By Brady Sloane
Gone are the days of weddings taking place in a certain season, confined to a house of worship, and following pre-established traditions. Weddings have become creative and varied. They happen year round, at home, in far off places, over quiet weekends, or on national holidays. As you attend these celebrations of love and commitment, knowing what rules of etiquette still apply can be tricky. But being a thoughtful guest never goes out of style.
RSVP: Paper invitations are still generally advised; however, whether it arrives via email, text or snail mail, as an invited guest, you should always reply. This helps determine how much food should be ordered, among other variable costs and plans. Send your reply in the manner requested (if a stamped envelope arrives, send it back; a text will not suffice) and as promptly as possible. If there might be a delay as to when you will know if attendance is possible, tell the couple you will let them know by a certain time.
With or Without Guest: Do not assume you are invited to bring a date unless “with guest” is included. Be sure and note if children are included on the invitation as well; some couples do plan for child-free weddings.
Dress Code: Many invitations will include a hint about what to wear. Black tie means the gentlemen will be in tuxedos. Cocktail attire means women may don short, sparkly dresses. If not explicitly stated, refer to the time and day of the event. Typically, the later in the day, the more dressy. Attire definitions can be found with a quick web search. Many fashion rules ebb and flow, but this one is a keeper: ladies, unless the bride has asked you to wear white, don’t.
Gifts: Follow the registry. Repeat. Follow the registry. Still, don’t feel you have to spend outside of your comfort zone. Ideally, the couple has registered for gifts at all price points. If all are too high, consider a gift card to the store where they are registered in the amount you can afford. Some couples are asking for “experiences” or even cash (cash is customary in various cultures). Perhaps they know they will move a lot and do not wish to cart dishes all over the country. Also, send the gift in advance or to the shower. No need to carry it to the actual wedding.
Social Media: Social media could be an etiquette topic all on its own. A few highlights: Don’t post the couple’s news or announcements before they do (or without their permission). Don’t ask questions concerning their special day on a public feed or forum (this may hurt people’s feelings who aren’t invited). Ask in private or in person.
The Knot website recommends that couples have a designated “Tweeter” to keep guests updated about wedding details news. Don’t take the job on unless you have been asked. The couple may have a specific idea of how the announcements should be made.
Hashtags: Is it possible to have a wedding without a hashtag these days? It appears not, at least for the younger crowd. A hashtag allows the wedding party and guests to easily share photos and memories of the event. The hashtag is meant to be used, so by all means – do! Always remember to post positive (not incriminating or embarrassing) photos with the tag.
Smartphones: Hashtags notwithstanding, the celebratory couple did not plan and pay for a celebration for you to stare at your phone the entire time. Some weddings may even specify a social-media-free ceremony, ensuring people are living in the moment. Always follow their wishes.
Disapproval or Disagreements: Many wedding planning rules have been tossed out the window. Couples are encouraged to plan their special day as they see fit. As frustrating as this may be for family members and friends whose preferences differ, try to remain pleasant and encouraging. Negative comments about wedding choices, spousal choices, family members and family drama should be avoided at all costs, especially at the celebration. Being a proper guest will take stress off of the happy couple, helping them enjoy their day to the fullest. And if that is not what you desire for them, more reflection on your part may be in order.
Be on time, be where you are asked to be, stay until the cake has been served, and remember to have fun and celebrate the love birds!
I have collected etiquette books for years and enjoy reading how some things have changed and evolved over the years while some rules remain the same. Here are some of my favorites concerning weddings. The public library has many books on the subject as well.
- “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition: Manners for Today,” by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning
- “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior,” by Judith Martin
- “Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top” by Dorothea Johnson and Liv Tyler
- “Occasions,” by Kate Spade