Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Wide Lawns Wedding GUEST Guide - How to be a Perfect Wedding Guest

A couple years back I wrote a very detailed guide to throwing a wedding and not being an idiot (here's Part 1). In the years before and since, I've been a guest at a good many more weddings than I've thrown and I've seen and experienced my fair share of wedding guest related foolishness. It's the height of wedding season everywhere in the world except Florida right now, so I thought it was about time that I wrote a guide to being the ideal wedding guest. I admit that my obsession with writing guides to things stems from the fact that when I was eleven I stole the Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette from the Valley Cottage Library and subsequently attempted to memorize it. I have no idea why I had such an interest in etiquette as a pre-teen. I think I wanted to be classy or something, but ever since I've found myself inexplicably wanting to tell people how to act in certain situations.

Let me tell you how to act at a wedding.

Step 1 - You have received a wedding invitation. What do you do? Do you ignore it and assume the couple know you're coming? NO. The very second you know you can or cannot go to the wedding, for the love of God, put the damned RSVP in the mail. You should try to put it in the mail the day after you receive the invitation because that way you won't forget to do it and lose the invitation and make a mess of things. Until I got married I had no idea how important these things were. To couples planning a wedding, RSVP cards are life and death. The continued rising of the sun depends on the receipt of RSVPs and yes, even if you aren't coming you still need to fill it out and send it in. Make sure you fill it out completely and accurately.

2. Unless it says AND GUEST you can't bring someone. No, not your mom. Not the guy you met last week who you're pretty sure is going to call you back. No one. Meet someone there.

3. No you can't change your mind about having the chicken or fish. Eat what they put in front of you. Wedding food isn't usually that spectacular anyway and you can go to a diner and get a grilled cheese on the way home. One meal isn't important in the grand scheme of your life.

4. If the bride and groom want you to wear something stupid, learn a stupid dance they saw on the Internet, sing something ridiculous or do anything that you personally wouldn't normally do, just shut the hell up about it and do it without complaint. It's their wedding. Oblige them and be a good sport. I have a friend who is the butchiest lesbian you've ever seen and she was asked by a dear friend to wear a pink bridesmaid's gown with flowers in her hair (which is cut like my husband's) and this is a girl who has probably never worn a dress and really wanted to wear a tux, but you know what? She wore the dress and even got a manicure and she looked adorable and it didn't kill her. She even had a good time. If she can do that, you can too. If you're asked to wear something hideous, pretend it's a costume and you're in a play.

5. Get them a wedding gift from their registry or just give them money. People register for a reason and it's likely that if you get something not on the registry that they will return it or not like it. There are of course exceptions to this. You may want to get the couple something more meaningful or the couple may have registered for things you can't afford. This happened to me and I ended up losing a friend over it, but that was not a friend worth having, let me tell you. Decent friends won't usually register for a ton of expensive items and expect their friends to buy them.

6. Always include the gift receipt in a very obvious place with your gift.

7. And while we're at it, sign your name to the card legibly. At both my sister's and my weddings we received cards with gifts that were signed so sloppily that we didn't know who they were from and couldn't send a thank you.

8. Always remember that this is not your wedding and that the bride and groom can do whatever they want at their own wedding regardless of whether or not you like it or if you would have done it this way. None of the choices they have made for their wedding should be of any concern to you, even if you think they'll regret something. Who cares? Let them regret it. Shut your mouth, smile and have a good time.

9. An open bar is not your excuse to get drunk for free. Don't act like you've never had a free drink before. I can't tell you how often I see this happen and it makes me sick. Someone still has to pay the bill at the end of the night you know and people work really hard for their money. Don't take advantage of their generosity.

10. Don't be that person who everyone talks about the next day, as in "Oh my God, did you see so and so last night? He/She was so wasted." Don't be the idiot who has to be carried out and please, please don't throw up at someone else's wedding. Nothing can ruin a good reception faster than vomit.

11. Don't bother the happy couple. Say hello and don't monopolize their time with questions, small talk and excessive picture taking. Let them enjoy their own party and if they don't make it over to talk to you, don't be offended.

12. Tapping your glass with a knife to make the bride and groom kiss is annoying after the first time.

13. Don't wear something that will cause people to talk about what you were wearing. Only the bride's attire should be discussed.

14. Only take home centerpieces etc. if you are asked to. Some of my guests assumed they could take home portions of the decor that belonged to the hotel and florist and I was charged for them!

