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Invite my kid to your wedding: Trust me — you'll regret it if you don't

In five years, you'll be glad that you did, and I will love you forever. I know, because I was once you


David Andrew Stoler
June 26, 2016 3:30AM (UTC)

Wedding season is upon us and, bless you, you’ve decided that—despite all evidence to the contrary—yours is the love that’s going to last. The date is picked, your universalist friend conscripted, the vast redistribution of wealth begun. But as the realities of cost-per-plate caterers make you reassess if you really need to invite your mom’s friend’s boyfriend, one piece of advice: do what you gotta do to invite anyone you actually care about’s kids.

I know, I know—you can’t invite everybody. Weddings are expensive! And, really: kids? Yuck! I get it, because kids are pain in the ass: they’re noisy, and needy, and yell at inopportune times, or worse, and are massive attention hogs on a day that, reasonably, you want the attention to be on you. Kids are, to be blunt, horrible.

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But guess what? I love that horrible, whiny, stinky little bugger nearly more than I can say, and soon you’ll understand just how big a pain/expensive it is to leave him at home. And I’m telling you now, because I also love you: five years from now, when this union of yours has borne fruit, you’ll thank me. Here’s why:

First: If it’s true that “you can’t understand until you have one” the world is doomed—the future of humanity depends on people understanding what other people are feeling: it’s called empathy, and it’s what words are for. So: the love one has for their kid is like the love you have for yourself plus the love you have for your soon-to-be betrothed plus the love you have for this thing all added up and then times infinity; and if you despise yourself a little too, as I do myself, then it’s even more like that. Not inviting my kid is like not inviting my nose just because I have a nasty head cold and might sneeze right as you say “I do.”

Second: When the meltdown occurs—which it won’t! But it might. But it won’t!—when that meltdown, or mistimed exclamation, or loud question during a quiet moment occurs, guess what: everybody’s going to laugh. They’re going to chuckle lovingly, and those chuckles will be knowing, they will be “there but for the grace of” type-chuckles. They will not be annoyed, horrified, or shocked. The wedding will not be ruined. The only person who will mind is you—and me.

Third: And I will mind, but also I’m aware of what I’m asking you, and promise to remove said child at the first ill-timed peep. Also, let’s be honest: other guests are going to be way bigger gluten-free pains-in-the-ass.

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth: But are you aware of the benefits of having a bunch of kids at your wedding? They include, but are not limited to:

  • An immediately packed dance floor: my kid can, like, light it up. We’re talking total free abandon, and the infectious kind that’ll get the party started—they will literally pull people onto the floor with their hands. The kids at your wedding are going to give everyone else permission to have exactly the kind of good time you want them to have;
  • The best photos in your wedding album: you already kind of know this, but the wedding pictures with the kids in them, all dressed up in their adorable wedding clothes: they’ll be irresistible;
  • Drunk insurance: far worse than a toddler-meltdown is what happens to kid-free parents with access to an open bar. The mess you’ll have on your hands (and possibly dress) will include relationship fallout that will take years to repair.

Look, god knows I’m always searching for ways to escape my kid—but you’re not doing me a favor. Because regardless of the fact that my après-bébé tolerance for booze has gotten lower than a first year sorority pledge’s, 6:30am—baby wake-up time—is still going to happen no matter what, followed quickly by the 8 am parents-and-tots swim class that was, fml, the only one available and where I’m going to have to get in that icy pool with her. And it’s going to hurt. Whereas if she’s at the wedding I’m going to have to take her home sometime within a couple of hours of her bedtime, somewhat sober, and am going to feel 1000 times better in the morning, and will look back on your wedding with total non-post-vomit adoration.

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Not to mention this “favor” is going to cost me $120 (plus tip!) the minute I leave the house—a.k.a. way more than you’re going to spend for her wee-meal. As you’ll soon discover, parents devote like the first ¼ of every hour of every workday earning the money to pay for someone to watch their kid so they can work the other ¾ hour to pay for that kid’s worthless college degree. I’m not saying I don’t love you enough to then pay again on Saturday to go to your wedding—if things are going well, I would love to, of course. But give me the option. Let me take a look at my bank account and decide.

(And just fyi: pretty sure one of Dante’s circles is reserved for people who demanded destination weddings sans kids. Asking me to travel without my kid is essentially inviting me just to be polite, because it’s almost impossible to actually make happen and will essentially ruin me, financially.)

I know this will cost you, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry that my child eats, but also: her meal is a drop in the bucket compared to what you’re spending on flowers that will be dead before you get to Puerto Vallarta. Invite all the kids and skip the chocolate fountain, or the omelet station, or the monogrammed bubbles. I assure you: not a soul is going to remember the burlap table runners, but the parents who can bring their kids will remember how important their family is to you, and they’ll feel so grateful and indebted they’ll probably double down on the his-and-hers croque pans on your registry (which you will also never use), and just thinking about it will make them choke up a little with love for you from here on out.

I, too, was once young and hopeful and in love—before the slow dawning realization that true love really just means picking sweetie’s socks off the floor ad infinitum. I got married, had a wedding, and only invited the kids I absolutely had to. And I just really regret being so self-centered and selfish and forcing my friends-with-kids to shell out the dough for a babysitter; or split up for that night so one could booze up with a handsome groomsman while the other stayed home and mainlined 30 for 30s and their precious baby slept in the other room; or contemplated the air-fare for family plus au pair to Calistoga and wept at the poor life choices that have led to such a pitiful discretionary income. I should have been more thoughtful, more caring, more giving. I wish, in short, I had been my future better self.

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And five years from now you will understand this exactly. You will be in exactly this position, if your marriage is what you think it is, if you’re lucky, make the baby, do the work, keep it together. And you’ll regret then the decision to exclude the children of your loved ones, just as you will rue the fact that your own most-beloveds have been excluded from the weddings of your best friends. You’ll wonder why you didn’t get it—why you couldn’t have been more generous, more broad-minded, more…loving.

Or, you could be your future better self right now. You could invite my kid. And then—then!— then your wedding will be the best wedding ever: the most memorable, greatest, most fantastic. Because I will be there with you, we all will, just so full of gratitude for you and your inclusiveness, and because your generosity of spirit will be felt throughout the room, because your wedding will be the kindest, the loveliest, the most caring—in essence, your wedding will win the day by celebrating exactly those things weddings are supposed to be celebrating: community, family, friendships, love.


David Andrew Stoler

David Andrew Stoler is a writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Aeon, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. He teaches writing at City College and Berkeley College in New York City.

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