Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Problem Child

Dear ESB,

My fiance and I have enjoyed a long engagement. In the earliest of wedding planning stages, we asked my fiance's sister if her son Eli* could be our ring-bearer. Eli is my fiance's only nephew. He is three years old. He's adorable. We love him to pieces. Over the past year, however, Eli has become a problem child. So much so, he has been kicked out of his preschool, and his exasperated parents are seeking behavioral therapy for him. He's ornery, unruly and unpredictable. My fiance and I are exchanging vows in a beautiful, impeccably preserved plantation home listed on the National Register. (Antiques! Winding staircase! Gardens! So many danger zones for Eli!) We are a month-and-a-half away from our wedding day, and my fiance's sister has emailed me about What Eli Should Wear. How do we tell her that we are not only having second thoughts about him being our ring-bearer, but we are now considering NO KIDS AT ALL at our ceremony?

Thank you,
Worried Bride

*name changed to protect the not-so-innocent little boy


WB, can I tell you something? Ring bearers kind of skeeve me out.

I’m willing to tolerate the occasional flower girl, but the whole idea of clipping a bow tie onto a little boy and sending him down the aisle clutching a beribboned pillow when he would really rather be whacking something (or someone) with a stick….


Tell your future sister-in-law the truth. You love "Eli" to death, but no way are you letting him anywhere near your impeccable antique-y plantation-home wedding.


(Photo by Christina Richards. Please note: This kid might actually be construed as adorable. Nothing to do with the bow tie, in my opinion.)


  1. I bet your sister-in-law will be so relieved.

  2. Don't forget, ESB, that usually those beribboned pillows usually tie little wire rings together... not actually rings.

    Brideschildren (or whatever) usually freak me out anyway. Little girls wearing little brides' dresses to anticipate Their Big Day, walking down the aisle with little boys who still have cooties butisn'titsooocute?

    Maybe it's because I was never a flower girl, but still. My comment has absolutely no value to the topic at hand.

  3. "Anticipating Their Big Day?" Um, I was a flower girl back in the day. I got to wear a peach dress with poufy sleeves (it was the 80s, I loved it) and stood holding my cousin's bouquet while she and her man exchanged vows; and I was too busy being a bit excited, a bit bored and staying still to have some sort of whacked out "one day this will be me" fantasy.

    Anyway, back to the topic in hand. Kids are great at the party but it's best to have a sitter for them at the ceremony. And I say this as a mother who wished her own wonderful, adorable two year old son had been taken out and given an ice cream instead of being at the ceremony. Don't get me wrong, kids can work beautifully being there, but yeah. No. As esb says.

  4. ok, seriously? how bad IS this kid? is he really too insane to walk down the aisle with a pillow? i don't mean to be bitchy, I just really want to know. Because if he is totally out of control, like that killer child in The Omen, then by all means, tell his mom you decided against it. But if he's just a hyper little kid and you guys really "love him to pieces" and you asked him to be in the wedding and he's probably really looking forward to it, is it that big of a deal? can't you ask someone to walk down the winding staircase with him and hold his hand? i'm sure the wedding will be amazingly beautiful either way.

  5. You're a month and a half away from the wedding? I'm sorry but I think the damage is done. Let him walk down the aisle (I mean seriously - what's the worst he can do?) and then hire a babysitter to watch him during the reception. If this was a little further out I'd say you could nix it - but with only a month and a half out, it might come off as a total snub to the family.

  6. The nice thing about kids in the wedding ceremony is that their jobs tend to be pretty flexible. Personally, I'd talk to your sister in law now, expressing your concern that he might freak out and go all bull-in-a-china-shop at the wedding, but that you still want to have him in the wedding. Then see how the little man is acting on the day of. Have a back-up person to hold your rings for you, and if he goes off the deep end, make the split decision THEN.

  7. @ Catherine - Still too creepy, esp. with the 80's sleeves. Imagining the big day or no...? Meh, like I said, having never experienced being a flower girl first hand, I think I have some sort of jaded/left out tomboy feelings or some such thing. That, and I really don't love children, so... whatever.

  8. What ESB said.

    It's hard to tell how kids that age will react when a bunch of people are staring at them, and if this particular child already has behaviour issues, it's probably best to talk with his mom about your concerns.

