offense at all kinds of things; the commenting policy here is not “never say anything that might offend anyone, ever.” It’s just not. There are mods in case something any commenter says veers too off course. In part, I’d imagine, so that we don’t have some commenters telling others their opinions don’t matter because they don’t like the tone or have the same lived experience.

          • Jen

            I can see why you would find that offensive. It certainly was a strong comment but I assume it came from a feeling of defensiveness. Which is unfortunate. My entire argument is we should come from a understanding place, not a judgemental one. Additionally, there are a lot of comments being put in my mouth. I continue to say Amy has a right to her opinion- but sharing it in a blanket “one-size-fits-all” statement is not helpful or, really, kind. And making a blanket statement without any experience seems even less helpful to everyone involved

          • Violet

            We will have to disagree. On the internet, you never know someone’s “whole story,” whether you’ve lived one similar or not. You make blanket statements, and the other party can take or leave them. It’s that simple. (To me, anyway.) I actually don’t find anything wrong with having opinions (which you keep using interchangeably with being “judgmental”) and I also can understand someone and still disagree with their choices.

          • idkmybffjill

            “Also- do you have kids? For that matter- are you married? Come on.”

            “Amy, as a frequent reader of the comments on this site, I will say- you seem to have a lot of opinions about both kids and marriages.”

            These are the things that you wrote. They were rude. No one is putting anything in your mouth.

          • Jen

            That’s true. They were rude. It comes from years of reading her comments and finding offense- but I could have chosen much kinder and more understanding words. I will, however, argue that I did not say her opinions did not matter- but I did ask they came from any experience, which I think is a fair sentiment.

          • idkmybffjill

            I guess I just think they’re ridiculous things to require experience to have opinions about. Has she attended weddings? Does she have people in her life with children? Has she been a child who was babysat? Has she babysat for friends who have children when they were attending a wedding? Then she has relevant experience.

            You clearly just have a problem with Amy March. Okay, that’s your prerogative. But don’t try and make it about that you just don’t want anyone to be judgmental, because the comments you’re making are *really* judgmental. Like…..it is reality that most people who would be going to weddings like in the LW’s situation have a way to figure out a babysitter in situations that are in incredibly important to them. That is reality. You don’t have to be a married parent to observe that reality.

          • nosio

            It is somewhat ironic that you’re justifying your rude comments here, and elsewhere claiming that you just want people to comment with more kindness and consideration. I personally don’t think there was anything unkind in what Amy said, and I often enjoy her frank, pragmatic commentary. If they aren’t your cup of tea, just skip over them, rather than insinuating her opinions are invalid.

          • Jen

            Well, you are certainly allowed your opinion. And this might be reactionary but there have been at least a dozen times I felt her opinions were incredibly harsh. Never to me, but watching it happen again and again really frustrates me. She has no idea what this particularly commenter has going on so how can she make judgements on how easy it would be to find an appropriate sitter?

          • Lisa

            Based on your commenting history, it actually seems like you do have a personal axe to grind with Amy, given one of the exchanges you had previously. I don’t always agree with Amy and sometimes think her tone is harsh. However, there have been times where she’s apologized or walked back advice when it turned out not to fit the situation. She strikes me as a blunt person who can realize when she’s in the wrong, and I don’t think she’s in the wrong here.

            A commenter introduced a hypothetical problem about childcare, and Amy said that, since the hypothetical applies to a minority instead of the majority, it should not be the determining factor in the child-free wedding decision. As many other people have spent the night debating with you, Amy may have tangential experience about “how easy it would be to find an appropriate sitter” because she has friends or family with whom she has discussed the topic, or she may have been a sitter herself. For all we know, she has aided her friends and family in finding their own appropriate sitters! On the internet, we never get to know someone’s full story, and even if she were to come back and use one of the examples above to demonstrate her experience or tell us she’d had a child of her own at some point or whatever, we have no way of knowing it’s actually true.

            This level of scrutinization and doubling-down on the fact that she’s not allowed to have opinions on a thread where a LW specifically asked for opinions is reaching absurd levels.

        • Vanessa

          I’m not really sure what to make of this. Amy March does comment a lot and I’m so glad that she does – I’ve always found her comments to be a positive contribution to the discussion.

          I’m also not sure what you mean by “you seem to have a lot of opinions about both kids and marriages” – don’t we all?

          • idkmybffjill

            “I’m also not sure what you mean by “you seem to have a lot of opinions about both kids and marriages” – don’t we all?”

            Yep. At the very least re: marriages, that’s like the entire readership of this site.

          • annabellekathryn

            It would be weird if Amy came here espousing her opinions on La Croix flavors or dog breeds. This is a wedding site, which naturally touches on family. Assuming someone has to be married with children to have the experience and knowledge to give advice is really reductive and harmful IMO.

          • A.

            And definitely as hurtful as the commenter is supposedly trying to protect others from.

          • idkmybffjill

            Completely agree.

          • Jen

            It’s really easy to have opinions when you haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes. That was the point of my comment. How much experience does Amy have with being in different economic situations, different family situations and raising children with different needs?

          • AP

            LOL

          • Katharine Parker

            Agreed, and this is an advice column. The people who write in are asking for opinions.

          • Jen

            But not judgement. And especially not when someone doesn’t know the whole story.

          • Violet

            I’m confused- is your definition of judgment an opinion that disapproves of someone else’s choice?

          • Jen

            Amy specifically said she was judging the poster. So yes, Amy showed judgement.

          • Violet

            Right. And what is wrong with that? Opinions are judgments.

          • Jen

            I think it’s unhelpful and can also be unkind. This is my entire point.

          • CMT

            If people weren’t ever expressing any kind of judgement, this would be a pretty shitty advice column.

          • Jen

            It’s about the tone and the understanding you show as well as your advice. You can think about your advice and how you present it.

          • Lisa

            I laughed out loud. Snaps for you!

          • Jen

            Yes but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that judgement is easy and understanding is the harder but more fulfilling choice. Especially on the internet.

          • Lisa

            Wow, this comes off very much as a “holier than thou” response for someone who has admitted downthread that her own comment was not particularly polite or kind.

        • stephanie

          Girl, no.

          • idkmybffjill

            LOL

        • Eenie

          I find Amy’s comments very helpful, specifically because she has different life experiences than me. Same with so many of the other commenters. It’s part of what makes this community so awesome!

          • Jen

            I don’t mind different opinions (I agree with you that it’s nice to share different views and experiences) but I think you have to be careful about how you say them. It isn’t helpful to make blanket statements about everyone’s ability to do something.

          • Violet

            But even saying “it isn’t helpful” is a blanket statement. Do you see how this gets metaphysical? You just don’t like Amy March’s tone, or sometimes what she has to say. Just say that.

          • Jen

            I have said that- and also that her statements that are a one-size-fits-all are unhelpful. I think this is getting into arguing semantics. I don’t know that my comments would change anyone else’s thinking- but I do wish that it would help people to be more kind and understanding.

          • CMT

            I will agree that I sometimes find Amy March a little bit too black-and-white. But when I read those comments that I disagree with, I just ignore them. I don’t think she needs to be told not to make them or to alter them in some way.

          • G.

            Ok, so Amy’s comments are unhelpful to you, but that doesn’t preclude them being very helpful to someone else. Different people respond well or poorly to distinct ideas and tones. It’s why I have a cadre of people in my personal life who I go to for different things — sometimes I need or want empathy, or sympathy, or brainstorming, or assistance, or no-holds-barred assessment. Different people provide different perspectives, on the internet and in real life. Feel free to disagree, but there’s no need to attack someone or her “credentials” to disagree. Everyone gets to give advice here, take it or leave it as you see fit.

          • S

            Holy crud at all of this! Okay, you want people to be more kind and understanding and you’ve gone on a crusade of countless comments regarding your vendetta against one particular poster? How is that kind or understanding? I agree Amy March can be polarising; I myself an often a polarising person who alienates a lot of people with her big mouth, so I get it ;) I often disagree with Amy March’s stance on things; I’m much more laissez-faire than she is, and we probably wouldn’t get on that great in person (I’m sure she’d think almost everything I did was uncouth or rude!) but – so? My laissez-faire, “Most rules are dumb! Things aren’t always black and white! Being high maintenance is boring!” advice is only going to work for people who are similarly laissez-faire, and for people who aren’t, Amy March’s advice could well be incredibly helpful. You know, cos people are different? Disagree with someone all you want, that’s fine, and when it comes to advice-giving, is probably a good thing – hearing things from all sides is only ever going to help someone who’s in a bind. But please remember people on the internet are human beings. You’re making really shitty harsh statements about someone’s personal life in the name of making this a kinder and more understanding place – really?! Seriously, who cares why a single person frequents a marriage/wedding site? Maybe she likes the people. Maybe she likes the discourse. Hey, maybe she desperately wants not to be single and to get engaged and have a wedding and a marriage and kids – does the idea of that make you feel good and superior? How is she the jerk in this situation?

          • idkmybffjill

            “does the idea of that make you feel good and superior? How is she the jerk in this situation?”

            THIS. Amy responded to a hypothetical comment with a measured opinion. Jen made a shitty implication that Amy didn’t have the qualifications to share that opinion. The latter was personal and shitty. The former was not.

          • Eenie

            I just disagree with you – I think the majority of comments on this site are very well worded and respectful, Amy’s included. Blanket statements are helpful (especially when writing into an advice column) because it lets the LW know this is (or is not) normal. Of course there’s exceptions! But that’s not the part you focus on unless you have information that tells you otherwise.

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

      This is a good point. We don’t mind it but we have had to decline all no-kids events because we cannot get a sitter for it. We send a nice card, gift, and wish them well but we can’t go.

      We had to banish all thoughts of a kid-free wedding ourselves because that would have meant none of my family would come.

      • Kaitlyn

        Yeah I’m the same way. At first I figured no kid wedding besides my nieces, but I know that would severely limit a lot of family from coming and I’m not willing to compromise on that.
        Also, I think kids at weddings are so much fun so I don’t mind I’m going to have like 15 at my wedding haha. They’re usually the first one to get on the dance floor and get the party started. I’ve been to both kid-free and kid-included weddings and I really don’t notice a difference with having children attend and never thought that they took away from the couple celebrating their marriage.

        • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

          “Also, I think kids at weddings are so much fun so I don’t mind I’m going to have like 15 at my wedding haha.”

          That’s actually true! The best wedding dancing I’ve seen was started by or helped along by little kids. And you know what? Although some of the kids annoyed me (because they were bothering my dog and they would have annoyed me no matter where they were), it was hilarious having them there. If only because they kept making their parents explain the card games we had out for the kids and adults. Including CAH. :D

          • Kaitlyn

            Unrelated to weddings, but I played CAH with my 12-year-old brother (and adults haha) last Christmas and he ended up winning hahaha Granted, I don’t think he understood half of what he was reading, but it was hilarious

          • Eh

            We had board games as our centerpieces. Our wedding was family friendly so I said that CAH wasn’t allowed. Two nights before our wedding, at my bachelorette party we were playing and my friends asked if CAH was going to be at their table. I said that CAH wasn’t allowed. They begged me and I caved. It was a huge hit. At one point there were tons of people playing, including my sister and my dad (it got weird).

          • Kaitlyn

            Yeah that game included my dad, my three brothers, and my fiance so it was an interesting dynamic hahaha

          • Another Meg

            OMG yes. We had something like 15 at our wedding, and luckily, it turned out that there was a playground on the site. They led some amazing dancing, and I have the best pics of adults on the playground while the kids were running around somewhere else.

            Full disclosure, we just have huge families with lots of kids, so while we had a ton there, we had a large section of people on our list for whom we did not invite kids. My first cousins’ kids were not invited (which knocked about 44 people off the invite list- BIG family). Also, none of them came. Not sure if it was related.

