Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Am I Selfish For Wanting a Kid-Free Wedding?”

no babies

I’m getting married in April and I’m having a kid-free wedding. I have six sisters who all have children (ages 2-20) and have had no problem with me having a small wedding with no children to save some money. However, my fiancé’s sister, Julie, has suggested several times that she and her husband will be unable to attend because we are not having kids at the wedding, and, in fact, the venue does not allow children. We have found and offered to pay for a babysitter for my Julie’s five-year-old child, but this sister still is suggesting that she may not make it. I’m becoming very frustrated because we’ve already paid for Julie, and we really wish her to come to the wedding because we love her very much.

My fiancé and I do not have children but do absolutely love kids; we have my nieces and nephews over nearly every weekend to stay the night although Julie’s child has never been allowed to join. Julie’s daughter has never had a babysitter outside the family, and any time she has been watched by us or by anyone else it has been for less than an hour. My question is: Am I being selfish by wanting to have a kids-free wedding? Or is she being selfish by refusing to use a babysitter for a few hours? — Hopefully Not a Selfish Bride

Come on, you already know, as validated by numerous other people, including your six sisters, all of whom have kids, that there’s nothing wrong with planning a kid-free wedding. I think what you’re really asking is whether Julie’s being selfish by refusing to leave her 5-year-old with a babysitter so she can attend your kid-free wedding, and the answer is… I don’t know. It’s odd that in five years she’s never left her daughter with a sitter she isn’t related to, and it’s stranger that she’s never left her for longer than an hour even with relatives. So, obviously, there’s some kind of issue going on. Whether that issue is with the 5-year-old daughter and something going on with her that would make Julie especially nervous about leaving her with anyone, or if there’s an issue with Julie that she can’t trust anyone else to care for her perfectly healthy and normal child, I don’t know.

Whatever the issue is, you shouldn’t take it personally. I can understand why you’re disappointed and maybe hurt, but, since Julie has never left her kid with a babysitter, you should know this isn’t a matter of her simply not wanting to be at your wedding. In fact, this situation reminds me of a recent forum post from a DW reader whose fear of flying and recent bouts of panic attacks have led her to make the decision to skip her sister’s destination wedding. I bet Julie is feeling just as conflicted about her decision(s) and hates that she’ll miss her brother’s wedding.

For the sake of your relationship with her, and with your entire extended family of in-laws, I would urge you to be gracious and let Julie off the hook. Tell her you would love to have her at your wedding and you have a capable and responsible babysitter lined up for her daughter should she change her mind and decide to leave her in a sitter’s care, but also that you understand that, if she’s never left her alone with a babysitter before, it’s probably a nerve-wracking decision to do so now. Tell her you won’t hold it against her if she can’t make your wedding, that you look forward to being her sister-in-law and becoming her daughter’s aunt, and that you will have other opportunities in the future to celebrate together. Missing her for one day is a small price to pay for fostering a harmonious lifelong relationship with her.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

31 comments… add one
  • FireStar

    Firestar February 8, 2016, 8:56 am

    I haven’t left my daughter with anyone outside of family either. She’s 2 1/2 though. By 5 aren’t you in school and used to being away from family for extended times? Your sil may not want a complete stranger watching her child but surely she has friends that could step up for the night? Unless it’s a destination wedding?
    We went to my friends destination wedding in Jamaica and while kids were allowed, mine passed out in the room and wasn’t moving for love or money. So I left her with her father. Problem solved?

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom February 8, 2016, 9:09 am

    My daughter was very shy so we didn’t leave her with a babysitter she didn’t know. That would have left her clingy for months and there is nothing worth attending, not even your wedding, that would have been worth a child clinging for months. She would stay with friends and since we had no family in our area our friends would sometimes babysit her. A wedding can be a problem if the friends go to bed before the wedding would end or if the wedding isn’t located near enough for friends to babysit.
    .
    Assume that your soon-to-be sister-in-law is doing the best she can and making the best decision she can in her circumstance. Her decision has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her child. Quit trying to assign selfish motives to her. She isn’t being selfish, she is doing her best to take care of her child and that is her primary responsibility. Attending your wedding isn’t. When you try to assign selfishness to her you begin to sound petty. You established that no one else minds the kid free wedding so you already established that no one considers you selfish for doing so and so it is obvious your entire question is about calling your fiance’s sister selfish. Why waste so much time and effort on that? You have better things to do with your time. Why not focus on those things?

