RÉPONDEZ S’IL VOUS PLAÎT: ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT THE STICKY WEDDING SITUATIONS
Photo by Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company
In the 2015 Sophisticated Weddings: New York Edition, we addressed several reader's questions about wedding etiquette, and what to do in certain sticky situations that can arise as you plan your wedding. Here we will share your stories and dish our thoughts!
“I invited a friend from work to bring a +1 to our wedding because she lives with her boyfriend, and we’re trying to follow the married/engaged/serious relationship guest rule. My friend said that her boyfriend wouldn’t be able to make it, but wants to know if it’s okay to bring a friend of hers instead. I don’t want to be rude or make things awkward, but we’re not having a very large wedding, and I feel funny about having a stranger, especially when there will be other people there that she knows. What is the right way to handle this?” –Elizabeth, Long Island City
Any answer that doesn’t include allowing your friend to bring a guest in place of their significant other will likely be a little awkward. Whether or not you decide to raise an alternative suggestion with your friend depends on a couple of factors: Are you friendly with her significant other? Will the other guests that she knows be attending with a guest? Does she want to bring someone you know but didn’t invite? If you’ve never met your friend’s boyfriend, the issue with having someone you don’t know at your wedding is a moot point. Even if your friend is surrounded by people she does know, if they’re all coming with a date, this person might feel uncomfortable. By default, since you were planning on inviting her with a guest anyway, you may just have to let this one slide. It would however, be a wise idea to check in about who she was thinking of bringing along— a +1 who is someone you both know that wasn’t invited (and knows it) is a definite no-no, and it’s okay to draw a boundary.
“I feel like a traditional response card is the standard form of an RSVP, but I’d much prefer to have my guests confirm their attendance digitally. Our invite list is quite substantial, and it would be a lot easier to stay on top of it if they could RSVP through our wedding website. I’m just a little concerned that we’ll either look cheap, or give our guests the impression that our wedding will be a casual one. Is this a mistake?” –Christie, Hell’s Kitchen
Now more than ever, couples are opting to receive their RSVPs online. It makes sense after all- there are several free platforms to do this which have useful features that will help with organization, custom questions, and even give a little nudge to the guests you haven’t heard back from. The concern isn’t so much that you’ll look cheap or casual by directing your guests to confirm their attendance online, but you should take into consideration that some guests won’t find this to be the preferred method of getting in touch. Great Aunt Bertha might not know how to turn her computer on, much less navigate her way to your RSVP website. It might not be a bad idea to offer both options- include a mail-in RSVP card in the invitation, and make a note on it that lets guests know they can alternatively RSVP online. You can input the RSVPs you receive via snail mail into the online platform, as well collect responses from the more digitally savvy guests online. As for formal vs. casual, your invitation should say it all. If your affair is black tie, make a note of it on the formal invitation. Your RSVP collection method shouldn’t make any impact.
“How much can I reasonably expect my bridesmaids to spend on their dresses? I’ve never been a bridesmaid, so I’m not sure what’s too much to ask of them. I don’t want to put anyone out.” –Stella, Yorkville
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one price tag fits all’ answer in this situation. A bridesmaid dress can easily cost anywhere from $150 to well over $500, but that figure could hold different values to the members of your bridal party. This is the time to get a good sense of what your bridesmaids can comfortably spend, and don’t leave anyone out. If all but one of the girls are Rockefellers, that doesn’t mean you should select a dress with a high price tag. Bridesmaids often invest a great deal into hosting a number of special occasions for the bride, and this is one area where it’s within your control to save them from a piling debt. You can be the anti-bridezilla simply by giving your bridesmaids a voice in the selection process. Perhaps you can approach them with some general ideas and guidelines of how you envision them looking on your wedding day, and then open a forum of discussion where they are invited to provide examples of what they like. If it’s important to you that they all coordinate, and it’s within your budget, you might want to consider footing the bill yourself for the dresses, but that is not mandatory or expected. Whatever you decide, just do your best to keep an open mind, and you can avoid a heap of unwanted guilt or drama in the process.
“What are the rules surrounding the Save-the-Date? How far in advance should we send them out?” –Brynn, FiDi
In theory, you can send out your Save-the-Dates as soon as you have put down the deposit for your wedding venue, but if that date is far into the future (more than a year), you might want to hold off just a little bit. While you may be feeling overwhelmed with excitement and ready to get started, just remember that there a lot of lessons to be learned throughout your wedding planning journey. Once you send someone a Save-the-Date, you must invite that person to your wedding. There are no backsies here. Many brides and grooms get over-eager with sending their Save-the-Dates early on, and then learn in the planning process that they’ve overextended themselves with the guest list. It might serve you best to send out your Save-the-Date no sooner than 6-9 months before the wedding, after you have carefully decided on the wedding you want, and have budgeted accordingly. There is still plenty of time to reasonably expect a vacancy in your guests’ schedules.
