Sunday, April 16, 2006

KIDS + WEDDINGS = ?: AN INTRODUCTION (PART I)

"Kids are wonderful, but I like mine barbecued."
--Bob Hope

I thought the above-quotaton from the venerable actor and comedian, the late Bob Hope, was a fitting introduction to a topic that engenders much controversy--and hopefully will provoke some interesting discussion. Children are interesting creatures--particularly when one views them in the context of wedding etiquette and the planning-process. The issue of whether children are--and should be--welcome at weddings is a topic that I've learned has become surprisingly contentious for many brides-to-be planning their weddings.

The first image in many people's minds of children at weddings is the cute, ringlet framed face of the flower girl walking down the aisle, strewing rose petals on the runner. That, as well as the portrait of the dimple-faced ring bearer, is the stereotypical vision that many have when it comes to children's participation in these events. What could be so bad about that?

However--it's just not that easy (whether one looks at it from the point of view of having children IN THE WEDDING--or EVEN SIMPLY WHETHER TO INVITE THEM OR NOT.

My friend Kathy's story is particularly relevant, as she comes from a very small family (with no young cousins, nieces, or nephews), whereas her fiance hails from a large clan in California--with many relatives who have babies and infants to boot. Kathy and her fiance decided to have an evening wedding--a black tie affair in which the ceremony would be called for 7 PM (which meant it would start even later). They had everything worked out, including the guest list, and nothing seemed particularly stressful or problematic. Until Kathy's fiance told her that his second cousin wanted to bring her 5-month year old to the wedding.

Kathy never spoke directly with the cousin, but her fiance's mother (so Kathy's mother-in-law to be) told the cousin that YES, she could bring her baby daughter, and that it wouldn't be a problem.

Furious, Kathy immediately spoke with her fiance and told him that that absolutely would NOT be allowable--and that the no-children allowed rule was there for a reason.

Having a five-month old at the ceremony, Kathy thought, would be intrusive and rather inappropriate--particularly given that this was an intimate, yet formal affair. The thought of a baby screaming through the ceremony (and, perhaps, reception) was too much for her to bear--particularly as Kathy was footing the bill.

Kathy thought that, as a compromise, the cousin could bring the baby to the rehearsal dinner if necessary, and she and her fiance would find them a babysitting service, or someone who could look after the child during the actual wedding. But that was it. In the end, baby did not come to the wedding, and, in Kathy's mind, disaster was averted. Given the size of her wedding (very small) and type (black tie, formal, evening), Kathy thought it would have been not only inappropriate but potentially disastrous to the type of wedding she and her fiance had agreed upon--and planned out.

The moral of this story, as my introduction to this topic, is that this is one of the few places where I don't take a laissez-faire approach--or live and let live. As this is YOUR wedding, you have to decide what type you want--and whether that will involve children. You don't have to "give in" to relatives, if there is pressure to invite very young children (or pressure not to!)--simply because finding a babysitter is problematic (or your in-laws want a very "adult, formal" affair). If you decide you want to include children, that's terrific--and in the next few posts, I'll talk about what I think is/isn't appropriate when it comes to this subject. However, you have to think about these issues in advance--otherwise, you may have a situation where, as you create your guest list, you and your fiance begin to debate the merits of inviting his cousin's three year old daughter. It's all about the CONTEXT of your wedding, and what you are looking for in terms of style and size--because whether or not you want to believe it, the presence (or lack thereof) of kids may affect your vision.

I wanted to put some food for thought out there in the form of an anecdote, as this is one subject where it seems like everyone has a story.... I'll elaborate upon the children-issue in the next few posts, as it seems to be a hot-button subject for many.

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Megan said...

Here in France, the wedding party is made up almost entirely of kids. Instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen walking down the aisle, it is hordes of kids. I think it would be pretty unheard of to say No Children Allowed. In general, the whole approach to weddings is much more relaxed. You don't have to have a church ceremony if you don't want to (just the civil ceremony at city hall), you don't have a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner the night before, everything does not have to be absolutely perfect or else your marriage is ruined, etc.
Megan