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?
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).
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