Sometimes wedding etiquette is common sense – don’t wear a white dress unless you plan to say “I Do,” don’t get drunk and gush about the groom’s ex in the toast, don’t stockpile the hors d’oeuvres in your purse – those sorts of things.
But some of what constitutes appropriate dress and behavior at a wedding is a little trickier, and according to Robyn Martin, owner of The Wedding Belle Wedding Planning & Design in Oklahoma City, many of those considerations are lost on too many wedding goers. Here are her tips for avoiding all that’s faux pas the next time you find a wedding invitation in your mailbox.
1: Denim is for backyard barbecues, not weddings.
If you remember just one thing when it’s time to pick what to wear to a wedding, make it to move the skinny jeans and the denim jackets to the back of the closet – out of sight, out of mind.
“Weddings by nature are formal events,” Martin says. “No matter the time of day. Never, ever, ever is denim appropriate.”
Martin’s top tip for deciding what to wear to a wedding is to note what time of day the ceremony takes place (read: break out the fancy wear for evening weddings, stick to suits for daytime ceremonies) and to consider the venue.
2: Répondez s’il vous plaît. (Emphasis on the s’il vous plaît.)
“This rule should be No. 1, in bold letters, in all caps and italicized: Always RSVP,” Martin advises.
But why? Because in the world of weddings, guest count drives practically all other costs of the celebration. When the guest count is off, the hard-earned money of the bride and groom’s families is wasted.
Which brings up another point: Honor your RSVP. Because when the thousands-of-dollars-an-hour venue is half-empty or when the caterer runs out of food thanks to last-minute guests, the bride’s dad isn’t going to be happy. And when the bride’s dad isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
And no, it’s not okay to bring a guest unless he or she was listed on your invitation, Martin says. This rule applies to your kids, too.
3: Don’t bring gift-wrapped lawn mowers to the chapel.
What’s a wedding coordinator to do when a guest shows up to a ceremony with a gift – in one case, a lawn mower – in tow? Martin’s not sure, even though she’s experienced exactly that.
“I’m going to make a plea to the public,” Martin says. “Ship your gifts before the wedding. Or, bring them to the reception instead.”
When it comes to what to buy for the bride and groom, guests aren’t relegated to the wedding registry. Martin encourages creativity and thoughtfulness – are the bride and groom practical or whimsical, or do they have special interests? Use the answers to these questions as your guide.
4: A wedding is not your personal karaoke party.
Unless you’re personally asked by the bride or groom, you’re not to volunteer to give a toast or to commandeer the mic at the wedding.
“I know of a rehearsal dinner where 40 of the 85 guests gave toasts,” Martin says. “Many of the guests were angry, and I don’t blame them – it was boring and repetitive.”
By virtue of his title, giving the first toast at the wedding is the best man’s No. 1 job, Martin says. If the father of the bride, the bride or the groom so chooses, it’s fine for them to offer toasts, too.
If it’s your job to give a toast and you’re stumped on what to say, don’t turn to the bar to loosen your tongue. Think ahead; there are several books and online resources that can help.
5: Don’t lose sleep over where to sit.
Breathe a sigh of relief: Wedding coordinators have scrapped the rules about where guests should sit at the ceremony.
“We don’t arrange seating according to bride’s side and groom’s side anymore,” Martin says. “Seating guests in that way was embarrassing to whichever side had fewer guests.”
When it comes to receptions, Martin has seen assigned seating make a comeback, mostly as a way to ensure that guests who RSVP have a seat.
“Etiquette is in place not to be stuffy or formal or over the top. It’s all about consideration, kindness and comfort, both for the couple and their guests,” Martin says.