Opinion

Why Couples Should Think Twice Before Banning Children At Weddings

Wedding season is at its zenith right now – and with it, a complex labyrinth of unwritten rules. Is it OK for a couple to ask for cash? How about inviting plus ones? If you pay to go abroad, do you still have to buy a gift?

I’m a firm believer in the happy couple doing whatever they want for their big day, and to hell with the consequences. But there is one element of weddings that always makes me uncomfortable: banning kids.

Of all areas of contested wedding etiquette, this facet seems to be the most widely accepted. And yet, to me, it also seems the most borderline alienating.

I don’t have children, but I’m at an age where many of my loved ones do. To say, ‘yep, we love your kids but no they can’t come to our big day’ can seem unfriendly, and also slightly uptight.

With the best will in the world, parenthood can be a challenging time. Mums and dads – especially the new ones – need all the open-armed encouragement they can get.

The little ones of your loved ones are part of them, and stamping down a no-kids ban on the occasion is pre-empting the fact you think they’ll be a nuisance. Not only does this send out a mixed message, it’s also an unfounded fear.

Children love weddings. I had loads at mine, and they all entered the fray – running around, hitting the dance floor and passing out under tables when the partying got too much. They fed off the energy but they didn’t monopolise it. My 14-month-old nephew had the best time ever tottering around in his nappy amid tipsy guests - and being swept up here and there.

Weddings generally have enough goodwill and momentum behind them that kids can simply be absorbed into the flow. Sure, they might make a bit of noise during the ceremony but nothing to send the guests scarpering.

And beyond that, they won’t take up valuable space or money to have as guests, either. Kids play to their own rules – many are too young for a sit-down dinner, so they’ll just do their own thing. You might want to chuck in someone to entertain the troops if you feel like it; but even if you don’t, they’ll usually look after themselves while their parents keep an eye out.

Will they cause a bit of chaos? Perhaps, but weddings tend to run to their own script, anyway: the sooner you relinquish control, the better. Conversely, the more you try to dictate how a wedding will be (no social media/no children/no speeches), the less fun you will have.

Often, the line trotted out when couples ban children from weddings is that they want the parents to enjoy themselves. And of course, many mums and dads do leave their kids behind for a night on the tiles, and are happier for it. But that sits better as their choice, rather than a term of entry.

We spend so much time and energy obsessing over how "to do" parenthood these days. I’m not qualified to say whether this is useful or not, but I do think it’s helpful to simply welcome kids into the mix, rather than make them an exception or a special entity.

Just like adults, kids can be noisy, disruptive and messy. But – just like adults - they can also be a delight. Having them at weddings doesn’t take away from the enjoyment; they can easily be a part of celebrations, just as they are a part of everyday life. And it doesn't require tremendous amounts of fuss or effort to include them.

Of course, if you really don't like the idea of children at your wedding, then go for it – it’s your day, your rules. But I think it’s worth at least considering what you’re worried about before laying down a decree.

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