Your RSVP is in the mail — you’re going to that wedding, and now, you’re wondering what to wear, what to say and whom to bring with you.
Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post, co-author of several etiquette books and co-host of podcast “Awesome Etiquette,” took some time to clear up some of etiquette quandaries that can present when you’re heading to a wedding.
Navigating social spheres
Weddings bring people together, from your Great Aunt Martha finally meeting your college roommate to that roommate’s new girlfriend hanging around the bar because her boyfriend is in the wedding party.
When people don’t know each other, they might feel uncomfortable.
As a guest, it’s important to know how to interact with the other guests you’ll meet at Table 19.
Whether you’re propitiously partnered or sanguinely solo, it’s a matter of time before well-meaning family members or friends begin asking if you’re next — or, if you’re already hitched, when children might make their debut.
Post said while prying questions can get grating over time, keep in mind most people who ask them are doing so from a place of caring.
“It’s a joyous occasion, and they probably want to see you celebrated in a joyous way too. That’s a lovely thought,” Post said.
She advises finding ways to keep the focus on the couple getting married.
“I’m just so happy to be focused on my sister’s big day today,” Post suggested. “I like that one because it does kind of let people know, ‘I hear you, but the focus is on the person who’s getting married today.’”
She also suggests “Only time will tell,” or “We could all be so lucky.”
“It depends on who you are and what your personality is. … You can deflect, you can invite some light teasing.”
When your partner is part of the wedding party and you weren’t asked, you might find yourself sitting alone during the ceremony, or not at the head table during the reception.
Post suggests looking at the occasion as an opportunity to meet new people, and cautions the other half of the couple not to distract his or her partner or take away from wedding-party tasks.
“Be prepared to occupy yourself with the buffet or the bar or lawn games, depending on what type of wedding this is. Feel confident that you’re going to be attending some of this wedding alone,” Post suggested.
“Be supportive, and recognize they are going to be busy and distracted with being a part of the bridal or groom’s party. The longer you go into the wedding, the more time you’ll get” together, especially as dancing kicks off, but expect your partner to be helping with photos or bustling dresses or passing out slices of cake well into the occasion.
A (not so) joyful noise
When deciding whether or not to bring young children, Post emphasizes the importance of communication.
“Find out whether or not they are actually invited. If their names have not appeared on the invitation, then they are not invited to the wedding,” she said.
Same goes for if the invitation doesn’t include “and family” on the address. When in doubt, never assume.
“You might choose to bring them because of travel reasons, but hire a babysitter for the actual wedding,” Post said.
Exceptions might be made for flower girls or ring bearers, or very young infants, but in most cases, if children aren’t explicitly invited, the couple would probably prefer they stay home.
Managing wedding responsibilities
It’s flattering to be asked to be part of the wedding party, but if you don’t have the time or the financial resources to do it justice, it’s OK to decline, Post said.
Here’s how she recommends doing it.
First of all, find out what the couple actually expects from their bridal party. The title could be just honorary, or it could mean traveling to several parties before the wedding and buying high-priced dresses or tuxes.
The first thing you should say?
“I am so honored. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing for your bridal party so I can be sure I have the time and finances to accommodate it.”
That way, you’ve already managed the couple’s expectations.
“Then, once you’ve had that conversation, then you can say yes or no because you’ll have a better sense of whether or not you can actually meet the expectations,” Post said.
If necessary, she suggests declining with something like, “‘I want you to have the bridal experience that you want to have. I want to make sure I can live up to it. I would love to find another way to support you on the big day.’”
Ultimately, “this is the couple’s day, so whether it be grabbing the mic to do a speech, or whether it’s stealing the show on the dance floor, I would try to not become the center of attention. I would really try to make sure that whatever I’m doing is supporting what the couple’s goals are,” Post said.
“Keeping the focus on the couple is the best thing you can do.”