Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guest blogger Christa Terry on wedding etiquette basics

(This is the second in a two-part series on wedding-related matters by Christa Terry for Click here to see the first post about online wedding planning.)

Anyone planning a wedding is bound to start encountering lengthy lists of what to do and what not to do very early on. You don’t, for example, invite anyone to an engagement party who will not also be invited to the wedding. Do always take off your gloves when eating. Don’t ever ask for gifts of cash. Do greet each of your guests at some point during the reception. And so on and so forth. After a while, a bride or groom who wants to do things properly can start to feel like there are opportunities to offend friends and family lurking around every corner.

Making sure you don’t run afoul of the wedding etiquette police can also seem like a lot of pointless busywork. After all, does anyone really care whether you don’t list your cousin’s husband by name on the invitation or you include a registry card in said invitation? Maybe… but you may never know or you may find out through the grapevine that your Aunt Ida has been telling everyone who will listen how rudely she felt she was treated because you never thanked her properly for the engagement gift she sent.

All in all, it’s good form to at least follow the big etiquette rules, like brides should not host their own bridal showers and couples should not feel slighted when wedding guests choose not to buy a gift off their registry. One may start to wonder, however, what the point of all the dos and don’ts really is. With that in mind, here’s a wedding etiquette primer that explores just what wedding etiquette is good for.

Wedding etiquette is tradition

There are definitely some wedding etiquette rules that make life more difficult for the bride and groom, but still add something to the whole wedding experience for the guests. Most people would agree that sending an e-mail thanking everyone for their gifts and for attending the wedding would be a lot easier than writing out 100-plus thank-you cards by hand. But there’s something so lovely about receiving a handwritten note in the mail, so the thank-you cards that you scrawled out over hours on a couple of Saturdays is like a little gift you give to your guests in return for their presents and presence.

Wedding etiquette provides a framework for an event
You know how people who go to a wedding have an idea what to expect when they’re there? Etiquette is a part of that. Sure, you can have a wedding that’s unlike any your guests have ever attended -- and there’s nothing wrong with that -- but there are plenty of wedding codes of conduct that exist simply to help people who have never planned a party as big or as elaborate as a wedding, and their guests, understand what they need to do and when.

Wedding etiquette is about making people comfortable

There are people out there who will tell you that it’s just straight up poor etiquette to say your vows without bridesmaids and groomsmen at your side (legally you need witnesses, not attendants) or to choose to opt out of certain traditions like the cake cutting, father-daughter dance or bouquet toss.

Manners exist, not because there is one definitive right way to do things, but because we all have to get along with each in this thing we call society and having rules of behavior in place helps us do that. Just like in every area of etiquette, rules have sprung up that may seem rather pointless -- not saying congratulations to the bride because it apparently sounds like you’re congratulating her on finding a man springs to mind -- and then there are “rules” that are utter bunk, like the “rule” that states a guest’s gift must cost as much or more than his meal. I’d like to take this moment to point out for the umpteenth time -- this is not at all true.

Etiquette does not, in fact, dictate that mothers must be escorted in by ushers and that one dad must escort one daughter down the aisle. It's perfectly fine to have a dad and a stepfather do the escorting or to walk arm-in-arm with both of your parents. A MOG can escort the groom and give him away, if that's what everyone wants. You can even make up roles for your parents to play if you want to give them something to do during the ceremony.

So when you’re trying to wade through all the rules of socially acceptable wedding behavior out there and you find yourself overwhelmed by minutia, ask yourself whether actually adhering to the rules will do anything to make your bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents, and wedding guests feel comfortable and happy. If the answer is no, you can probably safely ignore them without too much worry.

Christa Terry is the author of "iDo: Planning Your Wedding With Nothing But 'Net," and editor-in-chief of wedding planning blog Manolo for the Brides.


Candace said...

i'd be interested to hear if people do think it's "lovely" to receive a handwritten note in the mail? My reaction is always that it's a waste of paper and the bride's time. I'm constantly telling brides not to bother sending me thank you notes but they never listen...

Anonymous said...

People do when brides and grooms write good thank you notes and not just generic thank yous that were written in two secs while watching TV!

Kara said...

I absolutely think that a handwritten note is better, but it had better be more personal than "thanks for the toaster." A couple of my friends and I once went in on a gift for a male friend's fiancee at her wedding shower. She only knew us through him, so we thought it was kind of strange when she even invited us to the shower in the first place. Even stranger (and ruder) was when we all received the same thank-you note, sent to each of us individually. The exact same note, word for word. Did she not think that we would compare notes with each other? A real thank-you is always aprpeciated, and a toss-off is quickly sniffed out.

Related Posts with Thumbnails