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?
In Part One I’ve documented the intricacies that come with inviting or not inviting kids, and how to inform (and deal with) parents who are more on the insistent side. I hope I don’t offend any parents, but these are lessons I’ll keep in mind when I’m a parent myself.
There’s no true diplomatic method to handle it. You either be crystal clear on your initial invite whether the kids of that couple are invited, or run the risk of parents announcing that they’re bringing their uninvited kids along. If you’re nearing the final stages of your wedding, this could prove stressful, especially if your venue has limited seating. If there aren’t many kids involved, call each of your friends who have kids to let them know about the situation, especially if you don’t have a standard answer for all kids. A call is always better than an email. Better still, if you have one clear cut policy that no kids allowed for the entire wedding, no exceptions, then all you need is a simple catch-all phrase you can attach to the end of your invite.
Suggested phrase: “Though we’d love to have your lovely children join our ceremony and banquet, the venue has very limited seating, so we’re unfortunately unable to accommodate children under age . Sorry! We hope you understand!” (the Internet, I’m sure, has many other diplomatic examples).
It’s really a matter of managing expectations and being clear about your wishes from the start.
Everyone’s worldview is different – for some, kids are the light of the party. In the eyes of the doting parent, their kids are ever so adorable; of course they’d naturally be invited to a wedding! An observant reader, Mabel, commented on the last post that for Asian families, a wedding is often an event to “show the world” to a kid, and also an opportunity to show-off their kid. It’s not a bad thing – just the way weddings and big events are viewed in certain cultures, or specific families. For some, kids ruin a wedding: they could be noisy, unpredictable and waily. A solemn wedding, furthermore, will bore the heck out of a normal kid. That’s probably why they act out. When these viewpoints and expectations of the parents clash with those of the bride and groom, a mature, friendly conversation has to be had.
As the wedding organisers, be crystal clear about your rules and expectations from the get-go, ideally spelled out in the first invitation you send out. Pick up the phone and have a conversation with the related parties.
For the parents who have children, your to-be-wed friends will thank you a million and think very highly of your considerate nature if you clarify whether your kids are invited before deciding to bring them along, especially if it’s not clear on the invite. I know there are two opposing interests at stake here. But since it’s the bride and groom’s wedding, their wishes take precedent.
In Chinese weddings, instead of a gift registry, guests give a red packet with money or a cheque to the newly-weds. The intention of this cash gift is to help the couple out on their wedding expenses, together with passing along good fortune. It’s not all too different from a gift registry – instead of buying items that the couple want for their new home (which, unfortunately, many couples in Hong Kong can’t afford anyway!), the cash is used to offset the financial burden of hosting a wedding. To some of my non-Chinese friends this sounds strange, and perhaps ‘miserly’ – nothing can replace the warmth of receiving a useful, personally selected gift, right? While I like the wedding registry concept and have a lot of fun scrolling the catalogues and buying gifts for my Western friends’ weddings, I do favour the cash gift concept – couples have more freedom to do what they want with the contributions, and to the guests it’s more “fair” in a way. There’s an unspoken, culturally accepted suggested sum for Chinese banquet halls and Western hotels respectively, so everyone more or less pays the same contribution depending on the venue. I’m not 100% sure how it works for gift registries, but I sometimes hear there’s a race to get the more reasonably priced items instead of being stuck with the big purchases towards the end of the registry list? Is it possible that one guest will end up paying much more for an item on the registry as opposed to another?
The topic of contributions is related to our discussion of the kid’s policy, because in Asian weddings, one has to think whether it’s necessary to pay for your kid’s share. For Chinese banquets, the answer is mostly no. Children (usually under 3) dine for free and there’s no need to factor in their price, especially if they’re only occupying a baby-chair. For Western weddings though – children ordering a kid’s menu most often incurs costs. Unless, the venue has chipped in the kid’s menus as a gesture of goodwill, or if their policy specifies that kids under  dine for free. As a courtesy, it’s always a kind gesture to chip in your kid’s share, especially if you were the one to request a kid’s menu if your child is not within the kid’s menu age limit. The newlyweds would be forever grateful for this goodwill.
The bottom line though – like mom said – you’re hosting a wedding because you want people to celebrate with you. If theoretically you get no red-packets at all, then so be it. They are your guests.
Featured image credit: Wild Tales, The Movie