Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The 10 Biggest Wedding Etiquette Don'ts

We're counting down the all-too-common mistakes brides-to-be make, so you can avoid as many of them as possible!

1. Don't announce your engagement on Facebook before calling Grandma.

Remember to share the big news with your inner circle before updating your status on social media. Tell your family and closest friends first, preferably in person, or if they're long-distance, by phone or Skype (so they see the ring!). Only then is it appropriate to change your Facebook status. And after the outpouring of congrats, be sure to post a quick thank-you to the well-wishers.

2. Don't include registry information on your invites.
Your wedding invitation lets guests know how much you love them and want them to be by your side on your wedding day. There should not be any mention of an expectation for a gift, even though, yes, that would be the easiest and most obvious place. It may sound old fashioned, but word of mouth is still the best way to loop everyone in on your registry. Make sure that those closest to you (your parents, his parents, bridesmaids, groomsmen) have your registry details handy because they will likely receive phone calls and emails from guests with questions about what to get you. Another way to easily share registry details to your guest list is via a wedding website — which is totally okay to include on your invites. Be sure to list the URL so guests can head there to get all sorts of additional wedding info — location details, directions, attire suggestions, and, of course, your registry.

3. Don't make guests wait too long between the ceremony and reception.

If your ceremony and reception are at different venues, do your best to minimize the in-between time. When guests have too much free time on their hands between the ceremony and reception, they'll either starve (and get cranky) or find a nearby cafe and stuff themselves. Ideally you want your guests to eat and drink and be merry at your reception, not at a bar they found along the way. If a large time gap is inevitable, make sure your guests are entertained or have the option of being entertained. You may want to plan an outing — a sightseeing bus tour, maybe? — or set up a hospitality lounge, with drinks and snacks, at the hotel where your guests will be staying (you can include information and directions in the ceremony program). Your main goal is to make sure nobody's left in the lurch with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

4. Don't invite someone to the bridal shower if they aren't invited to the wedding.

You can't invite someone to your shower and expect them to give you a gift if you are not planning to invite them to the wedding. It would seem like they were good enough to give you a shower gift, but not good enough to celebrate with you on your big day. The bridal shower is intended to be a celebration with the bride's nearest and dearest, so every shower guest must already be on the wedding guest list. The only exception is a workplace bridal shower, in which a large number of coworkers pitch in and contribute to an office celebration. (If an office shower involves only a few coworkers, thoughtful couples will probably include these colleagues in the wedding guest list.)

5. Don't skimp on wedding-party gifts.

Truthfully, the best gift you can give your wedding party is a pleasant, drama-free experience as they help you prep for the big day. However, it's also important to thank your attendants with a tangible gift to show your appreciation. While every couple's situation (i.e., wedding budget, number of bridesmaids and groomsmen) is different, you'll want to sit down with your fiancé and have a discussion about thank-you presents. One idea is to jointly decide on an appropriate price range per gift, then choose presents accordingly. But if, for example, you decide to give your attendants $80 necklaces while your fiancé gifts his groomsmen with $150 custom Nike sneakers, that's totally fine, as long as you've communicated about this. Whatever you decide to buy, consider what you've been asking financially of your bridesmaids and groomsmen. If they're dropping a ton of cash on wedding-related things like an airplane ticket, hotel room, and $500 bridesmaid dress (not to mention the bridal shower, bridal-shower gift, and wedding present), then a $20 necklace from Etsy might seem a little ungracious. You're certainly not required to buy something that equals how much they've spent, but the amount should convey a sincere gratitude for how much time, effort, and money they have put into your wedding. As a rule of thumb, something between $75 and $150 should suffice.

6. Don't clump all your single friends together at one table.

Sure, weddings are a great place to meet people, but don't throw all your single friends haphazardly at one table. Instead, seat people based on their shared interests, not marital status. Go through your guest list and draw parallels — join up guests with similar hobbies, jobs, or interests. And try to make everyone feel comfortable by offering a mix of familiar and new faces at each table. If your single cousin Kristen just got back from a trip to Copenhagen and your married friends Matt and Valerie are headed there next month, seat them at the same table.

7. Don't make guests pay for their own drinks.

The bar bill amounts to one of the reception's biggest expenses, so it's understandable that not every couple can afford hours and hours of open-bar boozing. But there are many ways to save big without having to resort to a cash bar, which is never a good idea! We repeat, a cash bar is never a good idea! Instead, try one of these ideas:

1. Serve two creative signature cocktails. Give your guests a taste of your personality as a couple by serving a signature drink or two. You'll limit the amount of alcohol imbibed since you can incorporate inexpensive mixers, and you can choose a less expensive brand of alcohol. Not only will this selection help you stick to your budget, but also, your guests will enjoy learning more about you through your drink choices.
2. Stick to wine and beer. Mixed drinks with expensive liquor can quickly add up, so give your guests a choice of wine or beer to sip throughout the night.
3. BYOB. Ask if your site allows you to bring in your own liquor. Buy it by the case to save 10 to 15 percent off the cost of single bottles. Return unopened bottles, if that's allowed in your state.
4. Have a limited open bar. You can opt for an open bar just during cocktail hour, then switch to beer and wine during dinner and the rest of the reception.
5. Go ethnic. Plan a themed reception, then limit beverages to a few appropriate options: red wine with an Italian celebration, or Coronas and margaritas for a Mexican fiesta, for example.

8. Don't forget to feed your wedding vendors.
The last thing you want on your wedding day is a low-energy DJ or an exhausted photographer. Your vendors are putting on your affair so that you don't have to, so plan on feeding any wedding professionals who will be there with you at the reception. This includes your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, and DJ or band, plus their assistants (but not your florist or the ceremony musicians). Work their meals into your budget and consider it part of their fee. (And actually, for many vendors, it is actually stipulated in the contract that the couple is to provide a meal.) As for pricing, ask your caterer — everyone has different policies. Some won't charge extra while others will charge you around 50 percent of the guest meal cost. Others will have you pay full price. Once that's settled, you are responsible for letting your caterer know how many extra meals they need to prepare for your vendors. Also talk to your caterers and the venue manager to designate a quiet spot for them to eat during a break (though you may want to seat your photographer in the main room so they're near the action, in case they need to jump out of their seat to take a shot). Just remember, your vendors are going to be working five to eight hours (or more!) that day and you don't want their energy to flag just as the party gets going.

9. Don't skip out on greeting each guest personally.

These days, most couples forgo the formal post-ceremony receiving line. Instead, make it a point to circulate among the reception tables after dinner. Work with your wedding planner to schedule the table greetings into the day-of timeline and make an effort to find something sincere and personal to say to each guest. Another idea is to hand-deliver your wedding favors as you make your table rounds — it's the perfect way to catch everyone. Just make sure to keep moving and don't get held up at one table for too long.

10. Don't wait a year to send your thank-you notes.
Let's set the record straight: No, you do not have a year to mail your thank-you cards. We're not sure where this wedding myth originated, but you should send thank-you notes to everyone who has given you a gift at any of the wedding festivities (the engagement party, bridal shower, wedding) in a much more timely fashion. For gifts received during the engagement party and shower, send a thank you within two to three weeks of the festivities; for gifts sent before the wedding date, send a card as soon as possible but definitely before the wedding; for gifts given on the wedding day itself, mail a thank-you note within three months; and for gifts received after your wedding, send one within two to three weeks.

What is your favorite "Don't" that we didn't list?