Matrimonial Manners

For a ritual that has been around so long it is amazing the number of horror stories we hear about “things gone wrong” at weddings. Some incidents are very funny, some poignantly sad and then there are those incidents that are shocking and surely avoidable … let’s talk about those ones today and how to prevent them!

A is for alcohol: the source of most of the worst-case scenario stories. While a wedding is festive and joyful and thus prompts the celebratory consumption of alcohol, over-indulging as a guest or wedding party member or even as the wedding photographer (!) can lead to irrevocably poor decisions and behaviour. Emotions run high at weddings and so all behaviours tend to be exaggerated as it is. Don’t be the Bride who gets arrested for attacking a guest or mother-in-law, or the Groom who can’t string together words to toast his beloved, or the Guest who swan dives on the cake. (All true stories!)  Taking advantage of an open bar (woo hoo free drinks!) shows poor form and disrespect for the hosts. Partake in moderation and, as an organizer, be sure to provide access to safe, sober transportation.

G is for guest list: perhaps the most stressful element in wedding organization.  Budget and space restrictions usually dictate numbers for wedding events. A few things to consider when drafting the list: you are not required to issue an invite to a date for single guests but it is a thoughtful gesture and likely to be appreciated. (Invite would read: “Ms. Sister Sally and Guest”) A separate invitation is traditionally issued to a partner who has been dating a guest for a year or more. If they are living at the same address, one invitation can be issued in both names. If they are living apart, an invitation should be sent to each address in each person’s name.  Never ask to bring a friend or guest to a wedding. NEVER show up at a wedding with someone who has not been officially invited. No former flames of the wedding couple, no visiting mother-in-laws … no unpleasant surprises!  Respect that a great deal of careful thought and often tears have gone into organizing the guest list.

P is for Presents …and how things change! Many couples will have lived together before the ceremony, sometimes for several years. Traditional house-ware oriented gifts no longer have the same relevance. Creative alternatives are frequently suggested – some in good taste and some in poor. Printing information about gifts on the invitation itself, whether it be to say “no gifts thank you” or to offer information about a gift registry or preferred charity for donations, is a faux pas.  If a bride and groom have specific desires (registry, contributions to a honeymoon or home renovation fund) then they should allow their family members to spread the word informally only if guests ask for gift ideas and it would be considered helpful to them. Remember, many North American guests are uncomfortable with issuing money or cheques as gifts and would prefer to select a different gift. As a wedding couple, be grateful for any and every gift you receive. Incidentally, thank you notes should be issued within two weeks of the wedding or your return from a honeymoon and not later than three months after the wedding. They are never optional!  Beyond knowing you are grateful, it lets the guest know you have indeed received the gift. As a guest, it is important that you honour the Bride and Groom with a gift, even if you can only afford something small and thoughtful. If you have had to decline the invitation to attend the wedding, it is important and thoughtful to send a gift anyway.

C is for Culture … If the couple and their wedding is influenced by a culture different from your own, always research what special customs are involved. This may influence your decisions regarding wardrobe, gift giving and even time commitments. This is particularly true if you are in the wedding party. Places of worship or celebration may require certain head coverings or at least modest clothing covering bare shoulders. Traditional gifts of money or jewellery, and superstitions relating to particular gift choices, will need to be considered. In some cultures, wedding celebrations take place over several days and involve multiple events. Be prepared!

As anyone who has tuned into wedding news in recent years knows, traditions have changed dramatically.  While “anything goes!” tends to be the trend, courtesy, respect and clear communication will never go out of style.


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