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The Only Etiquette Rule You Need To Know

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When I decided to start a blog column about wedding etiquette (that’s what this is going to be--a regular column-like thing) my sassier self said, “Really? Etiquette? Since when did you put white gloves on and play by someone else’s rules? What happened to just having fun?” To which I replied, “Don’t worry, sassy side, we’re still going to bend rules, make some noise, and have a good time. That’s what the column’s going to be about!”

Then I stopped talking to myself because people were starting to look at me weird and I got self-conscious.

I’ve found that every couple I work with has questions about etiquette. Even the most non-traditional couples with the craziest weddings still want to know what’s okay and what isn’t. Because deep down we all have an inner desire not to piss off our friends and family and look like tacky trainwrecks. (There may be people you do want to piss off. But are you inviting them to your wedding? If so, we have a few other things we need to discuss.)

So I’m going to make this reeeeally really easy on you. Because behind all the dos and don’ts and rules and musts and shouldn’ts and nevers is one universal etiquette truth. It’s just about love. I’ll say that again in big letters so you can digest it:

It’s just about love.

Really! That’s it! That’s the secret behind the mystical, magical force that is “etiquette.” It’s all just about showing your friends, your family, your partner--and especially yourself--love and grace. So when you’re faced with a sticky etiquette question, ask yourself, “How can I best show love and grace to everyone involved in this situation?” It’s not about being proper, it’s not even about being polite. It’s just about showing love (and remembering that these people who you’re inviting to your wedding love you too!) Keep that in mind and you’ll ace even the trickiest of etiquette tests.

Here are a few specific ways you can navigate etiquette questions with love and grace (white gloves and salad forks optional):

1. Try on your guests shoes - figuratively, weirdo, not literally. (Although that could be a really fun game for the end of the night.) You’ve probably been to at least one wedding in your life. What did you appreciate as a wedding guest? And what really rubbed you the wrong way? When you’re wondering what to do in a certain situation, instead of asking, “What’s the proper etiquette?” ask “How would I feel if I was the guest here?” If you think you’d feel icky or hurt, then you know not to do that to your friends.

2. Ask people directly - Sometimes what seems like a touchy subject, just really isn’t that big of a deal. Worried that your independent, forward-thinking cousin doesn’t want to be addressed as “Mrs. Jonathan Taylor Thomas?” Instead of fretting about it or overanalyzing the etiquette handbook, just call her up and ask what she prefers. She’ll either say she doesn’t care or she’ll tell you she likes “Jon and Anna” better. Either way, you know what to do! Not sure if inviting your bestie “and guest” will make her feel pressure to go out and find a date? Talk to her about it! “Hey hon! We have enough room for people to bring guests if they want to, and I wasn’t sure if you had someone you’d like to invite. There’s no pressure and a bunch of our friends are coming solo--including some of Sam’s hot single doctor friends--I just wanted to check with you to see how I should address your invite!” It might feel slightly awkward to talk to people about these things directly, but the momentary awkwardness will pay off with a wedding that’s way more fun, and your loved ones will see that you care about them and their feelings.

3. You’re allowed to make mistakes – If you make a decision based on love and compassion for your partner and for your family and friends, it is usually the right decision. And this goes both ways! If you’re worried that the etiquette police are going to be analyzing every aspect of your wedding, remember that your guests are there because they love you and want to celebrate with you. They are most likely not nit-picking every single detail of your wedding. (And if they are, are they really the people you want to spend time with?) So do your best to keep etiquette in mind, but at the end of the day, cut yourself some slack!

And if there’s one last thing I’d add to your etiquette toolbox it’s this: a healthy dose of laughter. Laughing lightens everything. If you find yourself committing a faux pas here and there, a good dose of self-deprecating humor is usually all it takes to ease the tension and start to make amends.

Did you find this helpful? Want more? Have a little room in your inbox for some delightful and fresh wedding tips? Sign up here and I’ll send you the best stuff a couple times a month!

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Fresh Paper is a hip, funky invitation boutique that caters to wickedly awesome couples who value great design. We specialize in clever, offbeat, and unique invitations for today's modern couple. We call Portland, Oregon home, and we're thrilled to work with couples around the globe. We also love babies, new houses, and new businesses! We're here to help you celebrate life's great adventures!