When it comes to wedding etiquette, I’m a big believer in bending the rules to make it fit your own needs, personality, and guests. But there are a few things no bride should ever, ever do.
And I did some of them.
Needless to say, I still think about my own faux pas from time to time and cringe. So here are some of the most important tips I can offer to help you avoid the embarrassment, in no particular order:
Never ask someone for help with your wedding planning unless they’re on your guest list. In my mind, this should be a no-brainer — but surprisingly, it happened to one of my close friends, who was asked by one of her close friends to assist with a particularly personal wedding planning decision . . . and then never even got an invitation to the reception. Needless to say, that friendship has all but dissipated.
In a similar vein, don’t have in-depth conversations about wedding details with people who aren’t on your guest list. (This is where I goofed up.) By chatting at length about the flavors of your wedding cake or how fun you think it will be to dance barefoot on the beach with all your guests, you’re giving the impression that the person you’re sharing with will get to be there to enjoy it with you. As I found out, when your guest list ends up larger than the capacity of your venue, you might have to cut even people you had planned to celebrate with — so play it safe unless you’re sure your conversation partner will make the final cut, or, as I discovered, you’ll forever feel awkward around the people who fell off your guest list.
Another thing to be mindful of while talking with friends and acquaintances: don’t trash other brides’ weddings or make your own plans sound superior. My ten-month engagement was apparently the official Time to Get Married for half the East Coast, so I had plenty of opportunities to avoid this pitfall and observe its distastefulness up close (although I must add that my friends were exceptionally well mannered). Every bride thinks her plans are the best, but it’s downright obnoxious to hear one bride belittle another’s choice of flowers.
Don’t badmouth your groom either. Sure, you don’t think you are, because you know how much you love him — but people who don’t know will really question your union (and your personal character) if you’re constantly complaining that he isn’t interested in the table linens or mocking his wedding-related suggestions.
Just like your groom, you shouldn’t spend your engagement whining about your wedding vendors, your future in-laws, your own parents, or your bridal party. Now is a very, very good time to try to get along with everyone! But while you’re playing super nice, you don’t have to lose to anyone who plays dirty: don’t let anyone hijack your wedding. When it comes to details, hammer them out — kindly — with whomever is paying or close family members you’d like included; just don’t let anyone who isn’t getting married that day trample your vision for the start of your marriage.
That said, remember that you can’t be inflexible. If someone asks you to reconsider a decision or look into an alternative, approach it thoughtfully and critically instead of defensively. Is this person just trying to suit their own interests or presenting a rational suggestion — such as making sure you have a backup plan in case it rains the morning of your mountaintop wedding? Is this person dismissing your idea out of hand or asking you to realistically do a cost-benefit analysis? Is your vendor really ignoring your ideas or genuinely telling you she isn’t capable of creating what you want? Remember that not everything is going to go as planned, so keep the motto I learned on a mission trip in mind: “Semper Gumby” (aka, “be flexible”!). You’ll be a much happier, calmer bride if you do!
On the flipside, don’t be indecisive. Prolonged indecision will create stress for everyone involved (believe me, I’ve experienced this!) and might even mean you miss out on a wedding professional or venue that you love. Think every decision through carefully, but after you’ve weighted your options, force yourself to take action so you — and everyone else — can free your time and energy to move on to other parts of the planning.
While you’ll get plenty of help with planning, you also need to remember that you shouldn’t dominate your friends’ and family’s time with too many wedding chores or events. Everyone loves a good party, but don’t expect even your mother to happily troop to too many showers and luncheons. Even more important, everyone who wants to pitch in with wedding work wants to see you happy, but they don’t want you to assign them a to-do list that’s longer than the Constitution.
In a similar vein, don’t let your wedding take over your life. There are several reasons for this. First up, after the wedding, you’ll feel a big letdown if you did nothing but wedding planning leading up to the big day. Second, you’ll drive away friends and family if you railroad conversations about friends’ promotions and family members’ remodeling projects back to your topic of choice. Third — you still have a daily life (or you’re supposed to, anyway!) with work and time to enjoy all the things you used to love, before your wedding became priority # 1. Keep living that way — because that’s what made you the person your fiance wanted to marry in the first place.
Last but not least — don’t forget that your marriage is more important than your wedding. That should need no explaining at all.