Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can I put my niece in the wedding but not my nephew?

Dear ESB,

I am torn about having children in our wedding party. My fiance and I love kids and want some in our wedding, but what we don't want is a whiny child irritating us right before we walk down the aisle. 

My nephew is 4 and rather shy, also kind of whiny. I love him whole-heartedly, but worry that he wouldn't want to walk down the aisle for a crowd of 250. On the other hand, my niece (from my other sister) is not shy and will totally wow the audience. Then there are four others who we feel we can't exclude. And so now, to forgo any baby-drama, we are considering x'ing out all the nieces and nephews who may or may not enjoy this wedding day duty.

Okay, so my question is: Can I have one, but not the other? Will my sister be totally hurt if I exclude her kid? Do I just get over it and let him be in the wedding? Do I have all of them - six total?! Help!


Uh, YEAH your sister will be hurt. You've gotta use all the kids or none of them.

Keep in mind, they can still hang out and be cute and shit without butting in on the ceremony. (See: The above photo Chau sent me from her Houston wedding.)


  1. I have to disagree, I think you have to look at it on an individual basis. My niece (age 10) was in my wedding but her brother (6) wasn't. He's really shy, hates dressing up and I knew he would hate it. So I didn't make him. If you think he's really not going to enjoy his duty at the wedding, don't force him to be in it. There were no hurt feelings or jealousy with my sister or my nephew. He was able to make it through the day without dressing up too much, only had to be in a few pictures and had fun running around with the other kids.

  2. hmmm... i'm going to have to go with esb here. kids AND their parents can be pretty sensitive. better to be safe than sorry.

  3. the kid himself might also melt down if he sees a cousin with a privilege he doesn't get (even if he wouldn't enjoy it). my mother tells me i went bill o'reilly at an aunt and uncle's wedding when my older cousins were flower girls without me; she had to dash out of the ceremony and buy me flowers to get me to shut the hell up. it was a proud day.

    can you invent tasks for the non-aisle-walkin' tykes which would make them feel important? like, you guard the birdseed everyone will throw after the ceremony? you...warm this bench and hold my lucky penny for me?

    cousins are the NATO of family alliances; connections are mostly ceremonial, but an affront to one is an affront to all.

  4. It seems weird to me to choose family members for your wedding party based on whether they will "wow the audience." It's your wedding, not a musical revue. If you want to honor your family little ones and include them with a role in your wedding then you do that, knowing the consequence may be a little whining and kids being kids. If your pre-ceremony sanity is more important, then no kids. But it's not a show.

  5. Uh oh. We had an issue with taking our nephew out of the wedding, because he was (at the time) an absolutely intolerable problem child. Even though I tried my best to be delicate and polite about nixing him from the ceremony: It REALLY pissed off my then-fiance's sister (now my sister-in-law). She was terribly upset, and we feared she might not attend the wedding at all. In hindsight, I would've sucked it up and let the holy terror be our ring-bearer. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  6. i disagree. as kids there were many weddings where certain cousins were included and others weren't, and it didn't cause any family feuds.

  7. I guess you can make an argument if there's a clear age difference, or if you live near one set of nieces/nephews but not the other, to treat them differently. You can make that argument to the adults. The kids won't understand it, though. So I agree with ESB: all or nothin.

    And I also agree that you can easily get the cuteness without putting them in your ceremony.

  8. My husband and I both have about a million little cousins who all wanted to have a part in our wedding. we contemplated having NO children in the wedding party whatsoever, to be fair to everyone, but that idea did not go over well because many of our cousins were SO excited to be a part of the wedding in some way. i am the oldest cousin in my family and the first to get married, so there was just a lot of general family excitement.

    so, we chose one of my husband's cousins to be our flower girl because she had not been a flower girl yet in anyone's wedding and our other little girl cousins all had before, so basically it was her turn. we chose one of my little boy cousins to be our ring bearer for the same reason. we gave other roles (program-hander-outer, junior bridesmaids, etc.) to any of the other little cousins who wanted to have a role. all the kids did a great job and were actually very helpful. they felt really special, and made us feel special as well because they really look up to us and kind of doted on us all day.

    but, we love kids and our little cousins are all really well behaved, so i think ours was a best case scenario. yours is a tough call, but in my experience, family really wants to be involved in your big day and it's kind of a bummer to them if you don't allow them to take part.

    yes, children open up the opportunity for imperfection and for things to go awry, but they're also really charming and sometimes the unplanned/funny/spontaneous moments end up being some of your favorite moments of the day.

  9. I think there is a big difference because of age. Four years old is very young and if he is shy, it will just be a management nightmare for the person designated as a kid wrangler. I would agree with ESB, no kids down the aisle. Give them other, doesn't matter if they don't do it jobs...holding balloons when you walk out of the ceremony?


  10. Shit, this is a new rule I haven't heard of!

    I mean, definately don't exclude just *one* kid from ceremonial duties while every other child there parades dowsn the aisle (I mean, ouch) but there's no need to involve every child going in your wedding party in some way.

    Put it this way:
    Kids at our wedding: 10
    Kids in the wedding party: 3

    We tried to involve *someone* from each family in some way (ushers and so on) but yeah the all or nothing rule is new on me.

    That picture is brilliant!

