6 Ways to Make Things Easier for the Groom and Bride-to-be
Forget Emily Post, forget the guides to etiquette – this is about how to be the kind of wedding guest the bride and groom want you to be. Howl with dismay if you will, but – seriously – this is what brides and grooms wish their guests knew. Planning a wedding, though lovely and roman- tic, is a very stressful process… and there are a few small things you as a guest can do to make things a little bit easier on the happy couple.
1. RSVP ASAP
Whether it’s a yes or no, let your host and hostess know as soon as possible whether or not you’ll be attending their big day – don’t wait until the RSVP deadline. The bride and groom are so excited after all their wedding planning efforts to receive the first RSVPs, so why not be the guests to give them that joy? Also, like it or not, the soonlyweds have a certain budget and may be aiming for a certain number of guests at their special day, so they could be waiting for the first round of “no” RSVPs in order to activate their B-list of guest invitations. And never assume that you don’t need to RSVP formally because of course the bride and groom know you’re coming – they really, really don’t.
If your RSVP is a no, also mention the reason, so you don’t leave the bride and groom guessing if it’s because you’re busy or because you don’t like their spouse-to-be. Don’t worry that you’re being rude by giving a no RSVP; the bride and groom understand that not everyone can come, and it’s better that they know as early as possible to count you out. (The Reflective Groom and I had 8 guests who never RSVPed at all, so in the final weeks we were unsure how to do the seating plan and whether to make escort cards for them in case they showed up. They didn’t.) Also, if your RSVP answer for the moment is a maybe, let the couple know that and when you will be able to give a definite reply: for example, you want to wait until next month to ask at work for time off because you just returned from another vacation, you need a few weeks to arrange a baby-sitter, and so on. It might sound odd, but at least then the bride and groom know a little better where things stand with your invitation.
2. RSVP “officially”
Pay attention to the RSVP request… if the invitation includes an RSVP card, fill it out and post it back; if there is an email address to reply to or phone number to SMS, use them. The point is to make sure the bride and groom know that, when you give your RSVP, that it’s your official answer. Shortly after sending out our save-the-dates, we saw some of the invitees at a party and they squealed, “Ooh, we’d love to come!” Afterwards my groom and I were confused: Was that their official RSVP? How tipsy were they? Does “we’d love to come” mean “yes, we’re coming” or “it’s a shame we’re not?” And do we need to get the RSVP after the official invitations go out rather than the save-the-dates? So: follow the RSVP instructions, and give the answer in writing… or if you reply in person, preface it with “We would formally like to give you our RSVP for the wedding, so…” – just so the message is clear!
3. Bring a gift
You wouldn’t show up to a birthday or house-warming party without a gift for your hosts, so why would you do so for a far more significant event like a wedding? Anyone who you thinks weddings are simply a gift-grab has clearly never organized a wedding; big day gifts nowhere near cover the costs of the event (or sometimes even “the chair”), so no one is putting their nuptials together to make a profit. Of course, only buy a gift that’s within your means and choose a less expensive gift in you need to. Or if you can’t afford a gift at all, let the bride and groom know that money is a little tight and you hope that your presence will do well as a present (especially if it’s costing you money to join the wedding); they will of course understand.
Not only is giving a gift the polite thing to do, but not giving a gift also poses a conun- drum for the bride and groom. In the case of the Reflective Groom and me, by the time of our wedding one-third of the guests had not given gifts. So… are they planning to give gifts at all? Can we now buy ourselves the remaining items on the registry, or do we need to keep some there for people who might buy later? We needed some items and others were being discontinued, so we didn’t know what to do. And then it came time to buy thank-you cards… should we only buy for those who have already given gifts, or do we need to spend more on buying extra cards to have spare in case of late gifts?
Also, buy your present from the registry. Whether or not you think registries are tacky, it does take the hassle out of coming up with a gift idea yourself, rather than worrying whether they’ll like what you’ve purchased. With a gift from a registry, you know it’s something the happy couple wants (or needs), something they don’t already own, and you know they won’t receive two because the item will be removed from the registry once you buy it.