        • emilyg25

          We LOVED having kids at our wedding. But we had a pretty casual wedding at a family home, so that was the general vibe. I think kid-free weddings are cool too, but I’d probably decline the invite for all but my nearest and dearest.

          • We’re having kids at our wedding because I am super looking forward to a bunch of toddlers bopping away on the dance floor. Most of the kids will be three or under and won’t have spent much time with non-family members before, so (a) doesn’t really impact on food costs and (b) if they weren’t invited their parents would be less likely to come.

            I’m also going to steal an idea from one of the weddings we went to last year, which is to put a soft play mat and a bunch of toys out at the back of the room (maybe even one of those play pens with sides for the reception, so parents can stand up and hold things without worrying where baby is crawling off to) so if babies get grizzly parents can entertain them without having to leave the room or worry about distracting people around them too much.

          • Kaitlyn

            Our wedding venue actually has a special room with toys and games for kids, which I was PUMPED about (they literally thought of everything). When I’ve told parents about this, they were pretty excited because it means they have their kids nearby but they can still do adult things. Our wedding is out of state for everyone (oops) so I think this is a good compromise for those adults who don’t feel comfortable leaving their kid overnight, but also know their kid might need a break from the festivities. The venue recommended kids even bring sleeping bags for when it gets pretty late.

          • idkmybffjill

            Omg that sounds so fun. Sleepover wedding!

    • Violet

      I hear you, but I think a three year old, who is presumably verbal and has stayed somewhere with someone other than family before (e.g. preschool, daycare, a sitter at some point) is a different situation than you as a new mother. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask someone to find a sitter for their three-year old for a few hours. We haven’t heard anything about it being a destination wedding or anything like that.

    • Cleo

      If LW is reading, I think she should be reminded of this: http://apracticalwedding.com/you-guys/

      Your wedding is not an imposition. It’s on your brother to make his decision once you’ve made yours.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    “That makes this a really good time to practice boundaries, to start
    laying that foundation of, “Mom, you don’t get to dictate everything.”
    That doesn’t mean she’s going to like it, and it doesn’t mean she won’t
    push your boundaries again in the future. It’ll just hopefully get
    easier and easier to stand your ground.”

    This is VERY true. You have to start now, as a team, and be a united front when you’re dealing with a parent who has become accustomed to getting their way always. In our case (using gender neutral pronouns so as not to make this a thing where I come off as bashing anyone), it took eleven years to teach our version of this controlling parent that ze doesn’t get to control everything in our lives. Ze tried, ze tried to tell us when to get married, when to have kids (not if, WHEN), where to live, how to live, how to decorate – everything. Ze was really good at this and zir kids had all found that it was much easier not to say no than it was to stand their ground and have a fight. So instead, there’s a relationship where it’s either “Yes, parent” or lies. Nothing healthy in-between. The parent is not happy about the fact that we have stood firm, politely and lovingly, on a number of issues that are very important to us, but it’s so critical to prove that we are rational adults who make their own decisions and can’t just be bullied or pushed around by means of tantrums, snits, cold-shouldering, and so on.

    After years of practice, ze has finally started backing off and respected our boundaries. Ze might be picking at us behind our backs and making snide remarks about how we won’t fall in line but if we don’t have to hear it, it doesn’t matter.

  • Kelly

    Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in today lol but As someone who had a screaming baby/toddler while i was saying my vows, I totally get this. Let MIL get mad, but if it’s your hill to die on then she can get as mad as she wants. Best of luck!

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

      Oh no, I’m so sorry that happened! We bring our kid with us everywhere but the second ze starts opening the mouth and letting sound come out, we take zir away right away. We spent half our friend’s wedding ceremony happily playing on the lawn down the block to make sure that ze couldn’t ruin it.

    • Violet

      Sigh, yeah, we had a toddler screaming through my aunt’s reading during our ceremony. It was a bummer. And like with most things, family dynamics can influence how you feel about that kind of thing happening. It sounds like in LW’s case there’s a history of attention on this kiddo and her parents, so things like this will likely grate rather than roll off her back.

    • Alyssa

      At one of our friend’s weddings, the niece of the bride started screaming/wailing in the middle of the vows. Our friend stopped her vows and said into the microphone “get her outta here!” in the most playful yet “I’m dead serious” tone and her thumb pointed towards the door. Luckily it wasn’t taken harshly, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do that during a wedding without repercussions!

    • G.

      Ugh, that would really bother me (and my mother too, who has zero tolerance for screaming children during weddings, funerals, and other sacred/special moments), and I’m sorry you had to deal with that. And, like Violet said, if attention to the kid already tends to overshadow others, it’s unlikely to change at a wedding and would make this sort of interruption, were it to occur, worse.

      • Jess

        My mother’s general response to slightly-ill-behaved children (especially infants, who literally cannot control themselves) was a major reason we chose to have a 100% kid-free wedding.

      • Kelly

        Thanks :) the parent not in the wedding party did take little guy out of there eventually but my friends said they could see my shoulders hunch as soon as I heard it, which i didn’t even realize i was doing! I was honestly more so annoyed with BIL that was holding up the entrance to the reception because he had to help his wife with baby/toddler. But BIL has tendency to make everyone wait on him, my husband and I be damned even if it was our wedding day. Oh the joys of family LOL

  • G.

    It’s perfectly legitimate to not invite kids, and there are many good reasons not to (as the OP has outlined). I do want to push back on Liz a bit regarding kids as a distraction — it’s true that not everyone will always be paying attention to the couple, the ceremony, the toasts, etc. It’s also true that parents may spend their time at a child-free wedding thinking about their kids and sharing pictures on a phone. But there is a fundamental difference between a parent needing to pay attention to kids — keeping them entertained, quiet, away from dangers, corralled in an area, not touching the cake, etc — and glancing at your phone or being mentally distracted or showing pictures to someone. If the kids aren’t there, it is possible that the parents can pay full attention to the wedding and possible that the other wedding-goers will not be distracted. If the (young) kids are there, it’s just not going to happen. To this end, I very much understand the desire to have parents there who are not in parent mode. They may not end up being fully present, but at least the possibility exists. And much like banning laptops in classrooms, sometimes drawing the line isn’t only about the student with the laptop or the parent with the kid; it’s about creating an environment that doesn’t distract the other students with the laptop screen and not distracting the other event-goers with a kid, as cute and charming as she may be. Nothing wrong with drawing that line and sticking to it.

    (There will, of course, be consequences, because there are consequences to all choices — like the students who complain and write negative comments on evals, there will be parents who can’t come or family members who complain about the no-kid policy. Likewise, if you bend the rule, there will be consequences — noise, distractions, MIL who thinks she gets her way… Just depends what matters to you the most — the wedding environment or the complaints. There are consequences to not holding the line too, at the wedding and in the future. Decide what matters most and stick to it.)

    • Amy March

      I am reminded of a professor who said he would sooner allow a troupe of dancing monkeys in his classroom than laptops.

    • Amie Melnychuk

      As parents of a toddler, we look forward to wedding invites! Even if our girl is invited, we are more likely to leave her at home with a grandparent then bring her along and fret over her and one of us have to call it a night earlier and miss out on all the partying! It’s a night away, just the two of us, with a good meal and dancing.

      You don’t get that often as a parent of young kids, and a wedding is a great excuse to get a babysitter.

      • Jess

        We had a lot of friends with <1 year olds who loved the excuse to go to our wedding as their first date-night post kid. Some obviously couldn't (very newborn), but even my cousins got a baby sitter together at the hotel and enjoyed relaxing without worrying about their kids.

      • Katharine Parker

        I know people who have brought a grandparent on the other side of the family as a babysitter for a young baby. Grandma and baby hung out at the hotel while the parents went to the wedding. Everyone enjoyed it!

        • G.

          Yay creative & reasonable solutions! A friend of mine has brought her mom to academic conferences to watch her infant while she presented and attended other sessions, another friend’s FIL pitches in, another has a BIL who is awesome about this sort of thing. A college-aged niece/nephew/cousin or even family friend could work too, depending on location. There are options out there!

          • Katharine Parker

            People work these things out! It’s common at conferences in my field for partners to come with new mothers, and they’ll bring the baby at break times. I like to think it is good for the baby to see how awesome their mothers are at work from a young age (and I like seeing the sweet babies :)

          • Kelly

            Good practical solution

            However, babies don’t comprehend “how awesome their mothers are at work”. They only know if someone is taking care of them and have no concept of “work” or being awesome at it.

          • Katharine Parker

            I was clearly making a lighthearted statement about the benefits children gain from seeing their mothers being supported in the workplace… maybe infants have no concept of work, but kids learn quick.

          • idkmybffjill

            “They only know if someone is taking care of them and have no concept of “work” or being awesome at it.”

            Maybe not as infants, but as they grow older and are told stories about going to conferences with Mommy? You bet they’ll develop impressions about how awesome their mothers are at work.

            I OBVIOUSLY don’t remember my birth, but I know I was born after my mom finished a meeting (I was very premature), and damned if that hasn’t left an impression on me. Same with my dad having stayed home for a portion of my infancy. Like… I don’t remember those things, but I do know about them and they impact me and my worldview.

          • stephanie

            “Maybe not as infants, but as they grow older and are told stories about going to conferences with Mommy? You bet they’ll develop impressions about how awesome their mothers are at work.” my hands are in the aiiiiiirrrrr right now. I’ve always worked from home since my son’s been born, and as a result he’s had WAY more glimpses into what I do and how it’s done. My hope is always that it will impact him in more positive ways than negative, so. Thank you!

          • idkmybffjill

            It ABSOLUTELY will. I think my mother is a bad ass and alot of that is because I went to work with her a fair bit. Rock on!

  • macrain

    We chose to have kids, but only kids that we were related to. That ended up being a good way to draw the line, and most of our guests completely understood. One groomsman and his wife did not understand, and they brought their child knowing it was against our wishes. There was really nothing to do about that except not let it get to me! And happily, it really didn’t. Good luck!

    • Amy March

      Well, that and give that child a very large, very noisy, plastic musical toy for Christmas.

      • Caitlyn

        LOL!

    • Meredith

      That’s where we drew the line too. Our siblings and cousins could bring their kids, our friends were not. None asked. It was quite easy. I wanted my nieces and nephews on the family photos and involved, but I see why some people might not.

  • Christine

    As someone who has both attended a lot of weddings and photographed a lot of weddings, I have to push back on Liz’s statements a bit. Children can absolutely steal the spotlight- whether by being cute or by screaming the whole time. It’s not uncommon to have grandparents or parents completely distracted during very moving or important parts. Yes, some people may not be able to attend because of a no kids policy, but some of those people may have had to step out during the ceremony or leave early because their child was done for the day. I love kids, and think we need to do a better job of welcoming children into public spaces. But your wedding is a private event, and its completely fair to decide it’s a kids free zone.

    • Laura

      absolutely – i was at a wedding where a group of 8 – 10 kids were on the dance floor all right – yelling, running, and it was really disruptive, and it went on for ages. it was a fairly intimate wedding and it really changed the tone of the event.

      we did a no kid wedding (which was amazing), and made 1 exception for my goddaughter who is 11 (so not really a kid anyways). we have no nieces or nephews and none of our close friends have kids, so it wasn’t an issue for 99% of people. except…his mother, because she thought we would cave on one particular cousin. we didn’t, offered local babysitter recs, and the parents never did anything about it. the day before, his mother admitted that she just thought we’d change our minds, so she never backed us up with them. we didn’t change our mind, and i have no idea how they dealt with it – not my problem.

