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Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Are weddings about family...or a formal ceremony?

As an offshoot to a discussion about churches, one member of an e-mail list I'm on shared the following story:

Last Oct. when we were in Kansas for my Mom's wedding my oldest son (then 11) went to church with his cousins. (Ages, 7, 11 &14 at the time.) Right in the middle of the service the pastor stopped and said "Courtney H. (my 14 year old niece) turn off your cell phone and STOP text messaging while I am preaching!" Benjamin was shocked, appalled and embarrased that he has a cousin that would do such a thing! LOL I was impressed that the pastor would put a stop to it in the middle of service. Turns out she was text messaging the person behind her!

Okay...this is just SO much a touchy point right now! My husband has 2 older brothers. The oldest is actually a pastor, and performed my husband's and my wedding ceremony. The 3 brothers are close in age, but DH's older brothers got married right out of college, while my husband and I married just 11 days before he turned 36. So our four kids are significantly younger than their cousins.

June 2005 the middle brother's oldest son Doug announced his engagement with plans to marry in June 2007. We thought this long engagement was not a good idea...but hey...not our life... We later would find out that it was the bride's parents' idea--they wanted her to finish college before getting married, which I suppose I do agree with.

Anyway...This spring the oldest brother's oldest daughter Allie announced her engagement with plans to marry on December 16, 2006. Okay...not *exactly* when I want to be making time for a bridal shower and wedding, but I'm happy for her, and can understand the allure of a December wedding. :-)

In late August suddenly SIL--wife to middle brother--started making oh so cheerful bubbly phone calls to family..."Guess what? Doug decided he is just too lonely, and he can't wait to get married, so he is moving the wedding up to December 9! Isn't it so wonderful, cousins getting married just a week apart!"

Ummm...NO! It is NOT wonderful, it is down right tacky to plan your wedding one week away from your first cousin's wedding. But DH will not let me say anything, so all I can do is smile and bite my tongue when we are together and she starts gushing. (NOTE: I later learned that Doug had received word that he was going to be shipping to Iraq several months before his original wedding date...once I learned that I had a LOT more sympathy for his change in date. He wanted to make sure he was married before he shipped out, and didn't have a lot of options since his bride was still in college.)

So anyway...we had accepted that this is the way things are. Then we get the invitation to Doug's wedding. Addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Steven R...." Which of course I know means "no kids." GGGRRR. DH doesn't believe me, but allows me to call SIL to clarify. I mean really, they expect us to give up two weekends during the holiday season, and now we aren't even going to be allowed to spend it with our children? In fact, we would have to spend probably about $65 for a babysitter given that we will be at the wedding for 7-8 hours minimum with travel time figured in--if we are going to be blessed enough to be able to find a sitter willing to give up a whole Saturday in December??? Do you know how hard it is to find a suitable sitter for 4 kids?

So probably fortunately, SIL wasn't home when I called. So when she called back, she got DH, and he talked to her pretty civilly, but explained to her that if we couldn't bring the kids to the reception, then we probably would not attend the reception because the kids will be really hurt if we exclude them from the wedding ceremony. A couple days later she calls back and says that several members of the brides' family had been sending back RSVP's with children listed on them, and so they had decided to allow children to come to the reception. YAY!

Then last week the invitation came to Allie's wedding. Again, "Mr. and Mrs. R...." I told DH he should call his brother to clarify, but he refused. Said "Doug and Lynn were swayed because of people just RSVP'ing kids, so we are just going to do that with this one." I wasn't happy with this, but just went along with it. Brother-in-law called up. Isn't budging. So DH explained to him that we would just attend the ceremony, but not the reception.

But it isn't just the reception--all children under 10 are banned even from the ceremony! It's going to be "formal," and they don't want children to disturb it. GGGGRRR!!!!!!! Which I have to say, REALLY torqued me, because when we drove over 4 hours to attend BIL and SIL's 25th anniversary with them, our daughters were just bubbling over with their excitement about attending Allie's wedding (wanting to be flower girls because they were just flower girls the previous weekend at a wedding for my youngest female cousin), and neither of them had the courtesy to pull me aside and say "you know, we probably will not have children at the wedding, you might want to explain this to them." And again, this wedding is a couple hours drive from our house, so we are looking at needing child care for 8+ hours.

