Here in the United States, it's become commonplace to exclude children from weddings, for various reasons - the noise, the expense, the hassle, the number, the distraction. I had never given the issue much thought until I went to a friend's wedding shortly after Maia was born. I took her without even thinking, but when I arrived I found another friend had left her daughter at home because she said it was the bride's preference. Oops! I hadn't even thought to ask permission to bring my newborn...
But if I had, and she'd said no, I wouldn't have gone to the wedding. I really prefer not to leave my babies (especially nursing babies) with other people, even for short periods of time. Not all women are like this; in fact many don't mind getting a sitter. Some people even say that they enjoy the events more when they're not worried about their children behaving.
In the last year, my husband and I were invited to two weddings where our children were specifically not invited. Overpersonalizing as I tend to do, I took the first invitation as a non-invitation of me, not just my children. That was probably unfair. But I would have loved to attend the wedding, just didn't know how I could leave my kids with a stranger out-of-town. For the second wedding, the parents of the bride arranged for a sitter for our kids, and the hotel was only minutes from the reception, so it was very convenient. I appreciated that extra effort on their part because it communicated that they really did want both Jeff and I to attend the wedding, and they also invited our whole family to the rehearsal and the morning after brunch. During the wedding weekend, we were only away from the girls for a few hours.
But, nonetheless... do children belong at weddings? At the risk of revealing that I've once again been catching up on the upcoming royal wedding, it seems that Kate Middleton and Prince William think that children do belong at a wedding. Check this out, aside from the maid of honour and the best man, everyone in the bridal party are children of family and friends, and are ages 7, 8, 3, 3, 10, and 8. Three are the prince's godchildren. Maybe this is just customary in England - I don't know. I'm curious to see how they'll pull this off, especially with the two 3-year old girls. Imagine the logistics of getting that many children to behave at a wedding!
But it made me think that, cohabitation question aside, perhaps William and Kate understand the importance of children. It makes sense for a royal couple in particular to realize the value of continuing the family line. I was struck by this too because of the Mass reading for Saturday from the book of Sirach (44:11-13):
"Their wealth remains in their families,
their heritage with their descendants;
Through God’s covenant with them their family endures,
their posterity, for their sake.
And for all time their progeny will endure,
their glory will never be blotted out."
Once I was at a funeral for someone I didn't know (this happened frequently at my parish in California as they just used their daily Mass slot for funerals, if necessary; I never knew when I went to Mass in the morning if it would be a funeral or not), and it turned out to be an experience I would never forget. At the very end of the service, the priest asked the ten children of the deceased, elderly man to step forward near the altar. He then asked the grandchildren to step forward; each of the ten children had at least four of their own, so this was about 40 people (adults). Then he asked the great-grandchildren to come forward. Then the great-great-grandchildren. By the end of this there were well over 100 people up there. Wow - imagine living to see yourself having that many descendants.
Of course, it's the rare couple that does live to see that many descendants, and of course, it's not really the number of descendants that matters anyway. It's the fact of our own lives being short - of us being part of a larger story in which we are merely the trustees for the next generation.
Getting back to my main point, marriage and children seem to go together well. A marriage is the environment in which children are best nurtured and raised. In our modern culture, however, we are tending to push kids out of marriages (hence DINKs who choose to be DINKs, sometimes forever, sometimes for a decade or more or less) and I guess it's no surprise that kids also get excluded from weddings. Weddings are becoming adults-only events, excluding that simple joy and excitement of children, who not only make the day special, but also, foreshadow the joy that is still to come, as well as the continuation of God's promises for future generations that will share in the faith.
You shouldn't have to have a royal concern for continuing the family line to want to include children at a wedding, right?