Wedding planning can sometimes make people forget how to be human—or at least misplace their common decency and common sense. Sometimes I look through my inbox and just slowly shake my head back and forth because y’all have all bore witness to some truly outlandish behavior. But most of the time, bad behavior is not the result of maliciousness. It’s simply that when you’re planning a wedding it can be so easy to get so caught up in… everything, that considering your guests’ feelings can fall to the bottom of the priority list. (Hey, especially in these times.) This can make otherwise sane people say and do some bananas shit. So, as APW’s resident bridesmaid-in-chief, I’m digging into some of my favorite reader letters, and in partnership with Squarespace, we’re setting the record straight on how not to talk about your wedding.
The best advice I have is that using your words wisely when building your wedding website will help you avoid a lot of the awkwardness below. A wedding website is the easiest way to make sure everyone is in the loop on the details of your wedding, from need-to-know logistics like start times and locations, to open-to-interpretation details like “what to wear” and “what to gift”. And with Squarespace’s all-in-one platform and nearly unlimited customization options (like password-protected pages and sites and easy-to-personalize registry pages, along with custom domain names and beautiful website templates), you basically have no excuse not to create a website that relays that info in a thorough and thoughtful manner. And more importantly, your guests don’t have to worry about having any of these uncomfortable conversations in person. Not sure if you’re invited to the rehearsal dinner? Check the website. Want to know if your brother-in-law has dictated a Raiders-jerseys-only dress code at the wedding? Check the website. That said, while Squarespace is a super useful tool for communicating with your guests, you still have figure out what and how to communicate with them. And for that, I have some basic etiquette tips:
Don’t: Tell People All About EVENTS They Aren’t Invited To
Who wouldn’t be excited about going to Cousin Cathy’s wedding in Santa Barbara? Hahaha turns out this girl right here. I got the save the date and immediately went to the website to get the details and make plans. I mean, I live in Boston, that’s a big trip for me, and isn’t making plans in advance the point of sending save the dates? I click through to the events page and it lists Rehearsal Dinner: Thursday at 6, Welcome Cocktails: Friday at 7, Wedding: Saturday at 2. Awesome. Maybe I was not thinking I’d take Thursday and Friday off, but sure, I like(d) Cathy, and it’s a good chance to catch up. Put in for the vacation days, booked my flights, made a hotel reservation. Only to get the invite ten weeks out with no mention of the rehearsal dinner at all. And it is mysteriously missing from the website. Per my mom, they decided to keep it to just immediate family and bridal party. Which I am in theory totally fine with, but then actually keep it to themselves and don’t make it seem like I should be planning to be there!
Ugh, why Cathy, why? Every time this issue comes up, the response I get is, “What?! Of course, people understand that they aren’t invited to everything on the website! Rehearsal dinners are clearly immediate family only. Everyone knows that.” Except, nope. There’s no secret rule book about who is invited to what event (or if they get a plus one, or if their kids are invited), and assuming there is one makes an ass out of you, me, and definitely, your cousin who is picking out an outfit for your rehearsal as we speak.
From a logistical standpoint, by making event information public, you’ve just invited people to make plans to attend said events. From an emotional standpoint, while people do understand that not everyone is invited to every one of your wedding festivities, it doesn’t feel super pleasant to see that in writing in front of you. So, if there are certain components of your wedding with a smaller guest list, hide them in plain sight! You can add password protection to any of Squarespace’s pages. In fact, you can password protect your entire wedding website if you want. (Very handy if wedding planning happens to coincide with, say, job hunting.) Or password protect just the parts you want to keep more intimate. A rehearsal dinner RSVP page, perhaps?
Don’t: Create an Elaborate Dress Code to Solve Problems of Your Own Making
I’m in an awkward situation. I have a good relationship with my future sister-in-law. I’m going to her bachelorette party, and this will be the first time I’ll meet most of her friends… Last week, the maid of honor sent out a group email titled: “So… outfits!” And what followed was a list of outfits/themes for the various days and activities. These include:
- Red bikinis with a specific cover-up kimono (it’s $70) and a specific sunhat for the pool day
- Bride Tribe t-shirt
- Wear-the-bride’s-favorite-designer-label (for one of the nights out)
- A few very pricey festival-esque dresses with a few links for coordinating accessory options. We are instructed to choose from the options provided or “run different options” by the maid of honor (but we must stick with the color palette and lace). This is for an outdoor concert we are attending.
- White cowgirl boots for the booze cruise
Ah yes, I’m sure you all remember this gem. So this question was admittedly about a bachelorette party and not a wedding, but the advice still stands. You do not get to tell grown adults how to dress. (I mean, know your crowd. If everyone in attendance would be 100 percent on board with a theme party, then ignore my advice, we never spoke.) You can, however, provide helpful wedding attire guidance that lets people know what kind of wedding they are attending. Black tie? Beach party on sand? Mountain outdoor wedding with fire pits and cool weather at night? A half-mile trip through the picturesque lavender fields to the ceremony? Let them know the basics, and people will figure out how to dress themselves for your wedding, the same as they do for every other day in their life. But if you’re trying to figure out how to tell your guests to wear a specific color, you’ll need to keep looking, because unless you are Beyoncé, no. (Again, ignore my advice if you know your people are on board, a la Ally Love from Peloton.) And let it be said: if under normal circumstances your guests would not be sitting outside in the snow for forty minutes, you shouldn’t make them do it for your wedding just because you told them to “wear your chicest parka!”
