Wedding Kids’ Policy (Part 1)

When organising my own wedding a question about kids popped up. What do you do about kids? Should you invite them? At what age will they count towards a full menu? How do you communicate with parents most effectively?

Before I get into this a word about two types of parents. Type 1 is able to think about their child along with other topics. Type 2 can only think about their child (and perhaps as an extension, themselves) in most situations.

In my invites I specified the number of people invited, especially if one invitation was used to invite a couple, or a family. The invite would contain the names too, e.g. Mr and Mrs Jones, or, Mr and Mrs Jones and Family. I didn’t spell out that kids weren’t invited, because some were – especially if they were from family.

The first tricky question was when Susan said her child was coming too: their invite was a Mr and Mrs Jones only. There was no question about this – that her child was coming was delivered as a statement in a message and not a question. Prior to her reply, other guests who had children had asked me whether they can bring their child, especially if their invite was addressed to the couple only, and encouraging said that it was ok if it wasn’t possible – they understood space was tight and can arrange babysitting. I was spoiled by this type of consideration and assumed everyone would do the same. (Never assume!)

My first reaction to Susan was annoyance. With the risk of sounding like bridezilla here I thought, “But I didn’t really invite your child 😦“.

Robbie Grubbs | Creative Commons

Robbie Grubbs | Creative Commons

Then she sent me the cutest video of her kid, Puss n Boots eyes in full anticipation of attending our wedding. My heart melted. Fine, one more won’t matter…

I couldn’t say no – didn’t want to risk damaging our friendship and if she didn’t get the invite I’m not sure she would understand this.

It was my fault. In hindsight I should have made it clear, as a note in the invite perhaps, that kids weren’t invited, if they weren’t invited for that parent. I didn’t think that far.

In my world it was clear enough if the invites were addressed to the intended invitees only, with a corresponding roman number. I’d get the hint if I received such an invite…so wouldn’t others? 

But you cannot assume these things. Especially when different cultures are involved. In a typical Chinese wedding kids are sort of an afterthought – the tables are more flexible and can fit anywhere from 11 to 14 (sometimes even 15) people. The price is also calculated per table, and not per head. For pricing you tell the restaurant or venue how many tables you’re expecting; the exact number of guests is irrelevant. The main dishes are brought to the centre, and everyone shares these dishes by helping themselves to a portion (well nowadays, there’s a server splitting the portions and bringing it to each individual guest). There’s always A LOT of food. Like so much the guests NEVER finish it all. I’ve been to over a dozen Chinese weddings. We never finish the dishes/courses, some 10 of them and sometimes 12. There’s always take-home bags to take away the fruit, the sweets, the suckling pig’s head, the rice and noodles. It’s a bountiful affair. So a kid or two won’t ruin the fun – they just pull up a baby chair and dig in!

We opted for a western wedding because while we love the rowdiness and liveliness of a Chinese wedding, we preferred the ambience of a quieter western one and wanted something more formal, with fewer courses. It’s also an afternoon affair, and there isn’t really an option to do that for a Chinese banquet – they’re almost always held in the evening.

With a western wedding also comes a stricter guest list, because the venue literally can only host a certain number of people due to their fixed seating arrangements. A child occupying one seat will be counted as a guest. And we’re at capacity right now!

The take home message is – never assume. Always be crystal clear in your invite about who you intend to invite and what your kid policy is.

If the kid policy isn’t clear cut, like family kids are invited but not others’ kids, be clear about that. Particularly if you’re dealing with different cultures – the expectation or assumption of including children in a wedding varies. Yes, you may risk sounding a bit harsh in your invite, but at least it’s out there, and if people are your true friends they will understand. And still come.

Rookie mistake!

Part 2 about kids’ menus coming up.

Related:


Featured image credit: Richard Arthur Norton | Creative Commons

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20 comments on “Wedding Kids’ Policy (Part 1)

  1. This is a great topic. I’m a long way off from getting hitched, don’t know if I ever will, but I’ve been to my fair share of Chinese weddings – and at each one of them there never fails to be kids running everywhere at the banquet. In Chinese weddings, it seems anything goes. The more, the merrier. The noisier and louder the better (auspicious reasons, most likely). Maybe one reason why some Chinese couples or families feels it’s okay to welcome kids to weddings. And because family is prized highly in Asian cultures.

    I don’t know why some guests would like to bring their kids to a wedding. Since I don’t have kids, I can’t answer that question. Maybe no one can take care of the kids that night (that seems highly unlikely to me). Maybe they want to show off their kids, so proud of their kids. Maybe they don’t like being alone or going to a wedding alone or even with someone else – as mentioned, the more the merrier.