    • Linzenberg

      I heartily agree. I had a LOT of ideas about our wedding when we first got engaged–some of them changed, some didn’t. One of those that didn’t was having a child-free wedding. My husband and I both have aunts, in particular, who have histories of just loving up their young nieces/nephews/grandchildren (all of whom are very good, bright, well-behaved kids), to the point of sublimating their own personalities. It’s always about them: “Are you comfortable? Are you hungry? Do you want to dance? (while the kid is in the middle of eating) Let’s dance! Are you having fun? We’re having fun, aren’t we?!”–beyond the normal taking care of a child and to point where I think the kids are bugged by it…just let them be kids and look a weird bugs! And my husband wouldn’t admit it, but I think he’s a little hurt that as he’s grown his aunt, who he’s always been very close to, has become obsessed with the littles. I wanted to make this day about him. About the people who love him. And for him to be the focus of all of that love for a whole day. For us, it was a time for grown-ups to be grown-ups and celebrate a grown-up thing in a grown-up way.

      Plus, we got married at the Bronx Zoo. Again, most of our little relatives are old/mature enough to understand why they can’t go running off to see the tigers in the middle of the ceremony or party, but we didn’t want to risk confusing them or have parents have to explain and have that fight or (God forbid) a tantrum on us. We ended up using some language on our website that I got from APW, something along the lines of “While we love and have special relationships with all of your children, we ask that they stay home. Consider this a date night on us!”

    • LizGB

      My friend’s 3 year old daughter absolutely stole the spotlight during parts of my wedding, especially during the dancing portion. I was 100% fine with that because I am a socially awkward introvert who was completely overwhelmed with attention and was pleased to have the spotlight off of me. However if I think if the LW was in my position they would have been really bummed.

    • RageFace

      Oh yes. Former wedding photographer here too – I cannot count how many times I’ve had moments in camera and in person ruined by misbehaving or just otherwise annoyingly precocious children.

  • Katharine Parker

    It sounds like you specifically don’t want your husband’s niece at the wedding. Which is your prerogative (and understandable in the family dynamic you are describing), but for that reason, I would avoid introducing the “inviting kids will snowball” argument, because it’s so easy to counter it (only family, only her, only kids in the wedding and of course she’s going to be the flower girl). Focus on safety, offer to pay for a babysitter for her and anyone else who you are concerned about, and let your fiancé take the lead with his mother.

  • Meghan

    Just a word of warning on the idea of focusing on the safety issue as the reason you’re excluding kids. Every family is different, but in my family, this would be seen as an obstacle that can be overcome, and instead of the idea of “no kids” being accepted, at least some people would simply work to find a way to “fix” the safety issue. For instance, I could totally see grandma volunteering to be on kid duty all night so that the kiddo doesn’t get into anything unsafe. And then you either have to deal with that “solution” (which would defeat the point of wanting the adults to be able to be really present) or you have to push back and explain that it’s not just about safety.

    I’m totally reading tea leaves here and I don’t know your family, but I do know that focusing on the safety issue would be a giant no-no with mine! If you don’t want kids there, I think it’s enough to say that – I don’t think you owe anyone a reason.

    • Violet

      Oh yeah, good point. Sometimes people who struggle with not getting their way interpret a reason as an opening line for negotiation.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        I see you’ve met my mother.

        • Laura C

          And my MIL.

        • Violet

          Yes, and she wanted me to tell you she’s still disappointed that you didn’t take her advice about that thing three years ago. She said you’d know what I’m talking about.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            OMG, MOM, I SAID NO. (Also, yes, I know exactly which thing.)

    • Cleo

      Came here to say just that – don’t introduce safety as a problem (because there’s a solution for it).

      Possible “Sorry, it’s out of my hands,” explanation could be (and you might have to get the venue to corroborate for you if the MIL is adamant about the niece attending) that since it’s a vineyard and winery, they don’t allow young children.

      However, the simplest explanation is that you want a child-free wedding. Period.

      • Lisa

        Yes, vendors might be willing to be the “bad guy” in this scenario and answer the MIL’s calls that kids aren’t allowed.

        • Lawyerette510

          Oh I love this idea.

      • Emily

        This was exactly my thought!

    • Jane

      I think “just say no” was a complete failure for getting kids not to do drugs, but the idea that if you give people reasons they will attack those reasons, so just tell them no, is solid!

      • CMT

        Nancy Reagan *was* on to something! ;)

  • Meredith

    Is this a wedding people will need to travel to? Being at a vineyard it sounds like it’s possibly out of in the country somewhere? I can’t imagine my sisters being able to find 1-2 nights of babysitting to attend my wedding, especially when much of the family who might help is attending the wedding.

    • Violet

      I’m hoping if that were a factor, it’d be included in the letter. If the LW is American, there are vineyards in California, New York, Pennsylvania….

    • Amy March

      Hire one locally? Ask the other parent to watch them if there is another parent- even rotate the duties if there are two fathers available so each can go to part of it? Ask other partner’s mother to come along and watch them?

      • z

        The problem with a local sitter is that you are pretty screwed if the sitter flakes. And it sucks to fly 3 people to a wedding that only one person actually attends.

        • Amy March

          You’re pretty screwed in any case if the sitter flakes, if the flight gets rerouted, if someone gets sick, etc. I don’t think risk of an emergency is a reason to either not try or to not have a child free wedding.

          • z

            I think it’s fine to have a no kids wedding, but let’s not pretend it’s easy for the parents no matter how it’s accomplished.

            Ever think about how it feels to spend the evening in a hotel room with a toddler, knowing that the people she loves most in the world are all celebrating without her a few blocks away? Not so fun. Not a treat. Every right to do it, enjoy your party, but don’t think it doesn’t matter.

          • Amy March

            I don’t think it is easy, but I do think it is possible.

          • z

            Possible, but understand that it does affect people’s RSVP. The engaged couple should understand that when they make the decision.

            It kind of seems like the niece is being excluded because of the grandmother’s behavior. Maybe there’s nothing to be done about that, but it’s sad. She is a member of the family in her own right, isn’t she?

          • Violet

            That’s the sad thing about favoritism; it’s often innocent people who end up getting resented for it. I still say they should not invite kids for all the reasons LW listed, but I agree with you that it’s a sucky situation to be three years old and have no idea that there is already a build up of resentment about you because your grandmother can’t show her love for her children equally. Raw deal, for sure.

          • stephanie

            Is this she the adult in the room with the toddler, or the toddler herself?

          • z

            Could be both, but I was thinking the toddler. I always find it very hard to enjoy the party knowing that my daughter is in the care of a stranger and missing out on the opportunity to develop family relationships. It isn’t a very good deal for a kid to endure all the stress of travel and a stranger-sitter for a party they don’t even get to go to! If you don’t invite kids, don’t be surprised if only one of the parents shows up. You have every right to a no-kid wedding, but let’s be real about what you’re actually asking for.

      • Gina

        Some of us aren’t cool with leaving our kids with strangers. I was lucky when I flew to a friend’s wedding in Sonoma that another friend brought her parents to watch her toddler and they offered to watch mine as well, but there is simply no way I would have been comfortable hiring someone I hadn’t met/gotten to know to watch my one-year-old.

    • Lisa

      Yes, I had similar questions about this, too. However, babysitters exist all over the country, and there are even web-sites devoted to helping you find a safe, background-checked sitter. Or perhaps the LW knows someone local who could help sit. It would be totally possible to find someone to watch a kid in a hotel room for a few hours.

      • Violet

        Yeah, this is a three year-old we’re talking about. I remember having play dates at friends’ houses when I was that age, and my mom wasn’t there. A nonverbal infant, one thing. A kid who, in all likelihood, has spent some time away from her parents before? Who can Facetime her parents at some point in the evening, who can ask for food and water? I don’t get how babysitting is becoming a major hurdle here.

        • Amy March

          I think if this were a three month old, responses would be very different.

    • Vanessa

      There’s an easy fix for that: the couple provides babysitters. Our venue is about an hour & a half away from the city where most of the guests live, and all of the parents of littles (9 kids under the age of 3!) are staying on site. So we’ll be providing childcare Friday evening and Saturday afternoon & evening.

  • RW

    I have a 2.5 year old, and while I do think the choice is totally up to you, I don’t love the idea that people can’t be “mentally present” with their kids. You can’t force people to be mentally present somewhere they don’t want to be. I had a friend who had a no-kids wedding and told me she wanted people to “be able to enjoy themselves” – it’s up to each parent how they take that on. For some, it might be finding a sitter, but you shouldn’t expect to be able to make a call about what will put their mind at ease or give them a better experience.

    • Amy March

      I agree with this. I think it’s not a great reason to offer for the decision for all the reasons you give.

    • Annalee

      Yeah, personally, I’d be much, much more mentally present if my child was with me because I’m a big ol’ worrywart. Have I sucked it up, multiple times, for people I love? You freaking bet–part of the deal when you love people with varying priorities. Also, we had a childfree wedding once upon a time, so I get the benefits! But please don’t try to tell me you’re doing it (essentially) for my own good…you’ll just make me crabby.

      • z

        Totally agree. It isn’t a “treat” to do the work of arranging and paying for a sitter and to miss out on time with my child. Especially if my child is being excluded from a family event that she would enjoy. It’s the child’s family too, you know. People have every right to have no-kid weddings, but I’ll be the judge of what’s a “treat” for me, thank you. Ugh!

      • NolaJael

        As someone who attends a church with many young families, I see a lot of combinations of children present in serious / religious settings and I can say this: Parents’ awareness of what is appropriate and/or distracting behavior varies wildly and many of the parents who think it’s “important” for kids to be present are the ones whose kids are running amok. Unfortunately, while there are great parents who use special dinners and services to teach their kids etiquette and traditions that are important to the community, there are many other who think that running laps around the sanctuary during prayers is just “kids being kids.” As the host, you can’t really trust parents to self police on this issue, so blanket rules are really the way to go.

    • emilyg25

      Yes. I’m totally okay with kid-free weddings, but if that’s what you want, just say you don’t want kids there. Don’t make claims about how I should enjoy my time. Also, accept that that means some people will decline. Basically, just own your choices.

      • z

        +1. Look, if parents want a “break” or a “treat”, they’re perfectly capable of hiring a sitter and going out whenever they want. A no-kids wedding isn’t giving them anything they don’t already have! If anything, you’re making it harder because the wedding makes most of the free babysitters unavailable.

        And also, not everyone considers every wedding a “treat” anyway! Some weddings are obligations, some weddings are a quid pro quo, some just aren’t what you would do if you wanted a real “treat”! My husband’s cousin tried the “date night” line on me and it really irritated me. Spending time with my husband’s extended family is emphatically not a treat, especially with a 9-month-old at home. No fun to pump bottles in advance, no fun to pay sitter, no fun to grit teeth through wedding with aching boobs, no fun to leak milk all over my dress, no fun to have to pump at home just to relieve the pressure enough to sleep! Not a treat! Own your choices and don’t bullshit me about whether I’m having a good time.

        • Eh

          THIS! (and so much of it) – My husband recently wanted to go on a date that would be over our daughter’s bed time. I mentioned that it wasn’t a big deal from him but that it would be a big deal for me (who would have to pump) and the poor soul (his brother) who would be putting her to bed for the first time ever, not to mention it being a big deal for our daughter. (We ended up cancelling the date because our daughter was sick.)

          My husband and I both want to go to my nieces’ dance recital but I’m not sure that’s going to work out since all of our normal (free) babysitters are going to be at the recital.

