Monday, September 08, 2008

Much ado about children and 'I do'

Australia: Sunday Morning Herald
Now that I have my own children, I find that times have changed. Most weddings are "no children" affairs. What is a wedding without children? Why should they be excluded from such an important family celebration? Are flower-girls and page-boys being phased out? This is often the only chance that they get to catch up with all the extended family as we are scattered around Australia now.
Ah, yes. because the wedding has nothing to do with the bride and groom celebrating the start of their life together. If you want a family reunion, plan it yourself! You can even plan it around the time of a wedding, to save travel costs for other family members. But do not expect the busy bride and groom to do all the hard work of planning and paying for it. It is not your right to usurp their sacred, once in a lifetime occasion for the purpose you wish it would serve.
The rationale behind not inviting the children to weddings is that it is "too expensive". How much do children eat? Just serve them a plate of vegetables and they are guaranteed to eat nothing, or order in happy meals and it will cost $4 a head.
Either the wedding industry is dramatically different in Oz, or this woman is deluding herself. The majority of professional wedding halls in the U.S. mandate paying full fare for children, no matter what they eat.

But that is not the only purpose children aren't invited. Very often, children will not enjoy a wedding. What toddler likes to sit in a church quietly for an hour? What pre-teen likes to be stuck at a boring dinner with their parents? Add that to the potential disasters on a day already fraught with tension - young children are unpredictable and often noisy. Many a sacred vow has been drowned out by a wailing child.

Unless the bride and groom are close to the child herself, what reason is there to invite her? It really only seems a ploy to save money on babysitting.
The real reason goes much deeper. Children are gradually being excluded from our family lives. The important role that they play in our community is being forgotten. Children are our next generation. They are the reason that we need to stay optimistic, fall in love, move on from the sad times in life and keep on living. Unfortunately they are also noisy, messy, naughty and unpredictable.
. . .
I don't go to these child-free weddings. My official excuse is that all my potential babysitters are attending the wedding. But the real reason is that if the bride and groom don't want my children included in their celebrations then they obviously don't share my family values - and frankly I don't really want to be included either. Harrumph!
You sound like a delightful, reasonable person. I'm sure your presence is sorely missed.
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Anonymous said...

When I and my partner were married we said to our families and friends that this was to be a wedding, not a family reunion or Gathering of the Clans.

We kept it very small. It was a simple ritual of our commitment to each other. Not some act in a major pan-generational nuclear family opera.


Anonymous said...

I can assure you that the better reception centres and other wedding venues in Australia would not take too kindly to a wedding "just" ordering in a Mcrappy meals. My understanding is that most venues charge by bums on seats. Sadly, breeder smugness has replicated in Australia like that other Aussie vermin, the rabbit.

Kelsey said...

I have never understood the drive of people to have huge weddings, especially those who do so because they are pressured to by family who don't want to be "left out". Tell them go f*ck off, really.

A wedding is about the couple. It is their day. Not the family's. Sure, in earlier days, where marriages were largely used for family maneuvers, it was important that they be there, but nowadays, when people are, you know, allowed to marry for love and not connections, a wedding is about the family.

My best friend and her husband had a wedding with just their parents and siblings in attendance, which totaled 5 people. A few days later, they had a barbeque on a nearby mountain, which friends were invited to, and family, while not explicitly invited, were welcome to attend as well. Their whole wedding cost them around $600 total. I hope to do something similar.

Just as I sometimes feel that people with kids have kids so that they will have something to use to draw attention to themselves (look what *I* made!), I feel that families sometimes co-opt weddings as a way to boast as well. It's moronic.

L.T. said...

We had a fairly large wedding (150-175) but it wasn't about the family, really. We only had adults, especially since there were no children, or even parents, we were especially close to. I did include, say my extended family and father's coworkers. But I am close to those people!

Most importantly, half of those in attendance were our friends. At close to 30, and after a 10 year relationship, we had gathered quite an extensive "urban family" about us, many of whom had been in our lives for 10-15 years. That is how our friendships work.

So having a large wedding isn't always about family pressure. I saw it as pretty much the only opportunity to gather every single person who was important in my life into one huge party, to meet each other, dance, and eat. Considering the great distances many of them traveled (we had 4 No Kidding chapters represented, not to mention all the other travelers) I doubt that it will ever happen again.