Don't Bring Your Kids to My Wedding – Kveller
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Don’t Bring Your Kids to My Wedding

Restaurants are banning kids. And now too are brides and grooms. Let me explain…

When Alex and I got married, we hastily formed a minyan in our small New York apartment. At some point Alex offered to pull Jews off the street if not enough showed up. It was the perfect wedding for us, small and intimate.

But my mother was upset. After years of attending her friends’ kids’ weddings, buying gifts, and throwing them showers, she was being denied payback. She wanted to throw a big wedding with all the bells and whistles. Alex and I weren’t interested, but since I am an only child and the guilt was laid on thick, we agreed to a wedding reception in my hometown of Vancouver, B.C.

I could write a book about the drama that ensued. I must have cried every day for my entire first trimester (yes, I was pregnant under the chuppah) (no, not showing). Instead, I will share just one of the dilemmas we faced.

I have a cousin whom I am estranged from. Put more succinctly, he hates my guts.  I understand that he has a mental illness, but that doesn’t make his outbursts any less scary. He is physically imposing and when he screams in my face, my heart rate goes through the roof.  No one in our family does anything to protect me or reprimand him, which makes me feel very unsafe. I just don’t know if he is capable of turning violent, and I can’t count on anyone to stop him.

Since I was going to be five months pregnant at my wedding reception, I went into mama bear mode. No way was I going to allow the aforementioned cousin to be invited to the party. I could not put my unborn child at risk. And, quite frankly, I did not want someone who hated me at a celebration held in my honor. Bad joojoo.

My decision created tears, heartache, more estrangement, and even threats of legal action. It ended badly, and the ramifications are felt to this day.

I am now faced with a different cousin’s upcoming wedding in Vancouver that Alex and I were always planning on going to regardless of the cost, hassle, and inconvenience.  The wedding is in October and conflicts with our getting settled in Austin and saving money to buy a house, but we feel it is important to travel for simchas (happy occasion) whenever possible.

Alex and I always assumed Aiven would come to the wedding with us… until we received the link to the wedding website. It dawned on me that the bride and groom are young hipsters wanting to throw the party of their lives. My clues: casino, “dress to impress”, and hired paparazzi. Gee, maybe a 1-year-old might not be welcome, family or not, out of town guest or not, because it might cramp their style. And, heaven forbid, he might make a noise during the ceremony because if he did it would just ruin everything, right?

My better judgment got a hold of me and I asked what wedding events Aiven could come to rather than just show up with him at the door. Turns out he is not invited to the ceremony or the dinner reception, but he can come to the one hour cocktail reception between the ceremony and the dinner. It was also recommended that I reserve a hotel room and a babysitter so we can enjoy the festivities. Well, finding a babysitter is next to impossible. All of my family is busy that night, because they will BE AT THE WEDDING, and I cannot imagine in a million years leaving Aiven in a hotel room in a foreign city with someone he has never met before.

Alex has offered to look after Aiven so I can attend the ceremony. The two of them will then meet up with me for the cocktail reception and then all of us will skip the dinner and dancing.  This sucks, and it’s certainly not what I signed up for when I committed to go. However, it is the bride and groom’s prerogative.The last thing I want to do is cause drama because I know firsthand how awful that can turn out. Anyway, I love these cousins, so we will respect their wishes and make it work somehow.

It seems that other cultures are so much more welcoming of children at restaurants, weddings, and public places. What has happened to us that we think they are intrusive? When we visited Argentina, every waiter (no joke) played with Aiven and talked about their own children.  The airport even had special lines reserved for diplomats and families with young children. At the recent royal wedding, which was filled with gravitas and decorum, children weren’t just invited — they were central figures in the celebration.  Most Jewish holidays are celebrated with children as their audience.

Do we not have an obligation to include them in our simchas, especially the one that honors the union of two people and blesses their creation of a new family?

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