    • RageFace

      Point taken, but recently at my cousin’s wedding, his sister had to constantly run after her two toddlers because her useless husband was too busy getting wasted and pouting. Even during her speech she had to field off “MOMMY, UPPY UPPY UPPYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!” screams. So it DOES happen… :/

  • Amy Sigmon

    You mention the granddaughter’s “parents” in passing. In my mind, your fiance should be dealing with his brother and sister-in-law or brother-in-law with this issue. It’s not grandma’s kid. As a mom, I’d want to deal with my sibling and not involve my mom or MIL. Think about the wedding day too- are those parents in the wedding party, if you having one? If so, it’s way easier to get a sitter. (And men, in general, are not going to think about this advance. My husband was stunned that I was not going to be able to care for our son at all on his brother’s wedding day, because I was in the wedding. Despite the fact that the man’s had two weddings, he’s clueless about the bridesmaid role.) MIL definitely sounds domineering, but work this out with the child’s parents. Unless there is a custody issue that you didn’t mention, they are in charge.

    • Violet

      This is a good point, and if MIL continues to bring it up, LW and her partner can use the fact that this little girl has parents to say, “Don’t worry, we’ve already spoken to her parents about this. So, what are you thinking of wearing to the rehearsal dinner?” and shut it down.

    • Jessica

      My MIL has what we view as an over attachment to her granddaughter, and would absolutely be the person who the fight was with if we faced a similar situation. My SIL would probably have appreciated the night “off”, but I think having the toddler around gives MIL someone to focus on and an “out” for conversations she doesn’t know how to end.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      This was my first thought. Deal directly with the child’s parents, and if they’re reasonable people, build a front against Grandma. She’ll look pretty silly making a fuss if the parents are on board with the bride and groom.

    • Nell

      OMG agree.

      We definitely let people bring kids to our wedding, but some folks decided that it was an excellent excuse to have a child-free date night. For all you know, this kid’s parents would be delighted to get a sitter and dance the night away at your wedding.

  • Kara

    We had a kid free wedding, but 2 groomsmen brought their daughters because they were from way out of town. I really didn’t care. I didn’t want kids there because I knew I couldn’t trust some of the parents to you know, actually parent/discipline/take care of their own kids.

    LW, happily have no kids! First and foremost, you and your fiance do you! Second, tell all the parents that will be receiving an invite that it will be kids free asap! Don’t wait until the invites go out, CALL them in person and inform them. This will give them time to hopefully find a babysitter or time to decide whether or not they can attend. It sucks, but some may not be able to attend.

    • Another Meg

      Heck yes to the early warning. Set the tone and be very clear. Parents don’t like it any more than the couple when they schlep their kids to what turns out to be a child-free wedding.

      And also, I went to a wedding where the flower girl was the only child invited. That kid had a terrible time. And so did a few of the adults- she threw a bit of a tantrum for most of the night because she was bored.

  • Lawyerette510

    I think there are two issues here:
    1. Wanting the groom’s mother to be more attentive to him and prioritize him than she has a history of every being/ doing; and,
    2. Not wanting kids there.

    I am all for not having kids if it’s because in general they don’t want 5 to 10 kids at their wedding; but if they think not having the niece there will somehow fix the first issue of the groom’s mom being hyper-focused/ into the niece and the brother-of-the-groom more than she is into the groom, well whether the niece is there or not, it won’t matter.

    We considered a no-kid wedding but changed our mind when we looked at the combination of location (most everyone was spending the night in a very small town/ rural area with not that many babysitters available), guest list, and family dynamic of push-back from my husband’s sister, her husband and my MIL and FIL. It wasn’t that we were worried about kids stealing the lime-light, we are just not that into kids. It ends up for the most part having kids was great. Two of the little girls were the ones who really got the dance floor going, the infant was totally low-key, and the nephew was generally fine (although I was really irritated when my now SIL pulled out some candles, placed them in a piece of cake, and gathered people to sing him happy birthday. Yes it was his birthday, but there had been a family thing for his birthday at lunch that day, where he had cake and candles and presents)

    • toomanybooks

      Yesss, kids always get the dance floor going and they are hilarious on the dance floor.

      My fiancée’s cousin happened to get married either on or near her grandmother’s birthday (they have one million close relatives so it was bound to be something) and the night before there was an email sent out like “Uncle Joey had the great idea of having a birthday party for grandma the afternoon of the wedding since we’re all in town!” and I was like “oh boy, something tells me it isn’t a wonderful idea to schedule an impromptu party for someone else just hours before the big wedding that includes many of the guests.”

      Recently my FMIL realized that our date was near her parents’ anniversary and we were like “well we can’t change it!! We put a deposit down and everything!” (The anniversary turned out to be like a month later than the wedding.)

      • Lawyerette510

        We knew when we booked our wedding that it was the day after mother’s day (yes it was a Monday wedding) and on the nephew’s 2nd birthday. When my husband and his siblings were kids, his family was not into birthdays, there would be a card and one thoughtful gift, the mom would cook the kid’s favorite meal and that was it. They continue to not really be that into birthdays. So it was a calculated risk. We had a small wedding that was pretty laid back, so it was fine that they had a “birthday party” for our nephew at the house they rented a couple blocks from the venue earlier in the day. I did not go, but my husband did. I just didn’t understand my SIL’s need to have him blow out candles and be sung to a second time that day, and to have it be at our reception.

        • Jane

          Yeah – I don’t get the need to sing to him at your wedding. Especially when they all celebrated with him earlier. Even small children can understand that not the entire day is about them.

          • Lisa

            Some of the kids I knew growing up were allowed to have friends at their siblings’ birthdays or were even given a present to make things “fair.” My parents refused to do any of that because they said it was important my sisters and I learn early on that not every celebration was about us. The situation with @Lawyerette510:disqus ‘s family strikes me as completely ridiculous!

        • AP

          WHAT

          • Lawyerette510

            The things that happen when the favorite child has her first child…

        • Leah

          My goodness, that’s ridiculous! He’s two! He won’t even remember the first candles let alone the second!

      • Jane

        I completely agree that you can’t avoid all family members’ special days, especially with a big family, but I’m surprised by your FMIL’s reaction on that one.
        She wanted you to change it because she thought the anniversary was the same? Because the grandparents’ would be celebrating instead?

        Our wedding will be on my grandparents’ anniversary because that was the day that worked best for us. Luckily, everyone is pretty stoked about it.

        And that’s even with them probably not being together on the day because my grandfather doesn’t travel anymore (it’s not a destination wedding, they just live far away) but my grandmother does.

        So, like I said, I guess I just got lucky on that one. We really wouldn’t have been able to change our date either.

        • toomanybooks

          Oh, I don’t think she would have wanted us to change our date based on that. For big birthdays or anniversaries etc their family tends to have big get togethers (like I said, gigantic family who is close) so maybe she heard the date and was like “oh hmm, what if that’s the same weekend as the anniversary” but we just heard it and we were like “WELP that’s great anyway our date is unchangeable!”

          • Jane

            Got it. That makes more sense.

        • idkmybffjill

          A friend of mine got married on her sister’s anniversary, and made it sort of a wedding theme! “Handed down traditions”. She had a great grandmother’s engagement ring, wore her grandmother’s wedding dress (that her mother had also worn), and got married on her sister’s anniversary. She even had an anniversary dance for sister! It was cool. Sister cried happy tears (anniversary dance was a surprise).

          • Jane

            Yeah – weddings are often all about the handed down traditions, so it sounds like your friend did a really good job of embracing that.
            – I am named after this grandmother and am planning to give her my bouquet at the reception – which will be a surprise. My aunt, who is also named after this grandmother (her mother) and wore my grandmother’s dress at her wedding, kept trying to convince me to wear her dress so that all the Janes would have done it. And I was like, “but I have already bought my dress and I love it”- so I think I’m going to borrow the giant petticoat/hoop thing from the original dress as a middle ground.

          • CMT

            Aww, that sounds so great!

        • Eh

          Not only can’t you avoid all family member’s special days, there will be special days in the future that you can’t avoid either. My daughter was born on my BIL/SIL’s 3rd anniversary which is also one of my husband’s cousin’s birthdays (she was annoyed about my BIL/SIL getting married that day). My husband really didn’t want her born that day but that’s the day she decided to come.

          One of my cousin’s got married on our grandparents anniversary. My grandmother had passed away over 20 years earlier (and my grandfather remarried) so that day was no longer celebrated. My cousin picked a day and a venue and everything. Then my aunt realized that there was something familiar about that day and realized it was her parents anniversary.

        • MDBethann

          My college roommate’s wedding was on her parents’ anniversary and everyone thought it was great. Their only downside is that some years, it’s the same day as Thanksgiving, but oh well.

      • Laura C

        Your first line made me think of this picture. (This child was not invited. Her parents brought her and her brother without mentioning it in advance. Happily, I didn’t know about it until after the fact.) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/107cfe3d75ccb312c37a794ec586811c4d8c353abdd7b9f9ca736f472d54bbfb.jpg

    • idkmybffjill

      “but if they think not having the niece there will somehow fix the first issue of the groom’s mom being hyper-focused/ into the niece and the brother-of-the-groom more than she is into the groom, well whether the niece is there or not, it won’t matter.”

      I think this is the MOST important thing. It sounded to me from the letter that the LW is trying to make that portion of her family prioritize them, and kids or no… they probably won’t.

    • macrain

      I was going to say this! My sense is that the first point matters much, much more than the kids thing. As Liz said, family dynamics don’t change much when it comes to weddings. It is sad and disappointing that the fiance’s family focuses so much on his brother, and probably that is going to hurt on his wedding day when the dynamic holds. It will make it easier if they don’t have any expectations of those particular family members.
      BUT, LW- the good news is, at your wedding you will be surrounded by your people, and those people don’t care much about your fiance’s brother. They care about YOU, and you will feel that. Of course it can never make up for that family dynamic, but- trust that others are so excited to make this day about you.

      • Lawyerette510

        Exactly! The less-favored sibling is still going to be less-favored, even on their wedding day. I know this because I am married to the less-favored sibling. But, it really didn’t matter because we had all our family-by-choice there with us and they wanted to focus on us and surround us with all the love.

  • Sara

    Stand firm but be prepared for backlash. And if they give you an ultimatum, be prepared to call it. My college roommate had her (local) uncle’s family RSVP to her no-kid wedding with their kids written into the invite. Like “Mr & Mrs smith +3”. She called them and just said, “I’m sorry you must have misunderstood. We love your kids, but this will be an adults only event”. They said they wouldn’t come without their kids, and she said that was fine. They didn’t come to the wedding. She wasn’t thrilled, but it was the choice they made.

    Another option is what my aunt did – she allowed kids at the ceremony (since she wanted her goddaughter and stepson to be in the wedding) but then had a babysitter set up in a hotel room for them during the reception. People seemed to like that.

    • Amy March

      Ugh. If your kids aren’t on the invite, assume they aren’t invited. Like, at least call and ask before writing them in! So rude.

      • Leah

        Or just showing up with them in tow!

      • MDBethann

        I had a guest write in a “+1”. Not a kid, and she was not in a relationship, but she was flying in from CA for the wedding (extended family) and I didn’t know her well and if the +1 was coming with her, so I kept my mouth shut, but writing in ANY guests, I don’t care how old or young they are, is just incredibly rude and tacky.

    • CMT

      This is pure speculation, but I could see MIL in this situation viewing onsite childcare as optional instead of mandatory and bringing the niece to the wedding anyway. You know, because *she* doesn’t mind watching the niece at the wedding.

      • Sara

        That’s a good point. And if the MIL is as attached to the niece as it sounds, she might even leave the wedding at some point to hang out in the ‘kid’ room.

  • Abby

    My sister is a middle school teacher and invited a number of families that are involved in her PTA with the children that she teaches.

    It was AWFUL. Enough of the kids were so poorly behaved that those who were well behaved were overshadowed. Their parents looked miserable, and so many of them left before the end of the night which is ultimately what my sister noticed and was saddened by.

  • idkmybffjill

    Man, we invited so many kids to our wedding (I love dancing kids), and almost all of their parents decided not to bring them and make it a date night! Obviously that probably won’t happen here, but something to consider if anyone else is mulling over this potential problem!

