The Child-less Wedding

(This picture is not very relevant. The little girl just makes me laugh.)

It has come to my attention that there is a growing trend for children to be excluded from weddings. Whether you call these events ‘child-free’ or ‘child-less’ probably reveals where you stand on this ‘issue’, which has provoked debate from Mumsnet to WordPress.

I first became aware of the trend when my sister got married last year and made it clear that children weren’t welcome – including my 9-year-old daughter. This sent shock waves through my family, and I must admit to feeling hurt and angry at the fact that she didn’t consider my daughter to be one of the ‘close friends and family’ she wanted at her wedding. The reasons she gave (‘I don’t want noise or crying during my wedding vows’) didn’t make sense either, given the age of my daughter. Now I’m planning a wedding, however, I see that this is a fairly standard response. Rather than invite some children and not others, it is easier to exclude all children, who are increasingly seen as a huge threat to the careful choreography of a wedding.

The reasons given are as follows: general noise and disruption, not remaining vertical (hiding under tables, falling into things, rolling on the floor), breaking things, boring other guests with their inability to carry on a rational conversation and complaining when they themselves get bored. On top of all this, there are Just Too Many of Them and they Cost Too Much to Feed.

My sister’s wedding was the intimate, relaxed day she wanted, which she ended with a midnight swim (still in her tiara). I was still hurt by the perceived slight to my daughter, though, and retaliated when she asked about my birthday party (to which she is usually invited):

‘There will be loads of children there. You probably won’t like it.’

I invited my friends and all their children to a buffet style affair at my house, expecting some decorous wine drinking downstairs and some noisy chaos from the kids’ bedrooms. However, this year all of my friends had arranged babysitters. With no children to remind the adults to be sensible, the wine drinking didn’t remain decorous for long, and the party lasted until 5am, about an hour longer than the last unsmashed wine glass. It’s not often that I am more sober than anyone else, but it seemed to happen on this occasion, and I realised that there are many reasons not to let people get drunk at your party.

These are pretty much as above: general noise and disruption, not remaining vertical (falling into things, rolling on the floor), breaking things, boring other guests with their inability to carry on a rational conversation and Not Knowing When it is Time to Go Home.

Which leads me to the conclusion that alcohol and children are both equally disruptive, and mutually exclusive, but in a choice between the two, alcohol generally wins. The child-free wedding seems to be part of a growing trend to separate children (and, by extension, mothers) from the rest of society. Commercial outlets provide places where children are ‘free’ to gorge themselves on sugar, then swing on ropes and scream to their hearts content (ie soft play centres) and other spaces where adults are ‘free’ to get as recklessly drunk as they like. These things feel like fun at the time, but result in irritability, headaches and empty wallets shortly afterwards. I have nothing against rope swinging, or getting drunk. Nobody can get more outrageously drunk than a mother who rarely gets to go out in adult company (I can speak with authority on this) – but wouldn’t it be nice if mothers and children spent less time confined to the house, and more time in the company of others, and wouldn’t this have a civilizing influence, on all sides?

For my wedding, I’m envisaging a European cafe-style scenario, kids playing hide-and-seek among the trees while the adults sip their drinks in a sophisticated manner, allowing me to enjoy everyone’s company, be they 9 or 90. Never mind that the wedding is in March, in Manchester, and I’ll probably make the mistake of drinking champagne for breakfast. I can dream…

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8 thoughts on “The Child-less Wedding

  1. What a wonderful post. Among other things, you very nicely summarize the objections to children at weddings (or, rather, arguments for totally segregating children and mothers).

    On the subject of a wedding needing to be perfectly choreographed, I have an anecdote from my first wedding, which took place almost fifteen years ago. During the reception, a nine-year-old boy (who already had a well-deserved reputation as a daredevil) slipped away from his parents and into the garden. A short time later, his mother went looking for him and discovered him splashing around in the koi pond, his tuxedo still on. Quite peeved, she dragged him to the bathroom and held him up by the shoulder pads in front of a hand dryer, in an attempt to dry him off. Then she sensed something twitching in his pocket. It was a fish from the koi pond. Thereupon, the woman grabbed the fish and ran through the hall screaming for people to get out of her way, so she could get to the pond while the poor thing was still alive.

    This certainly disrupted the “perfect choreography” of my wedding, but after all these years, it’s the only thing that I remember about that very expensive and formal affair, the only thing about it that brings a smile to my face. I don’t remember any of the “deep” speeches, or any of the risque toasts by inebriated guests, I don’t even remember who was wearing what “designer” gown, but I remember this: a mischievous little boy who went swimming in the koi pond and put a fish in his pocket.

    • Thank you! I really enjoyed reading your perceptive post on the subject, which so perfectly summed up the current attitude towards weddings.

      Your anecdote made me laugh out loud, and demonstrates very nicely how children can ‘liven up’ proceedings! I wonder what that 9-year-old boy would have to say about this incident now?!

  2. Ha! That little girl – what a great capture 🙂

    God bless you engaging the children in the occasion. Having any kind of a child free zone is unrealistic & illusionary. Children exist (can’t escape them!) and mothers need to get out!

    Love your vision.

  3. Pingback: The Juggernaut | thirtysomethingbride

  4. A BRILLIANT post. Absolutely love this – my gosh, this is excellent.

    This exclusion, I am NOT into. Weddings are so gorgeous with all in the mix. I love your comeback about the birthday party, but so bizarre most parents had organised sitters so they could drink away. Your comment that alcohol and children are equally as disruptive when it gets out of hand is SPOT-ON. I LOVE ***YOUR*** dream of a wedding, & I think you should go for it. I personally would miss my sister’s wedding if she didn’t welcome my child. I simply would.

    Bloody excellent post.

    • Thank you! Our first wedding was cancelled (long story) but we had one last August in which children almost out-numbered adults! I will never understand my sister’s attitude towards children. Will post more about the wedding one day. Thank you so much for reading 🙂

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