    Weddings are usually the time for you, and not others 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Mabel, that is very much like the Chinese weddings I’ve been too! The more the merrier and it is indeed a very merry and loud affair. It is usually more chaotic, and the old and young all gather together in one big banquet. There is a lot of emphasis on respect of elderly and children as a sign of prosperity. Depending on which province or area you’re from there could be a lot of drinking too. I guess some western weddings also have lots and lots of drinking.

      I’m exactly sure why people want to bring their kids either, but I think it’s a mix of loving the company of their kids, wanting their kids to experience a big event (in Cantonese we have a saying: “to see big events”, which translates to it’s good to experience large social gatherings), yes I agree with you, showing their beautiful child to friends and family, not wanting/able to arrange babysitting. I think it’s quite usual for parents to bring their kids here in Hong Kong, though in North American culture it seems that kids are more optional, and bringing them is more a conscious choice. It’s implicit that if children are not mentioned in the invitation they aren’t expected to attend. Whereas here, it seems the opposite is true – unless you specify that kids are not invited, they will automatically show up with the parents!

      I’d love to think that this is the time for me, but as I’ve been planning I realise this is not the case. There are expectations from parents and certain guests, although I must say my parents have been pretty awesome and supportive. I said in a previous post that planning a wedding is about diplomacy – it is, because while the majority of the people are very reasonable and considerate, there are a couple that are harder to deal with. No matter what you do, they will have something negative to say about the arrangements, the transport, the food, the speeches. And in their eyes, the wedding is not really about the couple! It’s about how comfortable and enjoyable it is to them and how extravagantly it is held. But those are the minority. Majority is that they’re very happy for you and are there to support you on a big occasion.

      Can’t please everyone. Can’t be all things to all men!

      Well you say you’re a long way off, and don’t know if you will get married. But you never know – sometimes these things just happen naturally, whether you were expecting it or not 🙂

      Like

      • “There is a lot of emphasis on respect of elderly and children as a sign of prosperity.” You summed it up perfectly, Pixie. And in many Asian cultures, everyone is team. No one gets left behind. No kids left behind because offspring are such an integral part to families in Asian cities.

        Totally get you when you say parents bring kids along to weddings for the experience. I suppose, to loosely translate a phrase from Cantonese, the parents want to kids to “see things”.

        A wedding banquet (in Asian cultures) is certainly a big occasion. It’s all about event organising, guessing how much it costs, guessing how many red packets you’ll receive from guests (not really, lol, perhaps) and you have to make sure the guests are comfortable. Meeting their expectations of a wedding? Everyone has their own tastes and opinion so you are right in saying you can’t please everyone entirely in that sense.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, “see things” that’s exactly what I’m talking about! Exposure, and no better exposure than a big event with lots of different kinds of people. You totally get it.

          For your last point, there is a sort of culture here that certain guests tend to criticise the wedding. Like I said the majority are graceful and very helpful, but there are some, perhaps the older generation, pursuant to more traditional Cantonese culture, that will always be unhappy about some aspect. I’m not a fan of such easy “criticism” – there should be a bit more grace. Definitely can’t meet everyone’s needs!

          The red packet bit is true! Can’t really estimate how much you’ll get per se – but I’ve found generally people to be very generous. I also have my own red-packet giving as a benchmark. So I’ve been to 10 plus weddings in the past few years….that’s a lot of red packet giving 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This is actually something we never really had to consider as our friends have/had so few children denen we had our wedding. Okay, the wedding was also small with fifty guest and out of them were two kids kids (age 5 and 14) and one baby (1 1/2 years). That’s pretty much it 🙂

    In our Chinese wedding on the other hands, oh I don’t even remember how many kids I saw running around everywhere..

    Liked by 1 person

    • 50 guests! That’s quite amazing. Very intimate, everyone could see each other. Was it like that? Did you like a small wedding? I could only imagine how close and lovely that was.

      Yes, the Chinese Wedding…does love having kids around. I think it’s a great thing when there are no speeches or quiet performances (usually Chinese weddings I’ve been to don’t have long speeches)

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was nice. We surely would have loved more guests but that would have ruined us financialy 🙂

        I have one blog post called “our finnish wedding” or “our wedding in finland” (something like that) where you can see few pictures from that wedding 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes cost is always an important factor! It could be a blessing – it makes you really think about those closest to you and I think smaller weddings are more intimate anyway.

