As I sat down to write this blog post about wedding planning etiquette, I realized that there are SO many moving parts to the planning process, I couldn’t possibly write about all of them in one post! To kick things off, let’s talk about three major components that often cause brides a lot of stress – invites, bridal showers and registries. Whatever you do, don’t google “wedding etiquette,” and put down that “how to” book on wedding planning. Instead, read on for my advice on planning a wedding that reflects your personality but doesn’t balk in the face of tradition or alienate your loved ones.
It’s strange how people come out of the woodwork when they hear you’re getting married (and if you’re super fun like me you know they’re dying to go to your wedding shindig). It’s also strange how suddenly your mom has reignited her long lost best friendship with her cousin’s friend’s sister and she absolutely HAS to be invited to the wedding. Deciding on who to invite is tough because you don’t want to make anyone feel bad, yet you know you have a budget and possibly a room capacity and you need to stick to that. My best friend didn’t invite me to her wedding, yet our friendship survived and she’ll be in my wedding in August. Her wedding was small and immediate family only, and I respected that. Was I butt hurt? No. Would I have loved to have been there? Of course! But that was her vision and I would never fault her for that.
Likewise, choose your vision and set boundaries. It’s completely acceptable to tell people your wedding is family and close friends only, or that your fiancé has a huge family that’s sucking up all the invites. Whatever your reason, don’t feel bad. Just don’t end up inviting people to your wedding for dumb reasons – like because they invited you to yours or because they do a really nice job delivering your mail. Picture yourself standing in front of the love of your life, reciting your vows or pouring your heart out…who do you want there for that?
Also, keep in mind that you may need to suck it up and leave room for a few obligatory invites. Your fiancé, your mother, and even your in-laws will have invite requests. Don’t feel like you have to honor all of them, but if your mom will have more fun with her best friend there, let her come. If your fiancé really wants to invite his boss even though you think he’s a total jerk, try to compromise. If it makes your loved ones happier and doesn’t really change much for you, go ahead and allow a few randoms to attend. Hey, it’s one more gift, right?
As for the actual invites, there are a lot of creative ways to invite your family and friends to your big day. Personally, I think a formal invite and piece of tissue paper and RSVP card is overkill (and I’d rather spend that money on wine), so what other options are there? Nowadays, a lot of brides are opting to save money and send a simple invite in the mail, then manage RSVPs online. Some brides are even doing video or online invites. While etiquette experts may disagree, the invites do not have to be formal.
I had a friend send a postcard invite for her wedding – no envelope, no RSVP card. Guests RSVP’d via phone and email, and no one even missed the pre-stamped card. We’re doing a super simple postcard invitation that lists a URL where all wedding details are listed. We’re allowing guests to not only RSVP online, but provide us with song requests at the same time. Is anyone going to miss that little piece of tissue paper? I doubt it. If invites are a big selling point for you, then go big! Just make sure you stick within your budget and create an invite that reflects you and your fiancé’s personalities.
Bridal Shower Etiquette
Bridal showers are so bizarre. It’s like someone took everyone you’ve known since birth, put them in a blender and spit out this odd mixture of people you probably wouldn’t be able to pick out of a lineup. Then you play these mind-numbing games like Toilet Paper Bride, eat some pasta salad and wrap it up with some “oohing” and “aahing” over spatulas. Well guess what, it doesn’t have to be like this!
You can opt out of having a shower at all (seriously, no one will mind), or just go for it and make sure it’s something that reflects your unique style. Also ask yourself a few important questions: Do my bridesmaids/friends even want to throw me a shower? Who will pay for it? Where will the shower take place? Who do I want to be there? If you don’t want to burden your bridesmaids or friends with hosting a shower, pay for the food yourself and help with the planning.
I can’t tell you how many friendships I’ve seen tested (and sometimes ended) over shower planning. If you don’t want people to have to travel, go to them. I’m so sick of reading about all these etiquette rules, like you have to invite every female to your shower that’s invited to your wedding. I don’t even know half the women invited to our wedding, and many of them live out of state, so sending them a shower invite seems like a lame attempt to get a gift. Showers are awkward enough, don’t make it worse by forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do simply because traditional etiquette says so.
My best advice is, try not to feel obligated to have a shower, and if you do have a shower, make it something that reflects you and your personality. Have a theme party, a backyard bbq, or go wine tasting (yes, okay I love wine). Just be honest and communicate with your loved ones about what you want. The ultimate goal should be to celebrate your upcoming nuptials with the people that matter to you most. However you reach that goal is entirely up to you.
These days there are a lot of options when it comes to registering, either for your shower or your wedding. My fiancé and I have been living in sin for four years, so we’re not really in need of a lot of the starter home type of items. Yes I’d like to ditch the hand-me-down pots and pans I’ve had since college, but overall I don’t need 150 home gifts. So what’s a girl like me to do? A honeyfund! For our wedding registry, we’re asking guests to donate toward our honeymoon, which really wouldn’t be possible for us on our own.
Megan Gilger of The Fresh Exchange
Honeyfund allows you to register for specific goods or services that are a part of your honeymoon. This can include hotel stays, drinks on the beach, dinner, spa services, taxi rides, tours, or anything that will be a part of your trip. This gives guests a tangible item or experience to purchase for you, even though the funds go into one account. When you write your thank-you notes, you can say, “hey thank you for buying us dinner on the beach! The fresh mahi mahi was amazing,” rather than, “hey thanks for the dough.”
Speaking of dough, you can also create a honeyfund for straight cash toward a down payment on a home. I just recommend you make the registry reflect something tangible your guests will feel good about buying into. If you do need home stuff and want to go the traditional registry route, make sure you choose items you really need and want. Do you really want a set of fine china, or are you registering for it because you think you’re supposed to? Whatever registry route you go, make sure it reflects you and your fiance’s lifestyle and needs, and not a bunch of items you’ll never use.
So, dear bridal grasshoppers, what have we learned from all of this? Know yourself, make decisions that reflect your personality, keep communication open with friends and family, and stay true to yourself. Easy, right?
Gina Borud is a newlywed from Boise, Idaho and has been blogging about her experience as a bride (and now wife!) since April. She owns her own graphic design and consulting business (www.designscribble.com) and works to help individuals, small businesses, nonprofits and startups with their marketing and communication needs. Gina enjoys perfecting her crab cake recipe, drinking wine and playing cribbage with her husband, Matt, and playing outside in the great Idaho outdoors. She’s an avid swimmer, runner, gardener and reality TV junkie.