Weddings and Parties
Weddings and parties usually include an invitation, which is your key to determining if it is an adults-only or child-friendly event. Pay attention to how the envelope is addressed. If it says "and family" or names your children specifically, you can be sure they are invited. If it is addressed to just you and your spouse, assume it is an adults-only function and either hire a sitter or politely decline the invite.
Time of day is another clue as to whether your child should tag along. Evening parties are not for those with an early bedtime. A child wreaking havoc on the ice sculpture or a toddler melting down on the dance floor is, at best, awkward entertainment—and at worst, a major and unappreciated disruption.
Tori Smith of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is familiar with how unexpected party guests can put a damper on the night. Smith and three other couples hosted a swanky New Year's Eve party and were shocked when guests brought their 10-year-old child and his friends along for the festivities.
"We tried to overlook it at first, and then things got ugly," says Smith. "They were meddling with the elevator alarm, which was going off every few minutes. We finally drew the line when the boys started throwing slices of cheesecake out the top floor windows—which landed on many of the guests' windshields below."
As for weddings, if the invitation includes your children, you should take extra care to ensure that your kids do not distract from the emphasis on the bride and groom. Weddings can be overwhelming and exhausting for little ones. Consider arranging for a sitter at the reception, or know that you may have to make an exit before the band belts out the last song of the night.
If your kids have been left off the wedding invitation altogether, try not to be offended—and respect the wishes of the bride and groom.
"Weddings are a huge investment of time and money, and the bride and groom have a right to keep it an adults-only affair," says Colleen Rickenbacher, an etiquette speaker and consultant, and author of Be On Your Best Cultural Behavior. "Never call to ask if your child can be included—if you don't want to go because you can't bring your kids, you'll have to decline the invitation."