What does it mean when friends want us to be there but somehow can't embrace our new definition of "us"?
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Cost of no-kids wedding
Credit: Getty/Hinterhaus Productions.

Welcome to 2022, the year in which all your friends are deciding to hold their weddings that were postponed due to the pandemic. But for me, the parent of a breastfed 9-month-old, the arrival of what should be my friends' happy news has become...stressful, to say the least. Because more than half the maze of save-the-dates currently on my fridge are for adults-only weddings.

Most also require extensive travel. The cost for me to attend just one best friend's out-of-state, adults-only weddings is astronomical, not to mention logistically nightmarish mid-pandemic, when factoring in the safety of a baby who cannot yet be vaccinated.

I was initially insulted and upset upon receiving an invite from a family friend who told us how important it was to them that my spouse and I attend their wedding—alone. What did it mean that they wanted us to be there but somehow couldn't embrace our new definition of "us"? Did they know what they were asking of us logistically in order to attend an out-of-town event without our infant? What would be the fallout of not attending—of not being there for a close friend on potentially the happiest or most important day of their life?  

I attempted to crunch some of the numbers to determine how much money I'd need to attend just one of these weddings: tallying the lowest-priced wedding gift from the registry ($50), a room for two nights in the hotel block ($350), boarding our dog ($250), hiring a local babysitter for the duration of the event ($100) or bringing along a babysitter we've vetted from home ($600).

That's all not to mention the 10-hour car-ride across the Mason-Dixon line that would have to be broken up over at least two days each way with an additional Airbnb or hotel stay (probably another $150 or more in gas and tolls + $200 or more for accommodations). And while yes, using a local babysitter would be more cost-effective, the length of the vetting process needed to find a babysitter in a strange city who is actually vaccinated and trustworthy represents a high opportunity cost. 

All in all, I was looking at close to $2,000.00 to attend just one kid-free wedding.

Before I totally blew my lid, I decided to reach out to my local mothers' group—not sure if I just wanted sympathy or some actual advice. Within half an hour, I had heard from almost 50 moms. And not all of them were on my side. Many of the moms had (or were even planning to have) adults-only weddings themselves. One woman recounted how stressful it was for her friend to plan a mid-pandemic wedding. There were new restrictions on head counts, so inviting any child meant un-inviting an adult guest.

Others wrote that the average wedding costs and prices per plate were so high that they knew many couples who were trying to figure out how to say "no kids at the wedding" without hurting anyone's feelings. The average wedding ceremony and reception, of course, are not often geared towards children anyway. A few of the forum moms believed their own children would disrupt a wedding ceremony or that parents would inherently have more fun at a reception without their kids.

On the other hand, many respondents had a family policy of not attending any out-of-state milestone events when their kids weren't invited. Throughout my childhood, my own parents were outspoken about this policy as well. Whether my parents' decision was financially motivated or based entirely based on the belief that our family should stick together, I'm not sure—but I felt the message of their choice deeply.

It meant that my brothers and I were an integral part, not only of our family, but of my parent's identity. In their eyes, we were included in "Mr. and Mrs. Jaeger"—and no, they didn't have more fun without us. Our nuclear family was certainly more important to them than any social theatrics.

However, my fears about the potential social impact—or rather, destruction of my own social capital—caused by not attending these events were not unfounded. Both my parents and the other moms on Facebook told me they'd lost or jeopardized close relationships with friends and family over this issue. One woman wrote that it took years before she and her would-have-been bridesmaid reconciled; the bridesmaid had refused to participate in the wedding without her child. Unsurprisingly, the bride's perspective drastically changed after she had her own kids.

My fellow parents' most important takeaways on the issue? Communication is key—that, and not taking things too personally. First, it's always a good idea to reach out to the couple when you receive a save-the-date. You can ask if they will make an exception for you (if it's important that you attend with your child). But, be prepared that they probably won't change their minds.

You can also ask for help finding a local babysitter. In fact, many moms I spoke with believed that for an adults-only wedding, the couple should either hire a local babysitter to watch all the out-of-town kids together at the hotel—or at least have recommendations for guests to hire. Of course, many people have different understandings of babysitter vetting requirements as well as COVID-19 safety.

Worst-case scenario, ask if the couple will consider an option for virtual attendance.

In terms of not taking things too personally, that one is truly a two-way street. I realized that most likely, the invitations we received that omitted our daughter were not meant to be hurtful. Many couples are faced with stressful and difficult decisions during the wedding-planning process. While perhaps lacking in empathy for out-of-town parents, the omission was not a personal attack.

Likewise, couples who choose not to allow kids at the wedding, especially those who don't assist in any way with providing childcare, must accept that many families will simply choose not to attend. Sometimes, being a parent means saying "no"—and not just to your kids.