Bridezillas often get a bad reputation, but wedding planning is a time when a lot of people stop being polite and start getting real. It's not long after you first announce your engagement that suddenly everyone has a few thoughts on what your wedding must have or things that you absolutely must do - often falling back on some nebulous idea of "etiquette" to justify when you need to invite everyone within six degrees of separation, stock only top-shelf liquor at the open bar, and then give everyone a pony to remember your special day fondly. But in the past few years, weddings have started to change a lot and what was a mainstay for previous generations may not necessarily be true for Boston brides in the present.
So what does etiquette dictate for your New England wedding if not free ponies?
It depends. If you were expecting a quick checklist for your wedding day, I can't offer you that because it just doesn't exist. What's true for a black tie gala doesn't always hold for a backyard barbecue; what is politic with an Episcopalian cake and punch reception will not reflect what people expect from a Hindu wedding. Weddings are as varied as the couples getting married - they have different budgets, different crowds and different ideas about showing people a good time. But there's one thing that every wedding has in common and that's bringing together a community of family and friends to celebrate this new phase of a couple's journey together.
Wedding etiquette is about making your guests feel welcome and wanted in that community. Decisions about your ceremony and reception should be made with consideration and kindness for your guests in mind. While there may not be a checklist, here are a few scenarios and possible solutions to treat your guests with consideration.
- Cash Bar: If you're having a cash bar at your wedding, make sure guests know ahead of time so that they can budget accordingly.
- Separate Seating: Sometimes the perfect venue can have a few imperfections. In New England there are a number of historic venues that have a lot of charm but smaller rooms mean that you might not be able to seat everyone in the same area. This can lead to some people feeling like second-class guests if you're not careful. If your venue is like this, make an extra effort to spend time circulating and try to ensure that there's a space where everyone can gather for reception events and dancing.
- Gaps: Sometimes the stars don't quite line up and you wind up with a long break between your ceremony and reception. Give your guests a heads up about this and also make some suggestions for outings that they might enjoy during that down time (that will still let them arrive at the ceremony on time and in style). If you're in a downtown area you might arrange for passes to a local museum or gallery. If that's not an option, maybe some lawn games in a local park?
- Children: A lot of etiquette questions are centered around the guest list because it's a big part of a wedding's expense and there are frequently only so many seats, to the point where every invite feels like a compromise. Kids are especially thorny areas, because they can quickly fill up the seats for a reception. It's okay to say no, but when you do say yes you want to make sure you're doing so fairly, so people don't feel like you're singling them out.
If you have different solutions or a unique wedding conundrum, why not leave a comment?
Ryan Richardson is a wedding and engagement photographer serving Boston and beyond; including Cape Cod Weddings, New England Weddings, Massachusetts Weddings and Rhode Island Weddings.