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      RedRoverRedRover February 8, 2016, 9:25 am

      Totally agree with the use of the word “selfish”. Why does someone have to be selfish in this scenario? Is it not possible that you’re both doing the best you can in the situation? Don’t assign motives to her when you have no idea what they are. Accept that this is a difficult situation for her and she’s going to do what she thinks is best for her child.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 8, 2016, 9:41 am

        I was thinking the same about everyone doing the best they can. The LW chose to have a child-free wedding because that is what works best for her. The fiance’s sister is choosing to not go because leaving her child with a babysitter doesn’t work for her. Everyone is probably doing their best and as long as each doesn’t get angry with the other for not making different choices everything is good.

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    artsygirl February 8, 2016, 9:12 am

    LW – you have been far more accommodating than most would be in your situation. You have clearly articulated that you cannot have children at your wedding (not least because the venue does not allow them). You have suggested and offered to pay for various alternative solutions which have been rejected. The one last thing you could suggest if that Julie and her husband/partner (you don’t mention a SO so perhaps there isn’t one) switch off with one staying home for the ceremony and then switching so the other can come to the reception.

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      artsygirl February 8, 2016, 9:18 am

      EDIT: Sorry reread the LW and saw that the SIL has a husband

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh February 8, 2016, 9:27 am

    I agree with Wendy. I don’t think you’re being selfish and I also wouldn’t hold it against her for not coming. Whatever decision she makes isn’t about you, just like your decision wasn’t about her. I’m wondering if you all are relatively close enough to each other that you could instead offer to pay someone else Julie knows to watch her daughter, who she might be more comfortable with. Something you could offer the next time it comes up and if that wouldn’t work, I would just tell her you understand and hope you all can celebrate together with dinner or something after.

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  • avatar

    Essie February 8, 2016, 9:33 am

    No, LW, you’re not selfish at all for wanting a kid-free wedding. There’s a bit of self-centeredness in the way you’re reacting to your SIL’s reluctance to leave her child, though.

    Self-centeredness in the sense that you’re making this all about you, when it’s not. A wedding invitation isn’t a command performance, and someone declining an invitation isn’t an insult or a personal attack. It’s not a case of your SIL saying, “I can’t be bothered going to my brother’s wedding,” there’s a circumstance that’s preventing her from going.
    She doesn’t want to leave her child for the evening.

    And it’s not your place to judge whether her reasons for that are sufficient, or even your business to know what those reasons are, if she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing them. It also doesn’t matter how many of your relatives ARE comfortable leaving their kid with a sitter. She isn’t.

    The fact that you’ve already paid for her presence at the reception is completely, utterly irrelevant. That was your mistake – in the future, you’ll know not to pay for people unless you’ve gotten a confirmed acceptance.

    Now, for possible solutions. Is the actual ceremony (the important part) taking place at the child-free venue? If not, maybe she could come just for the ceremony and bring the baby? Or, if it is at the child-free place, maybe she could have a friend watch the baby for the hour or so that the ceremony will take? Or a family member could volunteer to skip the ceremony and stay with the baby. She might be ok with being separated for an hour, where being away for a whole evening seems like too much.

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    • avatar

      artsygirl February 8, 2016, 10:03 am

      Just to clarify the child is not a baby but a 5 year old.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 8, 2016, 10:17 am

        Yeah, I’d do some side-eying if my sibling refused to leave A FIVE-year-old with a sitter to come to my wedding. I wouldn’t take it personally or hold it against her and I wouldn’t consider it “selfish,” but if the child were quote-unquote, “normal,” I’d find it really odd that she couldn’t be left with a sitter for a few hours.

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        Essie February 8, 2016, 11:34 am

        Oops, I didn’t notice that this was a 5 year old. And I find it odd, too. But whatever’s going on, whether the mother has an anxiety issue or the child does, there’s still something happening here that merits a little compassion on the LW’s part.

