Dear Etiquetteer: My beloved eldest niece - she who resembles me more than either of her parents - is getting married almost a year from now. So far she has save-the-date cards ordered, but as her mother had an awful upbringing in terms of manners, expectations, etc., I know she will not be able guide the bride-to-be. What are some of the pitfalls of which a bride-to-be should be wary in 2014-2015?
Dear Aunt Bridey:
A Young Woman approaching the altar has many pitfalls to avoid, including many within herself. The saddest and most obvious is the delusion that one's wedding is just as important to everyone else in the entire world as it is to oneself. The next is that everyone in the entire world is going to spend every cent they have gratifying her every whim; this is what Etiquetteer calls the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. Etiquetteer hates to disillusion these women (actually, that's not true; Etiquetteer is fiercely eager to shred their Veils of Deliberate Illusion), but even one's fiancé is not likely as interested in the wedding as the bride. In fact, no one cares about the bride. They care about the bride caring about them. Surprise them all, and make your wedding guests the focus of your wedding!
Etiquetteer has some ideas about Brides Today and Perfect Propriety. Dear Bride:
- Be a giver, not a perpetual taker. No one likes satisfying the Gaping Maw of Bridal Need. No one owes you the wedding of your dreams.
- Ask yourself if this is really about you and your mother and/or mother-in-law fighting to see who can come out on top.
- Ask yourself if you want a perfect wedding, or if you really just want to boss people around. Be honest. If the latter, get the ladder and elope.
- Think carefully about the experience your wedding guests are going to have and make absolutely sure that your wedding will be a party they'll remember for the right reasons.
- Make the conscious decision that you're going to have a good time with all these people, not have an anxious time trying to avoid them so you can be with your fiancé/husband. After all, you'll have him for the rest of your life!
- It's a wedding, not a chorus line. Choose the number of friends you want for bridal attendants, not vice versa. An even number of attendants is not necessary - good heavens, attendants themselves are not necessary! (And you'd be surprised how many of your friends will secretly thank you for sparing them the burden.)
- Don't be so selfish that you force your attendants to buy hideous dresses they'll never wear again.
- Don't skimp on a gift for each of your attendants, and don't let your fiancé skimp either. They're your friends after all, yes?
- Consider skipping the vulgarity of a bachelorette trip to Las Vegas and instead hosting a traditional bridesmaids luncheon the week before the wedding.
- Expect to have a tantrum, and expect to apologize afterward for it.
- Under no circumstances should you plan to do anything on the day of the wedding but be the bride. This means no assembly of rice bags or souvenirs or table centerpieces, no cooking, no nothing.
- Do not publicize information about your bridal registry until people ask, and then send it to them privately. NEVER include registry information on a save-the-date card or invitation. People do still want to believe that they've been invited for the Pleasure of their Company, and not for the Generosity of their Purses.
- Lay in some good stationery now and send your Lovely Notes of thanks as gifts are received. You may NOT wait until after the honeymoon, and you certainly are NOT given until the first anniversary to send these.
- Keep it simple. The budget for ostentatious little touches might be better spent on upgrading the food.
- Most important, plan to speak to every wedding guest personally to thank them for attending. They have taken a lot of time, trouble, and treasure to celebrate with you, and they expect to get to speak with you. They deserve your attention. Etiquetteer, of course, remains devoted to the idea of a receiving line - while recognizing that they are routinely abused by wedding guests (not always elderly ladies) who expect to have long detailed conversations with the Happy Couple. Another solution is to circulate among the tables during the wedding banquet.
Now, Aunt Bridey, Etiquetteer feels the need to advise you not to insinuate yourself too aggressively into the plans for your niece's wedding. If you and she are so truly alike and already have a strong relationship, Etiquetteer predicts that she will reach out to you to be engaged in some way in the planning. But it would not be Perfectly Proper to usurp the place of the mother of the bride, regardless of how accurate your assessment of her abilities is. You have a beautiful opportunity to set a good example by hosting a meal in honor of the Happy Couple's engagement for your own set of guests, with all the proper accoutrements. But let Etiquetteer be clear that this should not take place later than three months before the wedding, and it is certainly not a bridal shower. Things get busy enough the closer one gets to the Big Day.
Etiquetteer wishes joy to the Happy Couple, and peace to all involved!