I don’t really get etiquette. Until writing this post I wasn’t even sure how to spell it (I had my double ‘tt’ at the front not the back). I prefer to use my moral instincts and emotional intuition to help me figure out how to navigate social situations rather than an accepted but possibly out dated way to act. I think that’s how most of us live these days, right?
Weddings however seem to send us all a little Jane Austin when it comes to knowing how to behave. As guests we like a safety net to decipher dress codes, formality and gifts. As the Bride and Groom we want to make sure everyone is happy and this can send us a tad crazy! There were a lot of things Steve and I did with our wedding that probably did not follow etiquette, (we did not include anything about gifts with our invites, Steve was dead against it, looking back this was not the best idea) like I said we are not big on it. We wanted our day to feel natural and relaxed, not like we had followed a set of rules to create a 1 size fits all experience. We also didn’t want to dictate who paid for what, this is for families to work out not etiquette.
However, what I do believe is that weddings deserve their proper respect, whatever that may mean personally to the individuals taking part, we should recognise the importance of the day and endeavour to celebrate it the way the couple would like rather than how we would like.
So how do you find the right balance? From engagement to thank you cards, how do you make sure you tick the right boxes without compromising on your own social intuition? I think the key is to go with what makes you feel comfortable, what you would expect from someone else and don’t be afraid to bend or even break the rules, especially if you feel another way would suit your guests better.
Don’t forget you can always do something different for those guests who might prefer the more traditional route, for example an e-vite or video invite might not be suitable for grandparent aged guests no matter how relaxed your wedding style. Although they may enjoy the creativity and would not want to miss out on seeing the video, a additional traditional invite to make them feel comfortable and thought of is a simple and lovely thing to do.
That for me is the crux of modern day etiquette, what can you do to help your guests enjoy the day. It’s not the order things are said, the syntax of your invites but the sentiment behind them. As long as you are clear, polite and inclusive, you are sure to have a great day without offending even the biggest stickler for the ‘rules’.
For me etiquette is about common sense, someone gives you a gift, you say thank you. If you are going to a formal, exclusive hotel reception, you put your best frock on. If you’re talking to people from a different generation to you, do it in a way they will understand but be inclusive. It’s not good to alienate people or not include them in the joke.
This is my take on a few of the bigger etiquette issues…
One aspect of the big day that has come up in my research around wedding etiquette is paying for drinks at the reception. I don’t think I have ever been to a wedding where I didn’t have to pay for my drinks at the evening do, and I am happy to do so. However, it seems in the US or Australia it would be considered extremely bad form to have a cash bar in the evening. I personally don’t get this; you’re paying for reception drink, canapés, a 3 course meal, table wine and toast drink plus favours. I think that’s enough, it’s up to cousin Freddy if he then wants to drink enough to satisfy a rugby team.
Invitation wording, there is apparently a right and a wrong way to do this. I think you should say what you want as long as it’s nice. Our modern or extended families are so complex these days you should say what’s important for the day and don’t worry about what order it comes in. We have moved on significantly since the days of family hierarchy I would hope!
Gift list rules. Now as I mentioned Steve and I did not include information on this with the invite. Steve did not want to assume people would give us a gift but in not saying anything we just confused people. Instead we spoke to most of our guests personally and let them know the score. At the end of the day people will buy you gifts or give money, I don’t think they mind and it’s nice to be able to contribute. There are so many options now from charity donations to honeymoon funding. Pick what you feel comfortable with but don’t be afraid to put it with your invite, again just be nice and you will be fine!
No Kidz allowed. This can be a biggie! Personally I think it is fair to not invite children and I have one. What’s important is how you tell people. Close friends I would do it in person or with a phone call, not just on the invite. Everyone is different and it’s important people understand your reasons for not including their bundles of joy. As long as you are honest people should respect your decision.
If you are really unsure of how to approach something check out Debretts section on Weddings and most of the major Bridal magazines cover the basics on etiquette most months. But for me I would say go with your gut, you know your guests best, have fun with details as people appreciate ingenuity, and use the good old childhood code of would you like it if it where done to you and you can’t go wrong!
Happy Planning xx