parent opinion

'I had a child-free wedding. Now that I'm a mother, I'm horrified at myself.'

Listen to this story being read by Laura Jackel, here.

There was one thing I was very, very clear about in the lead-up to my wedding: under no circumstances would I fall victim to the arbitrary "rules" of being a bride. 

Time and time again, I’d seen beloved friends get swept up planning things they didn’t want (garter toss, I’m looking at you) with people they didn’t like (kitchen tea with your great-aunt Sylvia, I’m looking at you) for reasons that didn’t seem to have any rationale beyond "well, everyone else does it!". 

I know every bride says it, but I really meant it - this was going to be a wedding with no drama, no pointless traditions, and no rules. 

Watch: The horoscopes as new parents. Story continues below.

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Who says you need to have a bridal party? Why shouldn’t we sleep in the same bed on the night before the wedding? Why do we need a dress code? Why should only my dad walk me down the aisle when I was proudly raised by both my parents? 

Like I said: no rules. 

But. Well. Okay. There was one rule. 


Just a little one, dangling incongruously at the end of our very chill, very low-key, very no-rules wedding invitation. 

No kids.

At the time, I really thought this made sense. My soon-to-be husband and I didn’t have kids yet, and neither did the majority of our friends. The idea of having our ceremony interrupted by a screaming baby made me feel anxious, and having to cater a kids' menu seemed far too complex. I didn’t have any activities for kids to do on the day, and I frankly didn’t want to organise any. This was my day, dammit, and everyone knows that children are messy and loud and create a big ruckus wherever they go!!! If anyone was going to be messy and loud and create a big ruckus on my wedding day, it should at least have been me! 


I am humble enough to admit when I am wrong. 

In February this year, I gave birth to my son, and everything changed. My life, my perspective on wedding etiquette, my eight hours of sleep a night (may they rest in peace - I wish I still could). 

Since then, when I look back on our "no kids at our wedding" rule, I’m horrified at myself.

The thing is, until I was a mum, I really didn’t get it. Until I’d been in the same position myself, I honestly couldn’t imagine how difficult - and hurtful - it is to receive a wedding invitation that actively dis-invited my kids. I genuinely didn’t appreciate that, in so many cases, to exclude children from weddings is to exclude mothers. 

That’s especially true for new mothers, because no matter how you feed your baby, a mother’s body is their baby’s home for those first few months of life. As much as you couldn’t ask a pregnant woman to leave her belly at home, you can’t ask a new mother to leave her baby. Well, sure, you can: but you can’t expect her to say yes.

Image: Supplied.

But it isn’t only new mums who are affected. In so many families, the responsibility to find childcare falls on women. For women with older kids, a wedding invitation with the addendum "no kids" is really an invitation to a whole lot of unplanned life admin. It’s also, honestly, a personal blow: while all mums accept that not everyone can love their kids as much as they do, they might expect that you - one of the most important people in their lives, by virtue of the fact that they’ve received a wedding invitation in the first place - might be one of the few who do. 

To tell a dear friend that her kids aren’t welcome on your big day is tantamount to saying you don’t want them to be part of your new life - that the joy and frivolity they’d bring to your celebration isn’t worth the risk of chaos. 


So what you’re really saying - what I was really saying, when I innocently added the "please no children" addendum to the bottom of our invitations - is: "mothers not welcome". 

And now that I am one, that’s a message I can’t stand by. 

I fully appreciate that weddings with kids might not work for everyone. If that’s the path you went down, or choose to go down in the future, I absolutely respect your right to do so - it is, after all, your day.

But for me, now, I think back on the very best thing about our wedding, and I recognise that they weren’t the picture-perfect moments. They were the unexpected things. The messy things. The loud and chaotic things. The ruckus. When it comes down to it, the ruckus is the most charming, most human, most exciting part of the whole thing. 

Since February, I’ve been lucky enough to have my son invited to not one, but two, weddings of close friends. They were two of the best days of my life – the unparalleled opportunity to celebrate people I love with my whole family. I can’t speak for the bride and groom at either, but I think having kids along for the ride made both days richer, brighter, happier and better. 

I look back on my own wedding, and I wish I’d invited the kids. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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