“My fiancé and I decided to register for a honeymoon instead of material gifts. We won’t be taking our trip until four months after our wedding. I’d really like to include photos from our trip in our thank you notes, but my fiancé feels that we shouldn’t wait that long to send them. What is the protocol for this?” –Jeremy, Upper West Side
It is understandable that you would want to share photos from your honeymoon with the guests that made it possible. Four months however, is a long time to wait before sending a thank you note. Instead, consider telling that person how much you appreciate their gift, and are looking forward to the parasailing experience that the gift afforded you. If you would like to add a personal touch to your handwritten note (and it absolutely should be handwritten- no emails!), you can include a photograph you took with that guest at your wedding. As a general rule, try to get those thank you notes out sooner than later. If you receive a gift in advance of the wedding, send your note as soon as possible. It is acceptable to take up to three months from the wedding date to send a thank you note, but we recommend getting it out of the way by the two-month mark. Even if a guest attended your wedding without bringing a gift, send a thank you note anyway. They came out to share in your special day, and that is a gift in and of itself.
Photo by Shira Weinberger Photography
“How do I time my invitations so that my B list invites don’t realize they’re second string?” –Lee, Nolita
Wedding invitations are generally mailed out between 6 and 8 weeks before the wedding, with an RSVP deadline of 2-3 weeks before the big day. You should give your guests no less than three weeks to respond. If you have an A list and B list of invited guests, don’t expect the plan to work out seamlessly. There will always be those guests that you’ll have to hunt down an answer from, and you shouldn’t begin hounding them before the RSVP date. You can get a head start with your A list by sending their invitations a week or two early, but don’t even think about sending an invite that is on the cusp of the RSVP date. The guest will know their invitation was an after-thought, and that’s not a feeling you want to put out there. Another thing to keep in mind is that invitation design can take longer than you had anticipated, especially if you go custom. When ordering your invitations, give the process a little extra time, so you’re not stressing about the timetables when it comes down to the wire.
“I have been asked to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of a good friend of mine, and after I agreed, she decided to make it to a destination wedding half-way across the world. I’m afraid I just don’t have the time or funds to plan all of the events surrounding her wedding and fly out to be there for the wedding. Should I step down from my role?” –Matilda, Carroll Gardens
It is understandable that your ability to fulfill this role changed as the plans for the wedding did. Just like you are a good friend of the bride, and want only happiness for her, she wants the same for you, and doesn’t want to watch you go broke either. I would suggest that you have an honest discussion with your friend. Perhaps together, you can come up with a mutually agreeable plan that won’t involve you removing yourself from the bridal party. If you decide that you can handle some aspects of your role, but not others, together you can figure out what is most important. If you’re flying out to Prague to be at her wedding, you don’t have to break your bank by hosting a bachelorette weekend in Vegas. Alternatively, if you really feel you can’t swing the trip out to her destination wedding, there are plenty of ways you can be involved in making this occasion in her life a special one here at home. Together you can work this out so that it’s not a burden for either of you.
“My fiancé and I are planning a winter wedding. Should we consider wedding insurance, in the event of a snow storm?” –Lauren, Park Slope
A wedding is a very large investment, both financially and emotionally, so it is wise to consider protection in the event that something happens that is beyond your control. A potential snowstorm in the winter is just one of reasons you might want to consider insuring your wedding. The are other what-if scenarios that insurance can protect you from- illness or injury, unforeseen cancellations from a vendor or venue, and in some cases, liability for accidents that may occur in connection with your big day. Like all insurance policies, it is important to read the fine print and understand what you’re buying to be sure that it’s right for you. Be sure to check with your vendors about their coverage so that you don’t overlap unnecessarily. One thing that you shouldn’t rely on for coverage: a change of heart. Beyond cold feet, in most cases you can find a policy that is tailored to your specifications. Most of all, wedding insurance can offer you peace of mind, and you can’t place a price tag on that.
A version of the article entitled “Répondez S’il Vous Plaît,” was printed in the 2015 Sophisticated Weddings: New York Edition, which is currently available for purchase on newsstands everywhere and online.