  9. I think if you pulled the plug 6 weeks out, she might be really hurt. I know I would.

    Perhaps you could have a conversation about how you know Eli has behavioral issues. Give everyone permission to acknowledge that,if on the day of he isn't up to the task, he won't perform as ring-bearer. But if he's in a chipper mood? You'll let him walk down the aisle.

    Or at least start a conversation about Eli's behavioral issues (start by inquiring how things are going) and confess your anxieties...she might offer to pull the plug on his ring-bearer performance for you! Either way, you need to have a frank conversation.

  10. Just TALK to the mom!! It's obvious she knows her child has problems (I mean...she's SEEKING behavioral counseling and he's been kicked out of PRESCHOOL!) and if you pose the conversation as more seeking her advice and asking if she thinks he'll still be able to behave and telling her you don't want anything to distract from the vows you'll be saying and that you want to be fully present and that you want HER to be fully present and not worrying about her son....maybe you'll be surprised....

  11. @catherine i'm totally with you. they're not dreaming of their own wedding, they're KIDS for fuck's sake. i'm willing to bet most kids that are part of a wedding party don't even understand what a wedding REALLY is.

    here's the deal, worried bride...
    waiting just 6 weeks before the wedding to spring this news on your sister-in-law and the kid is a bit douchey, in my opinion. i would talk to her about your concerns vs. cutting the kid out cold turkey. if he's THAT much of a terror, she's probably had the same concerns, but been too nervous to bring it up around you guys. this is why communication is key. i'm sure you guys can come up with the best solution together; whether that be actually leaving him out of the ceremony, or having him walk down the aisle with a family member.
    also, keep in mind that something is bound to go wrong at EVERY wedding. i worked in the wedding industry for years, and not once did i witness a flawless wedding. if it's not kids, it's something else. but, who fucking cares?? if our weddings "aren't photoshoots", then why should they FEEL like one? my little niece and nephew were the flower girl and ring bearer for our wedding. their mom was so nervous about how they'd do and behave through the ceremony, but they were amazing. our band, however, forgot to play a song once the ceremony ended and we walked back down the aisle together. we walked in total silence... talk about awkward. so there you go, it was ADULTS who screwed up our ceremony, not the kids.

    p.s. my nephew carried a pillow with our real rings. it's not like he was hanging out with the rings all day; he was given the pillow right as the ceremony started. what was he going to do... run off to siberia with them?

  12. I'm with ESB. People who say "what's the worst he could do?" might never have encountered a seriously behaviorally challenged kid. He could refuse to walk down the aisle, which would be a minor annoyance. On the other hand, he could run down the aisle screaming and then kick you in the shins when he makes it to the front. Whereupon you might be tempted to backhand him, which is awkward at a ceremony. Or he could strip naked and run around breaking precious antiques. ANYTHING could happen, guys. Coming from the elder sister of a behaviorally difficult child.

    I would blame it on the venue - say that seeing all the details of the contract and touring the meticulously preserved house has made you increasingly nervous about having kids present. It's true, right? All kids are unpredictable. I bet the parents will be relieved because they're probably as nervous as you are.

  13. Oh, and if it's the fiancee's sister's kid, then maybe he should be the one to break the news, unless you and the sis are uncommonly close.

  14. For what it's worth, I also think that calling the thing off now, and even worse, uninviting him, could be hurtful, really hurtful, and totally misconstrued. He's still family, your only nephew...

    Your concerns are valid, though, so yeah, have a talk with his parents? It looks as tough they're not oblivious to his problems, since they seem to genuinely want to do something about it.

    I totally understand where you come from, but then, what's going to happen? Kids are kids, they don't ruin weddings, usually just make them more endearing and personal, especially if you just let them be instead of trying to make them act all unnaturally and perfect, no?

  15. i've seen these demon children. it can be rough.

    the plus side is that when it comes to weddings, the little monsters could do just about anything and it'll be greeted with "aw's" and little chuckles. i don't get it.

