Should children be invited to weddings? Forget where to seat separated in-laws and peach v plum dresses for the bridesmaids, one of the most emotive issues for couples planning their wedding is the issue of whether or not to invite their family and friends' children.
When we got married, more than 20 years ago, we made the prickly decision not to invite hordes of children. This was my day (OK, I'd even stretch as far as saying it was my husband's day too), but I was adamant I didn't want little people either making noises in the church, skidding over the dance floor or doing football dives near the bar. Neither did I want to bring in an entertainer to keep them busy making balloons. While I bent the 'no kids' rule for my nieces and nephews, that was as far as the exceptions went.
I didn't think about the childcare hassle I was bestowing on the few friends we had at the time who were parents, nor felt the waves of resentment that were perhaps directed at me as I sashayed up the aisle.
Yet just a few years later I was all a fluster when we in turn got invited to weddings without children. If we couldn't off-load our brood, we had an easy rule; if it was my family or friends I got to go, and vice versa with my husband.
I missed a fair few weddings. The marriage that caused the most angst on my part was the one where our friends got married on New Year's Eve. Have you ever tried offering your child(ren) to others to look after on 31st December?
For that invite, I didn't even try. Instead, they were all in bed by 9pm and I went to bed myself, a seething ball of resentment, knowing my husband was far away, having a ball, and with the luxury ahead of him of a New Year's Day lie-in.
My friend Cheryl still hasn't quite got over the vitriol she was exposed to when she and her husband-to-be Adam failed to invite their friend's four children (aged from four to 15) to their wedding.
"We worked out we would have to invite nine youngsters under the age of 17 to our wedding and we just couldn't afford it at the prices we were paying," recalls Cheryl. "But my friend though she was the exception and I would simply love her children to be there.
"I felt really uncomfortable when she rang to ask why they weren't on the list, and before I knew it we were having a flaming argument, and she said some pretty horrid things about my wedding plans. She just wouldn't take no for an answer. In the end, none of them came, and the friendship petered out. I was really shocked," she said.
But spare a thought for our friends who are getting married for the first time at the age of 40 and 50 next year. I should think practically all of their friends will have children, and not necessarily young ones where one of the parents will accept they have to decline and miss out on the fun. Our contemporaries have children ranging in age from about 10 through to 18. I'd give anything to be a fly on the wall when that guest list is drawn up.
Top tips for brides and grooms to be, when it comes to children.
Decide early on what you want to do, and stick to it. Have clear ideas about no children, some children, or all children.
Don't make excuses or apologise – it's your day. You are presumably paying for it. This is the one day when it really is All. About. You.
If you do decide to go with children, do lay on things that will make their day happier, and therefore your day smoother too. Knick knacks at the table for them to play with, disposable cameras, a treasure hunt, child cocktails, an entertainer for some of the day – there are plenty of things you can do to keep them occupied.
Don't forget that if you do decide not to have lots of children, many of your guests will have done the same thing themselves. They really do have to get over it (and themselves).
Make it absolutely clear on the invite who is invited. Don't leave any opportunity for cousin Lucy to call up asking what child food they will be serving on the day for Nathan and Sophie, and telling you Sophie's wheat and dairy intolerance issues means she must be served her food first.
What do you think? Did you invite children to your wedding? Does the cost come at the expense of family?
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