        I don’t think LW is a terrible person, not at all. Just caught up in the wedding stuff, and not looking at it from the SILs perspective. Something pretty serious must be going on if it’s going to prevent her from being at her brother’s wedding.

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        lurker101 February 8, 2016, 3:09 pm

        I don’t find it odd at all since I’ve a 5 years old with separation anxiety. I can only leave her with certain family member to babysit. It took sometime to get her adjusted to school and slowly getting better as she gets older. I couldn’t sign her up for any classes or activities because she couldn’t cope with new people so I can understand the SIL in this situation.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom February 8, 2016, 10:24 am

    I hope that you and your six sisters aren’t talking badly about Julie and her choice. You’ve obviously discussed it with all of them. If the group of you are using words like selfish to describe Julie you need to put an end to it. Julie and you will be family and you need to have her back. So if there is a time when your family is saying ugly things about Julie you need to say, I’ve thought about it and I think she is doing the best she can and she isn’t selfish. She deserves that from you and especially if you love her as much as you say you do you won’t tolerate your own family insulting her. If you do tolerate and even worse if you join in it says much more about your pettiness and self-absorption and selfishness than it does anything about her.
    .
    You are joining another family. They don’t do everything the way your family does. You will have to accommodate different ideas about holidays and vacations and birthdays and even weddings. The way your family does things isn’t the way everyone does things and you need to graciously understand that.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh February 8, 2016, 10:35 am

      I was actually thinking she got the word selfish from looking for advice on things related to the wedding industry. I feel like that word is thrown around a lot especially on things I’ve read about choosing a specific type of ceremony, like a destination wedding, etc. It could have been that she picked it up from a family member or friend, but just as easily she could have picked it up from somewhere else entirely.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 8, 2016, 11:02 am

        I hope that’s it. I don’t read wedding industry sites because I’m not at that point in my life.

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  • avatar

    for_cutie February 8, 2016, 10:33 am

    I had a similar situation with my future SIL at my adult-only wedding. She threatened not to come if her son – 7 y/o – was not invited, and we stood our ground. She was even upset that he was not a ring bearer – again we had NO children in the ceremony thus no ring bearers or flower girls. We paid for a sitter as a good-will gesture even though that was not the root of the issue.

    Guess who was at my wedding – the 7 year old kid! They expressly went against what everyone told them and got nasty when a few family members made a comment when they pulled up to the church and reception. Was it rude, inappropriate, selfish? Yes. Did we still have an awesome wedding? Yes.

    Punchline is that you can only control your own actions and reactions. Your SIL will do what she will and you need to keep the focus on enjoying your wedding and not what other people decide to say or do. Plus, there will be RSVPs that no-show so “we’ve already paid for Julie” doesn’t matter. I “paid” for several people who no-showed and that is life. Again, you can only control your own reactions and choose to embrace the positive for there will be so much to enjoy!

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    • avatar

      artsygirl February 8, 2016, 4:24 pm

      How frustrating for_cutie! I have been to two weddings where guests brought children despite being told adults only. In the first one we had to steer the family out of the receiving line because the bride was so livid we thought she was going to make a scene. In the other, I was a bridesmaid and another bridesmaid brought her young daughter without informing the bride and groom. She even had the chutzpah to show up at the very fancy rehearsal dinner with her daughter (which is when the bride and groom found out about the addition) and the staff at the venue had to scramble to find a high chair and make room at the long, family style table. The poor bride had to immediately call her planner and try to find space and seating for the child at the wedding venue which was a empty, converted house and therefore had no handy amenities. The bridesmaid told me that she intentionally did not tell the bride and groom her daughter was coming because she knew they would discourage it.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 8, 2016, 4:39 pm

        In a case like this where she knew she wouldn’t want to leave her daughter with a sitter she shouldn’t have agreed to be a bridesmaid. That was rude. It would have been different if her babysitter fell through at the last minute and she had to choose between attending with child or not attending at all. Even in that situation the choice should be given to the bride and groom.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover February 8, 2016, 4:47 pm

        That’s bridesmaid is a crazy woman. Who does that??? And she did it on purpose!

