On Crying Babies at Weddings

Us at the altar. Photo cred: Semira Menghes

So last weekend Jordan and I got married. And it was amazing and perfect and better than I ever could’ve imagined.

But, a baby cried during our ceremony.

Curious about whether there was any folklore around crying babies at weddings (and suspecting the Google gods would tell me it signified fertility or some such), I googled it. The first three results were all wedding forums discussing either a) how to politely ask parents not to bring babies to the wedding or b) whether or not a parent would have the “good sense” to remove a baby if he/she started to cry. It surprised me that the dialogue was so narrow, so I thought I might share my perspective.

I walked down the aisle to the tinkle of piano floating through the woods, played by our friend Jake Harrington. As I took Jordan’s hands and gazed into his eyes, I heard the murmur of a stream down the hill, a few singsong notes of bird calls. And then, as our pastor began speaking, the first wails of a baby.

And you know what? Instead of feeling annoyed, instead of it ruining our ceremony, it ended up being one of the most meaningful parts of the entire wedding for me.

Because what is a better signifier of beginnings than the cry of a baby?

It’s the sound each of us made as we came into the world–a sound that signifies health and life.

It’s the sound that drew our parents to us deep in the night, to cradle and hush and rock us back to sleep. A sound that precedes comfort and care and unabiding love.

If we’re lucky, it’s the sound that will one day bring Jordan and I stumbling from our own bed. That will usher us toward the sweet, exhausted, quiet moments that come when a baby has finally drifted back to sleep.

It made me think of the greater circle of life–that one day that crying baby could be a crying bride or groom, standing at the altar, ready to give everything they have to their partner, and then to their own babies. It’s part of this ancient tradition of birth and union and death–and it’s absolutely beautiful.

I understand that baby cries are meant to put our hair on end–to drive us to act, to stop the crying by taking care of the little one’s needs. It isn’t an easy sound to listen to. But marriage isn’t easy. And just like smashing the glass after the ceremony (a Jewish custom) symbolizes the sharp, broken things in the world, the moment of discomfort experienced when listening to a baby cry stands as a symbol for the moments of hardship that are worth living through for something wonderful.

You don’t have to want kids to appreciate this. Babies aren’t something that only apply to those of us who plan to have them. Babies are the beginnings of adults. They are a continuation of humanity that extends back millions of years. They are our future business people and brides and doctors and fathers. Hopefully, one of them, or many of them, will solve the problems of this world–will stop global warming, will end racism, will solve any number of crises that currently darken our planet.

So if you’re getting married soon, or one day hope to get married–or even are just a guest at a wedding where a baby is yowling and the audience is shifting uncomfortably and the awkwardness is making you want to dissolve–remember this.

There is no more fitting soundtrack for the birth of a new family.

10 thoughts on “On Crying Babies at Weddings

  1. Wow Sarah this blog is amazing. Such an insightful person you are. I am sooooo proud to know you. You write beautifully. I am so sad I was not there to share that amazing day with you both. May life bring you nothing but love, joy, and happiness. Love you both to bits. Xxxxxx. Lozz xxxxxx

    1. I’m proud to know you! Seriously–your kindness and generosity has inspired us on multiple occasions, and Jordan always talks about how meeting you helped shape his worldview today. Love you so!

  2. Oh my Sarah…my little earth mamma! You are a true blessing to all who know you. Stay tuned into the light and warmth…keep that sweet heart. I love your writing style…beautiful ….:). ~Mamma Lynn~

  3. Lovely post as always Sarah. The funny thing to me is: I didn’t even hear the crying baby. Which I must say is a first for me.

  4. Hey lovely. I’m bingeing on your blog (as I’m wont to do now and again) and I am once again in awe of how beautiful your mind is. I agree with Semira, I didn’t even notice the little one decrying his love and/or discomfort. He felt part of the fabric of happiness and salty outcropping of emotions that made up your ceremony. Love you and miss you.

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