I Used to Firmly Agree with Child-Free Weddings … Until I Had Kids

image source: suzanne jannese
image source: suzanne jannese

As the first cherry blossoms appear on the trees and every clothing outlet becomes filled with fancy frocks, you realize that wedding season has officially begun. Here in the UK, it usually starts in April and ends in September, save for the odd winter wedding.

In the late ’90s and early 2000s, when the pearly white envelopes dropped onto my doormat, I was filled with a sense of joy: excitement for my friends, delight at the thought of gathering with my oldest buddies, and thrill at the thought of buying some new heels to jazz up an old outfit.

But now here I am, post-kids, and the whole “we would love for you to join us at our wedding, but regrettably, children are unable to attend” brings me out in a cold sweat.

I can’t judge, though, as I was the first of my friends to say, “My wedding is a kid-free zone.” Only babies in arms were welcome at my wedding for many reasons:

1. Space

I only had a certain number of tables and therefore seating space (just 80 seats in total). I was already struggling with who to invite to the entire wedding and who to invite only to the evening part, so a space for a child meant one less adult friend could come.

2. Cost

The cost per head for dinner and drinks was not cheap and feeding everyone’s kids would have definitely hiked the price up.

3. The Chaos of Kids

Selfishly, I didn’t want hordes of kids running around, knocking stuff over and creating havoc. I wanted a peaceful, serene day where everyone — especially parents — could relax and enjoy some adult conversation.

4. I Didn’t Want Parents to Have to Leave Early 

Most of all, I didn’t want my best friends all leaving at 6 pm to do bath time! I wanted them to stay and enjoy the evening, to celebrate and dance with me. Never again would I celebrate my union with my husband. Never again would I gather all those I loved so dearly in one room, so was it a lot to ask for just one day?

I reasoned that most parents would appreciate a day away from their kids. Some time to be adults again during a celebration that young children can’t even begin to comprehend. Many friends were overjoyed at an excuse to get the grandparents to babysit and have a weekend away together. I felt pretty good about my decision and thoroughly enjoyed my wedding, even though I had a slight issue when one dear friend was struggling to get a babysitter.

But then I became a parent, and I saw it completely from the other side of the fence. Now when I get invited to a child-free wedding, what do I do? PANIC.

Take my cousin’s wedding, for example. I totally understood why he wanted a child-free day. His wedding was at a stately home filled with antiques, so the last thing he wanted was to be paying for a broken vase knocked down by a kid. But couldn’t a drunken reveler have done the same thing?

The fact that we couldn’t bring along our kids meant that we had to find a babysitter in a place where we didn’t know anyone, as he married in a city far from where we lived. It also meant that during the wedding, instead of relaxing, I was worrying about how the kids were doing with a sitter they didn’t know. The logistics were a nightmare. And moreover, I also worried that if I stayed out and partied late, I would feel horrific the next day having to get up when the kids woke at the crack of dawn.

Even more, while I get why people don’t want kids underfoot at a glamorous soiree, now that I’m a parent myself, I’ve come to believe weddings are meant to be about family. Isn’t there beauty in the slight chaos of things? Children bring spirit and energy to an event that adults simply can’t. If I could go back, I’d phone my dear friend Hannah and tell her of course she can bring her 3-year-old son alongside her 1-month-old baby. (I had also invited Hannah’s parents to the wedding, so she found it almost impossible to get a sitter.) I wish I hadn’t put her through that stress and now understand how difficult she must have found the whole thing.

So now, when that pearly envelope hits my doormat, I have to stop and really think about whether or not to go. I think about what leaving my children at home will entail and how complicated it will become. My husband and I have no relatives nearby or any overnight babysitters we feel comfortable using, so we always have to fly my mom over from Ireland to take care of our children. Adding return flights to the cost of attending the wedding (outfits, gifts, transport to/fro, hotel, drinks) means we’re shelling out a whole lot of money!

So next time you send out invites with “strictly adult-only affair” or “please respect our wishes for a child-free reception,” don’t take it personally if my response is, “Declines with regards.” I have kids to think about now.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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