Here Comes the Bride! Can I Bring the Kids?

Family Matters on 06.17.11
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Photo Credit: Laurence Monneret/Getty Images

Wedding season is upon us and it seems that every bride, new and old, has a horror story to tell about people's children at their weddings. While some people happily include children in their big day, others choose not to, and it's important as parents that we all remember that it's the bride and groom's day. Here are a few etiquette tips to remember when it comes to children and weddings.

  1. Who's invited?
    When your invitation arrives, look at who it is addressed to. This may seem obvious, but many people don't really look at the address and what it means. If your children are included on the guest list, the envelope will either be addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and Family" or "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, Daughter Smith and Son Smith." If your children are not included on the envelope, they are not invited to the wedding.
  2. Step away from the phone.
    Do not. I repeat, do not call the bride, groom, mother of the bride, mother of the groom, wedding planner or anyone else and ask if your children can come or complain that they were not invited.  The guest list is one of the most agonized over items on a wedding to do list. It is very likely that the couple has co-workers, family friends, and even family members that they would love to have at their wedding, but that they couldn't include due to budgetary reasons. The thing that makes weddings expensive is the number of people attending, and you can be sure that the couple and their parents are already pushing their budget limits, and have debated a million times about who should be included. That is the nature of the beast.

    For my own wedding, we had to have an age cut off of 15 years old for my first cousins because there are more than 20 of them and the 15 year old (also my god-daughter) was in my  bridal party. When my husband's cousins called to see if they could bring their teenage children to the wedding because they were making a family trip of the event, the answer had to be no. We weren't including my cousins who I had a relationship with. We certainly weren't going to be including his cousins' kids who lived halfway across the country and neither of us had ever met. If you are bringing your children to an out of town wedding, feel free to ask the bride if she can recommend a good sitter should you need one. Most are happy to help. Just make sure you don't wait until the last minute to do so.
  3. Let the party be a grown-up party.
    There is also the possibility that the bride and groom didn't include your children on the guest list because they are looking to have an adult party and don't want to hear any crying or see any pouty faces on their happy day. Yes, it's true that your children are adorable, but all children are unpredictable and their behavior can't be guaranteed. Actually, at many weddings the quality of adult behavior can't be guaranteed either, and you might not want your kids around it anyway.
  4. An exception to the rule. (With its own exceptiopns.)
    In my book, the one exception to asking if you can bring your child to a wedding is if the child is under six months old and the wedding involves travel. But even still, do everything you can to try and arrange a sitter. No matter what, if your children start to act up, remove them from the ceremony or reception immediately. I was in a bridal party once where the bride really didn't want children at the wedding, but her new brother-in-law and his wife insisted that their children be there. After finally winning out, the kids made a giant scene in the middle of the ceremony and really created a distraction during a beautiful moment. You really don't want to be the one whose kids detract from a once in a lifetime moment.
  5. When the kids are a go.
    If your kids are included on the invite and you choose to bring them, be sure you have a bag of tricks that are appropriate to keep them entertained. Many brides are savvy enough to have kids activities all lined up for the reception, but you know your child best so have a few things to keep them entertained that are appropriate for the venue. And get them out on the dance floor to participate in the celebration rather than letting them sit in the corner playing a game on your phone all night.

Everyone has their own vision for their wedding, and it's important to remember that we are their guests. It is an honor to be invited to be a part of their special day, and the bride and groom have a right to set the terms of their wedding. It may be a giant family affair with many generations or an elegant black tie event, but it's not our decision. As parents, we often have to make tough choices, and sometimes that choice will have to be to skip a wedding if we aren't comfortable leaving our children home, or have one parent stay home. But our burden should not be put back onto the bride and groom. I like to think of weddings as a good excuse for a date night. And even when we were recently invited as an entire family to one of my best friend's weddings, we left the kids at home and took our first vacation without them. I didn't have to worry about anything but having a good time and it was bliss.  

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