          I think I’ve already seen those photos before 🙂 I love looking at wedding photos!

          Like

  3. This is such an interesting post! I know of three families that have been at war for years over this issue. One was a nursing mother and the bride insisted NO children meant absolutely no exceptions. Here the majority of the reason is definitely finances. Babysitters are making $15 an hour where I live for 2 kids. I see more single people at weddings nowadays (whom I know are married) and when I inquire where their mate is, I am told….home with the kids. We couldn’t afford a sitter so we both could come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Stephanie, thanks for chipping in! That’s true – I guess finances are a major issue. If it’s a nursing mother then that’s very tough – especially for newborns, you can’t be away from your child for more than 2-3 hours. That must have been one strict bride.

      Worse if there are a lot of weddings to go to in a year! A sitter at 15 bucks for a wedding (which could last hours/the whole day?) does cost a fortune.

      People here usually get their parents (the grandparents of the child) to babysit for the duration. Most of them also have helpers (another topic in itself to cover…) so sometimes leave it with the helper, but for most traditional Chinese weddings, the whole family comes.

      Weddings are expensive! For all parties! Shall we just elope to vegas?

      Like

  4. I had to walk away for a little to think of the weddings that I’ve attended during my life. The Italian weddings that I’ve attended were often loud and raucous events with an even smattering of adults, teenagers and children. It’s the French and WASP weddings tend to be sedate things with teenagers and children only being in attendance because the parents had no babysitters for that night.

    Pity I can’t remember the wording of those invitations though. Something about children not preferred or something along that line and that was only done in worst case scenarios.

    Seems that adults now think that all events they’re invited to means that the whole family is invited — kids includes. Like we adults need to love their children as much as they do.

    Hell, it’s been because of that mindset alone that invitations in the west are now sporting the line, “no kids allowed” which to me seems as rude as the people that think they should bring their kids along as well.

    Seriously, it’s tricky waters even with diplomacy. Maybe it would be easier if you two eloped.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know Michael, no easy way out of this. “Kids not allowed” definitely sounds rude, and for a Chinese Wedding this wouldn’t be acceptable. It would be quite strange if you don’t see parents chugging along with their kids, or not to hear a baby’s wailing at some point during the banquet.

      I’ve never been to an Italian wedding, but it sounds like a lot of fun. People say that Italian and Chinese culture are the most similar East/West culture – there’s an equal emphasis on family and food; I imagine their weddings to have similar elements. Never been to a French fancy one either, but thanks for providing a glimpse here!

      Perhaps the best way is for both parties (the wedding party, and the families with kids) to think more about the other side. The bride and groom should be mindful of accommodating kids (baby chairs, kids meals, baby a kid corner) if they decide to invite kids, and it might not be a bad idea to explain why, if, kids are not invited (costs?); while the parents should also try not to impose, if a not-to-kid-friendly policy is the wedding theme. It seems the main factor is cost – e.g. cost of babysitting, cost of hosting a child at the wedding. For the bride/groom another factor could be that young kids are harder to predict – a wedding is a big event and for those who like to control the ‘outcome’, they don’t want any wild-cards. If all parties can understand the driving force behind why kids are (not) invited/why parents want their kids invited it may be possible to come up with the best policy. But again, can’t be all things to all men.

      Eloping … it was very attractive an option at a time, but I think that ship has sailed!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well keep in mind, I come from a French/Swedish Family and most of them are blue-collar, so when I mentioned French I wasn’t thinking “high class”, but more working family.

        I’m not sure how to instill consideration on the side of invitees and their WHOLE families though. Something about my generation is more than a little cracked when it comes to their mindset of bringing their whole family along for EVERYTHING they’re ever invited to. Something about being excluded as children and saying “I’d never do that to MY child”… And not realizing that there’s sound advice given to us by our family when they did it when they were younger.

        Until my generation snaps out of it, I’m afraid there’s no simple/easy solution to this other than perhaps spreading through word of mouth the true costs of the wedding and why it might be nicer to leave the little heathens (children) at home.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My parents also make the same assumption as you do, and have taught me and my brothers that such is the proper etiquette when being invited/sending an invitation. Anyway, I have seen a lot of party invitations with a message saying, “We have reserved # seats for you” to make it clear how many members of the recipients’ household are invited.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s great that your parents talk to you about this – etiquette is cultural and is usually spread by word of mouth and practice. It helps people’s relationship when there’s a common understanding regards to practices. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Wedding Kids’ Policy (Part 2) and Other Stuff | Pixie Dust Beach

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