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  • avatar

    dinoceros February 8, 2016, 11:06 am

    I feel like you’re implying that she’s trying to spite you, but if she consistently doesn’t leave her kid with a sitter, then it obviously has nothing to do with you. It’s not life or death if someone doesn’t attend your wedding. As you stated, despite not wanting kids at your wedding, you are great to the children in your life, so you’re not selfish. Similarly, she is hopefully a good family member despite not attending your wedding, so let her off the hook too.

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  • Portia

    Portia February 8, 2016, 11:56 am

    I think Wendy is spot on. The LW doesn’t know what’s going on in her SIL’s life and its time to let this go. They’re each doing what’s best for themselves and that means the SIL won’t be at the wedding. There were a bunch of people I would have loved to have at my wedding but it didn’t work out. No one’s fault, no one being selfish – for practical reasons it just didn’t work out. Still had a great time with everyone who was there.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki February 8, 2016, 12:16 pm

    I’m curious about you having paid for her… did she RSVP yes? If she did, did she know at the time that it was a kid-free wedding (which is completely fine in my opinion)? I imagine so if the venue doesn’t allow kids. If she RSVP’d yes and knew about the kid-free and is now backing out, that is complete bullshit. You don’t RSVP yes and then not go. Not cool. But if she didn’t give you a hard yes, then its kind of on you for paying for her. Ultimately, its her business if she doesn’t want to leave her kid with anyone for any amount of time. Yes, it sucks that she might not be at your wedding, but ultimately? Its one day. My aunt (mom’s sister) RSVP’d yes for 5 people and then didn’t show up to my wedding. And that was obnoxious. But really? Who cares? If she didn’t want to be there, that was on her. I would give your SIL a pass, but don’t entertain any more discussions on the matter. If she brings it up, let her know that you’d love to be there and offer the babysitter’s info, but if not that that’s ok. Don’t debate the pros and cons with her.

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      RedRoverRedRover February 8, 2016, 12:55 pm

      Yeah, we had a family of 4 RSVP yes and then they didn’t show up. Not only did it cost us like $500 (wedding venues are really expensive where I live), but then we had a table of 8 with four people left sitting at it. They seemed really uncomfortable. So rude. We also had a handful of other singles and doubles not show up. Probably cost us about a grand, total. You have to expect these things, but it’s still really annoying.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki February 8, 2016, 1:28 pm

        I’m a stickler for RSVPs. If I tell someone I’m going, then I’m going (barring something major or a contagious illness).

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        RedRoverRedRover February 8, 2016, 1:59 pm

        Especially if you know someone’s paid for your seat! If I have to miss something that was paid for, I offer to reimburse, always. People who live here know how much a plate at a wedding costs. They had a pretty good idea of how much they were costing me. Some of the others were from out of town so they might not have realized, and thought it was $35 a plate or so… that’s easier to forgive. But this family lives right in the city, and everyone knows what it costs here. Unbelievable.

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  • avatar

    pamplemousse February 8, 2016, 4:13 pm

    I don’t think you’re selfish for wanting to have a kid-free wedding but you are being selfish trying to force your SIL to attend. You know she has a thing about her kid and babysitters and sleepovers. So why should she change her attitude about that just for your wedding? This woman is going to be your SIL. Is this really how you want to start off joining the family? Even if you’re disappointed, you’ll come off looking much better to everyone if you’re understanding and don’t make a big deal out of it. Plus, if you ever have kids, you’re going to want people to be understanding of you when they don’t necessarily agree with your parenting. You don’t want to look back and say, Man, I was a judgmental asshole. Believe me, I’ve felt that way plenty of times after I had a kid.

