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23 January 2011

Please calm my anxieties. My partner and I are planning a wedding, at the location we currently live, which means it's going to be 3-4 hours away (by car) for about 80% of our guests. We are trying to figure out what to do about inviting children. In an ideal world, children would not be invited; in the we're-asking-a-lot-of-people-to-travel-kinda-far-for-a-whole-weekend world we actually inhabit, we're thinking that inviting out-of-town kids but not in-town kids might be a viable compromise. [More:]

I'm worried our in-town invited guests are going to freak in some way.

I don't have kids, but my thinking is that our out-of-town guests all have *very* young kids (like, mostly under two years old) and asking them to find a weekend-long babysitter would be a huge imposition. Our in-town friends with kids have slightly older kids (4-8 years old), and would only have to find them babysitters for a couple hours.

But I'm worried (probably in a dysfunctionally anxious way) that I'm missing some major consideration and this is a totally unfair cut-off criteria. Can someone give me some sort of feedback? (I'm really really really trying not to use MeCha as a wedding forum while I'm planning this, but I can't find any wedding fora that don't seem to automatically default to "It's your special day! Do anything you want and screw everyone!" and that's not helpful right now.)
The children issue gets discussed a lot on wedding forums (as you may have seen). Probably up there in the top 5. My thought on the issue is, I understand inviting kids, I understand not inviting kids, but I don't understand how inviting some and not others is a satisfying solution. You either want kids or you don't want kids at the wedding. Why invite some if you don't want any at all? And if you are inviting some, why not just invite them all, what's the difference? It seems to me that if all the invited out-of-town kids are very small, maybe their parents would be more likely to not come anyway, even if you make concessions? Or perhaps they would be more likely to want to send Bobby to Grandma's house and take a weekend away. I don't think it's getting into Princess territory to say that you have to plan your wedding for yourself, because you simply cannot accommodate everyone, and even if you tried, they will still find excuses to not come.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 23 January | 00:47
To add to what TPS said, either invite the kids because you're OK with kids at the wedding, or don't because you want it to be an 'adult' event (not necessarily in a dirty way, of course), but don't try and second-guess how this affects your guests. Some would prefer to bring the kids, some will prefer to have a 'mum and dad' weekend away and some will be stuck with bringing the kids. Whatever happens, this isn't your problem to worry about - it's the parents of each child who own this. Either way, be consistent and either invite them all or none otherwise you make this your problem.
posted by dg 23 January | 01:00
Throw a party for all the kids and hire a few daycare workers for the afternoon.
posted by Ardiril 23 January | 01:23
I totally understand your dilemma. My thinking is that the in-town kids are older and likely to be better guests. Also, if they are like my two, the older kids would likely help with the itty-bitties, at least a little bit. (Last Christmas, my son and daughter organized 3 kids at least 5 years younger and all with ADD into a successful hide and seek game in a 1-bedroom house and then some outside time in the snow. All while the adults got to have conversation and adult beverages. It was amazing.)

So yeah, either all kids or no kids. And it's really, really OK either way.
posted by lilywing13 23 January | 02:22
For what it's worth, the in-town kids are all hell on wheels. If we had to pick and choose children, we'd exclude them. Drawing the line at "How long would you need a babysitter?" kind of gets us out of that.
posted by occhiblu 23 January | 02:31
I was going to say exactly what Ardiril said. Where people have under-twos, is it possible those guests have parents/siblings who could take care of the babies overnight?

With the older kids, a nearby party, maybe with a (non-scary) clown or a puppet show, one of those ball cages or a bouncy castle will keep them occupied away from the wedding and tucker them out.

It should be made clear to the parents that children will not be allowed at the ceremony and will only be at their own party.
posted by Senyar 23 January | 05:58
I agree with TPS and dg that you can't make this your problem. Do you want kids at your wedding? It sounds like you don't and that's fine .. I didn't have kids at my wedding except for my 16 year old nephew - not really a kid at all. I do have a lot of friends with kids, who at the time ranged in age from 1 year to teens.

Here's how it worked itself out: The mom of the one year old came by herself and left her husband at home to take care of their daughter. She was thrilled to have a day and a night off. Another friend with teenagers did the same and she too was happy to go solo and have a break. Another friend who was pregnant with her second couldn't come, but wouldn't have anyway even if I'd invited kids because she knew her 2 year old couldn't get through such an event and it wouldn't be fun for her to bring him, and she was too close to her due date anyway. Several other families had someone watch their kids overnight and both parents came.

The point being, you invite the guests you want and leave them to sort out their own issues. I think inviting some kids and not others just asks for unhappiness. Everyone should understand the "no kids" thing as weddings are expensive and space is usually limited. It's not being a bridezilla to say "no kids". I have a kid and I would not bring him to a wedding even if he was invited. He would be unhappy and I wouldn't be able to enjoy it. I'd make other arrangements for him - that's what I do anytime there's something I need or want to do without him.

Hope you're not too stressed about this. Seriously .. as the parent of a little kid, I would not be offended. I'd be glad to be invited to a swank event with NO KIDS and I'd have plenty of time to make arrangements for childcare.
posted by Kangaroo 23 January | 07:40
Agree with what most people are saying - you want a kid-free wedding. Just state that comfortably up front, and let people make their own decisions about how to handle that. Anyone who hears that kids aren't welcome, and then sees kids at the wedding, is going to wonder why they were singled out, and the age or in-town distinction may not be very visible to them.

