The heart of etiquette is “all about treating others with consideration, honesty, and respect,” according to manner’s expert Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter Anna Post. Post writes about the lost art of etiquette in “Do I Have to Wear White?”
Before the last half of the 20th century, a tremendous amount of pressure was put upon hosts and guests to act appropriately not only every day, but especially at weddings. Social rules were strict and structured during that time, and there were swift and unhappy consequences for those who failed to observe proper etiquette. Modern etiquette is not always about the rules. It is about doing what’s right in your situation with consideration given to all those concerned.
Since there is a huge chance that you will encounter some delicate, uncomfortable or even sticky situations as you make your wedding plans, why not consider some of the helpful books we have available to you in our Wedding Neighborhood?
A bride who begins a wedding etiquette question with “Am I supposed to . . .” is really considering two different questions. She wants to know the actual answer to her question. But she also is considering local customs and traditions and how they will play in to her special day.
Traditions often add very real meaning and purpose to an occasion. Certain points of etiquette should also be remembered as you show consideration and respect for your family and guests.
Traditionally, the bride’s family was responsible for the bulk of the wedding expenses. The groom and his family often paid for the marriage license, brides’ bouquet and gift, clergy’s fee, rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon. But these expenses could be divided in whatever way suits the situation best. Are the bride and groom living on their own and gainfully employed? Maybe they would be able to pay for the greatest amount of the wedding. Is one family creative and willing to make many of the items needed for the event? That could be their part of the day’s expenses. Have grandparents or other close relatives set money aside for this special time? Their gift of money, time or energy would be a great help to the couple.
Etiquette helps in determining your guest list. If you invite someone who is married, that person’s spouse should also be included in the invitation. If you post an invitation on the bulletin board at work, you’re essentially inviting anyone who might see it and their spouses, fiancés, live-ins and children. And even if you get along famously with your ex, inviting him/her to join in the festivities on your next wedding day is probably not the best idea.
Etiquette points out the courtesy of promptly acknowledging all gifts with a handwritten thank you note. Written notes show that you care enough about the gift giver to compose a personal message thanking them for the gift. How soon should thank you notes be sent? As soon as possible is best, but ideally within three months. Is it okay for the groom to write some of them? Of course, especially if the gift was given by his friends or family. What if a gift is opened and the item inside is broken? What if two items are received that are exactly alike; what do you do? How are gifts from a large group acknowledged?
A small, wonderful book for the bride who is unsure how to word a thank you for every possible gift — even that “unusual but delightful” one — is “The Bride’s Thank You Note Handbook” by Marilyn Werner. Included are notes for typical gifts as well as special situations and people. Sample notes are also shown to be included with gifts for the bridal attendants, ushers and minister. How do you write a thank you note for a salt and pepper shaker set, a gift certificate, or a vacuum cleaner that will never be forgotten?
Answers to these and many more questions may be found in some of the wedding etiquette books located in our Wedding Neighborhood in the West Wing of the library. Yes, sticky situations can have simply stunning solutions! (Whew! Isn’t that a relief?!)
Your wedding should be a unique and personal expression of your love for each other, your families and traditions. In the midst of all of this, attention and care should still be given to the art of genuine thankfulness and gracious consideration. It will make your special day even more special!