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 😦“.
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.
Part 2 about kids’ menus coming up.
Featured image credit: Richard Arthur Norton | Creative Commons