  16. I don't know much of anything about children, but for the record the little guy pictured was really cool ; )

  17. i dunno. it seems like 50% of ya'll are really downplaying how bad it could be. he was kicked out of preschool and his parents are seeking help? of course the wedding wont be ruined, but this sounds like more than just "kids will be kids". with normal preschool age kids you are pretty much GUARANTEED to get the right amount of imperfect charm. sh*t that goes "wrong" but that you can laugh at, right? buuuuuut this might be different?

    if it is as bad as the bride is making it out to be the mom MUST know ot could be a problem. so yeah, TALK to her about it. don't come to her with a big fat no but see what she thinks? and like rachel said, rely heavily on concerns for contractual stuff to keep it less emotional?

  18. I advocate communication also, what does the mom (and dad!) think? Not being at/in the ceremony doesn't mean they have to miss the reception and the cake, which will be the most important thing a three year old cares about anyway...

    Also? Generally speaking, it takes a lot to get a child kicked out out a preschool/daycare. Like, a LOT a lot. So between that and the parents considering behavior therapy for the poor baby, I'm thinking this is beyond a tanturm in Payless kind of behavior or a lack of parental control. For every nice lady or guy thinking the bad behavior is cute, there's going to be about six people silently saying to themselves, "Oh my GOD, why doesn't that poor child have a sitter?"

  19. Since it sounds like you're not going to exclude the child completely (he's going to be at the reception, right?) I think you and your fiancee need to have a talk with the parents about how they're going to handle his behavior. Excluding him from the ceremony isn't going to stop him from throwing an angry fit during the reception. And a fit is going to be unpleasant whether it's during the vows or the cake-cutting. If he's in a good mood and wants to walk down the aisle with the pillow, let him do it. If he's crying or cranky, don't make him do it. Let the parents know that if he starts acting crazy during the wedding, one of them needs to take him outside immediately. I think excluding him now is going to seem pretty insensitive.

    I think for me, it comes down to this. If your worried he's going to ruin your ceremony by yelling or crying, just have a plan to get him out of their if the behavior starts. Our five-minute (5 minute!) ceremony was interrupted by crying babies, as was our first dance. And I hardly even noticed, because I was way too present in what was happening. If his behavior problems are so severe that you think he's going to do serious property damage or hurt someone/himself- then you probably need to exclude him. But make it clear that those are the reasons- the parents should understand.

  20. Thanks, ladies.

    How bad is the kiddo? He got kicked out of the preschool for hitting a teacher. And he has wiped his poo on the walls of their home and other people's homes 11 different times - when he's angry. I did not want that shit (literally!) going down at our wedding.

    My fiance & his mom don't have the BEST relationship with her, so they thought I should handle it. In hindsight, I should've NEVER agreed to this. Now I'm officially The Bad Guy.

    A few weeks ago, I emailed ESB about this problem-o, since then I went ahead and emailed future SIL. It was a disaster.

    Long story short: She got her feelings hurt. She ignored me for a week or so then finally responded to say: "We don't know what are plans are for that weekend now, because of childcare issues."

    @Marie-Eve - you win the prize for CALLING IT. Except there is no prize.

  21. Oh, yikes!

    Are there other children to consider? If so, can you hire a child wrangler for the reception part? One that would also be willing to escort children to the bathroom?

    If there are no other children, could you offer to pay for a babysitter to watch the kid at home or in the hotel (if out of town)? Just to smooth things over.

    Can you try to repair bridges with the sister by re-iterating how sorry you are to change your mind at the last minute but how 1. absolutely frazzled you are by the whole wedding planning thing as the date gets closer, 2. how you're worried that your venue isn't really child friendly, 3. how you're not sure that having a 3 year old in the wedding is fair to him when he doesn't really understand it, even though you know that everyone would absolutely love to see him and find him totally adorable?

    Even if 1, 2, 3 are not 100% accurate - little lies can just make things go way easier.

  22. Yikes indeed. For what it's worth, it sounds to me like you absolutely made the right call in not involving this kid in your wedding. (Eleven. Times. Oh. My. God.) Is it possible that she is taking this out on you, a bit - that her feelings about her child's behaviour haven't had much of an outlet elsewhere, and she's freaking out about her own stuff more than an actual desire to see her son in your wedding? Because honestly, I don't see how anyone could think a kid who wipes poo on people's walls repeatedly is still welcome to be part of a wedding party. How could it be a surprise to her that this is not a risk you're willing to take? Perhaps a way to mend bridges might be to let her know how important her presence is to you at the wedding, and offer to help find appropriate childcare in the circumstances... but maybe it's way beyond that and she's too pissed to hear it?

