The origins of etiquette can be traced back over 4000 years ago, and its purpose has always remained essentially the same: to create standards by which we can all get along, and (hopefully) avoid inadvertently offending one another. But how do we handle ourselves when it comes to weddings?
My personal philosophy with regards to wedding etiquette is: Always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, tread lightly, and as best you can, take everyone involved into consideration. Here are some rules that are non-negotiable:
I always recommend to my clients that they invite everyone with a guest. It’s a gracious gesture, and can go a long way in ensuring your guests have fun. However, I know that sometimes guest lists have to be trimmed and this is one area that can help whittle a guest list down to size. In that case, a good rule of thumb is that anyone who is single be invited as such, and offer a plus one to anyone in any sort of relationship (without taking it upon yourself to decide how “serious” a relationship is).
Respondez S’il Vous Plait…
If you receive an RSVP card that is blank, the most appropriate way to respond is to hand write your response following the format and formality of the invitation, as follows. If that feels too formal for your relationship, write a more personal (more informal) reply accompanied by well wishes and enthusiasm about the impending nuptials.
Managing Guest Lists
I always recommend that all out-of-town guests be invited to some sort of welcome event the night before the wedding. However, because many weddings consist of a majority of out-of-towners, I have started to encourage our clients to host a more intimate rehearsal dinner with the bridal party, very close friends and family, and then host a larger “welcome cocktail” after dinner, to which all out-of-town guests are invited. This allows the couple to spend a few hours with their inner circle and it allows the rest of the guests to arrive, get checked in and unpacked, and then toast the happy couple.
Out-of-towners should also be invited to the post-wedding brunch as a way to see them off and thank them personally for coming to the wedding. If space and budget allow, of course feel free to invite anyone else with whom you would like to celebrate your first morning as newlyweds.
Wedding Absolute Dos and Don’ts
1. ALWAYS be a gracious and respectful guest. There was a lot of thought, time and planning that went into making sure this day was enjoyable for everyone involved, so make sure to respect and appreciate that.
2. ALWAYS RSVP—even if you are unable to attend. Guest count is critical to your hosts’ financial bottom line and their carefully considered seating charts.
3. DON’T be late. If you are unavoidably tardy, slip in quietly and unobtrusively. Do not interrupt the ceremony.
4. DON’T overserve yourself…open bar does not translate to “all you can drink.” The bride and groom would prefer to enjoy your company throughout the entire evening, rather than watch the groomsman carry you out of the room.
We have seen such a wide range of approaches to photography and social media these days when it comes to weddings. Be mindful that taking out your phone or camera can be distracting to everyone around you. Also, the couple has hired professionals to document their day, and if you are jumping out into the aisle to photograph the vows or standing over their shoulder to capture the cake cutting, you probably just ruined their photographer’s shot. The best approach is to play it safe: Turn your flash off any time it might distract, and when you do take photos, remember that your memories are not the most important that day, so leave the best angles to those hired to capture the day.
With regard to social media posting, this is a whole new world, and there are a lot of ways to approach it. Some of our clients want us to create hashtags for their celebrations, and encourage their guests use them liberally, while some of our clients ask us to encourage their guests leave their cameras and phones off for the night, and to enjoy the event as it unfolds (maintaining their privacy at the same time). As far as social media posting is concerned, it should be left up to the hosts: If they are comfortable sharing their wedding, then you should as well. If they are not, you should respect that completely.
Rules of Gifting
You often hear that a wedding gift should cost about as much as the hosts spent on you to attend the wedding. I am not sure where that originated, but I think it’s hogwash. A wedding gift is a celebration of the occasion, and often something to help the bride and groom start their new life together. Spend what you are comfortable spending, regardless of how simple or lavish the wedding itself is, and unless you know the bride and groom incredibly well, buy them something they registered for. No matter how “perfect” you think your off the registry gift may be, odds are it isn’t as perfect as any of the gifts they already chose to put on their registry. Lastly, have the gift shipped or delivered to their home as opposed to bringing it to the wedding itself—you will save yourself the trouble of getting the gift there, and more importantly, you will save the bride and groom the trouble of getting it home.