BIL insists that he has attended nearly 200 weddings (he is a pastor after all), and there was never children at them. DH said he actually kind of got the impression that this was something he told brides and grooms that they should do--but I don't know about that. He never said anything to us about not having kids at our wedding (which, BTW, is one of the things that always bugs me about "no kids" policies at weddings. Steve and I actively embraced having kids at our wedding, putting "Children's Menu" as a meal choice on the RSVP card. Yet with 150 guests in attendance I can only think of less than a dozen children under the age of 10 that attended the wedding (including 2 children of middle brother, and oldest brother's youngest child had just turned 9 barely a week prior, I think his next younger child may have been 11)--and they certainly did nothing to be disruptive. So what is the point of offending your friends and relatives? It probably cost us well under $100 for the kids' food. I think that brother-in-law just didn't notice the children at all those weddings he's been at because they weren't disruptive!

So anyway...oldest brother-in-law simply is not budging. No kids at the reception OR the ceremony. I was brought up being taught that it was rude to deny anyone the chance to celebrate the wedding ceremony if the person wasn't disruptive--even a complete stranger off the street. But here we've got a pastor telling us that his nieces and nephews--1st cousins of the bride--are not welcome simply because their age is in the single digits. Because they might be disruptive to the solemness of the ceremony. As if a 14 year old text messaging (or the 14-15 year old altar boy who seemed to be cracking jokes with himself during my grandmother's funeral) isn't disruptive! Of course I don't exactly think the Pastor handled the text messaging well (he didn't need to humiliate her--would he have similarly "called out" an adult texting during the sermon? He could have spoken to her after the service, or he could have made a general comment about text messaging being inappropriate.).

In a tongue in cheek kind of way...I suggested to my husband that we get a "money holder" gift card to give the bride and groom, and put a note in it explaining that our gift to them is hurting our children deeply by paying $X for a sitter so that their wedding would not be marred by the presence of such unbearable creatures as CHILDREN. Of course I will not really do that...but it is tempting--especially with the "they can't come to the ceremony" thing.

The last time I went to a "no kids" wedding was my cousin's wedding 5 year's ago. Since we were traveling across the state and would have to spend the night, there was simply no leaving the kids (just 2 at that time) home with a sitter. So we took them to the ceremony (which they loved!), but then my grandmother's neighbor babysat them for the reception. But from the minute I walked into the reception hall without my children, all I heard from my relatives that rarely see the kids was "where are the girls?" "you HAVE to go get the girls!" I also noted that there were just as many kids at that reception as had been at my own. My relatives harassed me to the point that I finally did leave the reception, drove back across town to my grandparents' house, and got the girls. And they had a GRAND time.

Of course I also know that a part of excluding children is a cost factor...people simply feel that they can't "afford" to feed the kids...or even in some cases adults that they would have "liked" to invite. When hubby and I were planning our wedding (which we paid for ourselves, no help from any parents), we made our guest list first, and then having that number, we then determined how much we could afford to pay per person for the reception, and sought out a facility that fit into that budget.

Weddings are about celebrating the commitment of marriage with family and friends. NOT about setting out to have the most stunningly formal event you can possibly put yourself into debt for. If you can afford a formal event, WONDERFUL. But I think that it is selfish to sacrifice having close family attend an event in favor of having an expensive reception.

Don't forget that kids are people too. :-(


Blogger TulipGirl said...

My MIL recently had her family videos transferred to dvd, and we watched some of them a few weeks ago with them. The first one we watched was Hubby's and my wedding.

Now, while it wasn't a hyper-formal affair, it was a special, sacred time. And CHILDREN were present and were NOT in the least a distraction. As the bride, I can't remember any misbehaviour or inappropriate noises from kiddos.

Looking at the video, I see we had LOTS of kids. Hubby's youngest brother was only 6 at the time, so perhaps our family and friends were simply enmeshed in the raising-kids season of life?

While I can understand preferring only adults at a reception if cost and drinking are factors, I simply do not understand denying children the opportunity to witness the sacred, covenantal wedding ceremony.

10:05 PM, November 07, 2006  

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