Not always, wedding planners say So you’re thinking of dressing up the kids and trundling them to your husband’s cousin’s black-tie wedding—only you’re not sure they’re invited. Well, if you’re not sure, they probably aren’t, says Judy Alden, owner of JuWil Wedding Consulting in Hoffman Estates. If the bride and groom wanted your kids there, it would be on the invitation.
“If the [invitation] reads, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Cathy, Johnny and Sue,’ or ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith and family,’ that’s your cue to bring the kids. Otherwise, no. And asking the bride about it puts her on the spot,” Alden says.
The invitation rules can be looser for out-of-town guests whose kids would otherwise be stuck in a hotel.
Mary Schmidt, a Roselle-based wedding planner whose 10-year-old son, Jeremy, has attended several weddings, insists parents shouldn’t be insulted if the kids aren’t invited.
Sometimes it’s about space limitations or simplicity. Often, it’s about money. “Even with a children’s menu, you might get charged $30 for a plate of chicken fingers,” Alden says.
Still, Schmidt says, “Anybody can go to the church.” It’s at the reception that invitations count. (Everybody, though, must dress up and sit quietly through the ceremony. Parents with young kids should sit at the back in case they need to make an early, wailing exit.)
But even after it’s clear children are invited—and they often are—Schmidt says parents must decide if their kids can manage an adult party.
“At the reception, you expect a child to behave the way they would behave at a fancy restaurant,” Schmidt says. “When you’ve just ordered a $25 meal, you don’t expect to see a 3-year-old rocket past your table. ... If your kid is used to leaving the table after finishing their personal meal instead of waiting until supper’s over, they might not be able to handle a sit-down reception dinner.”
Toys, snacks and coloring books often help, says Schmidt.
“A good trick we’ve used is to bring a goody bag, and don’t give it to them until the moment that you want them to chill out,” she says.
Sometimes, couples hire a babysitter to look after young kids—but not usually, says wedding organizer Cynthia Cook.
Most often, parents must police their own. And when the kids get tired, it’s time to go home. Don’t leave them sleeping on chairs and under tables while you’re dancing, Alden says.
Last month, Chicagoan Steve Loranz brought his daughters, Helena, 3, and Eva, 15 months, to his sister-in-law’s wedding in Arlington Heights. A flower girl, Helena ventured only partway down the aisle before stopping to sit with her parents. Eva kept quiet her grandfather’s arms.
“Eva is pretty content when she’s with my dad,” Loranz said. “And Helena is [the bride] Georgia’s No. 1 fan, so her eyes were glued on her.”
Afterward, Loranz bedded Eva down with a babysitter in the hotel room he and his wife had reserved. Helena joined her sister there right after dinner.
“It worked out great,” Loranz says. Lydialyle Gibson