P.S. If you’re struggling with how to tell your guests what to wear on your wedding website without… telling them what to wear, we’ve got a handful of super useful wedding website scripts you can copy and paste right here. None of them involve white cowgirl boots or red bikinis, and you’re welcome for that.
Don’t: Make it All About The Gifts
I’m invited to the wedding of a relative who travels a lot. So far, I have invitations to a bridal shower, the wedding ceremony, and a follow-up party several months later. That’s three gifts I need to buy, and I’m a bit stumped. They don’t have a registry, and the mother of the bride has suggested that guests purchase something meaningful that we think the couple will enjoy. Help! I’m having a shopping crisis!
Registries are always optional, but they are a convenience for your guests so they don’t have the added stress of trying to purchase something “meaningful”—and you don’t have the added “joy” of receiving something meaningful to them and… not to you. But your registry information does not belong on your invitation. It can, however, go on your wedding website! Preferably with a minimum of self-indulgent fussing. No one needs to read a paragraph of you working out your guilt about how, “Of course they don’t have to bring a gift—you’d be glad to just get some of their cleaning rags or perhaps an old sock, but if they really wanted to get you something, you guess they could get you something on this list or donate to one of seven worthy charities, but only if they are so moved.” No. 👏 One. 👏 Cares. Do you have a registry? Just put a link to it. Done. Though if you do want to go off the beaten path with your registry, Squarespace has one of the most flexible registry options out there. When you build a wedding website with Squarespace, you can link out to any registry you want using their image blocks (which are especially great if you’re using an indie registry company or charity service). Or you can add your Zola registry right there on the page with one click. You can also include a simple donation button if you’re hoping for cash. Just save the apologies and the guessing games.
Don’t: Be Confusing About Children
About a year ago, my cousin got engaged. So exciting! They got things planned pretty quickly and sent out save the dates—bride’s family vacation house in a Great Lakes town, June, Saturday night. A few months after that, they let me know it was going to be a childfree wedding. Okay! I mean, obviously that’s a bit harder for me, but I’m totally fine with babysitters, and they said they were even going to provide a sitter. Still so excited to go!
Fast-forward until now, and I’ve just received the invitation. That sitter they said they would provide? Yeah actually just a link to Care.com. Like, thanks guys, but yes I too have heard of the internet? And then I see the reception card. Turns out the wedding itself is going to be in the bride’s family vacation home yard. The reception is going to be on a boat in the lake. The boat departs at 6 and returns at 10. I know I said, repeatedly, I was definitely going. But now… I don’t wanna? It just feels really different to leave my baby with a sitter, versus leave my baby with a sitter and get on a boat that I can’t leave until the end of the night. Can I change my mind?
Too often, people tip-toe around the issue of children at weddings because they aren’t sure what they want to do, are afraid of guests’ reactions, or are just simply trying to be polite (or in the case of this letter, just backtrack indefinitely and then basically offer to kidnap you at sea). You definitely don’t want to write “no children” on your invites, and you certainly can say nothing and let people ask, but if a lot of people are impacted (or if you’re getting married on a floating contraption from which there is no escape), it may make sense to make your wishes clear on your wedding website. Your website is a great place to say, “While children are not invited to the reception, we are providing a babysitter/can give you information about babysitting/recommend feeding them to the wolves.” And if you are planning on providing childcare, you can explain exactly what that entails so people can make an informed decision about whether they can attend. One of my favorite things about Squarespace is how easy they make it to collect information from your guests. For example, would it be helpful to know how many guests may be in need of childcare for your wedding? Great, Squarespace will let you include a form on any page of your wedding website, so you can ask whatever clarifying questions you need (nicely, of course, because see: above).
In general, I think the adage “ask yourself before you speak if what you are saying is necessary or kind” is a bit of rubbish, but when it comes to your wedding (especially with the things you are putting in writing on your wedding website), it really is a good idea to sit with your words for a bit. Being welcoming, kind, and informative instead of exclusionary, bossy, and confusing goes a long way to set you up for a great wedding. Even if it is less interesting for me.
But I want to know from you guys! What’s the weirdest or most confusing thing you’ve experienced as a wedding guest? What’s the strangest request you’ve gotten regarding a wedding?
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. Squarespace makes it easy to build a wedding website in a matter of minutes, thanks to their user-friendly software and modern, designer website templates. Every yearly Squarespace purchase also comes with a custom domain, and of course, their award-winning customer service (just in case you get stuck). Click here to start a free 14-day trial and make your wedding website today. APW readers get 10% off your first Squarespace purchase when you use the code APW at checkout.