My philosophy and purpose as a wedding planner and writer and speaker is to impart my wisdom and experience and to encourage brides to stand in their power and stay true to their desires no matter how unconventional they may seem and to not be pressured by society and the wedding industry with its “experts” and time lines and deadlines and budgets. I would be the last person to tell someone to follow a wedding etiquette book to the letter unless it turns them on to do so.
I happen to be turned on by etiquette. I’m even certified in it. Etiquette is one of the required courses by the Association of Bridal Consultants, which I completed when I started my first wedding planning business back in 1996. Actually, I could have taught the course because I had complete command of etiquette by the age of 10. One Christmas, I received a hard cover version of Letitia Baldridge’s Everyday Etiquette. I could not put it down. I absorbed every word, and was overjoyed with my new found knowledge. Incidentally, my ten year old daughter is currently just as immersed in a book entitled White Gloves and Party Manners that a family friend gifted her…so it must run in the family.
Do I shove etiquette down people’s throats? Hell, no. Do I require that my brides follow Emily Post or Letitia Baldridge? Of course not. But, what’s cool about it is that if someone has a challenge or a question about how to handle a certain situation…I have Emily and Letitia in my back pocket, always armed with a solution. The etiquette solution always boils down to two things: common sense and courtesy. One of my personal reasons for being so versed in etiquette, is so, no matter where I go, or who I am in the company of, I know exactly how to negotiate my way through a place setting and properly make an introduction. When I am in the company of those who do not have this knowledge, I gracefully and quietly lead them, without ever calling attention to their ignorance. My personal etiquette rule is to make everyone around me feel comfortable, regardless of their etiquette knowledge. One of the biggest etiquette no-no’s is to correct others (except your own kids of course, at home). Be a model and set an example, but never ever correct or embarrass anyone.
So…if my clients want to know what the proper order of rehearsal dinner toasts, I’m able to tell them. If they are comfortable hanging from the chandeliers while they make those toasts…that’s cool too. If they want to have a receiving line, great. If not, that’s OK–but if you don’t want one, try to visit with every guest. See, common sense and courtesy. If something compromises a courtesy to their guests or to themselves, I might just give them a nudge and let them know. After all…my job is to make my bride look like a superstar. If you don’t look good, we don’t look good…Vidal Sassoon (OK, you’re probably not old enough to remember that motto but you get my drift).
With all this etiquette talk…I’m pregnant with WEDDING PET PEEVES. I want to share, I want to spill, I want to give birth to them now!!!! Listen up…here’s my top 10:
Guest Book at the Ceremony. This is an age old tradition, especially down South. A “guest book” sitting on a little table at the ceremony site, for guests to sign upon entry. My pet peeve? THE LINE!!! Americans are like trained soldiers when it comes to lines. They get on the line–even if they don’t know what it is for. And if they do know what it is for and are not interested, they still get on the line, because they think it’s the right thing to do. But when it is time to start the ceremony, and there’s a bottleneck of like 150 people to sign a little book…that’s just not pleasurable…or sensible for that matter.. My solution: Whatever the guest book may be… the traditional book or perhaps a picture matte for guests to sign…place it out at the reception!! If you are having a cocktail hour, put it there. It gives guests time to write a sentiment if they desire, without being rushed.
Gift Tables. What is this, the 1950’s? Get on the internet, or even go the store, order the gift, and have it sent to the home of the bride. Then you don’t have to schlep it and she doesn’t have to schlep it.
Brides and beer bottles. Honey, you may be a bar dancing bull riding babe. And rock on if you are. But…if you’re drinking beer at the reception, have them put it in a glass. There’s something about seeing a chick in a wedding dress sucking down a bottle of brewski that just doesn’t jive. And…it never looks good in the pictures!
Bridesmaids carrying purses when they are introduced. Ok, so you picked out this gorgeous dress, and your bridesmaids look so pretty. So why carry your big shoulder bag in when you are being photographed and the entire guest population is staring at you as the emcee announces your name?? I promise, your bag will get to your seat–somehow…some way.
Cash Bars. Would you invite guests to your home and make them pay for their alcohol?? No. When you invite guests to anything, you are the host and you accommodate your guests within your means. That may mean no bar at all (perhaps just passed champagne or just wine with dinner), it may mean inviting fewer guests (an elegant reception for 50 or a mediocre reception for 200?, you choose), it may mean no alcohol period (if certain guests can’t handle that, perhaps they need to sign up for AA anyway). Bottom line: an accommodating host offers what they can within their means, and a gracious guest appreciates what they receive.
Guests making demands. I have seen wedding guests tell the waiter to bring them a different meal or a different wine; monopolize the photographer for a private photo shoot; move from their designated table to another table; put centerpieces on the floor; and ask for their meal to go. What is happening??!! Do you go to a dinner party at someone’s home and do this?? I hope not. A guest at any event should eat and drink what is available to them and be appreciative.
Pre-printed or virtual thank you notes. Come on people. Your guests took the effort to review your registry and spend money on a gift or perhaps they gave you cash. Take the effort to write how appreciative you are they they shared your special day and purchased such a lovely gift for you.
Lines. Bar lines. Buffet lines. There’s no excuse for either one! Bar lines can be alleviated by having multiple bars or multiple bartenders and a host to direct guests. Buffet lines can be overcome by presenting round food stations that can be accessed from all sides, or by inviting guests to the buffet by their table, so they can remain comfortably seated until they get to partake.
Incorrect name pronunciation. I have given an emcee written PHONIC pronunciations that a 5 year old could have understood, and they still got the name of the groom wrong! And forget about how he butchered the bridal party names! I’m sorry, but this is unacceptable. When a band or dj is hired and part of their job is to introduce the wedding party…they need to take a few measly seconds to learn the proper pronunciations!
Stressed out brides. Do you realize the power you have, sweet bride? Your mood sets the tone for the WHOLE day. Everybody awaits your entrance, they watch you, they photograph you, they pick up your energy!! So…whatever it is your sweatin’, let it go, I promise it’s not important enough to affect your enjoyment! Smile! Laugh it off! Take in every second with pleasure because once you say “I Do”, the day whips on by like a race car in the Grand Prix.