Friday, June 12, 2009

Wedding Guestiquette

My parents' wedding, September 1966

In a world where etiquette seems all but forgotten, it holds strong to one last bastion: weddings. I have watched, dumbfounded, as brides who would think nothing of answering their cell phones in a movie theater and grooms who would brazenly lick their knives at fancy restaurants suddenly turn into Emily Post and the Prince of Wales when it comes to their weddings. Out of nowhere, they become totally transfixed with the proper way to address an envelope and the correct alignment of water and wine glasses. It's weird. Your friend may not have sent you a thank you note when you gave her your kidney last year, but you can bet she will send one for the potholders you gave her at her bridal shower. And that means that the newly-decorous couple will be holding you to much higher standards than usual, too. As a guest, you have less to worry about than if you have been asked to be in the wedding (if she didn't ask you to be a bridesmaid even after that whole kidney thing, that's cold), but there are certain rules you have just got to follow. Here they are, short and simple, so you can get on with it, and have a great time.
1. By Invitation Only. People go crazy over their wedding guest lists- it is often the most fraught part of the planning process for both families. So just because you have patiently listened to your coworker's daily monologue about programs, dinner entrees, and her bitchy bridesmaid, don't assume you will be invited. And don't make a big deal about it if you end up being excluded- it's likely she felt she would have to invite everyone in the office, if anyone (just be grateful it will soon all be over and you can go back to talking about faxes, lunch, and your bitchy boss, like usual). Also, only the people whose names are written on the envelope are invited to the wedding. That means that unless your friend was generous enough to write "and Guest" after your name, your brand-new girlfriend, your children, and your old friend from camp (who happens to live in the same town as the wedding) should stay home- don't ask if you can bring them.
2. R.S.V.P., S.V.P. Don't ignore that cute little card and envelope that came with the invitation. Come on- they put a stamp on it for you, and even made it fill-in-the-blank. All you have to do is check the calendar and decide whether chicken or fish will be better energy food to fuel your dancing. Don't make them call you to find out if you're coming.
3. Highly Gifted. Very few times in your life is someone going to make things easy for you by providing you with a list of presents they would like to receive from you, so take advantage of the bridal registry. If you must go off-registry, really make sure you are giving something that you are sure the couple would love, or be a lamb and provide a gift receipt. No need to break the bank, but keep in mind what the newlyweds/their families are paying to feed and entertain you- couples should spend a little more than singles. It's totally acceptable (and frequently much appreciated) to pool funds with friends and get the couple something really special, like that flat-screen you can't believe they registered for. And even if you can't attend the wedding, you should still send something. No matter what you give, though, send it ahead of time- weddings are busy and stressful enough for those involved without having to keep track of which of those tiny gift cards goes with which white-wrapped box.
4. Oh, Behave. Your friends want you to have a good time at their wedding- just not such a good time that it's a distraction from what's really important: them. You're a grown up, and you already know what that means, so I shouldn't even have to say this, but: Don't switch the seating cards around. Wear something appropriate (Ladies, no white, no necklines down to there, or hems up to here. Gentlemen, keep your shirts on). Don't be the guy initiating shot-taking before dinner. And for crying out loud, turn off your cell phone during the ceremony.
5. Play Nice: Weddings are about love and relationships, so do your best not to ruin any of yours, and try to create some nice new ones, while you're at it. No matter how stressful the trip was, or who made whom late, resist the urge to get into a fight with your significant other or friend- this is not the time or the place. Introduce yourself to the couple's parents (especially the hosts) and thank them for inviting you. Try to make some new friends, and do your best to chat up Miss Lonelyhearts at your table who doesn't seem to know anyone- she'll love you for it, and so will the couple. Oh, and for God's sake, don't say anything snarky about the bride's ugly dress anywhere near the videographer. Better yet, don't say anything snarky at all near anyone (at least until you get back to your hotel room).
6. Departing the Party. As much as it pains you, by agreeing to attend a wedding, you have agreed to take part in all of it's components. If the bride wants to toss the bouquet, suck it up and act like you want to catch it. You must stick around until after the cake cutting, even if you want to catch the last five minutes of the game at the bar. And lastly, if you want a little extra credit, send an email to the couple the next day telling them what a great time you had, and a thank-you note to the hosts. They will truly appreciate it and never, ever, forget you did. Even long after they have thrown their own propriety out the window.


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness- Did Sharkey faint?
Wasn't she afraid of getting grass stains on her white gown?

Lily said...

She didn't faint- it was just the typical kind of goofy theatrics my family has come to be known for. Fine at one's own wedding (just don't pull something like this at someone else's!) I don't know what happened to the dress- she obviously wasn't too attached to it because it was nowhere to be found when I was getting married and asked to see it.