Should teachers invite all their pupils to weddings?

US teacher who invited her entire school claims the pupils' presence made her wedding even 'more special'. But is that really the kind of special you want?

Champagne bottles

It is one of the most personal moments there is. There will be tears. There will usually be drunkenness. And there will be dancing. Often all at the same time.

A wedding is not, therefore, the first place one might think to invite one’s pupils. 

But, when an American elementary teacher recently asked every child in her school to attend her wedding, might it raise questions for teachers everywhere? 


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“On the happiest day of my life, I knew how much more special it would be to have my students in attendance,” Kayla Dornfeld, a teacher at North Dakota’s Mapleton Elementary School, said of her decision to invite all 150 pupils along.

So what about following her example? If watching pupils elbowing your drunken great-uncle out of the way in order to stage a mass floss-dancing session is anything, it would certainly be special. So if you are truly committed to the job, should you welcome pupils into one of the most personal aspects of your life? 

One secondary teacher told Tes how inviting a few former pupils to her wedding in 1992 added to the occasion. “I still have pictures of them with me at the registry office,” she said. But they were sixth formers by then, and she had moved to another school.

There might be valid reasons for inviting the entirety of the student body, rather than one or two particular pupils. As anyone who has hosted a six year old’s birthday party knows, it is easier to invite the whole class than to start picking and choosing favourites. 

On the other hand, most weddings involve more complex – and expensive – catering than jelly and ice cream in paper bowls. 

Another teacher told Tes: “I had a very small wedding, because we couldn’t afford a big one. Inviting the school would be very low down on the list. We didn’t invite colleagues either.”

And an assistant head said: "I struggled to justify paying £50 per head for certain family members, let alone students from school.” 

Worse: given that Ms Dornfeld works in a primary school, she may have forked out £50 a head, only to find her guests taking one mouthful and asking if they can have fishfingers instead.

There are other implications, too, to inviting your pupils to something as personal as a wedding. While there are definite advantages to showing pupils that you are a real person, with a life that does not involve them, the act of inviting them to the wedding essentially says: you are now involved. 

“The idea that anyone would invite the whole school is a bit overwhelming to me,” the assistant head said. “I wouldn’t be able to fully relax and let my guard down. I’m also not sure I’d be popular enough that many would want to attend.”

And asked what would happen if they did come, he paints an dystopian scene: "Bobby from Reception is giving the Best Man’s speech. He’ll be sounding it out using the Read Write Inc approach to phonics. Amy in Year 1 is DJ-ing. She’ll be opening her set with Baby Shark. And closing with it. It’s a two-song set."

Ms Dornfeld has no regrets, however: she posted online a photograph of herself in her wedding dress, surrounded by around 50 pupils. Some are giving their best wedding smiles; others have the pained look of someone who has gone to a party and found their teacher there. 

“The relationships I build with my students transcend the classroom,” Ms Dornfeld said. “I couldn’t imagine tying the knot without them.”

There is also a valuable lesson to her new husband here: You are married to a teacher now. No matter where you are, or how important the occasion is, she will always end up taking her work with her.  

 

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