15. If you are hacking and coughing or have a crying baby during the ceremony or any other quiet part of the evening, go outside and don't disturb everyone else.

16. Keep embarrassing stories about the bride and groom to yourself, please.

17. There are no circumstances ever, ever, ever where it would be appropriate for you to create drama at someone else's wedding. If you feel a compelling need to create drama then refrain or go home. It simply isn't worth it. If someone else provokes you, as family members are sometimes wont to do at these types of events, then keep your mouth shut and ignore it. I'm not playing around here. Don't you dare cause a scene or otherwise participate in a scene at somebody's wedding.

18. You don't need to be the last person to leave. If possible say a quick goodbye and be sure to say a brief thank you to whomever hosted the wedding, usually someone's parents.


One Mean MFA said...

Is it bad form to send this with my invites?

Head Ant said...

1. If you RSVP that you are coming, please show up. The couple has paid for you to show up.
2. I had someone invited to my first wedding that showed up with three extra people. And the invited guest was said to likely not come anyway.
4. After wearing a dress with a see-thru midsection and another dress that made me look like a piece of asparagus, a dear friend let her sister and I choose our attire.
5. Or get them the same type of thing you got her sister as a gift that she admired.
8. And that includes who they invite.
9. Does that count for the groom?
13. Denim is never acceptable.
14. We made people take my centerpieces

Anonymous said...

Do not call the bride the day before the wedding to ask if you can bring your Mom and her boyfriend even though you did not RSVP and there was no plus 1.
Do not tackle the bride's cousin in order to catch the bouquet. Especially if you are over forty and a prostitute!
WL Sister

Books & BS said...

Haha I think I may print this out to send in my invites too...Especially to the future in-laws and the faces last night about the wedding...

Anonymous said...

Wish I had had this list when our daughter got married 8 years ago. Had family members who wouldn't RSVP, guests who were invited to the church only that showed up at the reception, people who had RSVP'd and didn't show as well as the ones who just showed all worked out and we handled it with calmness and dignity. (which is hard when you are dog tired and worn out from relatives) It all worked out but my son's wedding is in December and I am sure we will have repeat behavior. OH, I forgot- one of my friends called last minute and asked if her daughter's boyfriend (whom we had never met) could come- she said she'd pay for his dinner- I am still waiting. :)

k2 said...

Given that we're both from the south, you may appreciate this one,

1. Don't punch the groom the night before the wedding.

Anonymous said...

Mostly I agree with your wedding guidelines, but I think you've left out a thing or two. I especially have problems with rules 4 & 5. I don't know why I feel compelled to share this, since I'm sure it won't change your opinion. However, I think the whole "It's OUR day" phenom. in American weddings plays to our worst instincts. Of course a good guest, should, within reason, go along with what the bride and groom want (silly song, etc.) However, as far as good etiquette is concerned, the bride and groom are a host and hostess, not a king and queen for a day. (See Miss Manners.) This means that it is part of their responsibility to make sure their guests are comfortable...which means it shouldn't be taken as a opportunity to tyrannize over the guests, to make them feel silly or uncomfortable. People shouldn't feel obligated not to be themselves. I especially think the lesbian friend showed herself to be a better friend than the bride and groom showed themselves to be to her. Maybe a tux is too much, but what about a pantsuit? Seriously, because it's "their day?"
I talk to a number of international graduate students, young marrieds especially. The "it's OUR day" attitude isn't prevalent at all, even where Western style weddings are imitated. I think it's in much better taste, and makes for much happier people.

Anonymous said...

Also--sorry to make this so long, but the gift registry. Unlike Miss Manners, I do think gift registries are OK, for those who wish to use them. The idea that it should be required or expected that you order from them, not at all. Again, in good etiquette, a gift is not required, at a wedding or at any other party. When it is given, it is just that, a gift. It is rude to dictate the parameters of a gift. It's a gift!
The custom of giving household goods for weddings began when people married young and often straight from home. They were setting up their first home. These days, people are already living on their own, will generally be a two income household, can afford to buy these things if they want to. Often the registry is just an attempt to get nicer things than they can afford, for free.
Some guests may dislike the impersonality, be limited in what they can afford,or may not want to feel like they are generating "swag" for the married couple. I think gift registries have their place, that they can be convenient and helpful, but god forbid it be considered "improper" not to order from one.

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