Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wedding Etiquette Issues...

With the 21st century well under way, a new wedding etiquette has been emerging out of necessity. The world is a drastically different place than it was in the days of Emily Post and, as such, the rules of wedding etiquette have gradually become modified to conform to common sense in the world in which we now live.

Make no mistake, wedding etiquette is still very much alive, it's just a little different than it was a century ago. In this fast paced world where people are often self absorbed, abrupt, inconsiderate, or downright rude, etiquette remains a necessity to ensure that our social skills do not fall too far out of hand.

The overall philosophy towards wedding etiquette is this:

Your wedding day is your wedding day and the bottom line is that you have a right to be happy and to have things your your way on this one day out of your life. BUT, you must remain gracious, kind and hospitable at the same time. (This matter becomes clouded if there are other individuals involved in paying for expenses, in which case you must work to accommodate their wishes as much as possible.)

However, while you should work at realizing that objective, this cannot be done at any cost. When you reach the point where you run the risk of offending your guests, wedding party, or loved ones - or operating amidst an air of self-centeredness - it is time to take an extremely close look at your decisions and actions.

Let's talk about some of the wedding etiquette issues that are most frequently at issue among clients I work with today...

The "Adults Only" Wedding Reception

Some couples, for reasons of their own, do not want for children to attend their wedding reception. The reasons for this may range from trying to lower costs by trimming wedding guests from the list, to simply not wanting to put up with potential crying, wailing, or hyperactivity on the part of the little guys.

The debate on this topic can get fierce. Some people argue that it it is rude and improper to exclude the younger members of a family that is on the wedding guest list. Some insist that a wedding is all about family and the circle of life, and that eliminating children from attendance at the wedding is therefore inappropriate.

(C) 2001 AspenLight Photography

If you are thinking about the option of an Adults Only wedding reception, its critically important that you consider the matter carefully and realize that some may indeed find this to be a tad offensive, ungracious, or downright cold. Weddings are not typically adult only events - in fact, throughout history, children have played an important role in the symbolism associated with weddings - and therefore some might be offended that you are dictating that they must leave their little ones at home.

Ultimately however, your wedding day is YOUR day and the bottom line is that you have a right to be happy and have it your way on this one day out of your entire life. If, after carefully considering this, you decide that this is the way it is going to be, you should follow the following rules for this delicate situation:


Indicate that the reception is to be adults only by having the words "Adults Only Reception" or "Adult Reception" printed along with the reception location and time on the invitation.

Do not use phrases such as NO KIDS, NO CHILDREN, etc. The only correct wording is Adult Reception or Adults Only Reception.

This information should be printed by the printer on all invitations. You must never write ANYTHING by hand onto the invitation itself - whether it pertains to this or any other matter. Doing so is considered socially incorrect (in other words, tacky!) and inappropriate.

If you are excluding some children, the rule is that you must exclude all children. There must not be different rules for different people or some individuals will be deeply offended and hurt - and rightly so. The only possible exception to this would be any children who are in the wedding party. However, the jury is out in this area. While some etiquette experts feel that it may be alright to make this exception, there is a stronger belief that if the reception is to be adults only, no children should be included as part of the wedding party. Otherwise, parents of children who were not allowed to attend may feel slighted that clearly some exceptions are being made to allow children, while they were instructed to leave their kids behind.

(C) 2001AspenLightPhotography

You may be think this to be a little unfair. After all, you are probably very familiar with the children in your wedding party and you probably selected them on the basis of their exemplary behavior in public, while the same may not necessarily be true of the other children. It is for this precise reason that the jury, as I stated, remains out on this one. Give it some careful thought and if unsure, err on the side of caution by ensuring that no children really means NO children to avoid appearing offensive to any of your guests.

If cost issues are the reason you are contemplating the Adults Only route, keep in mind that the cost of feeding a child at the wedding will be considerably less than the cost to feed an adult. Most caterers or reception sites have children's menus from which they will serve kids under 12 years of age, typically at a dramatically lower cost.

