After working in the wedding industry for years, we’ve heard countless horror stories (and been the victim) of bridezillas, groomzillas, misbehaving guests, and many other boo-boos when it comes to weddings. Granted, everyone’s under some form of pressure and stress with making it the perfect wedding, but carrying it out nicely should be the key! After all, you don’t want to peeve off all your best friends and family with bad manners.
We roped in two experts in wedding etiquette to give us tips on how you can be a great host or a gracious guest. Kristen Graff from Manners In Mind, and Caroline Tan-Reed from The Wedding Stylist remind us of the boo-boos to avoid, and the way to good manners.
For the Newly-weds:
1. Do send out invitations, formally.
After receiving some invitations by Facebook and SMS, we were left wondering if we were just growing old and that this the way wedding invites are sent out now. When we asked Kristen, she reminded us that a wedding is an important occasion that traditionally happens once in your life and you are inviting your friends and family to share in this momentous occasion.
In terms of proper etiquette, she is a firm believer in formal paper invitations that are mailed, or in some cases, hand delivered.
Wedding planner Caroline adds “It gives a more personal touch and makes the invitation more formal. Besides, a hardcopy invitation card is probably the first impression of your wedding to your guests.”
That said, if you’re adventurous and have a production crew on hand, why not direct your own movie trailer for your wedding like these guys:
2. Do tip if you wish, but don’t worry about it.
“A tip is an expression of gratitude for great service so you are not obligated to tip anyone,” advises Kristen. “That said, be sure to express your gratitude either through a tip or a gift to anyone who goes out of their way to make your wedding extraordinary – the Emcee that let your Uncle tell jokes, or the catering manager who assisted with last minute changes. Anyone who owns their own studio like photographers, florists, designers do not typically receive a gratuity. If you use a wedding planner a tip or a nice gift would be appropriate.”
Caroline agrees that it is not a requirement to do so but some couples do tip.
We’ve also realised that in Singapore, some couples or parents do give wedding suppliers ang baos (red packets filled with money) in addition to their paycheque.
3. Do communicate clearly to your designer, photographer and other suppliers
Telling your wedding suppliers that they aren’t really “getting you” would be a challenge to many. How can you tell the famous photographer you paid a five-figure sum for that you aren’t really digging his images, or you would like another 15 edits to the wedding gown design you initially started of with?
To avoid seeming too picky or pushy (Bridezilla anyone?), Caroline suggests that the best thing to do is to have an open mind because you never know when your designer may surprise you with an unusual design that could be a winner. However, she also suggests that you should let the designer know of your style preference from the beginning, so that you won’t end up with a design the complete opposite of what you like.
Of course, do your homework! Kristen recommends looking through lots of wedding magazines or web sites, and create a Pinterest page of all the details you like, so that the designers can use them for inspiration. While you have a vision for your dream dress, it is also important to trust the designer to know what will work on you. Think of the process as a creative collaboration!
When it comes to photographers, Kristen recommends to take care in your selection process and that you should have a clear idea of their style of photos before the day of the wedding. Her tip to getting the right shots is to “make a list of all the photos you want to have to pass to the photographer so they won’t be missed”
What about on the wedding day itself? If you do not think that the photographer is getting the images important to you, Caroline advises that you should “gently bring the photographer aside and explain your preference” because “it is always better to express how you feel than to hold it inside and end up hating the pictures”. We agree.
5. Do give your Mum and Bridesmaids a treat to makeup or a dress
Your wedding is probably one of the few times, if not the only, in your life that your girlfriends will willingly wear the same dress at the same event. It then begs the question of who is going to pay for the dresses and makeup artist for your bridesmaids and mom?
Some of Caroline’s clients do hire a makeup artist or buy dresses for the mum and bridesmaids as a gift, but just like tipping, it is not a requirement.
Kristen says, “While you are not obligated to pay for anyone’s dress or make up, it will be appreciated if you do, if it is within your budget. Therefore, when making your bridesmaid dress selection, remember to be sensitive to costs, including accessories. Treating your mom and/or bridesmaids to a make up session on the day of your wedding would be a wonderful gesture, and would also allow you to have some quiet time together.”
6. Don’t fret over anyone who attempts to upstage you
While the bride should be the one standing out during the wedding, there are those who inevitably upstage the poor bride by turning up overdressed or overdone – and sometimes they are your closest friends or family.
