Another summer has come and gone, and once again, I was invited to a bunch of weddings — without my kid. These kid-free weddings are a nightmare. They’re not good for families, they’re not good for kids, they’re not good for humanity, and they’re not even that fun because adults are primarily boring.
Weddings aren’t about the exorbitant price tag, or even falling in love. They are, at their root, about a commitment to create a family. So why do we keep leaving kids, the best part of families, out of our celebrations of the very thing that honors and protects what creates them?
Our rituals have devolved into segregating people by age, and it’s bad for everyone involved, from the kids who end up left at home with babysitters or older cousins to the old people who can’t hack the destination wedding in their walkers. Weddings are about family traditions, and for them to keep the family together, the whole family needs to come.
That means kids. Kids are not extra or optional; they are what families are all about. As with holidays, weddings are better with kids because children bring joy and give us the opportunity to pass down our traditions.
Families don’t merely comprise a bunch of people who like each other and would hang out together no matter what. People can be friends with others in their families, but it’s not mandatory or even necessary. Family is still family, whether you like them or not.
The purpose of families is to perpetuate the family, to make more of it — in short, to have kids. Marrying a person should mean you’re not opposed to having kids with him or her, and you’re at least considering it. Otherwise, why get married?
The Importance of Experiencing Real-Life Weddings
This is not the first batch of weddings to which I was invited so long as I left my kid at home, but something about it especially rankled this summer. Perhaps it’s that I’m recently separated, and I didn’t want to embark upon wedding season solo, armed only with tissues, dead reckoning for the open bar, and lipstick on my teeth.
Maybe it’s that my son has turned into his very own person, and even more than I liked hanging out with him before, he’s now just such an interesting and unique person to have around that he makes any event that much more fun because I get to hear about it from his perspective.
Aside from my preference in wanting to chill with my child, there’s a bigger problem to not having kids at weddings. If kids don’t go to weddings, they won’t know anything about weddings other than what pop culture presents to them.
The biggest wedding on television when I was a kid was Luke and Laura’s wedding on “General Hospital.” I was in something like third grade when my after-school babysitter dragged me down the hall to her best friend’s apartment, with a paper bag full of popcorn and a directive not to speak except during the commercials. But this glorious nuptial feast paled in comparison to the real-life weddings I not only attended, but got to be part of.
When I was a kid, weddings were “must attend” events, and half the time, I got to be the flower girl. My grandmother often made the dresses, and they had as many flounces, ruffles, and floral patterns as a little girl could ask for. I wanted a full skirt that spun out when I twirled for my Uncle Brian and Aunt Carol’s wedding, and she made it. She made the floor-length velvet skirt I wore to my father’s second wedding.
I have photos of me and my mother’s sisters getting ready for my aunt’s wedding in Colorado, and I remember being so fascinated by the women and their beauty, how they sat still while their hair was coiffed, wondering if I would look like them someday. At the receptions, I watched the adults drink and dance. If there were other kids, we played on the sidelines and waited for our grandmothers to come take charge of us and bring us home.
Weddings Should Be About Family
In the past few years, I’ve been to many weddings, and with few exceptions, I’ve attended without my son. It makes the whole affair seem less like a tradition, a joining of families, a celebration of community, and more like a charity gala. Kids need to know what adulthood looks like in action, beyond the intimacies of personal family life.
Each wedding sans kids, I reach out to learn the reason, to find out if maybe this once, my son could have the experience of a family wedding. The answer is invariably that lots of guests would like to bring their kids and that exceptions simply cannot be made.
As a child, weddings were part of life, big parties where everyone came together in churches and local halls to drink, dance to quirky bands, and get to see family members they wouldn’t see otherwise. It’s where daughters learned to stand on their fathers’ toes, scuffing up dress shoes while learning to dance.
At their best, weddings are big family parties, where extended family members remember they are family, after all. Without times when extended families come together, family bonds disintegrate. If Auntie Linda doesn’t see you when you’re a little kid at your dad’s first cousin’s wedding, how’s she going to remark on how much you’ve grown when she sees you at your Great-Uncle Bill’s funeral?
The reasons people give for not letting kids come to weddings are all the same, and money is invariably the top answer. Weddings are expensive. Caterers and venues charge per person, and the bride and groom would rather invite all their college friends than let a little 10-year-old show up.
Another big reason is that people are under the mistaken impression that kids are not amazing to have around. But the thing is, if we want kids to grow up into people who can behave themselves at weddings, they need to be able to go to weddings and practice. We want kids to know how to behave in public, in airplanes and restaurants, but we prohibit them from getting any real-life practice and then blame them when they can’t hack it.
Weddings are celebrations of the uniting of two families, not just the romantic “I do’s” of bride and groom. But the best part of families are the kids, and we shouldn’t leave them out. Leaving kids out of family traditions, denying them access to our most fundamental rituals, makes the occasions just suck.