    My son couldn’t handle babysitters at all. He was fine with daycare, school, and camp, connected to his caretakers/instructors/teachers, made friends easily, and was “normal” in pretty much every other way. Aside from being extremely shy around adult strangers, which in itself isn’t uncommon. If we put him in an activity like gymnastics or soccer, both of which he liked, he couldn’t deal with it. He’d cling to us. But teachers at school or daycare, he was fine. We couldn’t figure out why and he couldn’t explain it to us. The only thing we could come up with was the “audience” nature of being in those kinds of classes. The parents always hung around and watched the kids and he doesn’t like being on display. When we had friends come over, people he didn’t know well, it would literally take 4 hours before he’d be comfortable enough to even look at them and say hi. Starting from when he was young, the handful of times we left him with our friends (people he knew) or even my mother-in-law to babysit so we could go out, he was unconsolable. He would cry for hours until he fell asleep. Sometimes staying at the front door until he fell asleep on the floor there. So we stopped trying after a while because it seemed too cruel. And then one day he was fine with it and could even sleep over his friends’ homes. And he’s now 11 and way more independent than a lot of his friends. We still don’t know why he was like that, but he grew out of it.

    And, for all you know, your fiance’s sister being overprotective may be for good reasons. We have friends who are both lawyers and they have had to deal with too many cases of kids who have been molested by family, family friends, kidnapped, assaulted in restaurant restrooms while the parents were in the next room, etc. They’ve told me some real horror stories. I suppose when you see that regularly, it makes you paranoid. Even though we’re good friends and our sons are very close, they won’t allow their son to sleep over at our house. I have to respect that. They’re doing what they’re comfortable with.
    You don’t know why your SIL-to-be is this way with her kid and babysitters and sleepovers, but she may have a good reason that you’re not aware of.

    And why blame her for you already paying for her? She told you several times they might not come!

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    • avatar

      Vathena February 8, 2016, 4:28 pm

      Yes, and this wedding is still 2+ months away. How is is possible to have an accurate head count of guests that far out? It’s common that invitations don’t even go out until around 6-8 weeks in advance. (I suppose if it’s a really small wedding?) I know for our wedding, the venue – a hotel – didn’t need the head count until about a week ahead of time. But yeah, already having paid for her is on LW, not SIL. As for the parenting issue – WEES.

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    SpaceySteph February 9, 2016, 11:41 am

    Nobody has to be “selfish” in this scenario. I think selfish should be used much more sparingly than it is in our culture– why do we fault people for putting their needs above the needs/wants of others? Think about what you mean when you call someone selfish: you are expecting them to put your needs before their own, even though you didn’t put their needs before yours. Aside from a parent caring for a child, why should anyone be obligated put someone else’s needs above their own?

    Weddings always come down to choices. You make choices and then you accept that due to your choices– no matter what those choices are– some people may not be able to attend. We all make choices when we plan weddings and by choosing something, you are eliminating other possibilities. By choosing a destination wedding, you must accept that there are those who won’t be able to travel to it. By choosing a certain date/time, you should accept that there are those who will be busy. And by choosing a child-free wedding, you have to accept that some people with children will not be able to leave their kids to attend. And that is before you get into other things– accidents, illnesses, sudden change of situation– that make it so people who had every intention of coming (and RSVP’ed yes and you already paid for them) end up not being able to make it.

    Also, on an unrelated note, I find it interesting that you don’t mention your fiance. This is his sister after all, how does he feel about this? If this were even a battle to fight it would be his battle, but he and his feelings are very conspicuously absent from your letter.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark February 9, 2016, 2:16 pm

    Yeah. That kid is going to grow up just fucking swell — with a clinging, simpering nutjob for a mother… Yikes. If I was God, infertility would strike only those who should NEVER be parents. Sigh…

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  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeysmommy February 11, 2016, 9:25 am

    Am I the only one who thinks SIL is just trying to strong arm the bride into making an exception for her kid by making threats not to come at all?

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      SpaceySteph February 11, 2016, 9:48 am

      Idk. That was my first thought when I read the first part, but the LW does say that she doesn’t ever leave the kid with a babysitter and won’t let her kid stay overnight with the LW when all the other cousins do. That would be an awfully long con to play, so I’m more inclined to believe that she really won’t leave her kid to attend without him.
      She probably does think that the LW should make an accommodation for her to let her bring the kid and come, but it doesn’t seem to be just a power play.

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