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Where The Wild Things Aren't
Well, not at this lady's daughter's wedding, for starters.

No, it isn't just assclowns on cell phones I'm irritated about. The underparented child is one of my perennial un-favorites. In keeping with this week's Advice Goddess Blog theme of the disintegration of public manners, here's the Advice Goddess column I just posted:

My daughter is getting married this month, and we’re having a formal evening reception featuring champagne and dancing. On the invitation, we stated “Adult Reception.” You cannot imagine the trauma this has caused. We don’t have the budget to have lots of children at the reception, but more importantly, my daughter, her fiancé, and I feel a formal evening event is not appropriate for children. Were we out of line, and do we need to apologize?

--Mother Of The Bride-To-Be

And here's my answer:

Well, excuse you if the last two words you want to hear at your daughter’s wedding are “FOOOOD FIGHT!” And maybe, just maybe you’d like to avoid having some parent pull you aside at the reception and whisper, “You don’t think the bridesmaids’ dresses are flammable, do you? My 8-year-old’s in her arson phase again.”

Who says America isn’t a monarchy? It’s ruled by millions of tiny tyrants named Cody and Madison, presiding over adult-sized serfs called parents whose single greatest fear is not being liked by their children. Such parents have their uses. No, not setting boundaries, but filling toy orders, nodding submissively at their children’s self-revised bedtimes, and sweeping up meatloaf and peas hurled on the floor and replacing them with Cocoa Krispies with a side of Snickers in chocolate sauce.

Parents like these are convinced that the world revolves around their children, and they can’t understand why your wedding should be any different: A little cake, a little champagne, and little Amber yelling out in the middle of the father of the bride’s toast, “Mommy, Jason cut one!” “Did not!” “Did too!” The truth is, even well-behaved kids are still kids: at times, whiney, ornery, fidgety attention-piggies. The bottom line is that this event is not being catered by Ronald McDonald, and will not feature kiddie karaoke, games of Super Soak The Groom, or Pin The Tail On The Bride. Accordingly, you tactfully informed your guests that you’re having an “Adult Reception” instead of getting more to the point: “Leave your loud, underparented brats at home.”

Quite frankly, you’re doing the rest of us a favor by setting limits for the savages. Because people get tweaked about it doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong. (It’s your party, you can ban crying babies if you want to -- and shy, angelic 13-year-olds, too.) Think about what these people are asking; essentially, “Hey! Where’s my kid’s free dinner and entertainment?!” It’s the height of rudeness. And now, ask yourself something: What kind of person goes through “trauma” over a subtly worded hint that an elegant champagne formal is no place for children? Who else? The parents who are last to understand that having their particular kids in attendance means you’ll not only need monogrammed napkins and place cards, but precut strips of monogrammed duct tape to bind and gag the little darlings when they act out.

As for any parents who get indignant at the need to hire a sitter, if this was going to be an issue, they should’ve used protection. That said, if some of your guests are coming from afar and bringing their children, you might want to provide a list of baby-sitters, or even set up a baby-sitting service in a hotel room or at somebody’s house. But apologize? Please. You may as well send out revised invitations that say, “Why stop at the kids? Why not bring your Saint Bernard? And, hey…while you’re at it, truck over your daughter’s life-sized robotic pony so she can gallop circles around the bride and her father while they share the first dance.”

Posted by aalkon at January 15, 2007 10:43 AM

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I have 3 (reasonably behaved) kids, and I look forward to an evening apart sometimes. An evening of adult food, drink and conversation-sounds great! I will occasionally find a quiet hall to call the sitter and make sure things are OK.

Wer had a small casual wedding with all the kids, but that is an individual choice. If the parents are protesting, maybe they are just overgrown spoiled, selfcentered brats? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Posted by: Ruth at January 15, 2007 5:38 AM

As a parent, I'm grateful for the occasional opportunity to dress up and hang out with just the grownups. I'm absolutely NOT offended when I receive an invitation that says in so many words, "book the babysitter."

Many years ago, a good friend of mine got married in a historic house that could be rented for these kinds of occasions. The wedding was fairly small, and the bride conveyed both in how the invitations were addressed ("Mr. and Mrs." leaving off the "and Family") and by word-of-mouth ("lots of expensive antiques in close quarters") that kids were not on the guest list. Yet some boorish folks still insisted on bringing the brood. The bride was understandably upset.

Posted by: deja pseu at January 15, 2007 5:49 AM

An invitation is a gift given by the host. It never fails to amaze me how some people feel entitled to said gift, not just for themselves, but for their entire family! If we receive an invitation specifically for my husband and me, we get a sitter and thank the host for including us in their special event.

Posted by: Melissa G at January 15, 2007 6:29 AM

That's because you're civilized. So few people are these days.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 6:45 AM

Slightly appropos: When DeWitt and I were getting ready for our wedding, I was astonished at how many people "announced" to me that they were bringing a date or another member of their family.

I had people at my wedding who knew neither my husband nor me.

Jimminy Crickets!

Posted by: Deirdre B. at January 15, 2007 8:07 AM

Jeez. You get to the point where you need a bouncer at your own wedding.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 8:09 AM

If I ever had a wedding, my invite would say "Non-Problem Drinkers Reception." I'm not so keen on the sloppy Superbowl-like behavior that often results when people get near an open bar.

Posted by: Lena at January 15, 2007 10:36 AM

As annoying as "uninvited kids at weddings" thing is, I too tend to see it, at least somewhat, as a symptom of the greater problem of rampant entitlement among wedding guests, who feel entitled to bring anyone they please, show up without RSVPing, etc. etc. Then, on the other side, egging on but certainly not excusing the entitlement of the guests, is often the entitlement of the bride ("It's My Day, do you hear me, MY DAY!"), the groom, their families and the like. There is something about weddings that makes people go crazy. I do my best to stay away from said crazy people at weddings.

That having been said, I have been to weddings with kids that were a lot of fun. These were all "food station" weddings where the idea was to move around - pick some sushi here and eat it off of a small plate, put that down for a waiter, pick up some roast beef and eat it off of a small plate, put it down, go dance, etc. etc. - and the attendance was in the 300-500 range. If you *want* the option of having kids at your reception (or are letting your parents pay for the whole thing and are facing their edict on the matter), I can highly recommend choosing that type of reception. Actually, I can highly recommend that type of reception in general over sit-down dinners, buffets, etc. That setup makes the reception into a *party* and can absorb a lot of bad behavior without the reception being thrown off-track. Plus, it's cheaper - you can either save money or have better food. I actually see it as being closer to the original spirit of weddings, which were less formal - but if formal is what you want and what you're paying for, you have the right to take steps to keep things formal, such as restricting who you invite.

Posted by: marion at January 15, 2007 11:35 AM

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