  11. this is one thing i HATE about weddings. kids aren't a fucking accessory, you know? they're KIDS. either you want the kids involved because of what they'll get out of it and how special it will be to you or you don't for any number of other reasons...the least of which being "how cute they'll be."

    i have a little demon-spawn for a cousin who punches people in the face and runs around saying "i don't love you and never have" and i wouldn't punish her as a FOUR year old forever because she's just a kid.

    he's six...he's awkward and annoying, yeah, but so are most 6-year-olds i've met. don't have him wondering why his sister got to be in the wedding and he didn't forever? you'll always be "that" aunt.

    i was five when i was the flower girl for my grandma's wedding and i threw a fit all the way down the aisle because i was nervous...wouldn't look at anyone..i was counting my steps and i still look at it as an awesomely hilarious and meaningful moment in our do they. think about future you, when she's not in how-will-it-all-look-bride mode and let the kid be part of the wedding.

    that's my two cents. and i never get passionate about these, i promise.

  12. Talk to your sister, voice your concerns. Chances are at 4 years old, this is hardly going to be a life defining moment. Hell I can't remember what happened to me at 4. But yeah I think it's fine to have some kids take part and others not. I don't think you should be obligated to include everyone just because you are related. This is coming from someone who had a child free wedding. But in my experience when we explained to people why we were making the decisions we were, everyone was really understanding and down right mature about it. This may not be the case, but I would hope that your sister would realize that you not having her son in the wedding party isn't a reflection of your feeling towards her and her family. If she takes it that way .. um good luck.

  13. Why don't you just play it by ear? Walking down the aisle is a huge deal to a little monster, as it can be super exciting, or overwhelming. We asked my sister to have both kids in the wedding, but day-of, my 2 year old nephew wasn't really into it, so he sat out. No one was upset, my sister wasn't offended.

    I really don't think there is any way little munchkins in suits can ruin a wedding. Even a meltdown is a hilarious way to break the tension of such a huge day.

  14. yeah i had all my nieces be flower girls even the one who doesn't walk yet so that they would all be able to get dressed up and feel special and not excluded. plus they just looked sooo adorable i'll have to send esb a pic

  15. OMG did I write this while I was sleeping?? I'm getting married in August and have a similar dilemma. I've been to tons of weddings were there are a lot of kids in the bridal party and there are usually a couple that walk down the aisle crying, screaming or hand in hand with their parent or nanny! To me, it totally ruins the moment/video/pictures. I've been very vocal about this for a while (to my future MIL especially), even before I got engaged, that I don't like kids in bridal parties, that I'd only have my grown up friends cause kids always end up screaming, crying, and not walking. I'm def having my brother (10) and only niece on my side (8) on the wedding part and if it were up to me, I'd leave it at that. Then I thought, hey, I'll include my fiance's nephew, he'll be 4 yrs old and is usually a pretty good sport. My fiance has a niece (from the same brother as the nephew), she turns 2 in april and I said, no way is she gonna be in the bridal party. She's too young, she has a bit of a temper and I really don't want her to be in it. The kid's mom didn't mind at all as I talked to her and she was happy she didn't need to pay for a new dress for the kid. At first my fiance didn't mind but then he started bringing it up and I KNOW that is definitely his mom's doing (She was in shock that I said the little girl wouldn't be in it) because he started saying some sappy things like 'Oh, but she's never been in a bridal party from our side of the family, only on her mother's side,' my fiance doesn't think that much about that stuff and this has his mom's mark all over it and it just makes me angry as hell. So I'm just gonna have to suck it up, put the kid in the party, but have her walk hand in hand with the brother and as soon as they finish walking, they have to leave the ceremony. I can do with a little fussing while walking down the aisle, but I will not be happy if they start crying or screaming during our I Do's, as charming and funny as it may seem to other people. And I'd do the same if it were my sister's kids.

  16. You not going to upset the kids, but you may upset the parents.

    We had "aisle-worthy*" children at the wedding but didn't want them to feel the pressure because they can be a little shy. Indeed they were both feeling pretty grotty on the day anyway. So people had to admire my nephews from afar. They were still cute and we had no hassle.

    *God what a horrible hyphenate

  17. I think this REALLY depends on the family and the family politics. Are the parents going to be really hurt if you don't ask their children to be involved? Or will the mother of the 4 year old be secretly relieved that she won't have to deal with a shy and upset child refusing to walk?

    I have six nephews and nieces. Only my 12 year old niece is in the wedding party. My other sisters are not at all hurt that I didn't ask their children. They know you can't ask everyone, just as you can't ask ALL your friends to be bridesmaids or best men.

  18. First, ask the mom if this is something the kid would actually WANT to do. For some kids, forcing them to be in a wedding is practically a form of torture, but a parent might feel obligated to you, thinking it was what YOU really wanted.

    If the answer is yes, he'd LOVE it, have the mom escort the kid down the aisle. Make it her job to keep him comfortable and remind him of the expectations and to discreetly remove him from the line-up if it gets too intense for him.

  19. Man, so many of you are so ageist against kids... they're people, too.

  20. only nominally, anon; only nominally.

  21. Why do people have kids in their weddings? It makes no sense to me. Unless, I guess, the kids are theirs.

  22. no.
    and as much as i love dogs BETTER....
    please have a great "night out".
    your friends will appreciate you for the amazing "night out".

    (the kids and the dogs won't know the difference in the end.)

  23. A view from the other side - my SIL invited 4 nieces/nephews to be IN her wedding and has told her brother and me OUR KIDS ARE NOT INVITED. All the same age - mine are 11 -16, pretty girls. But they have autism - and I think my 49 year old sister thinks they will ruin her big day. I would never allow that - I'd watch my girls like a hawk and bring help to escort them home early. She did not ask or consult with her brother - just sent an email "ONLY THESE FOUR ARE ALLOWED TO ATTEND." It breaks my heart that they are not even allowed to attend - I understand not BEING in the wedding. I'm not stupid. Brides, think about that wedding album in 20 years (I'm almost 20 years married this Fall) the photos of the entire family are precious.