    • emmers

      This happened to us too.

      • norawallis

        At our wedding one friend came up to me after her third or fourth margarita and said “Thank you so much for not inviting my kids.” For real. Her point was that she would’ve brought them if they’d been invited, but was having a blast taking a break from supervising toddlers for the night.

        • emmers

          We would have loved to have more kids attend (I had craft supplies at the ready!), but most of our friends who have kids have kids who were 3 or younger at the time, and they collectively said it was too much of a hassle to bring the kids. Which, fair enough!

    • Danielle

      We invited a lot of families with kids, and they all came! Probably helped that we had a daytime wedding at what was basically a summer camp, with a playground there (where most of the kids spent the *entire* day running around with their new friends, despite the summer heat).

      The day/time/location of your wedding can help communicate “extremely child-friendly” or “possible date night” – so that’s also something to consider for couples planning.

      • idkmybffjill

        Great tip! Ours was an evening wedding at a brewery. We had lots of kids food and stuff, but I totally didn’t factor like.. Hello, duh, not exactly a super kid friendly environment. Oh well!

        • Danielle

          Some things ya just don’t know until you do them. Most of us have never planned/hosted a large event before, so it’s mostly a learning experience.

          We didn’t choose a venue *because* it was so kid-friendly (mostly, it was affordable and we liked the outdoor space and that we could bring our own food/drinks), and we chose a daytime event because we are more daytime people than night owls, but it was a great side effect that people felt comfortable bringing their kids.

          Live and learn!

          • idkmybffjill

            Totally! We made the same miscalculation with plus ones. We invited all the babies and all the dates (and planned for their attendance ), and everyone was like, “Parents night out!”, or “Who needs dates when you’ve got friends!”. Oh well!

  • I think this is well-rounded advice but I disagree with “if you do end up deciding to invite a kid or two, you really don’t have to worry about rippling effects.” My sister- and brother-in-law had this exact thing happen at their wedding. They had planned to have a no-kids wedding but the bride’s sister (who was also maid of honor) became unexpectedly pregnant during the engagement and gave birth just a month before the wedding. The bride of course said that she wanted her sister to be at the wedding and her baby was welcome to come. But then other members of the family with kids became bitter about not having their kids invited. It might not happen this way in the case of the LW but it very well might too.

    • Jessica

      I have an issue with people who lump “newborns” in with “children.” Totally different dynamic for a 1-month-old to even a 1-year -old.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Agreed. A friend was Maid of Honor in her brother’s wedding, her husband was an usher, and the brother expected them to ditch their still-breastfeeding sub-1yo baby with a sitter they’d never met for the duration of the ceremony and reception to have a child-free day. NOPE. I ended up watching the baby in the choir room until Dad was done ushering, and then he missed the whole ceremony.

        • MsDitz

          My husband was a groomsman for one of his good friends and I was invited, but our 2 month old was not. It was awkward because my MIL and the mother of this groom are best friends and the mother of the groom told us, “oh of course your infant will be allowed because that is different”, but then the bride got in touch with us with the firm “sorry no kids whatsoever”. I ended up staying home with the baby, which apparently ruffled the bride’s feathers. She couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just leave the baby with a sitter for the night. That was 2 years ago and honestly things are still awkward with this couple.

          • emilyofnewmoon

            I am very much of the “have a childfree wedding if you want!” camp but I really feel like newborns are totally different. They physically need to be with their mother, and aren’t they mostly just sleeping in the first few months? A newborn doesn’t eat, take up room, make noise, or run around.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            You’re allowed to have a baby-free wedding, but you also need to accept that you’re risking some of those parents not coming.

        • Nell

          I had a friend who had a “no kids unless they are infants” rule. Seems a lot more fair.

    • norawallis

      Agreed that it still has the potential to snowball, but messaging can help a LOT. We started with a 100% no-kids wedding but ultimately decided infants younger than 6 months could come; our rationale was they wouldn’t need a chair or a meal, therefore not costing us any extra on an already-expensive day, and they weren’t mobile which meant a significantly lower threat of damage to the historic home where we got married. (Yes, I know infants older than 6 months likely don’t need those things either but we had to make an arbitrary cut-off somewhere.)

      • norawallis

        Also, an important detail: people totally got it. And we had a lot of push-back from family around not inviting kiddos in the first place.

    • Lawyerette510

      I’ve officiated two weddings in the past 4 months that started off as “no-kids” and then exceptions were made for infants (under 6 months old). In both those cases, people were reasonable in understanding (including siblings of the groom in one of them), especially given the timeline of both weddings- as both weddings started around 7:30, and most of the kids who were not invited have about 8:00 pm bedtimes.

    • I bet the family members would have complained about their kids not being invited no matter what, tho. I can’t imagine someone honestly thinking that it was unfair that a one-month-old (and the child of the bride’s sister, no less!) got an exception to the “no kids” rule.

    • Becky

      My brother- and sister-in-law also had this happen at their wedding a few years ago. They had a no-kids wedding, with the exception of their 5 year old daughter (the flower girl) and their nephew (the ring bearer). The kids were there for the ceremony, and they left the reception early with a sitter. My fiance’s cousin and his wife, however, made a HUGE stink that their 6-month-old daughter wasn’t invited to the wedding. They honestly thought it was unfair that the bride and groom’s daughter was there, and their daughter wasn’t.

    • MrsRalphWaldo

      We had someone who didn’t have their child on the RSVP show up with them in tow simply because they heard that someone else was allowed to bring their daughter. Many will assume that yes for one means yes for all.

      • idkmybffjill

        Totally. Also, important to note that even though there’s lots of etiquette around it – not everyone memorizes who the invitation was addressed to, and will just ask a friend, “Hey I forget, are kids allowed?” – if any of their friends might be on the exceptions list, they could pretty innocently screw up.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Memorizes – heck, even reads the invitation envelope(s). Unless you’ve planned a wedding recently how-to-read-an-invitation-envelope-to-figure-out-who-is-invited is a rare skill when it comes to families and plus ones.

    • Leah

      I have this exact worry right now. We don’t have the space for kids/it’s a formal evening reception but my cousin (also bridesmaid) will have a 15 month old and her parents will be there and her husband’s family are all in Ireland plus they live 3-4 hours drive away so there’s no way they could leave the little dude with a babysitter.

      On the other side we have my fiance’s family who have four little boys amongst his cousins (youngest will be 3, oldest will be 6 or 7). Both cousins have family in the country and nearby but I’m so worried they’ll just bring them along as this happened with one of the families at our engagement party. The other asked if they could come as they were struggling to find a minder but the other just assumed it would be fine even though the invitation only had adults on it.

      Any tips? It’s especially hard as it’s not my family and my only nephew will be coming.

  • Morgan D

    Y’all, my heart is breaking for the LW and her fiance!

    It sounds like the real issue here isn’t about inviting kids or not (on that topic: I’m in the “don’t do it, kids can and it seems in this particular wedding’s case almost certainly will take up the limelight” camp). It seems like that’s the most recent logistical manifestation of a longer, lingering issue: namely, that LW and fiance are themselves fairly heartbroken over the in-laws consistently focusing on and favoring the fiance’s brother and nuclear family.

    I skew towards “blunt to a fault” when it comes to communications, so this may not work for LW, but I’d really strongly recommend to the LW just telling MIL/DIL and brother what you told us:

    “We love you all very much, and it’s important to us that you be fully present for the day of our wedding. We want to free up all of our guests to participate fully in our wedding, instead of focusing on their children, safety, etc., and as a rule won’t be having any children at the wedding. We don’t feel comfortable making any exceptions, because we don’t want to open the door to snow-balling and inviting many other children, or to potentially offending many of our other guests.

    We really love Niece, and want to include her in the wedding by (insert some kind of tiny, low stakes task she can “assist” you with, like putting stamps on envelopes, making a ribbon assortment for your bouquet, etc.) and making a date of it.

    All that said, it’s extra important to us that you respect our decision and meet us in the middle here, because we have some hurt around feeling like the family focus is often on fiance’s brother and family. That’s something we should talk about more later, to clear the air and move on together. For now, it’s important to fiance and I that he/we feel loved and cherished–in part by being supported in this, on our wedding day, which we would like to be about us and our marriage, and celebrating that with you.”

    Something like that?

    • z

      I think “fully present” isn’t going to happen either way. Will the MIL even know what they mean? It’s kind of a self-help, millennial-speak term to me…

      • Morgan D

        I guess, in that case, just change “fully present” to “fully focused on celebrating us and our marriage”?

        I think I was also hoping that the “small thing the Niece can contribute” would act as a buffer, allowing MIL, etc. to feel that Niece was “present” enough (so that they wouldn’t be distracted by or wallowing in her absence, but instead thinking, “Oh, how awesome it is that my new daughter-in-law included something she made with my granddaughter in her wedding!”)

        There is, of course, always a chance that won’t work (and that itself would likely be painful for LW and fiancé) but it just seems to me like maybe the family-in-law needs to understand 1) that there’s some lingering hurt here and 2) that focusing fully on just celebrating the happy couple would be an awesome, relatively pain-free way to start making amends and building a more harmonious, explicitly loving way forward.

      • Morgan D

        I think that could just be changed to “fully focused on celebrating us and our marriage,” then.

        I think I also hoped that the “small thing the niece can contribute” would help MIL, etc. feel that the niece was “present” enough to act as a buffer–hopefully giving the family something nice to focus on (eg. “Oh, isn’t it awesome that my new daughter/sister-in-law made special time to include Niece before the wedding, and brought what they made together into the wedding itself?!”) and keeping them rooted in the service/reception (instead of wallowing in the niece’s absence).

        Of course, there’s a chance that the family either won’t get it, or won’t budge (which will likely be painful for LW and fiancé). But it just seems important that family-in-law understands 1) that there’s some lingering hurt here and 2) that desmonstrating a willingness to focus completely on celebrating the happy couple is a relatively pain-free way to start making amends and paving a more harmonious, explicitly loving way forward.

        • z

          I would be astounded if some minor crafted item were an adequate substitute for several hours with a beloved grandchild helping her bond with her extended family. Seriously? LW has every right to a no-kid wedding, but let’s be realistic.

          • Morgan D

            Thus the point of making a bigger “date” of that crating time together. I’m not saying it’s perfectly in line with what family-in-law seems to want, but it is an olive branch (and one that LW is under no obligation to extend).

            Assuming, though, that access to the extended family is really a concern, and that these things are happening: maybe the niece could attend something related to the rehearsal or morning-after brunch? Lots of families have informal time spent together on the days leading up to or after a wedding, and I see no reason why that level of inclusion shouldn’t be enough.

            The real issue, though, seems to be none of these things and MIL’s “sometimes unhealthy” attachment to the niece and family-in-law’s general favoritism for fiance’s brother. Nothing’s going to address that, except some honest conversation and a willingness to reflect/change on the part of family-in-law (and LW’s fiancé’s willingness to get vulnerable, clear, and self-advocating).

    • idkmybffjill

      “we have some hurt around feeling like the family focus is often on fiance’s brother and family. That’s something we should talk about more later, to clear the air and move on together. For now, it’s important to fiance and I that he/we feel loved and cherished–in part by being supported in this, on our wedding day, which we would like to be about us and our marriage, and celebrating that with you.”

      If they’re going for a frank discussion, I’d almost just skip to this part. From the letter, it seems like this is the heart of the issue anyway. It might not solve it, but if that’s the problem, then the kid not being there won’t make them focus on the couple regardless.

      • Morgan D

        Yes!!!

      • Lawyerette510

        And also, it should be the groom who is saying this– not LW herself! It is his family of origin, so he needs to take the lead on it. Sure she can be present, but she shouldn’t be the one actually breaking the news.

