Weddings and parenthood have one major thing in common (besides one often leading to the other, that is). Both the act of planning a wedding and the act of raising a child can turn mild-mannered, reasonable people into crazy versions of themselves. It’s understandable, of course; when you’re channeling that much energy into one important goal, you simply don’t have the attention to spare for minor details on the side. But when the two collide–watch out!
Pushy parents are no fun under the best of circumstances, and dealing with them can be especially stressful when you’re midway through the intricate balancing act that is planning a wedding. It’s hard not to snap when you hear, “My daughter is so excited about being your flower girl” from an acquaintance who assumes you’ll choose her child for the honors when you weren’t even planning on issuing an invitation.
Or perhaps a fight has already broken out among the recent mothers of your social circle as to whose sons get the honor of being the ring bearer–and you’re still trying to draw everyone’s attention to your “adults only” wedding invitations. Whatever the case, it’s a common mistake for the parents of young children to assume that you want them in your wedding party. And by assuming, the parents have made it your problem to have to gracefully refuse.
When, for whatever reason, you can’t include specific kids in your wedding party, it’s now your responsibility to break the bad news. Responding to this misconception can be tricky, since the feelings of small children are thrown into the mix.
After all, no one wants to be responsible for making little Suzy or Tommy cry. But keep in mind that if the children got the wrong idea about starring in your wedding, it’s because their parents gave them the wrong idea. If you can’t afford to invite more guests to your wedding, or if your venue legitimately doesn’t allow children, it’s not your responsibility to make the impossible happen.
Therefore, it’s best to channel your efforts into helping the parents come up with a nice way to break the bad news to their kids. Rather than getting angry or desperate, try to think collaboratively with the parents to find a graceful way out of a hard situation. Say, “I’m so sorry you got the wrong idea. We’d love to have Suzy in our wedding, but we can’t. I don’t want her to feel bad over this. Let’s put our heads together to think of the best way we can break the news.”
One surefire way to take a young child’s mind off of an upcoming excitement is to present something even more exciting. Ask the parents if they have any fun outings or privileges planned that can be used as a distraction. Then you can ask the parents to emphasize it as an alternative to the wedding.
If you sympathize with the parents about the tough situation they’ve inadvertently put themselves in, and offer to help the parents break the news, you’ll come out looking like the good guy.
Another tactic that nearly always works is emphasizing all of the boring responsibilities that come with being a flower girl or ring bearer. This is an especially convincing approach because, after all, being a part of a wedding really does have its boring parts for small children.
Once you finish describing how the child will have to stand in front of a crowd without fidgeting or making any noise for a long time, not be able to leave for the bathroom, and will have to listen to long, boring speeches while standing on his best behavior with a room full of adults staring at him, most likely the child will ask if he can get out of being in the wedding after all.
Sometimes, it becomes apparent that taking part in your wedding is actually more of the parents’ idea than the child’s idea. If the parents make excuses about how they can’t possibly break the news to little Suzy (while Suzy herself is in the corner chanting, “Weddings are stupid!”), your job suddenly becomes a lot easier.
You don’t have to worry about hurting the child’s feelings. Instead, be firm with the parents and politely let them know the reason Suzy can’t be in the wedding. (If it’s because of Suzy’s behavior, you may want to emphasize a less personal reason instead.)
Remember, you are not alone in this difficult situation. Every bride and groom (unless they have an unlimited budget) have to winnow down their guest list and make tough decisions about which friends and relatives make the cut. When little kids’ feelings are involved, the decisions can be a lot harder–but it’s still not a reason to let a pushy parent barrel into your wedding uninvited.
Just remember that your wedding is not the last special event you’ll ever host. It’s only one day that you’re celebrating with your nearest and dearest. You have every day after that to celebrate with the rest of the people in your life.
Let them know how much you value them and how much you regret that your wedding can’t contain everyone you wish you could invite. Offer to do something special with them (and little Suzy) on another day. If they truly respect you and want to celebrate with you, they will understand.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.