The Manners of Getting Married

There are a lot of etiquette questions that come up during wedding planning. We’ve got a few answers for you.

Our ring bearer is quite young and we’re worried about having him carry our rings down the aisle. What other options do we have?
If you want to still have the tradition of your ring bearer carrying the rings, then ask your maid of honor to hold them until right before the ceremony and then tie them securely onto the pillow. When your ring bearer gets down the aisle, he can then hand the pillow to the best man, who can then untie the rings, transfer them to his pocket and hand the pillow back. You could also place the rings in a box or another container to lessen the chances of him dropping them.

If you’d rather not chance it at all, consider having him carry: a sign that says “Here comes the bride,” the unity candle, flowers for your mothers (which he can give once he’s down the aisle) or a book your readers can use. If this is the direction you choose, there are plenty of ideas online. Some of my favorites are: Etsy.com, WeddingBee.com and WeddingGawker.com.

I want to make certain there are enough seats up front for my family at our ceremony without putting a “reserved” sign on them. How can I do so in such a way that it doesn’t look tacky or inappropriate while continuing the colors and theme of my wedding?
There are as many ways to delineate reserved seating as there are themes for weddings. Most people know that the first few rows are for the families of the bride and groom, but to ensure that they do remember, you have a few options. If you’re having ushers, let them know who should sit in those rows and ask your ushers to seat your guests accordingly. If you aren’t going to have ushers, or you have a large number of people whom you want up front, you’re going to want to “rope off” those rows. Draping a length of ribbon or garland across the opening will ensure that your other guests are prevented from sitting there – just make certain to let your family members know that those rows are for them, or you could end up with a very empty-looking ceremony.

My family is pretty large – for instance, I have 15 first cousins – but my fiancé’s family isn’t and we aren’t planning on having a large wedding. This poses many questions that have me tied up in knots. First, do I have to include family in my wedding party and, if so, how many of them? Second, can I invite my favorite aunt without inviting all of my aunts, uncles and cousins? Third, how do we seat our guests so that the ceremony doesn’t look lopsided?
These questions are some of the trickiest that any bride will face. Taking them in order: Always remember that this is your wedding and you don’t necessarily have to have anyone in it that you don’t want. I say “necessarily” because this can be a difficult situation. What you’ll have to do is weigh the benefits of choosing those ladies truly closest to you against the fights, temper tantrums, hurt feelings and Facebook comments you’ll have to endure if you don’t include someone with whom you aren’t as close. Also consider asking the ones who don’t make your list to do special jobs, like handing out programs, fixing your dress as you enter your ceremony or to be in charge of gathering your family for photos.

It is a very hard choice to make, one that seems almost political, but it’s also just the beginning of a series of difficult choices. Everyone has their vision of your wedding: your vendors, your families, your fiancé, your best friends, but you are the common denominator. It is your wedding, but all of the people I mentioned (OK, maybe not your vendors) are important to you and your fiancé, which means that just because you don’t have to take their feelings and assumptions into consideration, you should.

As for only inviting your favorite aunt, think of your guest list as an onion. The very center ring is you and your fiancé; the next is your immediate family; then your “chosen” family (best friends and such); and so on, with the outermost ring being acquaintances. Once you get down to the nitty-gritty of actualities, when it’s time to start cutting your guest list, start from the outside. This means that if you invite one aunt, you really should invite them all. If you can’t afford that (or just don’t want to) consider having the small wedding of your dreams and then having a separate reception in your hometown. At that party you can ask your favorite aunt to give a toast or be in charge of something special to show how much you value her.

In regards to seating, think about having your ushers ask guests to sit on the more empty side as seats fill. You could also ask some close friends ahead of time, especially those who are dear to both you and your fiancé, to be prepared to sit on your fiancé’s side to even things out.

I’ve been invited to a wedding in July and I have the most perfect dress – but it’s white. Can I wear it?
When dressing for big events, the most important thing is to feel beautiful. If that white dress is the one, then it’s OK to wear – really. Etiquette books (even Martha Stewart Weddings and the fifth edition of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette) say it’s OK to wear white, red and even black. However, it may not be worth it, because people will talk and you might become known as “the girl who wore white to _____’s wedding” – even though you wouldn’t be in the wrong. My advice is to let the bride be the one in white, and save that dress for another occasion.

I know that I shouldn’t feel this way, and I feel horrible even admitting this, but my engagement ring isn’t my style and I just don’t like it. What do I do?

You have a few options – though none of them are easy. You could keep your feelings inside and hope that you grow to love the ring your fiancé chose as much as you love him. But, if every time you look at your ring finger you want to throw up, then you need to be honest with yourself and with him.

Should you decide to go the latter route, be direct, be honest and be kind. Say something like, “I know that you spent a lot of time choosing the perfect ring, and it’s beautiful, but ever since I was little, I’ve dreamed of …” He will most likely be hurt, so reassure him that all in all it’s just a ring, and that what’s important to you is what it represents – ahem, your love – so you want it to feel like it was put on this earth just for you, just as the two of you feel about each other.

Remember that this ring should be with you for the rest of your life and don’t beat yourself up for your feelings. Just make certain to take his feelings into consideration as well, no matter what you choose.  

A dear friend of mine just lost his job and money is tight for he and his wife. How do I tell them that they don’t have to give us a wedding present?
This is a tough one that seems to be more prevalent in our current economy, but even though you want to say something because you care about them, you really shouldn’t. You can say what a gift it is to have them attend and how you’re excited to have them there, and hope that they catch on. You can mention how much you love the “insert more inexpensive gift here” that you have on your registry, and hope they take the bait. What you cannot do is tell them not to give you a gift (just as you wouldn’t command them to purchase one). 

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