Thursday, April 22, 2010

Decorum: Graciously Weathering (Monsoon) Wedding Season

The cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin have come and gone, which means springtime is here…which means weddings galore. Wedding planning can certainly be an overwhelming task for the happily betrothed couple, but they aren't the only ones that could use some help. Sometimes, guests can also use pointers on how not to drown in the deluge of nuptials that is always forthcoming this time of year. I've mentioned before that I grew up in the Deep South, where we stand on ceremony and social protocol is law. I won't impose all of it on you, but since I've seen so many faux pas committed already this spring, I have some tips on how to get through wedding season with grace after the jump.


  • Please RSVP as promptly as possible. I know there are exceptions for people who have very good reasons to sit on responding. But for the most part, it's rude to let your invite sit in your inbox for weeks on end. In many cases time is money for the couple getting married. Last-minute responders: you are on notice.
  • Please completely fill out the response card. If you need to write your name in the blank, choose an entrée, or identify a +1, do it on the card. Don't make a stressed out bride have to track you down to get basic requested information.
  • Speaking of plus ones/bringing dates: This is a tricky one, as I've been seeing invitations go out that are ambiguous as to whether or not a guest may bring a date. But try to resist the urge to phone a bride to ask if you can bring someone to the wedding.

    It used to be that the invitation envelope was addressed to exactly who was invited to the wedding, so there were no questions about who was invited. But, as I just mentioned, this is sometimes ambiguous today. Where I'm from guests don't typically bring dates to weddings unless they are engaged or have been dating long-term. Personally, I don't want to be invited to a wedding by someone casual. I think it's cruel to take a girl that you don't intend to marry to a wedding—I know that's completely old-fashioned, but it's just a part of my own personal social mores. I respect that others don't feel this way and can attend a wedding as any other party.


  • Please dress according to the attire specified in the invitation. Some people like to invent their own definitions of the dress code, but it's not appropriate to wear shorts to someone's semi-formal wedding. Save them for the beach wedding, and even then, reconsider.
  • On wearing black or white: This is also tricky because the rule is changing and feelings on this vary. I disagree with a female guest wearing a white dress (floral patterns on a white background are okay though). I have worn a white blazer over a dress at an outdoor wedding and I didn't feel bad about that. I wouldn't mind someone wearing black at my wedding, but people's feelings on this vary. Basically, go with your gut, if it doesn't feel right, don't wear it.


  • People are constantly stressing over what to purchase on the registry. I don't. I buy from my heart and I buy what I can afford. I think this is all that is required in gift-giving. In my low-paying job days, I would sometimes combine a few of the relatively low priced items according to a theme and write a nice card in keeping with the theme to create an inexpensive, yet thoughtful, gift for the couple that was sure to be remembered.

A few more tips: Don't be tardy for the party and don't overstay your welcome. And please, an open bar does not mean drink until you get the spins.

Any more guest wedding etiquette?


  1. I love all the advice above, and would like to add a little gem of my own, since you asked--a wedding is not the time to make a scene--regardless of reason!

    Weddings make people crazy. The bride, the groom, the bridesmaids, the guests, etc. In general there is some kind of bad behavior from someone: a panicked bride, a drunk guest, a bridesmaid wishing she was walking down the aisle or the groomsman still hungover from the night before...the possibilities are endless! As guests, are job is to help the happy couple celebrate, and if that means biting your tongue or turning your cheek so you don't cause a disruption during the reception, please do!

  2. OMG, duchess, don't get me started on show-stoppers!I have witnessed some scenes and it is not good. If it's not your wedding, you don't get to be the center of attention. That's my wedding motto. I don't understand the motivations of rowdy guests. Alcohol certainly doesn't help. I can't have a dry wedding, but I am tempted to be gauche and have a cash bar at mine. ;)

  3. Pearls N the Hood---re the cash bar thing, I've seen people do a sort of voucher/ticket system wherein the first two drinks are free (tickets delivered with the wedding invites or after the RSVPs come in) but anything further is a cash bar.

    Your mileage may vary, but it seems to be considered less gauche to say "I will provide a reasonable amount of drinks, but if you want to get completely soused at my wedding reception you can fork over some cash for it."

  4. Anonymous--I like this ticket system--haven't seen this before. Sounds like a great compromise! I prefer not to tempt people into getting bombed at my wedding on my dole. 2-3 free drinks does seem less gauche.


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