Many caterers will not inform you of this unless you specifically ask about it. Inquire with your caterer about the availability of child's plates. This may solve the entire dilemma for you so that everyone can end up happy.

And what if someone does show up with their children, despite it all? Do you say something to them? Do you send someone over to ream them out? Don't even dream it. What good would that possibly do? Done is done. No sense in creating an unpleasant, uncomfortable situation. Nothing could be more unbecoming of a bride, groom, or host.

Copyright 2001AspenLightPhotography

Best advice? Take a deep breath, then let it go. Put it out of your mind and get on with having a good time. This day is going to fly by faster than you'll ever want as it is; don't waste a single moment of it caught up in negativity. Think happy thoughts on this day...happy thoughts only. Remember, this is the best day of your life! Enjoy it for heaven's sake!

The Real Deal
on the "Cash Bar"

(C) 2001AspenLightPhotography

In an effort to reduce expenses, some couples today are opting for what is known as a "cash bar" at the wedding reception, also called the "no-host bar".

I receive a lot of questions from brides, as well as prospective wedding guests, about the appropriateness of having a cash bar at a wedding. In fact, the entire subject can often be the source of a great deal of consternation as the debate rages regarding "should you, or shouldn't you?". Well, here it is - the real scoop, once and for all.

In the world of wedding etiquette, the cash bar is the ultimate no-no. Therefore, if observing complete social correctness is of importance to you, you'd better put this notion out of your head right now. However, as I've said before, now that we are well into the 21st century, some of the rules of wedding etiquette are gently, and with great care, being broken. As long as you don't move within a social circle in which the ultimate in social correctness is always observed, you may be able to sneak by with your cash bar. Emily Post most definately would not approve, but, the times they are a-changing....

That said, please take careful note of the following disclaimer: Anytime you are contemplating breaking or even bending a rule of wedding etiquette, you should give the matter a great deal of consideration before making that decision. The fact remains, that it is best to stick to the laws of social correctness unless circumstances absolutely dictate otherwise in order to avoid offending, or turning anyone off.

The prime reason people contemplate the cash bar for their wedding receptions is obviously the issue of cost. You should realize that this will probably be apparent to your wedding guests if you choose a cash bar. Realize too that people may mumble under their breath that it looks "cheap" and there likely will be some discussion among some guests who will conclude that you couldn't afford an open bar. Before your adrenaline begins to ooze over that, remember, after all, you ARE breaking a rule of etiquette. Proceed only if you are still comfortable and if you are certain you will not erupt over such commentary!

It is my professional opinion, having counseled a great many couples who are grappling with this issue, that if you have come to the conclusion that you absolutely can not have an open bar, the best, most gentle and non-offensive way to handle the matter is to take a combination approach. What has worked for many couples quite successfully is to provide perhaps 2 drink tickets for each adult guest. These can be included in each invitation along with the other enclosures. After your guests have used their 2 tickets, they will be required to pay for any additional drinks. A lot of couples are quite comfortable with this approach, believing that 2 drinks in an evening is a reasonable and responsible level of drinking for any guest to partake in and that anything above that may become excessive.

This approach can be seen as a socially responsible effort to discourage excessive drinking. In fact, I know of several couples who have utilized this approach for precisely this reason when cost was absolutely not a factor.

Today there is a much elevated level of awareness and concern for the hazards of excessive social drinking and, therefore, from a social standpoint this approach toward minimizing that hazard can have a sensible social justification. It is in this way that our rules of etiquette can be adjusted over the course of time, and in some cases may actually be required to change ever so slightly to keep pace with other influences in society.

If you have, after careful consideration, made the decision to have a cash bar, it is crucial that your guests be advised of this in advance. Failing to provide advance notification to guests would be in extremely poor form, not to mention very inconsiderate. Have the words "cash bar" printed beneath the reception information on your reception card or invitation. This at least allows guests to arrive prepared for these circumstances so that no one is taken by surprise.

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