      • NolaJael

        We had a “fully present” concern at our wedding, but it was going up a generation rather than down. My mother is a completely different person when HER mother is present (and not in a good way). I wanted *my* mother to be “fully present” at *my* wedding. The solution was to not invite my grandmother, even though I know it hurt feelings in my mother’s family. But the way we did it was to create a no-exceptions rule that our wedding was for immediate family only. So even though I love my grandfather on my dad’s side, he was not invited either (he also has health problems, so it wasn’t a huge issue). It worked for us. I believe that the bright line rule is what saved even more hard feelings in this situation, but we never told them the reason because – as people have mentioned in other comments – my family would have seen it as an obstacle to be overcome, not a preference to be respected.

        • idkmybffjill

          Yeah, I’m with you. I think generally hardline is the way to go.

    • macrain

      I would add that it’s very important this conversation happens in person or over the phone. Especially in a charged situation like this one, so much can get misconstrued over email or text. While that might be easier to send an email, it’s not as effective. And this means a lot to the couple, and having an actual conversation helps to communicate that. (Also, saying “this is important to us” helps too!)

    • Jess

      Yeah, I mean, regardless of the kids-at-weddings situation, it hurts so much to be in situations where one child is clearly favored (maybe because they had the first grandkid, or were an attention seeking child, or the other kid is simply more introverted, or whatever benign reason).

      I think the way you worded that last paragraph is really a kind way to bring that up (and much better than something I would end up spurting out after one too many resentments).

      • Morgan D

        Aw, thanks!

        I’m also laughing a little because it can be a lot easier to say the right thing about someone else’s problem, in writing, than to deal skilfully with our own issues, in person. …Oh, wait, is that just me? ;)

        • Jess

          Ha, totally not just you. I’m full of wisdom and good scripts for everyone else, and then in my own life I’m like, “WHATISGOINGON!? CANYOUSTOPNOWPLZ”

  • MrsRalphWaldo

    It honestly sounds like you’ve already made up your mind and are looking for support. I will say that I also had a (mostly) kid free wedding. When people assumed that they could bring their children, we politely told them that our budget didn’t allow for it and most people understood. There were a few exceptions where if the children couldn’t come, the parents couldn’t come either. We had an out of town wedding, and not everyone can secure overnight babysitting. I’d just make sure that the brother could still come if his child cannot, and then decide if you’re okay with that answer.

    This also reminds me a lot of the “plus one” struggle. We weren’t able to afford for everyone to bring a plus one, so no one got one. It was a super easy way to draw the line, and everyone understood. Ultimately, it is your day and no one is really going to hold a grudge if you decide not to have kids present.

    • idkmybffjill

      Ugh, I wish we’d done that re: plus ones. We gave them to everyone cause I was stressed about not doing it, and no one brought dates if they weren’t attached (we would always have invited both members of a couple). One of those things I wish I’d just looked sincerely at my guest list and trusted my gut about! Ah well!

      • MrsRalphWaldo

        We paid for our wedding ourselves, and simply couldn’t afford to invite that many people. We even celebrated a few of the “nos” we got because we ended up inviting about 30 more people than we budgeted for. In the end, no one was upset about it and we had a great day.

        • idkmybffjill

          For us, we ended up choosing a larger venue because of the miscalculation of (among other surprise folks who couldn’t make it) plus ones. It was certainly a bummer to realize we could’ve made the cheaper wedding happen, ah well!

  • z

    Is the idea that the niece will be on-site but elsewhere during the wedding? I wonder what the LW would do if the grandma goes and gets her from the sitter and brings her to the reception. It sounds like it could be rather a scene, no? Realistically, is it worth the drama? Babysitters charge extra for hand to hand combat, you know.

    • Amy March

      I don’t think it was suggested in the letter that she be on site, no. And assuming that grandma is going to cause a dramatic scene, stealing the child from the sitter and charging into the reception sounds a lot like holding their decision hostage for a made up reason.

      • z

        Who’s assuming anything? I’m just asking. The grandma sounds a little nuts, and I’ve definitely seen people try to sneak kids into weddings before. The idea that the kid is so close by, and that the kid and many others would truly enjoy it, is very tempting after a little wine. It’s totally out of line but I have witnessed it myself.

  • JC

    Any chance you have a 15 year old neighbor who could use an extra $100? You could forego any fight by offering childcare, in another room, on the other side of the venue, for free for your family and godson.

    The safety issue is still present, and it sounds like completely child-free is a core-value of your wedding, which I get. So if those still hold true, then ignore my suggestion. But I see a third option that involves minimal cost and compromise on your part, but which will make your family think you thought of EVERYTHING. Win-win in my book.

    • MTM

      My guess is this would result in grandma hanging in the babysitting room with the granddaughter, rather than at the wedding activities.

  • Kyra

    Ugh, LW, I feel you! We decided to only invite nieces and nephews to our wedding and we’re still dealing with strained relationships from that decision (we got married 2 years ago!). At the time, I thought that was a fairly easy and straightforward line in the sand — I have really great memories of being at my (much) older siblings weddings when I was a kid and I wanted to provide a similar memory for my nieces and nephews. But, honestly, in hindsight, the fallout just wasn’t worth it. If I had it do over again, I would’ve just said no kids.

  • AP

    So, my mother-in-law is exactly this way, and yes, this happened to us. She was completely focused on her grandkids at our wedding, to the point of us turning around to introduce her to my dad’s side of the family only to find she had disappeared with the kids on a walk. She never did meet my dad or his family. Her mental (and physical) absence was hurtful to both me and my husband.

    The thing is, kids or no kids, she just wasn’t into our wedding. She’s awkward around new people, she really doesn’t enjoy dressing up, and she didn’t want to be involved in the planning process. I think she’d have been mentally absent even if the kids hadn’t been there. She might have met my dad’s family, but she wouldn’t have magically been more engaged or thrilled about being there. So in a way it was good that she had the kids to focus on, which is what she’s more comfortable with anyway.

    I think a lot of this comes down to not expecting people to be different at your wedding from how they normally are. Definitely don’t invite kids if that’s not the kind of wedding you want, but even without kids, I’d be prepared for the family dynamics to play out just as they always do- with the focus on your fiance’s brother and his family. It sucks, and I can definitely sympathize. And if they do end up showing up and being present, then you can be happily surprised! But for me that’s better than getting your hopes up and being disappointed (learned that one the hard way.)

    • Jessica

      Do we share a MIL?

      • AP

        If yours swears every year that “we’re not doing Christmas gifts this year” and then feels guilty on Christmas Eve and runs out in a frenzy to buy a bunch of stuff, so that we show up Christmas Day to a pile of random gifts and no gift to give her, then yes. We do. ;p

        • Jessica

          Not quite, but my siblings-in-laws chose not to give each other gifts, and we were totally ready to go that route with all the parents, too (then they can focus on getting the kids more things), but she is so into buying stuff for the stocking stuffers. I once commented that the women in the family all got cleaning things while the dudes got stuff like pocket knives and puzzles, so the next year she got everyone puzzles and had to say about a dozen times she only got them for everyone because of my complaining.

          I just put together my puzzle and thanked her.

          • AP

            Ohhhhh solidarity fist bump. I’m the feminist killjoy in my husband’s family, too.

          • Kat

            lol aren’t we all

          • Vanessa

            CLEANING THINGS what she ran out of coal

          • Jessica

            It’s what women want, isn’t it? More stuff to make your house sparkle for your hubby.

          • Vanessa

            Also you cannot be the only woman in that family who thinks this gift situation is BS

          • Jessica

            Nope, but I’m the only one who is willing to deal with the comments.

          • Lisa

            Bless you.

          • Kara E

            We (me and three brothers) all get cleaning things and new spatulas too. At this point, it’s a family joke. . I’m sad no one will get me a spatula this year since we’re just doing my little family this year.

    • macrain

      Expectations are key.
      i’m sorry your MIL behaved that way. :(

    • Lawyerette510

      “I think a lot of this comes down to not expecting people to be different at your wedding from how they normally are.”

      this should be one of the foundational mantras for everyone when they are planning a wedding.

      • Jess

        People will not change due to my wedding. I will not change because of my wedding. My wedding is not an imposition.

        These are the things I repeated to myself over and over and over.

  • Megan

    My husband and I had a kid-free wedding (the ceremony didn’t start until 5:30, we were at max capacity already, we wanted to minimize potential distractions at the ceremony), and it was basically totally fine for everyone. We had one of my husband’s friends ask us if her kids were invited, and I politely said no, and then added a “are kids invited” to the FAQ section of our wedding website, and didn’t get any questions after that. We consulted our close friends with kids, got a few “heck yeah, date night!” responses, and called it a day.

    As far as we know, only one guest (my dad’s brother’s daughter) totally refused to come without her kid, and honestly, good riddance–she’s caused quite a few rifts in our family over the years, and I wasn’t looking for any drama on our day. She and my aunt also found an excuse not to come to my bridal shower, which was thrown by that side of the family.

    Ironically, her kid was actually the only one invited. I am a totally reasonable person, and I get that it’s close to impossible to leave behind a newborn, and we indicated that she was welcome to bring the baby to the wedding if she wasn’t comfortable leaving her. She chose to use our general no-kids policy to get out of coming, and you know what? It was fine. I don’t mind being the bad guy if it means that my wedding was more drama-free.

    We got lucky, though, since nobody in our wedding party (which included all of our collected siblings) has kids (yet). I imagine that it would be much harder to draw the hard “no” line with nieces and nephews, especially if there were flower girl/ring bearer expectations.

  • Pidge

    I had a mostly-childfree wedding, and I would like to offer some advice based on my experiences.

    Advice #1: Stick to your guns. Be gentle / polite, but firm. We had kids at our ceremony, including our 4 nieces and nephews who were ring bearers and flower girls, and my (out-of-town) cousin’s baby. The nieces and nephews were sent home after church with sitters, but at the last minute we allowed my cousin to bring his baby to the reception because I was assured that the baby wasn’t walking yet (eliminating the safety concerns that caused us to exclude our older nieces and nephews) and led to believe that they were unable to find a sitter (this later proved to be a lie / manipulation on my father’s part). My SILs were butthurt about it, complaining that we should have told them about the exception – and should have also made an exception for their children – but they also made sure that we knew that our wedding would interfere with naptime!! (Insert 5,000 eyerolls here.) I later apologized for the decision, but I regret doing so, because the venue wasn’t friendly to a quartet of active children under the age of 5, and that was true whether they liked it or not. None of the kids seemed to feel like they had been left out.

    Advice #2: Parent and bridal party are difficult roles to juggle. (This assumes that the brother of the groom will be involved in the wedding.) If parents don’t plan for this, it can cause problems. I suspect that my SILs were also butthurt that we didn’t ask them to participate in our wedding – I thought it would be overwhelming since the children would be in the wedding party, and I don’t particularly like them anyway. Fast forward to my BIL’s wedding 8 months after ours, when both sisters and their husbands were in the bridal party, as were the elder niece and nephew. Our 6yo niece was fine, being with her mom and the other bridesmaids, but my 4yo nephew would have been miserable and probably would have had a totally justifiable meltdown if I hadn’t been there to babysit while his dad was being a groomsman and MIL was being the Mother of the Groom, and mom was off with the bridesmaids. He was on the verge anyway by the time the female half of the bridal party showed up, because he was totally overwhelmed. Maybe this problem wouldn’t happen with other parents, but crisis was narrowly averted with my nephew, because my SIL and her husband couldn’t juggle being both bridal party and parents.

  • TeaforTwo

    My only advice in this situation is that this is a conversation for your fiance to have with his family, and for you to stay out of.

