Kids Might Not Be Ideal Wedding Guests, But We Should Invite Them Anyway

by Sara Farrell Baker
IVASHstudio / Shutterstock

Wedding planning is a pretty solid exercise in making choices that are in no way life or death, but feel like the fate of the universe is hanging in the balance. My husband and I went with a spread of eight different cakes because I didn’t want to choose just one. After telling my bridesmaids to pick their own dresses because I am super laid-back (and sarcastic and a nightmare), I vetoed four dresses that my sister picked out. In my defense, those were some ugly-ass dresses. But besides choosing to close out the night with “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey (and sung by angelic national treasure, Steve Perry), there was only one other decision that was a no-brainer.

We wanted to invite kids.

Kids at weddings are cute as shit. As the bride, and as an overall obnoxious person who wasn’t hugged or praised nearly enough as a child, I was in no mood to be outshone on the big day. If some second-cousin-twice-removed showed up in white, I would have thrown one of my carefully chosen high heels directly between her brows. But kids? Kids are professional scene-stealers, and yet I welcomed their thievery. Blessed with super cute little cousins and nieces, I was happy to stand to the side of the dance circle while one of our flower girls danced with the groom while standing on his shoes. It’s one of my favorite memories to date.

I get that kids aren’t everyone’s bag. Also, weddings are expensive and sometimes you need to exclude children for budget reasons. And some people know they have that uncle who is going to drink five-too-many Coronas and end up writhing on the floor in a sensual, interpretive dance to “I Touch Myself” and they plan accordingly by keeping the guest list 18 and over. Kids aren’t going to be a perfect fit for every wedding. I get it.

But damn, when it’s right, it can be fun as hell.

Now that my husband and I have kids, we have to choose whether or not we want to bring our kids to weddings (if they’re invited). We are well-versed in experiences that can go very well or stunningly bad when we bring our 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter out in public. Throw in long ceremonies, loud music, lots of waiting, and staying up past bedtime and the needle will usually point to “Why would you possibly think this is a good idea? What is wrong with you? Are you high?”

Our son has some special needs and loud noises are a big issue for us. Recently, I worried myself for weeks about whether or not we should leave him and his sister with our in-laws while we went to my cousin’s wedding a few hours away. We decided to prepare as best we could and take them along. Before we left for our trip, I loaded up my old iPod and my husband’s with shows and games to break out as needed. I packed a stroller in case either of our kids needed a place to lie back and rest. Under the stroller, I stashed snacks and crayons and coloring books and small toys. And I made sure to remember a pair of hearing-protective earmuffs for my son.

My husband and I agreed that if things took a turn for either kid during the evening we would head back to the hotel and say we tried.

Miraculously, we made it through an entire Catholic mass with two children who had never been to church. I thanked Our Lady of Target for the activity books and crayons I brought into the pews with us.

Once we arrived at the reception, I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out. Both kids fell asleep in the car, and my son kept snoozing after we transferred him to a stroller. When he did finally wake up, he was irritable and crying. After several attempts to calm him, I started making a plan for our exit so we could return to the hotel and call the attempt a wash. The loud music was getting to him, and he was too upset to let me put his earmuffs on.

We should have stayed home.

I figured we would feed both kids some dinner before leaving, retreating to a quieter area and sitting them down with plates of macaroni and cheese from the buffet of barbecue items. I pulled out an iPod and let our son play games while my husband and I finished eating. Moments before I was ready to gather up the diaper bag and stroller, trays and trays of cookies were brought out. I decided on one last attempt at salvaging the day.

“See all those cookies? If you let me put your earmuffs on, you can eat as many cookies as you want.”

The kid lives and breathes for baked goods. I took him to the spread and let him pick and choose what he wanted. Expecting him to load up, I was surprised when he only picked three. We sat down, and he gleefully chowed down on his treats before letting me place his earmuffs on his head.

I cannot adequately describe how thankful I am that we waited for my son and daughter to eat before leaving. That cookie feast turned the night around. All four of us walked back into the main reception area and straight to the dance floor. A few small kids, including a few of my aforementioned cute cousins, were already tearing it up. My son ran into the middle of the circle and busted all kinds of moves, and my daughter ran in after him. Seeing their smiles and hearing them whoop it up with their cousins, made all the frustration I felt earlier melt away, and I joined in with my best mom moves.

We spent the rest of the night dancing and laughing, taking videos and pictures, and grinning from ear to ear. A flower girl grabbed my son for a slow dance while my husband and I danced together. It was magical.

If my husband and I had left our kids with his parents, we would have had a great time. We would have had a few drinks, danced, and celebrated my cousin and her new husband and their marriage. We would have packed less, rented a cheaper room, and gotten a whole weekend off from having Nick Jr. on the television. It would not have been a negative experience, by any means.

But we would have missed one of my favorite moments as a parent to date. We would have missed out on some memories that we are both going to cherish forever. And I wouldn’t have enjoyed those cookies nearly as much.

Weddings, with or without kids, are great because they are joyful and exciting, and they bring together the people you love. I’m just grateful that this one included all the people I love, including the smallest, cutest ones.