So I got married at a summer camp, and we had the camp for three full days with all the trappings - sailing, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing etc for our guests. Super duper fun.
But my husband and I have moved a lot and have collected lots of friends along the way, in addition to having big families. On Friday, at a bbq we hosted, that wasn't a big deal, but for the rehearsal and reception it was, since we could only fit so many people in the lodge.
We hemmed and hawed for a long time, but after consulting with a lot of kid-having friends we decided on the following policy: all babies and infants welcome, but no kids outside the immediate family, unless you were coming from abroad.
For those who had to bring kids, (and for the babies) we hired babysitters for those two nights and set them up with a pizza party and an outdoor projector playing disney movies plus a nap room and play room (my own nephew, given the choice between the reception and the kids party, decided in no uncertain terms that he would have nothing to do with the adult party.)
Shortly after the save the dates go out with this, we get a call from my husband's dad. Turns out my husband's aunt had called, because her daughter (who my husband had met a sum total of two (2) times) wanted to bring her kids.
So my husband reaches out, explaining about the lodge, and says that she for sure can bring her kids to town, and they can be at the camp whenever they like, just not those two meals. For those times, we explained, we had babysitters and a movie.
Her eldest is maybe 13 and we said that if she would find that too kiddie, we could help set her up with a sleepover in their hotel room. The cousin writes back and says no problem, she totally gets it, and her kids are "very independent and can fend for themselves" so... case closed, right?
Come the wedding weekend and they show up to the drinks before the rehearsal with kids in tow. We meet them for the first time (my husband had never met her husband or kids, this is the level of distant she was.)
Come dinner, she starts walking in with her kids. My SIL intervenes, telling her that the kids party is over by the camp office, and offering to walk them there. Cousin says no, they'll be coming to dinner.
Husband says "sorry, we didn't plan on them" and she gives him devil eyes while finding and pulling up two extra chairs. We convince our caterer to make two extra meals for them. For the next two days they are EVERYWHERE - taking over camp games, dominating karaoke, etc.
Generally having a blast, and, with few exceptions there was no harm done. Though I'm sure I had friends wondering why these kids were there when theirs weren't, but they didn't say anything to me. Come Saturday, rather than have the fight again, we rearrange seating and add two meals for the reception.
During the cocktail hour, my SIL walks in and finds her rearranging three tables seating because she "thought it would be fun to have a kids table" (the only other kids at this wedding are 4 of my nephews and nieces, the other 4, and all the kids from abroad, were watching Moana with pizza under the stars.) Her kids then stay up late, dominate dancing, etc.
Hilariously, no one told the photographer who they were, and so she naturally assumed they were super close important family and they are in WAY more of the photos than any of our actual nieces and nephews.
Anyway, it is, in retrospect, all fine, though my husband cannot remember anything anyone said at the rehearsal because, to quote "all I remember are the death looks cousin x was giving me." But the part I find hilarious is that they then followed up by giving us the single cheapest item on our registry.
Which like... we said no gifts necessary, and no gift would have been fine. But a $15 gift feels a little like tipping 5% -- enough to know they didn't forget, just that they don't care. I don't know. Maybe I'm being petty. Just seems ... like kind of wild behavior.
I would have had a strong talk with the cousin and told her that her kids weren't included and either they could leave and attend the kids party or the entire family could leave. And I definitely would have changed the tables back to the original plan. The cousin does this because people allow her to do this.
Yes, it said that they convinced the caterers to ... well, cater to them.
I would have never even invited this person, since clearly there was nearly zero relationship there. The audacity of people! And I get wanted to keep the peace but I would have said “we were very clear in the invitation…”
So they waltzed in and did expressly what you asked them NOT to do and instead of nipping it at the very start of her shenanigans, you guys just.... Kept accommodating her boorish behavior. That's why she does crap like that, because people let her get away with it.
She's teaching her children that rules don't apply to them and that making a fuss will get you what you want because everyone just wants to "keep the peace." Total nonsense. Also, your friends may not have said anything but guarantee that people noticed and were commenting on it.
She's never been told no, and you perpetuated it.
"Sorry, there are no extra chairs and we do not have food for them. As discussed, there is a children's area, and I will escort you there now"
This was on you. You accommodated instead on kicking them out. You explained in advance and should have held firm.
It's time you grew a backbone! Stop letting people walk all over you.