    In my family or my husband’s, the reaction to a kid-free wedding would be a swift and firm “we are not that kind of family” from the parents of the couple and one or two stern aunties. And if that’s what your future MIL’s reaction is going to be, you absolutely cannot be the interloper who will be seen to be trying to cut her granddaughter out of the festivities. She won’t hear it coming from you, and it could damage your relationship for years.

    Liz said to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. Do that, and then have your fiance tell his mother, and respond to all of the pushback about it from his family. You can back him up, but it’s ultimately something for him to work out with his mom and brother.

  • Lmba

    Absolutely don’t invite kids if you don’t want to! However, please also understand that guests with children may not come, and that their decision may not make sense to you, but it is totally legit and must be respected. You just gotta let them decide what works for them and do your best not to be upset. We have received wedding invitations that didn’t include our kids and declined because of it. Not that we were angry, just that it wasn’t going too work for us! Not everyone can get a sitter, for so many reasons (financial, yes, but other more personal reasons relating to the child’s well-being as well).

    • idkmybffjill

      I think… with every invitation, there are a myriad of factors where people make a decision. If you invite out of towners, there are so many reasons they might not be able to make it. If you invite religious folks to a non-religious wedding they might not come, and on and on and on. The list is ENDLESS.

      Most people know it when there is someone on their guest list who absolutely positively cannot be away from their child for a few hours. If they’re extending an invite to that person/family to a childless wedding, they are probably doing so knowing it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to make it.

      The LW in this situation is speaking almost entirely about their brother’s family. Presumably the LW knows their childcare situation, or that would’ve been addressed.

      While not everyone may be able to get a sitter, most people have a grandparent, or a trusted friend, or a sibling, etc that they can leave their child with in times that are important to them (i.e., their brother’s wedding). If they make a choice that their brother’s wedding isn’t one of those times? That’s their choice, sure. But it ABSOLUTELY says something about their proirities. And I think it’s not fair to say that the LW shouldn’t be allowed to be upset about it.

      If you’re speaking specifically about less close guests, yeah – she should probably not get upset. But I’m guessing if she had a host of people she was worried wouldn’t come because of childcare issues, she would’ve addressed that.

    • Gina

      Yup, this. For example, if you’re not going to make an exception for breastfeeding infants, you have to accept the fact that a breastfeeding mom may not want to leave her infant with a babysitter and find a place to pump during a wedding. If you invite someone who has a clingy toddler that won’t go to bed for anyone else, you’re going to have to accept that they may decide to put that toddler’s well-being ahead of going to your wedding. Draw your lines where you may, but accept the fallout and be okay with excluding certain people based on their parental status.

      • idkmybffjill

        “Draw your lines where you may, but accept the fallout and be okay with excluding certain people based on their parental status.”

        I mean, this wasn’t the point of LW’s question. I also totally agree all breastfeeding mothers should be exceptions for weddings, but again – not the question in this letter.

        I think if you’re going to give this advice you also need to take the advice (as a parent) of….If you can’t find a childcare solution for your clingy toddler at a childfree wedding, people are going to to make some assumptions about how important the couple is to you. Everyone has to make their choices, but the bride and groom aren’t the only ones who have to accept fallout for their choices.

        • emilyofnewmoon

          I’ve been surprised in this thread at how many people are like “MY CHILD COULD NEVER DEAL WITH SOMEONE ELSE WATCHING THEM” It’s actually making me nervous for the future. Like what’s gonna happen when these kids get to school? What kind of people will alllll these children who could not possibly deal with anyone aside from their parents grow up to be?

          • idkmybffjill

            It’s truly surreal. Like… I get it, childcare isn’t always easy. But it IS a part of being a parent.

            If the letter had said, “I’m asking my bridesmaids to meet with me once a week and no kids are allowed and two of them are nursing mothers and why won’t they just find a sitter??!”, then I would get it.

            But it’s an issue for one specific child of a person who is a SYBLING of the couple getting married. Suggesting a one time child care solution (in this case, doesn’t even have to be a sitter. Could be SIL’s mother/sister/father etc), in my opinion, should not be this polarizing.

            Feeling #grateful that all of my friends who are parents aren’t like this. If they were it would make me seriously rethink my hope to be a parent one day soon.

          • emilyofnewmoon

            I know weddings exacerbate every issue up to 11, but it mostly just makes me feel sad for parents who are inflexible and frightened in this way (#notallparents, I know many flexible, take it easy ones). Of course some young children have different needs, but teaching resilience and that sometimes you might have to do something you don’t like (hang out with a person who is Not Mom or Dad for like 5 hours) is important. The person downthread whose nephew’s parents had like two birthday celebrations on her wedding day is a good example. He’s so young, but it’s already being imprinted on him that his and his parents’ needs outweigh other people’s.

          • idkmybffjill

            Makes me think of the kids who lose their shit at sleep overs cause they’ve never been away from home before. I’m not a parent, so I’m probably going to back away slowly from this conversation. But I had friends who were those kids as a child, and it must’ve SUCKED to be crippled with fear as an 8 year old at a sleep over birthday party because you’ve never learned how to deal.

          • emilyofnewmoon

            Ha, I was that kid at the sleepover who watched the melting down kid like, “Um we’re staying up late AND having pizza AND watching a movie this is amazing what’s your damage.”

          • idkmybffjill

            Yeah man, sleepovers rule.

          • Lisa

            I remember a friend of mine having to call her parents in the middle of the night to come and pick her up from three houses down because her separation anxiety was so intense. I kept thinking, “Whyyyyyy…is this such a big deal?”

          • idkmybffjill

            Yep. And the friends who it happened to were SOOOOO embarassed. IDK, not a parent yet, but making sure my kids have the tools to cope seems like one of the big responsibilities of parenthood to me.

          • Gina

            Let me clarify. Other people watch my toddler. She has a babysitter that watches her twice a week, and she goes to “playschool” at the gym while my husband (a stay-at-home dad) works out. But these are both situations where she knows the caretakers and is comfortable with them. And bedtime is always with me, and our routine. We’ve tried to let my MIL do bedtime with her (at her insistence that she watch my daughter) and it has gone very, very badly.

          • idkmybffjill

            But surely your very close friends and siblings know this about your life right now right? If the letter had said, “My brother’s child has serious seperation anxiety, so he can’t come to the wedding if the child isn’t there, should we still have a child free wedding?” I think the advice would be: “I mean, if you want to make your brother choose between you and his kid, then sure. But he’ll probably choose his kid.”

            Also, surely kids go through stages right? If you had a very important evening happening in a year and she couldn’t come for whatever reason, don’t you think you’d probably be able to adjust your daughter to bedtime with grandma? Or trusted caretaker?

          • Victoria

            Duuude. You know that kid’s needs change as they grow right? Like, because my 5 month old needs to eat every 3 hours doesn’t mean she’s going to need to do that as a 5 year old? And a 2 year old that’s going through a two month long separation anxiety phase (very common, very normal) isn’t going to have a problem as a 4 year old, let along by school age. In my experience the adults that have serious emotional problems are the ones whose parents didn’t tend to their emotional needs as children but prioritized their own needs as adults. Kids whose adults give a damn about them crying for over an hour when left with a sitter and subject them to that only when they feel it’s absolutely necessary tend to grow up confident because they felt loved and safe. There’s obviously a middle ground but there’s nothing weird about a 2 year old not wanting to stay with a stranger and being scared or your regular babysitters not being available on weekends because of their own families (my nanny) and your backup babysitters having to attend the wedding themselves (my mom) etc. etc.

          • Pidge

            There’s nothing weird about a kid not liking the unfamiliar, but if the kid is never introduced to the unfamiliar by their parents, they will arguably have more trouble when they have no choice but to face the unfamiliar – be it in an emergency situation or when they reach school age. The parents who truly give a damn are the ones who best prepare their children for the future, which is not always going to be focused on their preferences, and teach them how to adapt. I also believe that the best parents are those who can balance their needs with the needs of their children… if their needs aren’t adequately met, they cannot begin to meet the needs of their children – much like how airline safety guidelines insist that you apply your own oxygen mask before helping others. Those needs will almost certainly include a need to leave the house, for leisure and social activities as well as work, and the kids have to adapt, just like the parents adapt for the kids.

          • Victoria

            How does not leaving a dependent child with a stranger during a time a child will be extremely upset by this equal never introducing them to the unfamiliar? One month later when the child is in a different emotional place leaving them with a sitter will make them nervous but not distraught and will introduce them to the unfamiliar without traumatizing them by the unfamiliar. These kind of judgement are something the parents are qualified to make and make all the time. But the if they don’t do it now how will they ever??? Is ridiculous. Like you can start “teaching” your kid to swim at 3 months and lots of parents do – nothing wrong with that. And you can do it at 3 years old. And I guarantee that at 3.5 yo old you will not be able to tell the difference between them. Age appropriate is a thing and there is no need to “introduce” things that will be learned and experienced organically and easily at an older age appropriate time. Some 3 year olds can easily be left with sitters and there’s no harm but there’s also no harm in not leaving a 3 yo with someone unfamiliar. It says nothing about how they will be at 6.

          • Pidge

            I am merely describing a scenario in which it could happen that a child does not learn and continues to struggle later on – for example, I had a friend in high school who had never slept away from home, and I had to nurse them through an overnight school trip because they were emotionally unprepared and it was way too late to do anything but power through it. I said nothing about the appropriate ages for instruction, merely pointed out that there is such a thing as too late, as might occur in an emergency.

          • emilyofnewmoon

            Wait, WHAT? KIDS GET WEANED?? KIDS GO THROUGH DEVELOPMENTAL PHASES?? Thank god you told me! I was never a kid myself, and I definitely haven’t had multiple child care jobs over the years. You have taught me much.
            Look, go to a wedding, don’t go, leave your kid to beg for scraps on the street, sleep in their bed with them til they’re 50. I truly don’t care. But don’t be just shocked when someone, be they friend or internet stranger, suggests that leaving your kid with a trusted sitter to go to a party is, perhaps, not tantamount to child abuse. And, don’t act like there’s no such thing as parents who overdo it on being protective, and people who have trouble as adults because of it. That’s just obtuse. If you read up and and down this thread and take many of the comments in good faith, there are an awful
            lot of parents who won’t even consider the most minor of disruptions (see the person whose mother asked that her wedding be moved wholecloth so her nieces would not have to miss any school.) It’s not wild to surmise that people who are parented like that, and who are not exposed to safe discomfort and disappointment, could grow up to think the world revolves around them.

        • Gina

          Yes, they absolutely have to accept fallout for their choices. And in a society that treats kids as a burden or liability–or a problem to be “solved” by the parents– those parents will continue to be isolated, rather than included within a larger community. Because obviously parents are going to put their kids’ needs first, even if from an outsider’s perspective, it’s the parents’ fault the toddler won’t go to bed for anyone else. If that results in people making “assumptions about how important the couple is” to them, that’s a bummer. I think my point is that people shouldn’t have to choose between meeting their kids’ needs and supporting their friends.

          • idkmybffjill

            But they do anyway right? We’re all making choices all the time, and it effects the way people perceive us. That is life. And having an event you can plan for many months in advance? I mean…. I don’t think that’s a “meeting their kids’ needs” sort of situation. If your kid gets sick on the night of the wedding and you just can’t leave them? For sure, I’d say your friend was being an asshole if they gave you crap about that. But like… months to plan for a childcare alternative? This isn’t sophie’s choice.

      • StevenPortland

        As a father of two, who currently are entirely fine with babysitters and flexible schedules, I entirely understand and agree with you. A few months ago my sister in law summarized it in a profound way to me by saying, “parenthood is very humbling”. That resonated with me. It is humbling because there is so much that is just out of your control and no amount of preparation, or good intentions, or “proper” parenting will cause the result that rationally should happen. So yes, sometimes it turns out that you can’t attend a wedding if you kids aren’t invited. I wish this weren’t the case, but for me, during certain periods of time, it has been true.