Caroline says, “The best way is to try and avoid this all together by finding out what they are wearing or intend to wear on the wedding day. That way, no surprises will happen and you can gently hint that their ‘planned’ outfit might not be so appropriate. This gives them more time to react rather than telling them on the actual day and they do not have any back-up outfits to fall back on.”
Kristen keeps her cool and believes that “as the bride, all eyes will be on you so you need not be concerned about someone upstaging you. Don’t raise the matter or worry about it.”
7. Do thank your bridesmaids and groomsmen
One of the most important people to thank after the wedding is over has to be the bridesmaids and groomsmen. From running countless errands to getting roped into doing dreaded forfeits during the “gatecrashing” and being your support system (other than your loving spouse of course!), these guys deserve a big “Thank You”. Caroline also recommends taking your bridesmaids and groomsmen out for a nice meal and good wine after the wedding so there is no stress.
Alternatively, Kristen suggests that a small gift accompanied with a heart felt note of thanks is a great way to thank those who have served in your bridal party, and the more personal the better. “For groomsmen, think tech gadgets or cufflinks, for bridesmaids, a spa treatment or designer make up bag”.
If you’re a guest:
1. Do respond appropriately if you have to decline a wedding invitation
Caroline’s advice is to call the couple directly and tell them that you are not able to make it, but don’t forget to express your congratulations!
Kristen recommends responding in the same way you were invited – For a formal invitation, use the RSVP card typically enclosed. If you were invited via email, you should respond via email. “It is best to RSVP as soon as you can to help the bride and groom with their planning.”
2. Don’t ever attempt to wear a white dress if you aren’t the bride
Both Kristen, Caroline and all of us agree that no one but the bride should wear white. See point #6 above. Even if the bride still smiles at you, she could be upset at you for it.
3. Do be a sport and wear your designated bridesmaid’s dress – even if you hate it
We doubt that anyone has a cupboard full of OTT bridesmaids dresses the way that Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses had. Console yourself by going through all her outrageous outfits from the film if you are made to wear a dress you absolutely hate.
Kristen admits that this time, you’ll have to grin and bear it. After all, this day is about the bride and groom and not about your style choices.
Caroline also advises to just wear it for the day. It is your friends’ big day and it is not necessary to ruin it just because you don’t approve of the outfit they chose.
4. Don’t leave too early or without saying bye
Kristen clarifies that if you are a part of the wedding party (e.g. immediate family, bridesmaids, groomsmen), then you are expected to stay until the end of the festivities. If you are a guest, and the wedding dinner is not an intimate affair, then it is acceptable to leave once the bride and groom cut the cake and toasts have been made.
Caroline reminds us to let the couple know before hand if you need to leave early, and also to say your goodbyes before you leave.
5. Don’t forget to give your ang bao !
Sometimes we wonder if an ang bao (red packet stuffed with cash) is more appropriate, or are gifts and cash vouchers okay too.
Kristen observed that younger Singaporean couples are embracing new traditions when it comes to wedding gifts, including registering for gifts, but when in doubt, cash in an angbao with a sincere card is always appreciated.
Caroline adds that while gifts and cash vouchers are acceptable, couples usually need a little help with the payment of the wedding banquet and thus, angbaos are usually preferred.
We hope that this article has helped to answer many questions that all of us have when it comes to wedding etiquette, and we couldn’t have done it without Caroline Tan-Reed and Kristen Graff. Do check out their profiles and websites links below too!
Caroline Tan-Reed is the founder of The Wedding Stylist, a local wedding planner that aims to give couples their ideal, romantic wedding. She is a certified wedding planner (Dip WP) with the Institute of Professional Wedding Planners, UK and has experience planning events since 2005. Having lived abroad for more than 7 years, she brings a fresh perspective and unique style to the plate.
Kristen Graff is the founder and Managing Partner at Manners in Mind, which has been providing courses in modern-day etiquette to people of all ages and backgrounds since 2009. Based in Singapore, they equip individuals, groups and corporations with the knowledge and confidence to conduct themselves appropriately in today’s diverse social, cultural and corporate settings. Kristen is a certified Emily Post Institute trainer in Business Etiquette, a published author of three etiquette handbooks and a monthly columnist for Expat Living.
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