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Children as guests can add, detract at weddings
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Children can make a wedding memorable in a lot of ways, but the happiest memories are made when guests and the wedding party work together to plan their involvement.
When guests remember that the focus of the wedding day is the bride and groom, decisions like whether or not to bring children to the event become a lot easier to make.
Carla Stanford, child and family area agent in Pontotoc County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the first step a guest should take is to determine the couple's preference about children at weddings.
“Some people believe the little darlings are best left with a sitter, while others might say that children are the very reason for a wedding in the first place,” Stanford said. “You rarely see young children at weddings unless they are very close family.”
Karen Benson, Extension child and family area agent in Neshoba County, said children, especially those younger than 6 years old, can be distracting at a wedding.
“When the couple has a special relationship with a child, it is acceptable to include a child of any age,” Benson said. “By age 6, children have friendships and can begin to understand why people get married. The best age for a child to begin attending weddings is when they show an interest by asking questions and saying that they want to come.”
Outdoor weddings were once considered less formal and therefore more child-friendly, but that is no longer the case.
“Outdoor weddings have the benefit of the open spaces where the noise of a crying child will not be as intense as with indoor acoustics,” Benson said. “However, the outdoors can bring other distractions for children such as insects and open spaces for running.”
Children's maturity level and behavior, rather than age, should be used to decide whether or not they can attend the wedding.
“If the child can successfully and consistently, meaning more than three times, sit through a church service or other hour-long event without a fuss, chances are that child is ready for a wedding,” Stanford said.
Jennifer Russell, Extension child and family area agent in Leflore County, suggested it would be best to leave children at home with a sitter if parents are unsure whether children are welcome.
“This day is about the bride and groom, and it is not about the guests,” Russell said. “It would be difficult to tactfully ask if children are welcome, because many hosts would not have the heart to tell someone their children are not welcome at the event.”
Unless a formal invitation is addressed to the parents “and family,” guests should not assume it is OK to bring children. If the question must be raised, consider posing it to the wedding planner or mother of the bride or groom.
“If you are worried about a disruption from your child, respect the couple and do not bring the child,” Stanford said. “It is a special day, and you would feel badly if your child spoiled it in some way. If you must bring a child who may cause a disruption, sit at the very back and be ready to make a quick exit if necessary.”
When all parties involved are respectful, kind and tactful, the issue of whether or not to bring children to a wedding will not be a problem.
“As a guest, do not be offended if the couple does not wish to have children at the ceremony or reception,” Stanford said. “Just go yourself and have a great time in celebration of the new Mr. and Mrs.”
Contact: Dr. Carla Stanford, (662) 489-3910