If it’s your first time planning a wedding, it’s inevitable that one (at the very least) situation will arise that will cause you to pause and consider what etiquette experts would say is the best way to handle it. Even guests often have to take a refresher course on the proper dos and don’ts when it comes to wedding-related matters. We presented Lisa Taylor Richey of Wayne, Pa., an authority on protocol and the founder of The American Academy of Etiquette, with a range of scenarios surrounding a couple’s Big Day and asked for her advice. Take note: Some of her answers may surprise you.
D/ML BRIDE: A guest responds to your invitation and adds a plus one (or more) who hasn’t been invited. Is it appropriate to call that guest and explain that they were the only one invited?
LTR: Absolutely. Most of us are aware of the cost of a wedding in this day and age. It’s ungodly. To have someone say, “I want my boyfriend or girlfriend to attend,” I think that’s really overstepping boundaries. Now if the day of the wedding they show up with someone, then you just have to set up another plate, be gracious and welcome them. So be it. That said, long-term significant others or longtime partners should always be invited with guests. If you’re single, though, you just have to understand that you weren’t invited to bring a date because of cost reasons. It may not even be a budget reason. It may be that the venue will only seat a certain amount of people, and you can’t go over that number. If a guest tries to add their children to the RSVP, it’s fine to call them and say that kids aren’t invited to the wedding.
D/ML BRIDE: There seem to be some discrepancies on what is the proper amount of money to give a couple for their wedding. Do you have to give enough to cover your plate?
LTR: I get this question a lot. Nowadays, it’s nothing for couples to pay up to $200 per plate for their guests. I think the average cost is $170 to $250 per person for a sit-down dinner. Does that mean you have to give a $500 wedding gift? The answer is no. It’s a myth that your gift has to cover the cost of your plate. I think guests should consider their relationship to the couple and their budget. It should be what you feel comfortable giving and what works with your budget. I think having up to a year to give a gift is a myth, too. You should give the gift the day of the wedding or as close to the wedding date as possible.
D/ML BRIDE: So, is it fine to give either money or a gift from the couple’s registry?
LTR: Yes, it is fine to give either.
D/ML BRIDE: If a guest doesn’t give a wedding present, is it ever appropriate for the couple to bring it to their attention?
LTR: No, never. You can always write a thank-you note just to acknowledge someone’s attendance. That way, in case a gift was misplaced or lost, the guest would know that you didn’t receive it since it wasn’t acknowledged in the note.
D/ML BRIDE: Since you mentioned it, how long does a couple have to send out thank-you notes to guests?
LTR: It’s a myth that you have a year to send a thank-you note. The thank-you note should be sent as soon as possible. It’s both the bride’s and the groom’s responsibility of writing the notes. An ideal time is within three to four weeks after the honeymoon. The handwritten thank-you note is so important. It first and foremost should express appreciation for the guests’ attendance and their gift. It doesn’t have to be more than four lines: Thank them for attending, mention the gift and how you plan on using it, thank them again and that’s it. I always hear the excuse “my handwriting is awful” for not writing thank-you notes. It doesn’t matter at all. Just write them and send them.
D/ML BRIDE: If a couple decides to throw a cocktail-style reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres instead of a full dinner, do they have to mention that on the invitation?
LTR: In 2015, it seems like the cocktail reception is becoming quite the trend. A lot of people are doing food stations or tapas. I would recommend saying on the invitation “cocktail reception.” Don’t put the word dinner on it. However, if you’re going to have a 5 or 6 o’clock wedding and you’re going to be serving alcohol, you have to feed your guests. You can’t have the bubbly flowing and serve carrots and celery.
For more information on Richey, visit www.professionaldevelopmentmatters.com.