Should children be invited to a wedding? As innocuous as this question sounds, it has become quite a hot button issue, sparking heated debates among couples and creating rifts between family members. It seems everybody has an opinion – and a strong one at that – when it comes to who should be on the guest list. Ultimately, it is up to the bride and groom to decide whether children are included, as it is their special day, but that doesn’t stop everyone else from expressing their views – especially when they disagree.

Traditionally, children have always participated in weddings. Not only were they in attendance along with the entire town, they played an important symbolic role in the ceremony. The appearance of flower girls and ring bearers dates all the way back to Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, respectively, with little variation in the centuries following. It was only recently, with couples marrying later in life or having second and even third weddings and the events themselves becoming so extravagant, that the presence of kids came into question at all.

From the bride and groom’s perspective, children are an added expense and a behavior variable they might not be thrilled about or willing to embrace. Sure, kids are cute when they amble down the aisle or dance together in a clumsy embrace, but they can also be unpredictable and unruly. When you spend a year and a small fortune planning for this occasion, the last thing you want is a pint-sized wild-card upstaging you. It is neither the honored couple’s responsibility nor obligation to plan for these what-ifs the way a parent does. While not every bride and groom feels this way, an increasing number do and make it known in tactful but sometimes awkward “affirmatives” on their invitations.

 

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From the parent-guests’ perspective, children are part of the family and if they’re not invited, arrangements need to be made for their care. An out-of-town wedding presents a bigger problem than a local one, but either way, the parents need to find a babysitter. Parents usually cite this as the major complaint regarding an adult-only wedding, but if they’re being honest, what offends them is their kids aren’t wanted. It’s hard to summon warm feelings about impending nuptials when you’ve been told, affirmatively, your offspring are a nuisance.

So now what?

When faced with the stark reality that your friend/family/acquaintance has publicly decried a youth presence at her wedding, you can react one of four ways:

1| You could decline the invitation in exasperation, outraged at the selfishness of her stipulation, because doesn’t she, herself, have nieces and nephews, or, heck, even a daughter? You could complain to her directly (which you would never) or behind her back to other family members, or, better yet, on social media, wrecking any future chances of celebrating the holidays together. But, hey, you have plenty of other people in your life, right?

2 | You could politely decline, biting your tongue when tempted to criticize her decision, and instead try to understand and appreciate the effort she made to stage the perfect day – even though you know full-well it is the years to follow that make a good marriage.

3 | You could begrudgingly accept the invitation, grumbling to whomever will listen about how inconvenient it is to be away from the kids, making yourself miserable in the meantime, thus guaranteeing your night out, sans les petites, will be an epic-fail.

4 | You could accept the adult-only invite graciously and have a smashing time with your husband, knowing in your heart that once your friend has children of her own, she may look back on her exclusivity and cringe just a bit – or maybe she won’t. Either way, it’s her day.

Children are an extension of us, so when they’re excluded it’s hard not to take it personally. The fact is, this wedding is not about us or our kids, and we have no business making it otherwise. In all likelihood, the bride and groom did not arrive at their no-kids policy lightly, and they already know it’s not popular with the parent set. In the spirit of forming a lasting union, why not be accommodating and abide by their wishes? It could be your gift – along with the set of sheets they asked for.