“The entire atmosphere [of the wedding] felt moving. So moving in fact that John stopped midceremony to propose to his longtime girlfriend, ‘Jane,’ and reveal her pregnancy.” If this sounds like a situation straight out of a wedding nightmare, it gets worse—because it actually did happen to one woman who shared her experience in a letter to the advice column “Dear Prudence.” The newlyweds continued to be upstaged by John and Jane at their reception, when John used his platform as best man to talk about his relationship with Jane, even requesting a special dance for the two of them in celebration of their engagement. The woman ends her letter by asking, “Do you think John’s behavior warrants the end of a long-term friendship, or are we angry over nothing?”
Was this as rude as it sounds?
Almost all wedding etiquette experts agree universally that upstaging the marrying couple on their wedding day is never okay. Proposals and other big announcements, like a pregnancy, should be avoided at weddings. There is one small exception to this rule: If you are determined to propose during a wedding, you must have the couple’s express blessing to proceed, as was the case when bride Jess Nakrayko helped plan a surprise proposal during her wedding. When you ask the couple for their blessing to propose at their own nuptials, look for forced smiles and barely suppressed rage that you would even suggest such a thing. If you see genuine enthusiasm, feel free to go ahead with the proposal, but do so in the most low-key way possible. Even if the couple gives their blessing, you should still respect that the wedding is their day, and the focus should ultimately be on them. Viral wedding reception proposals are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to defining modern wedding etiquette. Wondering what other traditional wedding etiquette may have changed? Experts weigh in on some of the top wedding etiquette questions to keep you faux-pas free this wedding season.
Dress Code Etiquette for Newlyweds and Guests
Nontraditional wedding dress codes are becoming the norm as couples look to make their wedding stand out, but this can be confusing, especially for older guests who may wonder if their traditional blue suit is appropriate for a “fancy ranch” wedding. Ariel Stallings, a writer for Offbeat Bride, recommends that couples who want their dress code to stand out give guests as much specific information about the dress code as they can so there is no confusion. You can put this information directly on your invitation, but since space might be limited, Stallings suggests using your wedding website to elaborate on dress code instead. If you have a very specific dress code in mind, include pictures or links to outfits that would be appropriate. As for guests, traditional wedding etiquette still holds true: You should always abide by the dress code.
But what does “steampunk chic” even mean?
If you’re not quite sure what the dress code is, check the wedding website for more information, or do some google research. If you still don’t have a clear idea of what to wear, don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of the wedding party for clarification. When the couple has a specific wedding theme in mind, they’ll be happy to share examples of appropriate clothing that fits the dress code.
Répondez s’il vous plaît.
RSVPs are almost universally guaranteed to give the wedding couple stress-induced ulcers before their big day. Much to the couple’s chagrin, however, most RSVPs end up tossed aside on kitchen counters for weeks before being returned right before the deadline. Don’t be that wedding guest. Wedding etiquette expert Tessa Brand says wedding guests should follow a few cardinal rules when sending back an RSVP. First, make sure you only RSVP for guests included on the invitation. If you were not given a plus one, under no circumstances are you to include a guest in your RSVP. But it shouldn’t matter if I just want to bring one person along, right? Wrong. The couple has budgeted for a specific number of guests. You may think, “It’s just one person, what’s the big deal?” But those costs do add up and can leave newlyweds scrambling to accommodate your wedding crasher instead of focusing on their big day. Second, actually write your name on the RSVP card. If there is a meal option and you are including more than one guest in your RSVP, always make sure to specify which guest gets which meal. Third, send the RSVP back in a timely manner. It doesn’t matter if you are the maid of honor and are obviously attending the wedding. The moment couples send out invitations, they start anxiously awaiting RSVPs. They’re usually pre-stamped, so there should be no reason to delay responding quickly. Don’t just text the bride or groom to let them know you are attending—unless of course, that is what the invitation says to do.
Giving and Receiving Gifts: What’s the Protocol?
Many couples feel uncomfortable with the idea of having a traditional wedding registry but have been told that registries are a wedding must. Although nothing about a wedding is an absolute must, it is a nice idea to have a registry, says wedding guru Liz Moorhead of A Practical Wedding. Even if you have everything you need, wedding guests will still want to give you gifts. What if we want to do a nontraditional registry, like a honeyfund? That’s totally fine, but just be aware that while many guests will contribute, some consider cash-based registries a little crass. Creating a small registry of physical gift items will help ensure you get items you’ll actually use. (But it’s inevitable that some guests will go rogue and gift you something totally bizarre.) As for guests: No longer do you have to abide by the traditional “pay for your plate” rule, say the wedding experts over at the Knot. If you’re unfamiliar with this piece of wedding etiquette, the usual rule has been that guests should purchase a gift of roughly the same monetary value as the wedding meal. Naturally, this can lead to some awkward conversations. Of course, it’s in poor taste for a couple to reveal how much is being spent on the wedding—and it’s equally uncouth for guests to reveal how much they are willing to spend for a gift. Guests can avoid the confusion altogether by simply consulting the gift registry, which should have a range of items in every budget. Not sure how much to spend? For close family and friends, you should expect to spend between $100 and $150. For coworkers and casual friends, between $50 and $100 is an appropriate amount. What if I can’t afford a gift in that price range? If you can’t afford a gift in the suggested price range, don’t worry. Choose an inexpensive item on the registry that you can afford, and consider pairing it with a thoughtful handmade gift. The newlyweds will appreciate that you both stuck to the registry and gifted them something unique.
When in doubt, just ask.
Although it’s almost universally acknowledged that there are some things you should just never do at weddings, there are exceptions to every rule. Whether you’re newly engaged or you just received (another) save-the-date in the mail, when in doubt about wedding etiquette, never be afraid to ask for clarification. When you nail that “steampunk chic” dress code, you’ll be glad you did.