herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Is it time to ban children from the wedding?

MY "Big Day" is coming up and surprise, surprise I'm the one organising everything.

As a complete novice I have been completely taken aback by the minefield of delicate negotiations I'm faced with; family feuds and guest lists, menus and seating plans are all adding up to be a potential wasp's nest of trouble. The sting in the tail, however, is not who to sit beside boring Uncle Jim, but whether children should be allowed to attend.

The entire wedding seems to revolve around this one point; all roads lead to Montessori. The proverbial "we", meaning "I", never realised it was going to be such a contentious issue but the internet is full of stories of broken friendships and offended family members and there are entire websites offering advice on how to politely word a 'no children' invitation.

With three months to go, and invitations not yet 'addressed', I'm asking if the 'Kids Are Alright', and if they're not, what can I do about it? A wise man once said, "Children are like farts... you can just about bear your own" and although the sentiment is somewhat crudely expressed, it echoes a not uncommon attitude among (ahem) Irish brides and grooms towards children attending their wedding day celebrations.

While our parents and grandparents come from a 'children should be seen and not heard' mind-set, Celtic Tiger parents embraced their inner yummy mummy and heralded the dawn of 'My Big Fat Irish Wedding' with flower girls and ring-bearers aplenty.

Entertainment

The 2011 Census figures show that the average age of marriage for men and women has risen, and couples nowadays are more likely to marry in their early 30s (and often with children already). With this generational shift, many old traditions are falling away; a bride's family is no longer expected to organise and pay for the wedding and more and more couples are deciding on the type of day they want and footing the bill themselves.

I know that for us, there is a significantly less feeling of obligation to invite second-cousin-once-removed, who I haven't seen since I was two, never mind her four screaming children. I'm 35, I have two small children and, quite frankly, it's my party and I'll do what I want to.

I know, I know... the romantic image of any celluloid or dream wedding always involves cute and huggable children; Kate and Will's royal wedding would not have been the fairytale it was without the six little bridesmaids and page boys skipping carefully down the aisle.

My own two little cherubs will be there on the day, dressed in their VIP roles of Chief Flower Girl and Chief Crawler. They will be cute and adorable and swiftly sent home to the babysitter as soon as the party starts.

I know all the arguments for having kids attend: they photograph well, may provide some of the best, unexpected entertainment of the day and are great ice-breakers on the dance floor.

Yet, any parent worth their sleepless night will admit they can also be noisy, disruptive and unpredictable. I would also argue that we want our guests to be able to relax and have fun, and small children need to be watched, constantly.

Older children and teenagers also pose a conundrum; while past the stage of throwing tantrums, they may easily get bored and sulky, and reports of immature pranks along the lines of food fights and stink bombs are not unheard of.

There's the question of cost, too; inviting some or all the children of your entire guest list can easily double the numbers attending. Patrick Bennett, of event management agency Gotchacovered.ie, believes that whether children are invited or not is often "simply a numbers game.

If a venue only has capacity for 60 people, are you going to chose your cousin's toddling kid over a good friend from work?"

He also argues that a couple's final decision is often made by the venue, "it's capacity, exclusivity and whether they cater for children or not".

Ten years ago, whether children were invited or not wasn't such a contentious issue. But, unfortunately, banning children from weddings nowadays is a potentially risky choice.

Apparently, it's all in the 'name game' on the invitation, I'm told.

Guests today receive very carefully worded invites; the somewhat formal and to-the-point "adult-only event", or the subtle but specific "Dear John and Sarah" (leaving the kids' names out), and many more variations, all belie hosts at pains to say "no children" in the nicest possible way... with varying degrees of success.

Selfish

Emotional threads fill internet forums of brides upset and often surprised by the backlash from offended friends and family members accusing them of being selfish or of "snubbing" their children.

There are some situations which I would argue warrant asking a bride and groom to make an exception.

Where a couple or a guest has a newborn and/or breastfed baby, for example. Or if someone has to travel a long distance.

With my pen poised over the invitation, I'm wondering which option to go for.

I quite like Lionel Shriver's comment "no children, we're selfish" or the rather humorous "no ankle-biters, please".

It's time to batten down the hatches, I've got a wedding to organise!

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