Oh, April. The blooming trees. The pretty flowers. The longer, sunnier days.
And the start of the wedding season.
For parents, other people’s weddings bring unique stresses. The flawless embossed invitation arrives. A work of art, complete with your calligraphied name and address decorating the envelope like twining ivy, topped by a carefully love-themed stamp. A creation that the bride and groom clearly put more time, effort, creativity and cash into than a kitchen renovation.
And your reaction is: UGH. It’s the same weekend as the big soccer tournament. Or, equally frustrating, the first weekend in six months WITHOUT a big soccer tournament.
Then the harrowing questions pop into your mind. The invitation did not specify whether kids are included. Do you need to get a babysitter — for the entire weekend? What about your breastfeeding infant – how can she actually count as a child?
I have found that there are two types of weddings and two types of couples: kid-friendly ones and kid-nasty ones.
Sometimes it feels like the bride and groom are so obsessed with achieving perfection on their big day that they cannot possibly answer your mundane kid-related questions. Or they give the impression that they are insulted that you even asked whether you can bring that baby. This day is about them, dammit.
My advice: never fight with a bride and groom. Deploy your reservoir of older, wiser wisdom. You will lose this round, and they will never forget the battle (until they have a baby and get invited to a kid-unfriendly wedding). Bite the bullet and hire the babysitter now, even though you will have to pay her more than you spend on the wedding present.
When I was a teenager and my youngest sister was four, she was invited to serve as the sole flower girl in a family friend’s wedding. The couple were casual and sweet, but they came from extremely religious, extremely formal families of origin. The wedding was held at The National Cathedral in Washington, DC — our country’s only cathedral, a grand and imposing gray stone masterpiece covered with gargoyles and festooned with grand stained glass windows. My mother was terrified for months prepping cute little sis for her big role.
The day of the wedding, our family sat in the front row. A three foot high carved mahogany balustrade separated us from little sis. She looked adorable with her white dress, pink sash, and blonde curls.
Until she started doing headstands during the marriage vows.
Next to my mother in the church pew, I could feel her tension, fury and embarrassment rise like an overflowing toilet. Separated by the mahogany barrier, there was nothing she could do but hiss across the aisle. My sister, safe behind the fence, grinned at Mom and did a cartwheel.
The reverend droned on and on, oblivious to the gymnastics and exposed underwear in front of him. But the bride and groom saw it all. And, thankfully, they both began to smile, giggle and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. My sister was the hit of the wedding. To this day, the happy couple tell us that moment marked their mutual confidence in their future, the second they both knew, for sure, they would live happily ever after no matter what curveballs life threw them.
That day, I learned that kids belong at weddings. Over time, this belief has been reinforced by incontrovertible data that most often adults, not children, ruin weddings. Divorced spouses who refuse to walk a daughter down the aisle together. The drunk uncle with the off-color toast. Mom and step-mom who must be kept in separate pens like pitbulls. I had a boyfriend once who pulled out a paperback at a college roommate’s wedding and read a chapter during the ceremony.
No tantrum from a ring bearer can top that.
One of my kids’ former babysitters is getting married in two weeks. She and her beloved have invited four children to be in the wedding party. Over 20 additional kids under 10 will sit in the church pews as witnesses to their marriage. My kind of party.
I find kid-friendly weddings infinitely more casual, messy, enjoyable and authentic. And although some people insist that children need to know their place in life, in my view, kid-welcoming festivities tend to bode well for the bride and groom’s future as relaxed, grounded parents.
Couples who appreciate children on their wedding day are already solidly positioned for a lifetime of true family bliss, the kind that may not always look Martha-Stewart-perfect on the outside.
But sadly, other parents — schooled by past high-tensile weddings — are inundating my babysitter-bride with questions: “Is it really okay if all three kids come, even the colicky six month old?” They clearly need reassurance that children, who naturally misbehave, will be embraced in all their unruliness. To comfort parents, our babysitter is composing an unequivocal blast email to explain that perfection is not required of any child sitting through a long somber ceremony in the middle of a beautiful spring day, at her wedding at least.
She clearly understands that children in all their messy glory are welcome at weddings, and in life at large.