If there are one or two people who call you after they get the invitation and say "Gee, if I can't bring Junior, there's no way Bob and I can come," you can work something out individually with them - source a babysitter, find an alternate hotel, whatever it requires. But that can be on an opt-in, case-by-case basis.

You aren't required to put on a social event for kids in addition to your wedding, and your invitees are adults who are used to solving problems like 'what do we do with the kids?,' and so you can just describe the event and let your guests come to the decisions that make sense for them.
posted by Miko 23 January | 11:02
don't try and second-guess how this affects your guests.

This sounds exactly right to me. You get to decide what kind of event you want; they get to decide how to balance their family needs with the invitation.

Maybe some of the out-of-town parent-guests will bring kids along for the weekend and arrange sitters during wedding-related festivites; maybe some will leave kids at home or with family and have a weekend get-away; maybe some will decide that they can't travel without the kids.

If you want to go above-and-beyond and if you have time to do it without making yourself crazy (that's a big if!), you or your partner or one of the bridal party might offer guests a list of local babysitters. That's a frill and a gesture, not a necessity.

(When we were planning our wedding, I was a little appalled at how many people thing that tangentially-related planning should be the Happy Couple's concern: researching hotels, planning transportation for guests, arranging babysitting. Though any conveniences you can easily offer your guests is a kindness, especially for out-of-towners, it's still true that grown-up guests can figure that stuff out for themselves --- now more than ever, with the internet at our service!)
posted by Elsa 23 January | 13:38
I don't have any input on how to do this right, but I have an anecdote. ONE kid came to my wedding. One. Singular.

He knocked over the cake.
posted by galadriel 23 January | 15:23
Ok. I've kinda been there but on the other side. When my friend Jane got married, my 2-year old was the flower girl, while I was the maid of honor. I would never have made the wedding if she couldn't come, since we were still nursing (and a trip from Sweden to Boston is a bit of a hike so it was more than a weekend). I wished that I could have been there more for my friend helping her dress and prepare and party before etc, and maybe a little me-time to do my own hair but motherhood is all about bad hair-days and sticky purses, and since I was also "mommy" there was quite a bit of chasing the little doll around while in heels and not so much hanging with the bridesmaids.
Fun experience, she behaved very very well despite her age, or perhaps thanks to since feeding and napping and grapes for snacking do wonders. She served as comedic relief when she in the middle of the ceremony decided that I needed my purse right then and started crawling across the aisle with it, which thankfully the bride just thought was a great distraction from all the pressure she was feeling with "all eyes on her" (I was terribly embarrassed). She behaved very well at the party too, when the dance begun she figured out you must ask someone and hit up the best man for a dance which was immortalized on everyones cameras (except mine).
There were other children at the party, an adorable ten year old girl going on 14, she was so bright, but no other toddler or 5 year old / very young stages. There were no kids areas, or kid-arrangements so all keeping track of and entertaining the wee ones was up to us parents. I really think that this could be difficult if there are a lot of children at a wedding, as the mother (and dad when it's his turn) get called away from the party to take care of baby/kid, and we as parents miss out on a very nice party.

In short, I think inviting parents sans kids will go down fine, we like to be at grownup events in our finest without having to worry about our kids too much too. I see the problem with the out of towners, since their children are under two. It's very hard to leave a child that young for overnight stays elsewhere, and most mother don't, but this depends on the parents and if they have extended family close by who would love to babysit. In my case, if Perle couldn't come, I (the major food-outlet) wouldn't have either.
posted by dabitch 23 January | 16:39
For my upcoming wedding we're making the party afterwards over 15, though we have some immediate family, and people who are traveling very long distances who are younger, and will be attending. The ceremony itself is open to everyone. We set it up this way not because children are obnoxious louts, but to limit very extended family that are local to the wedding, and to keep the guest list for the party afterwards (it's not a formal reception in our case) limited to those we want there. There's a whole bunch of other reasons for doing things the way we are, but the above is a good summary. Ultimately it's your wedding, do whatever you want since it's your wedding after all, not the wedding of everyone attending.

I wish I lived in TPS' world of black and white with no shades of gray. Life would be so much easier then. Our decision wasn't about whether we like kids or not (we do), but rather a practical decision based on who we'd actually want to be at our party, and how many we can afford to host. Somewhere the line needs to be drawn, but it's still a gray line, and some crossing will happen. Such is real life.
posted by eekacat 23 January | 21:27
We had 5 guests under the age of 10, iirc. One was an infant, two served as flower-scatterers, and the two eldest begged off from flower-duty citing "blossom elbow" from having done it so many damn times already. We had a fairly informal, outdoors ceremony & reception, and I have no recollection whatsoever of any kid-related headaches. Taking the long view, I'm glad the kids were in the family photos.

However, if I may offer small advice based upon lessons learned the hard way:

Any out-of-town guests who may be using rental cars with rental GPS units should verify that the GPS is NOT set to "Avoid Toll Roads and Bridges" mode.
posted by Triode 23 January | 21:34
I wish I lived in TPS' world of black and white with no shades of gray. Life would be so much easier then.

Excuse me? I think that's a pretty ungracious reading of what I said.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 23 January | 21:39
eekacat! Glad to see you're back, and with news I see.

TPS, I can see how eekacat's comment could be interpreted negatively, but hoping all can assume goodwill. It's true that a more nuanced approach might work well for some weddings, just as a binary yes/no would work for others, but the nuanced approach definitely requires more case-by-case management so it's a bit less easy to run.
posted by Miko 24 January | 00:38
This is a pronunciation thread: || Give me your best!