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Heavy Meddle: How Do We Tell Our Wedding Guests That Their Kids Aren't Invited?

A woman struggles with how to make her wedding an adult only affair. (Jin.Dongjun/flickr)
A woman struggles with how to make her wedding an adult only affair. (Jin.Dongjun/flickr)
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Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions via email. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,
Steve

Dear Steve,

My fiancé and I are getting married in a month. We wanted to have as few kids at our wedding as possible. We do have two first cousins on my fiancé’s side that are in the 6 to 10 range, but they are very mature and we wanted to include them because they are close relations.

We did our best to make the no-kids rule clear to our guests by addressing the invitations to couples with children (friends and first cousins) to just the husband and wife (not "& family"). But some of my fiancé’s cousins didn't get the message and want to bring their young children. We did our best to hint to them that it would be an affair with open bar, and we want them to have fun, and we weren't opening seats for kids, and we weren't providing kids meals, but apparently they’ve decided to bring them anyway.

Is there anything else we can do?

Signed,
Trying To Be as Courteous as Possible with My Future In-Laws

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Dear Trying,

First things first: mazel tov!

Now then.

The prevailing issue here is not courtesy or control, but communication.

You ask, Is there anything else you can do? Yes. You or your fiancé can pick up the phone and call the parents in question and explain to them, in a courteous but not controlling manner, that you very much want them to attend your wedding but that you have not made arrangements for their young children.

I realize that you already attempted to send this message, by not including “and family” on the invites. That, alas, is not clear communication. Clear communication would have been to include only the names of those invited. Or, better yet, to include a note to the parents of young children making explicit that the wedding you have planned cannot accommodate their kids. Not a note of apology exactly, but one that is sympathetic to the challenges that such parents face (i.e. for them to attend, they will have to find babysitting for several hours).

The lesson here is simple: communicate your wishes upfront in a way that is simple, direct and respectful.

But this raises another red flag, which is that you are inviting two children who are relatively young (I’m not sure what “in the 6 to 10 range” means, frankly). Given this, you may need to explain to those parents whose children you are not inviting why you’re making this exception, especially if those parents have children who are roughly the same age that are being excluded. If you don’t, these guests will be understandably confused, and perhaps hurt and angry when they arrive at a “no-children” wedding to find, well, two children.

Explaining that these two kids were invited because they are really “mature” is not going to endear you to the parents whose kids didn’t get invited, though I suspect they’d be able to accept a clear rule, such as “No kids five and under.” Do you have a clear rule in mind?

If not, then there’s an argument to be made that you’ve already set the precedent of including kids, and that you should simply do your best to accommodate the others at this point.

But my own feeling is that you deserve to have the wedding you want to have, with the guest list you want. You just have to be as clear about that guest list as possible. And brace for some blowback from the cousins whose kids didn’t get invited. (Or, as they might see it, got “uninvited.”)

The lesson here is simple: communicate your wishes upfront in a way that is simple, direct and respectful. If you don’t, you’re going to keep running into the same dynamic with your in-laws for years to come. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

Good luck and save me a piece of wedding cake,
Steve

Author's Note: Once again, a Heavy Meddle question leads to discord in the Almond household! My wife’s take is that Trying — having opened the barn door herself by inviting two kids — should allow the others to attend and make the best of it. Obviously, I disagree. Anyone else care to weigh in? Please do so below. And please send your own questions along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don’t have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will.

Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.

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