Wedding etiquette: Tips help guests as well as the happy couple
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Sunday, March 03, 2013
3/03/13 at 5:34 AM
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You can totally wear white to a wedding - as long as you're the bride.
Flip-flops? Never. Cellphones? Off - and definitely not flashing as the newlyweds return up the aisle at ceremony's end.
Those are a few of the big, perhaps obvious, nuptial-related faux pas, of which two local etiquette experts reminded us recently. But as we're nearing wedding season, it might be time for a rehash of wedding etiquette 101.
You may have noticed a trend among engaged couples of placing where they're registered on the invitation.
"According to my etiquette books, you don't do that," said Wagner, a certified corporate etiquette consultant, as well as founder and director of Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol.
People are doing it because they're seeing others do it, she said. But including registries is appropriate only on invitations to bridal showers.
"You want to think they want your presence vs. the present," Wagner said.
The proper thing to do is contact the bride herself and say that you want to have a gift for them, then ask if she and the groom are registered anywhere.
"Word of mouth is the best way to let others know what it is that you're wanting," said Jana Christian, president of the Etiquette School of Oklahoma.
When you receive a wedding invitation with an RSVP, it is polite to respond, Wagner said - and do it as soon as possible, as the bride and groom have many decisions to make.
If you RSVP for two, make sure that two of you go. Should something come up and one or both of you can't attend, contact the bride and groom ASAP.
An invitation might be extended specifically to Mr. and Mrs. Smith but not their children, in which case they should make plans for a baby sitter. Don't assume it's OK to bring kids, Wagner warned.
However, if an invited couple has a child visiting from out of town and would like to bring him or her to the event, they should ask the bride and groom for permission.
And if your name is the only one on the invitation, and guests aren't mentioned, don't bring one, Wagner said. Otherwise, the caterer might have to set up more tables or prepare more food, which can cause anxiety for the bride and groom.
When you RSVP in the negative, include a little note saying that you'd love to be there but circumstance prevents you.
When couples register, they should try to include gifts in a variety of prices, Christian said. That way, people of all budget ranges can afford to give a gift.
Not that you're strictly limited to registries when shopping for the bride and groom.
If you know the individual well or want to make something personal for them, it's OK to go off-register, Christian said. Just be sure that what you give them is something you know they would enjoy or use.
If you're invited to a wedding, it's proper to send a gift regardless if you attend, Wagner said. It shows your friendship and support of the marriage, especially if you know one or both of them well.
Some couples appreciate having gifts sent to them ahead of time, Wagner said. Taking a gift to the wedding means someone may have to guard a gift table. Plus, it's just more stuff for the bridal party to haul off after the reception - and they already have enough to worry about.
Society has become more casual, Wagner said, with people tending to dress more casually at weddings.
You should always dress for the location, she suggested. If the invitation states formal, men should wear a tux, and women should wear a formal dress - but nothing that could possibly upstage the bride. All attention should be on the bride, so never wear something that might distract from that.
Also, if you know the colors the mothers of the bride and groom are wearing, try not to wear those, Wagner added.
When invitations state black-tie optional, men may wear a tux or a dark suit, and women should wear a long dress, Wagner said.
Afternoon weddings are more casual, but men should still wear a suit or coat and tie, and women should wear a dress.
Never wear flip-flops or denim to a wedding, "not even the fancy kind," she said.
However, for theme or destination weddings, like an outdoor Western event or beach wedding, you should dress accordingly.
"The biggest thing is to look classy," Christian said. "People have a tendency to be too revealing at a wedding."
So if your cleavage is on display, pick something else to wear. Again, you don't do or wear anything that will distract from the bride.
Be sure you arrive at least 15 minutes before the ceremony, Wagner said. Otherwise, you may add to the pain of a long line waiting to be seated at the last minute.
Turn your cellphones off, Christian said. Remember, even the buzzing sound of a phone on vibrate can be distracting.
Don't snap photos of the bride and groom after the ceremony as they're coming up the aisle - leave that to the photographer.
Receiving lines can be a little awkward, Wagner said. Just make sure you shake hands with people and say hello to each one. Introduce yourself to those you may not know. Simply tell the bride "it was a beautiful wedding," and congratulate the groom, she said - and keep it brief.
If you're at a wedding reception where place cards are used, never move them to accommodate your preferences, Christian and Wagner said.
The place cards are where they are for a reason - per the bride and groom's request. They have their reasons for what they did, so just roll with it.
If there's an open bar, be mindful of your alcohol consumption, Christian said - especially if you're with co-workers, Wagner warned.
A bride has three months to acknowledge gifts with a thank-you note, Christian said.
But in today's world, that gratitude seems lacking.
Whatever the gift is, people who gave it want to know it was received, Christian said. So it's important for a bride and groom to write - as in hand-write, not email - a thank-you note.
If an individual took the time to pick a gift for you and buy it, you should make the time to write a thank-you note - and be sure to mention the gift specifically in the note.
Did the person give you money? Don't state the exact amount, Christian said. Instead, just say how you spent it or plan to spend it.
Original Print Headline: Etiquette 101 helps guests, happy couple
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
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