Q: I am being married near the end of September and am having trouble making a request of a girlfriend who is going to attend with her 17-month-old child.
The marriage ceremony is going to be held in a small church, with much ado about the music because I am a musician. I have suggested to my friend that she leave her child with her mother-in-law during the wedding ceremony, but she said her daughter might cry for her. She breastfeeds the child and says it's impossible to leave her.
She suggested to me that she might get a baby sitter to come with her to the church and take her child out if she were noisy or restless. To me, this means that someone would be at my wedding that I did not invite, and that the child might cry if she were taken outside without her mother.
Is there any way to resolve this?
A: Your friend would be kinder and wiser to leave her child at home -- and probably have more fun, too. Certainly a 17-month-old breastfed child can be left with a sitter for one or two hours or even a day, since mother's milk can be pumped, bottled and even frozen.
Also, the mother can adjust her daughter's schedule in advance, if necessary, for by now she surely nurses only a few times a day.
However, it seems likely that this mother needs to be needed more than most. Or perhaps she thinks the guests would be disappointed if she left her baby at home. Sometimes it's hard for a first-time mother to realize her child isn't quite so important to others as she is to her.
All of which leaves you with not one, but two uninvited guests at the wedding -- the child and the sitter.
While you don't want to hurt your friend's feelings by reminding her of this, you can tell her how much the music means to you, how much musicians resent having their work disturbed, and how much you appreciate her offer of the sitter. Rather than having her bring the baby into the church and then taking her out if she cries, ask your friend to have her walk the baby around in a stroller outside, or keep her in the rectory while the wedding is going on. The child would then be immediately available if she needs her mother when the ceremony is over. If there are other children under three coming, you might even pay the rector to open the nursery for them. This would let the children be seen in their finery and still give them the chance to see the wedding party come in and go out of the church. A young child's attention doesn't last much longer than that.
If this request seems too formidable to make, you'll have to look at the situation in a more positive light. Things aren't likely to go as badly as you think.
If your friend is as considerate as most mothers in church, she'll quickly take her child out if she cries. If you particularly want your friend to witness your marriage vows, you'll have to accept her offer to bring a sitter -- even if she keeps the sitter in church. Your pledges will be just as sacred with a stranger there.
But even if the child stays -- and cries -- there's a good chance the noise won't conflict with the music, since the ceremony itself will take up much of the time. Besides, she'll probably talk, not cry, and not very loudly at that.
That shouldn't be so bothersome. In fact, the sound of a small child will be like music to many people at the service -- as it probably will be to you one day. There's something particularly poignant about the presence of the young at the ceremonies of life. At a wedding they remind us of the joys ahead; at a funeral they let us know that life goes on.
Actually, your anxiety over this issue is just the focal point of your concern about the whole wedding and your new life ahead. This is typical.
Every bride -- and many grooms -- fixes on one aspect of her wedding to worry about, and it's almost always one that isn't nailed down by a contract. It might be a fear that divorced parents will be rude to each other, or that the newly pregnant matron of honor won't fit into her dress, or that Cousin Harry will drink too much (again). After the wedding the same couple forgets all about those little worries and gets mad about the ill-fitting tuxes, the photographer who took pictures of all the wrong guests or the caterer who served stale wedding cake. It won't be long before all these grains in the oyster become pearls in the marriage memory bank: a joke, a laugh, a sentiment to be treasured, not regretted. The new husband and wife are too busy dwelling on their good fortune to worry about the few details that inevitably go awry.
Reassurances now, however, won't make your anxiety go away -- and they probably shouldn't. Weddings are beautiful precisely because people plan each detail so lovingly, including the comfort of their friends.
Try to be as understanding as possible. It will be so much your day that you can afford to be generous with a small piece of it.
If you compromise a little, your friend may be generous enough to do the same.