Lastly, buy your gift early. Whether they admit it or not, the bride and groom are “registry stalking” – keeping a regular tab on the registry to see what is being bought. (Fun, and partly necessary so they can see if more gifts, or more gifts in a certain price range, need to be added to ensure guests have lots of options.) If you’re planning to buy a gift anyway, buy it early; the bride and groom will be super excited to see the first items disappear from their registry and wonder who their mystery purchasers might be!
4. Share dietary requirements
Your bride and groom are not professional event planners, so if a month before the big day you haven’t received questions about your dietary requirements and you have an important request, speak up – they probably haven’t even thought about it. Some time in the month before the wedding the bride and groom will need to confirm the menu with their reception venue. Don’t assume that your old friend the bride of course remembers that you’re vegan. Notifying the happy couple goes for if you’re vegetarian, or have food allergies or restrictions due to religion. If, however, you simply don’t like cucumber or prefer your steak cooked a certain way, there is no need to report that; the reception venue probably doesn’t allow for too many or those kinds of exceptions anyway. It’s difficult to feed such a large group and keep everyone happy! Forgot to share your dietary requirements until the night? Notify your waiter that you need something different; don’t bother the bride and groom with it (they would just ask the waiter anyway, so cut out the middle-man and save them the hassle).
5. Dress appropriately
Pay attention to the dress code written on the invitation. The bride and groom have added it because they want to achieve a certain kind of atmosphere or theme at their wedding, and also because they don’t want any of their guests to feel embarrassed by being over-dressed (or under-dressed!) on the day. At our own wedding – which had an “evening formal” dress code and an explanation of what that meant on our wedding website – one fellow turned up in a white shirt, jeans, cowboy boots and a head bandana. My groom was really upset about this because in his culture weddings are very formal affairs (tuxedos for the win), so to him the guest was being disrespectful by showing up in such casual attire. It pays to read the invitation fine print!
Also, some dress pointers for the female guests. Ladies, don’t wear white to the wedding. Just don’t. And don’t gently ask the bride if it’s fine (“because you’ll be beautiful anyway so it’s not like I’ll draw attention away from you”); it’s not fine, and if you ask she’ll feel pressured to say that of course you can wear white, too, and then she’ll feel awkward and resentful. Seriously, you have no idea how many bridal forums are out there with brides fretting about how to tell their mothers-in-law that they really doesn’t want her wearing a cream pants-suit. Similarly, think twice before wearing black; you may have the cutest LBD evuh, but if all the other women make the same sartorial move, the event will quickly look like a funeral. And last but not least, pay attention to the colors on the invitation, like the font and ribbons; it’s most likely that one of those colors is the shade the bridesmaids will be wearing, so skip that color if you want to avoid looking like a bridal party wannabe.
6. Check before you ask
Got a question? Check the invitation, any emails the happy couple has sent or wedding website for hotel recommendations, transport, directions, etc before you bother the bride and groom with your query. They spent time putting together those invitation inserts and webpages for a reason, and if every guest checks every question with the bride and groom, you’ll simply end up with stressed-out soonlyweds. Also, consider if your question is one that could be answered elsewhere (Google can help you plan your sightseeing itinerary) or can’t be answered at all (seriously, the number of people who asked us months in advance what the weather would be like on the wedding day…).
This advice goes double for the final week before the wedding, when the happy couple will likely be stressed, busy and nervous. Seriously, two days before the wedding while we were running around buying after-party refreshments, we had one guest arrive in town by train who SMSed to ask how she now gets from the train station to the hotel. (Really? Have you never travelled before and didn’t think to find this out yourself in advance?) If you have a burning question in the final days, ask one of the bridal party or a family member rather than take up the couple’s time… and don’t even think about contacting the bride and groom with a question on the morning of the wedding! Got a question or request during the wedding itself, like your table hasn’t received their drinks or the reception room is too warm? Ask a staff member or the wedding planner rather than bothering the happy couple.
What do you think is involved in being a good wedding guest? What do you wish your wedding guests knew to help make your life as bride and groom a little bit easier?