Q. We were invited to a friend’s wedding and were told on the invitation that our young children were not included. I think weddings are the way we model family values – should we just boycott the wedding?
A. My husband and I shared your perspective when we planned our wedding. The reception was a boisterous celebration with young children and older family members dancing together. Our wedding album shows one young girl slipping into photo after photo, eager to be a part of the festivities! But our daughter chose a different approach. Her evening reception was more suited for adolescents and adults. Couples plan their weddings based on their own personalities and dreams, budgets and priorities. It is unfortunate that the invitation directly excluded your children. A conversation over coffee about the wedding plans followed by an invitation that included only the adults’ names would have been a gentler approach.
What values do you want to model? Your children may be excited about the wedding as they hear about the plans. But throughout their lives, they will encounter families who make choices that differ from yours. Neighborhood parents may allow their children to play outside late at night when yours are in their pajamas getting tucked into bed. Parents may fill lunch boxes with sugary treats that you only allow on special occasions. Rather than boycotting the wedding, you can explain that different families have different rules and make different decisions. The wedding can still serve as an opportunity to discuss your values.
Explain why weddings are sacred events. One of the family values that is emphasized at many weddings is the need for the newlyweds to be supported by family and friends. Although your children won’t be participating in the liturgy or the reception, they can witness the ways that you support your friends. Perhaps you can invite the couple over for dinner to discuss the Scripture readings they are considering for the ceremony. Your children will be able to hear why particular verses speak to the couple and show how God is present to them at this special time. Why not bring your children with you to choose a wedding gift? You can go “off-registry” and choose something that has been meaningful to your family. The wedding takes place over the course of a day, but your children will observe the marriage of your friends for years and years.
Many couples planning adult-only events reserve rooms for child care if the reception is held at a hotel. Providing child care with fun crafts and activities can lead to a more relaxing evening for parents. Even if you end up needing to arrange for baby-sitters on your own, think of it as a way to support your friends rather than as a learning experience for your children.
Dr. Cathleen McGreal is a psychology professor and certified spiritual director.