  23. He's a POO WIPER?? Jesus. Just add biting and you've got yourself a winner. (This reminds me of a kid I used to babysit for who crapped in her mum's handbag once. Her mum didn't realise until she got to her office and shoved her hand in to look for a pen.)

    You made the right call.

    In my humble opinion page boys/ ring bearers are never a good idea. I've been to about 40 weddings in the last two years and I haven't seen one. single. one who hasn't played up.

  24. @Anonymous I'm sorry girl, it really looks like you're in way over your head. :-( You know what's right and what's not about this kid. Good luck.

  25. Thank you, thank you. We'll see how it all works out... we are 10 days away from the wedding. It's (almost) Go Time. xoxo.

  26. my aunt tells me that my mother was a poo wiper, but it was more of an early attempt at decoration. she went on to get an art degree and just had a gallery show last month, so...happy ending in thirty years, anon?

    (my condolences. cold wars ten days out are no fun.)

  27. I think Eliza is right. It's not that she doesn't realize what kind of problems her kid could raise at your wedding or that she really wants her kid in your wedding, but she's probably taking her frustrations about him out on you now. It cannot be easy to be the parent of a problem child. She probably has a lot of guilt and stress, and you are an easy target.

    Your fiance should call her and try to smooth things over (and explain that it was not entirely your decision). They might not have a great relationship, but it was completely unfair to you that he and his mom put you into that position.

  28. I think it sounds like little Eli might not be the best addition to your guest list. A wedding is time for people to celebrate the bride and groom, and while a behaviorally challenged child will not necessarily RUIN the entire day, he will likely take the focus away from where it should be.

    Kids are amazing, but there are some occasions that aren't appropriate for them to attend. Weddings unfortunately end up being a really sticky event because of family situations, emotions and the like. But ultimately you need to do what you need to do. As long as you have a considerate discussion with his parents, you will be fine. And to be honest, they'll probably be relieved that they don't have to micromanage his every move during the entire event. Trust me, they will be incredibly embarrassed if he does something shocking and it sounds like they've already had to endure that many times.

    While many of your guests might not really notice his inevitable influence on wedding events, YOU will be obsessing over it and that is the very very very last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day.

  29. oops just read the part about the poo. UM. THIS IS A NO-BRAINER. At some point you have to be blunt.

    Tell the SIL that to be honest, you don't want shit all over your wedding. It's YOUR day, not her's. Not her son's.

    Offer the babysitter. Tell her you really hope they come, that you know Eli's behavioral problems will eventually be resolved, but at the moment you can't risk the potential POO wiping at your wedding.

    We had a (semi) similar situation at our wedding. We opted for no kids at all and my husband's aunt almost didn't come, she was so offended. We even organized and paid for a babysitter during the reception (her kids alone were invited to the ceremony), and ultimately her husband and kids boycotted and she came alone.

    Like water off a duck's back, is all I can say. I felt bad for a nanosecond and then realized it was her issue, not ours. And guess what, she's fine. Our relationship with her family is fine.

    Your SIL will realize that your decision is for the best, and even if she doesn't YOU will be so much happier.

  30. I haven't got a general problem with children and weddings, I think they can mix very well, especially with somewhere safe to run around, something to play with. But under fours don't understand what's going on during the ceremony - my little guy was tired and hot and bored and would've been happier elsewhere to be honest. Eli probably would be happier running around outside with a sitter than attempting to stay still and quiet while the grownups do the boring stuff.

    Might be a good idea to ring the sister in law and see what you can sort out together re: childcare. Maybe you can find him another job like handing out confetti or something. All the best x

    ps - cheers Celia!

  31. Thank you, Kristina.

    "ultimately her husband and kids boycotted and she came alone."

    This is what's happening with us, too. Ultimately, I hope SIL can enjoy the break from the kids, drink some champagne, and enjoy the day for her brother's sake. Though, I'm not going above and beyond to make sure this happens.