Don’t turn wedding bells into wedding hell

Bride and groom cake topperA dear friend of mine is getting married in a week. I’m very happy for her and look forward to celebrating her wedding.

At her bridal shower she mentioned that she was dismayed by how many people had not responded to the wedding invitation. She stated that even when calling these people to politely ask if they would be attending her wedding they continued to be noncommittal, saying things like, “we probably will” or “we’ll let you know.”

This is just one example of bad wedding manners. Usually this time of year I get emails from strangers who are facing some wedding predicament they want me to referee. Nuptials bring up a lot of emotions. People can be at their best or their worst. Sadly, it’s often the latter.

Here are some wedding dos and don’ts.

Respond to the gosh darn invitation!!!
You can either attend or not. Please do not leave the bride and groom wondering who is going to show up. They are not requesting a response for fun. They need to get an accurate count of who is attending so they know how much food and beverages to order. They also need to make seating arrangements, and if they don’t know who is going to show up, that’s not possible.

Don’t bring uninvited guests
If the invitation does not say “Mary Adams and guest” you cannot bring a guest. Don’t even ask. How the invitation is addressed is who is invited. If your kids aren’t on the invitation they aren’t invited. Don’t bring them.

Let it go
If your son, daughter, sister… was not asked to be in the wedding, don’t push it and don’t hold grudges. I had an email from a father who was incensed his son was not invited to be in his in-laws wedding. He thought the mother of the bride was being mean spirited by not allowing his son to be a part of the wedding. I didn’t see any reason why the son needed to be in the wedding and told him to be gracious and let it go. Try to assume the betrothed mean the best and aren’t out to hurt, anger or disappoint you.

Bring a gift
If you attend the wedding you do need to bring a gift or donate to the honeymoon fund. If the bride and groom have registered somewhere, purchase something on their registry rather than trying to be different and giving them something that’s not on their list. Typically where a couple is registered should not be stated on the invitation. Ask the bride or groom’s parents, maid of honor or best man or the couple if they have registered somewhere.

Here are some wedding gift suggestions should the couple not have a registry. Online or in person delivery of the New York Times for a year, an espresso maker, a set of dessert plates, handy food storage containers, engraved stationary, icona love story journal.

Don’t feel like wrapping a present? Money is always appreciated.

Don’t forget the thank you note
The wedding couple should send handwritten thank you notes for the gifts they receive within two weeks of the wedding. There are two reasons for writing thank you notes. One, to express your gratitude for people’s thoughtfulness, two to let them know you received the gift.

A good thank you note mentions the gift and what it means to you or how it will be used. When my cousin got married many years ago, I could only afford one sterling silver teaspoon on her registry. Her thank you note stated how much she appreciated the spoon and that it would be used to eat many delightful desserts. I thought it was a lovely note.

Either the bride or groom can write a thank you note. However, rather than both of you signing it, simply mention the other person in the note and then only the individual writing the note signs it. Example:

Mary and I really appreciate the lovely crystal vase you gave us. It will make many a dinner more special as it adds color to the table filled with flowers…


Toasting dos and don’ts
The best man makes the first toast and toasts the bride. Then the groom toasts the bride, the bride toasts her groom, the father of the bride toasts the couple, the bride toasts the groom’s parents, the groom toasts the bride’s parents and so on and so forth. The best man keeps the list and officiates the toasts. After the parents have toasted the bride and groom the rest of the bridal attendants, relatives and close friends of the couple may make toasts.

Keep toasts positive and no more than three minutes long. Practice what you are going to say before you get to the microphone. Avoid telling everyone how nervous you are.

Wait to shake your booty
The married couple has the first dance. After that, the dance floor is fair game. Try to mix up dance partners to make it more fun.

Be on your best behavior
A wedding is not a time to air grievances, get drunk, eat like a pig or insult others. Everyone should put grudges aside and celebrate the bride and groom on their special day.

Whether you’re getting married or attending a wedding, be kind, be gracious and be grateful.

What wedding dilemmas do you have? Have you experienced any bad wedding behavior?


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. BethBuelow on July 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Reading this is making me grateful my own wedding is 15 years in the
    past :-). I think Shaun’s comment is interesting… is it becoming
    acceptable to do evites instead of traditional snail mail invites?

  2. ArdenClise on July 10, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    @Shaun  Do you mean evites and the like? I think they are too informal for weddings.

  3. ArdenClise on July 10, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    BethBuelow Yes, it seems weddings have gotten more complicated. Or maybe I was just lucky when I got married.
    As I said to Shaun, I don’t care for evites and other electronic invitations for weddings. They are too informal. I know it’s pricey and bad for the environment, but it’s so nice getting a wedding invitation in the mail. It speaks to the importance of the event.

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