        • Gina

          That’s a good way to put it. As embarrassing as it is for me to admit, I was surprised to learn babies aren’t like dogs you can train. They’re little people with feelings and needs too.

    • CMT

      That’s not really what this letter is about, though. LW absolutely is allowed to feel hurt that her in-laws prioritize their grandchild at all times.

      • idkmybffjill

        This. The question wasn’t, “everyone should just get on board with our no kids wedding right? We’ll be so mad if they don’t.”

        It was alot more nuanced than that. And honestly, childcare was never mentioned as an issue, so it probably isn’t one for this particular family.

  • eas56

    I have a similar “everyone needs to be included, especially the children” MIL, and I think the couple could “give a little” and regulate a lot in this situation. One caveat: you need to be on good terms with the groom’s brother +wife.
    The niece could come for the family pictures, and maybe be a flower girl in the ceremony, but leave the venue (where the MIL can’t drag her back) with a pre-arranged babysitter.That way, the MIL can’t say that the niece wasn’t included in the wedding, but the rest of the evening would be adult only. As indicated above, you would need to decide this, and be comfortable with organizing it with groom’s brother +wife well in advance. Then you could present it as a fait-accompli to the MIL, and the line in the sand would be drawn.
    Even if you decide on a ‘no children’ policy at your wedding, and you are on good terms with groom’s brother +wife, I would still broach the subject with them before approaching the MIL. Things will go much easier if ‘groom’s brother+wife’ can back the LW+groom up.
    Example:
    MIL: “Isn’t it sad that ‘niece’ isn’t going to the wedding/reception/whatever?”
    Brother: “We’re actually looking forward to being able to celebrate LW’s wedding as adults.”
    B-wife: “Yes, we’ve already hired a sitter”

  • laddibugg

    I really want a no-kid wedding, with the exception being our son and the child he considers his daughter from a previous relationship. Not quite sure how to word it, and I know there will be issues on both sides of our family. I’d like to invite my godson, but I can’t do that without inviting his brother.

    As a newish mom, I’d be fine with receiving an invite stating no kids….gives me a little break lol.

    • MDBethann

      To me, if the couple getting married want their own children there and no others, there should be NO complaints. The children are more entitled than anyone else to be at their parents’ wedding if the parents want them there. And if it is a blended family, then I think it can mark a great, inclusive step forward for all of them – parents and children – as the start of their blended family.

  • z

    I leave my kids with babysitters all the time. But I do want to speak up and say that pediatric mental health conditions are real. Clinical childhood anxiety is more common than people think, and it’s very hard for families and children. It’s surprising to me that a site so generally friendly to difference, people would be talking about this issue without sensitivity to mental health.

    • Pidge

      I don’t think anyone is disputing the reality that some children are affected by mental health conditions, but the majority appear to be operating under the assumption that if the LW’s niece’s mental health were a factor, the letter would have mentioned that fact, and as such are treating the niece’s mental health as irrelevant to the conversation about the LW’s situation. I.e., this issue matters in general, but (probably) not in this specific case, so discussing the ramifications of mental health conditions in children vis à vis a childfree wedding doesn’t help the LW deal with her in-laws.

      • z

        Sure, but I think the discussion downthread is about children in general and is rather judgmental and insensitive. Friends of mine whose children have mental heath conditions tell me that the judgment and dismissal of other adults is incredibly hard to bear.

        • Pidge

          All that is subjective is by nature judgmental, and by nature perception is subjective – and it all goes both ways. Your perception is from a different perspective than everyone else’s; what you call insensitive, I would call either accepting that you can’t please everyone, so you might as well do what pleases you, or incredulous at scenarios that seem unrealistic or just beyond one’s ken, depending on the thread you mean. Neither of us is wrong, just approaching things from different angles.

        • I agree; I think part of the point of advice columns like this is using the specific as a jumping off point for a general discussion. Most of the advice here isn’t about the LW’s situation, and I don’t think it’s right to use the LW’s situation to justify the discussion. In the same way Hollywood assumes that ‘general’ means the experience of a straight white middle class american man, discussions like this can fall into the trap of assuming general means neurotypical, able bodied kids in heterosexual two parent middle class families. As a community, AP and its members make a huge effort to be inclusive, and that means making sure that our general discussions are inclusive as well.

  • “If the kid typically outshines you, she’ll manage to hog the attention
    no matter what. If she’s not invited, his mom will spend the whole
    wedding sighing about how much she misses the little cherub, passing her
    phone around to show everyone photos.”

    YUP. we had a wedding where my husband’s nieces were invited (i was even going to have them as flower girls) but their parents didn’t want to come, because it conflicted with their school schedule (!! these kids are in kindergarten.) my husband’s mother asked us to move our wedding to the summer when the kids would be on vacation. we said nope — we had already booked our venue and our other guests had made travel plans. well, my husband’s mother spent the whole wedding lamenting about how her granddaughters couldn’t be there.

  • Miri Lee

    Children is a hard one. My husband and I paid for our wedding completely on our own so we could only afford a small community hall. We both come from very large families and could only afford to have a small guest list so we decided to just have our aunties and uncles and close cousins and about 10 friends collectively tops outside of our immediate family. This meant we had to have a no children rule as my husband has over 30 under 7 year olds on his side alone. The way we did this was by contacting each family that had kids and asking them how they felt about that. Most people were fine with it and understood. My uncle however said he was fine with it but wouldn’t be able to come because of it, but sent his love to us and we thought that was that. Then my grandmother found out through my uncle and announced publicly in front of my husband’s family (many who I hadn’t met yet) that her and my grandfather would not be attending because mine and my husbands values did not align with theirs because we couldn’t have kids at the wedding. She then disowned me and behind my back convinced many people on my dad’s side of the family to say they were coming but not attend. So on the day of my wedding there was a huge empty table right next to my table that I couldn’t do anything about. Heart breaking but taught me a lot about family. What i would say is people are going to do what they are going to do, and you need to not take responsibility for their reactions and responses and just do you. I don’t regret not having kids at my wedding. My only regret is spending too much time on what would make my guests happy rather than what would make me happy.

  • RageFace

    I have a similar problem with my wedding, even though it’s still a year and a half away. There are about three kids (at the moment) that could potentially end up at our wedding – my cousin’s two and my friends’ daughter who was born this year and it’s still WAY too early to know if she will be their only child.

    A part of me want them to come because hey, it’s only three kids and it would be weird to say “adults only” when there’s only three, but I attended my cousin’s wedding recently where his sister’s kids were SO misbehaved! They ran all over the place, interrupted speeches, the toddler nearly fell down a terrace nearly two metres off the ground… and my cousin’s useless husband didn’t do jack to look after them, which means that my cousin could not enjoy a single bit of her brother’s wedding without having to babysit and make sure her kids didn’t get hurt or into some kind of trouble. She was in the playroom virtually all evening and she couldn’t even enjoy a drink with myself and my fiancé (or extended family, for that matter) without having one of them tugging at her for attention.

    I definitely do NOT want this to happen at my wedding, so I really want to make it adults-only even though I’m super worried about looking like a bitch for not wanting to accommodate ONLY THREE KIDS. I mean, I’ve never met oneof them, but my cousin’s two (especially the toddler) are little monsters so I would rather not have them there but ugh.

    Mr Rage and I don’t particularly like children, but I still don’t want to be perceived as rude by not inviting them even though I so desperately don’t want to.

  • Can’t Aunt

    LW here! Sorry to be so late to the discussion, and I’m not totally sure how to use disqus most effectively, but I wanted to say a few things:

    1) Thank you everybody for all your responses, and for bringing me back to earth on the idea that FMIL will ever really be present for us, regardless of our niece’s presence. It has given me a lot to think about. I think (hope) that FBIL will be on board – after all, he had a childfree wedding when it was his turn, so hopefully he would be understanding

    2) These are some of the missing details that people were wondering about –
    – Niece’s parents are divorced and her mother has primary custody, so having a sitter is not an issue because 80% of the time she’s with her mother (who lived with her parents for extra childcare) anyway
    – It’s an a vineyard, but it’s actually only about 20 minutes from our houses, so not destination
    – It’s not so much about limelight or attention, I have no issue in theory with kids tearing up the dance floor. One commenter bristled at the idea that people in parent-mode aren’t fully mentally present with other people, and while that might be true for them personally, I know that the people in my fiance’s family are incapable of even having proper conversations when our niece is around because they are always so hyper-focused on her. Poor kid must feel so suffocated by the amount of hovering they do, but whatever
    – In any given week, this kid goes to daycare, is looked after by both parents and both grandmothers, so there are many caregivers and she is comfortable and familiar with all of them
    – We are paying for the whole thing ourselves
    – None of the uninvited children are breastfed infants
    – Because of bridal party arrangements, FBIL would be a groomsman, which means that the only person at the wedding who could look after niece would be FMIL… which would mean she would be sitting there trying to entertain her, keep her safe and quiet and occupied, rather than actually watching us say vows. This is not about limelight – for us, it would mean that she would basically be missing the moment of us getting married – the most important part of the whole day – because she would be looking after a child.

    I hope I’ve cleared some of your questions up, even if it is late!

  • CoCo Anti-Conformity Young

    Every wedding I’ve been to the kids were screaming through the nuptials, and one of them was outdoors so hearing the actual ceremony was rough.

    However, my family has plenty of children so we’re limiting it to ages 17 years and up. We might push it up to 18.

  • EllieS

    I didn’t originally want to have kids at our wedding and had a similar family freak out. As a happy medium, we had an adult only ceremony and hired babysitters who also attended the wedding reception. Given, I am a teacher and have ample access to willing teenagers, but it was an easy and inexpensive fix. Our sitters watched all the kids (including the ring bearer – he walked down the aisle and then dad escorted him to a side door) so none of them could interrupt our wedding and then the sitters helped the adults stay mentally present and calm during the reception. If it’s just not worth the fight, I highly recommend this to fix some of your concerns.

  • retrojayne

    My partner and I had a child free wedding for exactly the same reasons: the weddingwas in a museum full of antiques, and my mother-in-law is constantly hyper-focused on my brother-in-law’s kids, to the point of not participating in what’s happening around her. We wanted the focus to be squarely on us on the one day, in particular my partner, who is the world’s quietest, sweetest and least demanding person. We debated having childcare provided at the wedding, as we didn’t want people to not attend, but after hearing a few comments from friends with kids about how they wouldn’t trust a sitter, we scrapped that idea. Our friends and relatives who had kids, if they expressed an opinion at all to us, said they were glad to have time off from their kids. Only my mother-in-law was truly upset, but after a few months of solid push back, she finally got the message this was not her decision and she ended up pretending that she totally understood why we were going child free. No incidents at the wedding, and everyone had a great timr. (so they said)! Stand your ground. If it’s important to you both as a couple, don’t cave. If children end up at your wedding and they act up, it wil bother you even more because you knew that would happen and tried to avoid it. It’s important to let everyone in your life know that you and your partner have boundaries that can’t be crossed, and weddings are often the first testing​ grounds for that. Good luck! Don’t give in!

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  • Arwen Addison

    I feel like it’s always the people without kids who think inviting kids will make the parents of said children more attentive. But if my husband and I leave our son with a babysitter or family member, the amount of time we dedicate towards checking in on him and talking about him…only changes slightly. He’s not running around next to us but we’re still thinking about what he’s eating for dinner, how bed time is going, ect. I get a no child wedding and I don’t think anyone’s a bad person for having one. But thinking that parents will somehow not be distracted by their kids simply because their not around is a naive point of view. That, again, just comes from not having children.