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Wedding Etiquette In A Bad Economy

Times are-a-changin,’ and Man, are they tough’!!  Etiquette and manners should always be en vogue.  No matter what your style of wedding, who you are marrying, or where you tie the knot, here are a few things to keep in mind in today’s tired economy:

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  • Always send a thank-you. ALWAYS.  If you send a paper invitation, you must send a paper thank you.  Why not have the envelopes addressed ahead of time?  That way you can send them out ASAP, before you forget or go on your honeymoon.
  • A wedding announcement is not a call for gifts.  Just as with graduation or baby announcements, you are announcing the event.  Sending a gift is not mandatory when a person receives an announcement, so do not expect one.
  • If you have been saving your entire life for this wedding, that is your choice.  Other people might not be financially able to meet your expectations–especially people in your bridal party.  I feel bad for maids/matrons of honor who feel obligated to spend (literally) thousands of dollars on their friend’s wedding.  This is time for a frank discussion.  Hopefully, two friends can come to an understanding without too much discomfort or hurt feelings.  Having your friend at your side during an important mile-stone in your life should outweigh a blow-out bachelorette party.  If it is important to you, make sure you ask someone who can afford it.
  • Conversely, if you know you cannot afford to be a maid-of-honor, have the discussion (although uncomfortable) or do not say “yes.”  Ask about specific expectations (bridal shower and bachelorette party, role of family in helping, dress cost, destination, etc).  Know what goes into the position before you agree to it, or the fault is on you.
  • Give an appropriate gift.  I went “off registry” once, when my budget was in really bad shape. I still have guilty feelings for not getting the couple a better gift–or at least a gift equal to what they probably spent per plate for me and my “plus one.”  To avoid the awkwardness, recommends the following ratio for gift giving: 20 percent on the engagement gift; 20 percent on the bridal shower; and 60 percent on the wedding gift.  If there is no engagement gift (or you send a nice card with a bridal magazine), save that 20% and use it for money you might spend on the attending any of the events like the bachelorette party.  Those hidden costs add up, even if you are not in the bridal party.  Party bus? Club door cover? Drinks? Dinner? Tips? It can get expensive very quickly.  Plan out the total amount you wish to spend a head of time and use the 20/20/60 ratio to divvy it up.  For more gift giving advice, this article gives some helpful rules to follow like the ratio I mentioned.
  • Keeping the above rule in mind, do not rule out giving a personal and creative “gift from the heart.”  As my friend Hayley says, “Those are the gifts you really cherish later on.”  She’s right.  Your blender breaks, the towels you ask for fray , but the engraved serving tray or artfully framed picture endure.  With Pinterest and the magical Interwebs, there are tons of great project ideas for wedding gifts.  Consider making a treasure if your budget is tight.  If you should be on the receiving end of one of these gifts, keep in mind the energy, time, and effort that goes into making something from the heart.
  • If being surrounded by your loved ones is what is most important, figure out a way to let them know.  People might avoid joining you on your big day for fear of offending you with a “lesser than” gift.    Let them know, somehow, that it is their presence that means the most to you.
  • Go a step further and consider hiring a teenage family member, or two, to offer childcare.  If you have an “adults only” wedding and reception, it might be impossible for friends-with-kids to attend.  A gaggle of your teenage cousins/nice ladies from church might be just the ticket.  Set them up in a room nearby with movies, pizza, and activities.  I went to a wedding once where they had the kids decorate a “wedding cake.”  It was adorable (and we could actually go)!
  • Do not bring children to an “adults only” wedding, reception, bridal shower, etc.  If you know children are not welcome, it is not cool to bring them. Not. Cool.  Ask, if you are unsure.
  • “The way an invitation is addressed, whether on the inner or outer envelope, indicates exactly who is invited, and, by omission, who is not invited to the wedding,” says Emily Post.  Do not bring a “plus one” if you are not offered one.  Catering is expensive, and the couple is often charged for plate overages.
  • Always RSVP.  If you say you are going, GO.  Sure, things happen, but you better make sure it is an emergency!  The couple has already paid for your dinner.  Let the couple know, either way, if your plans change.  If you are not coming, or coming solo, the couple can often invite a few new last-minute people.  It’s sad to see a table full of unclaimed place cards.  The couple just wasted a ton of money for people who didn’t show.
  • This might just be me, but go easy on the favors.  That’s a great place to start saving money.  In lieu, send a photo of your guests with the thank you card.  That is something everyone can use.  Task a friend who knows everyone to take the snapshots–as a gift to you.  They can be printed very cheaply.  Not many people will be using that monogrammed candle holder for years to come.  A nice photo, however, is always appreciated.

What are your thoughts?  Have any funny stories to share?  Let me know if I’ve missed anything!


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