No 71: the Children

Thursday, March 12, 2009

As I listen to the shrill voice of my neighbor's granddaughter ringing through the tiled staircase, I am reminded of a modern etiquette question: to invited children, or not to?

Most of us will have a flower ring and a ring bearer-they're sweet ways to include the youngest family members in the festivities. But what about inviting the rest of 'em? The ones not required for cute photos? What if you have a large family whose primary objective seems to be procreation (I'm thinking of my Greek Orthodox family, but it applies to many other social/religious groups)? If you're looking down the end of a beautiful party populated with shrieking six year olds on Mommy's laps, what do you do?

You don't have to invited them. Sure, you might upset someone or even piss them off, but every kid is another head to the caterer. If you have the money (and the space to cloister them in), I can't imagine most people would cruelly bar children out of spite, but not everyone can mange the additional stresses that come with a kid-friendly wedding, including a kid's meal, a kid's table, activities and probably a babysitter unless you also have a bunch of pre-teens in the family.

So if you decide not to invite children, how do you proceed? First, the envelopes. While it's customary to have inner and outer envelopes, many brides skip it, although it can be your first line of defense. Instead of addressing your invitation to "The Jones Family" or "The Jones", address it to "Mr and Mrs Joe Jones". If you include an interior envelope, this can even read, "JoAnne and Joe Jones". Most people will understand this means Joey and JoJo aren't invited.

But some people always seem to miss the hint, and you might get reply cards with 3 steaks and a chicken for the newborn. In this case, call Mom and Dad and let them know as tactfully as possible (hell, blame the struggling economy) that you cannot accommodate their children.

Another vehicle in avoiding this awkward phone call is to let close family members know and ask them to spread the word.

Finally, if you're having a wedding where many guests will be traveling from out of town, lots of couples find a discounted rate at a nearby hotel. You may want to hire a babysitter (or again, pay a handful of 14 year old cousins) for the afternoon and spring for a few pizzas, that way parents won't be leaving their children at home for the weekend with a babysitter.

Inviting children is going to be a personal decision, and if you choose not to, it'll likely get ugly with at least one guest. But stick to your guns-imagine how much worse it would be if your cousin Amy found out that your third cousin's boyfriend's little girl was at the wedding but your goddaughter hadn't been invited.


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