Ask Team Practical: Etiquette Lightning Round

My wedding is still two months away, but I’ve started to get gifts through my registry already. What is the proper etiquette on thank you notes? Should I send them out as I get gifts? Or leave it until after the wedding? I’m only sending out my invitations next week!

Dear Anonymous,

Yep, send those thank yous out as soon as you receive the gift. This way, friends know their gifts arrived safely, and you’re able to get them out of the way before the gifts really start to pour in. Remember, though you’re already thanking folks for their gifts, you aren’t technically supposed to start using your fancy new sheets and waffle maker until after the wedding. I know it’s a bit of a hitch since usually my thank you notes gush about how happy I was to use that particular thing they sent, and when I used it and how. For now, your notes can focus on being grateful for their generosity and how much you look forward to seeing them at the wedding. (If you use them on the sly, I won’t tell anyone. Our little secret. Shhh.)


I fear I’ve put myself in a bad place with our wedding guest list. I work at a very small nonprofit, with just seven other people. Since I enjoy them very much and want them at my wedding, I sent them all a save-the-date. Our wedding will be midday on a Friday, so my fiancé and I thought it would be totally fine to invite co-workers without their significant others since it’s practically like just going out to lunch together. Now I’m reading all this stuff about how it’s in terrible form to not include spouses and partners on a wedding invite and I’m feeling panicked. We’ve sent save-the-dates to so many people, I’m afraid that adding spouses for my co-workers will be risky since the venue is capped. What should I do? Do I apologize for not being able to invite their spouses? Should I just invite their spouses and hope they won’t come since it’s a weekday? Please advise.

Hoping Co-workers Can Be Each Others’ Dates


Miss Manners (or at least my grandmother) would strangle you. Of course you’re supposed to invite spouses and long-term partners! But, what’s done is done. Despite what both Manners and Grandma would say, the best you can do at this point is let your friends know about your misstep (“Completely didn’t cross my mind!”), apologize up and down, and express that everyone from the office has been invited, so there’s sure to be someone to chat with when they’re there.


My fiancé and I are getting married in two months and many people have asked us about dress code. Though we’ve tried hard to make our wedding thoughtful, progressive, personalized (yadda yadda yadda), in many ways it will be fairly traditional and formal. For example, he’ll be wearing a tux, as will several other close family members. The moms and my sis are wearing long gowns (as am I) and our ceremony and reception are in a historic building, with a seated dinner, beginning in the very late afternoon. My family pressured us to make the wedding black tie optional, which we squarely nixed. Though we’re psyched about dressing up ourselves, we also feel strongly that we shouldn’t dictate anyone’s attire, particularly since we’ll have trans and other queer guests as well as guests who may not have the means to acquire formalwear. We love our guests and want them to be comfortable in anything they choose to wear! Originally we were going to stay silent and let people do what they will. But I’ve been worried that, because some folks will be quite dressed up, if we don’t give some direction, other honored guests may be taken by surprise and feel uncomfortable because we didn’t give them a heads up that a lot of people may really do it up. Should we say something on our wedding website? Only respond if asked? Am I being silly or patronizing for even worrying about it? How can we do right by everyone?

Dear Anonymous,

Of course you’re not being silly. When I’m invited someplace, one of the first things I think of is, “What should I wear?!” (right after, “Oooh, what’re we eating?”). But like you mentioned in the first sentence, if people are interested in a dress code, they’ll ask. There’s no need to even mention it otherwise. When they do ask, let them know they can wear whatever they want, that a few folks will be in black tie, but that it’s fine to dress less formally. That sort of thing travels by word of mouth pretty easily. Note: expect a lot of dressed up guests. I know you think you’re inconveniencing people (your wedding is not an imposition) but lots of people secretly LOVE to dress up.

And just because it has to be said, there is no conflict between “traditional and formal,” and “thoughtful, progressive, personalized (yadda yadda yadda).”


I am a pescatarian (vegetarian who eats fish) and I’m getting married on a river near the ocean, where good, fresh seafood is plentiful. My parents are insisting that my wedding include meat, while my fiancée and I would like just fish and pasta options. Can you ask your guests to conform to your dietary choices? Thoughts?

Dear Anonymous,

Fish and pasta are awesome options, and are both things that even meat-eaters enjoy (unless they’re super picky). You’re not asking anyone to conform to your dietary choices by offering them something they normally eat.


Team Practical, what etiquette snags did you hit in planning your wedding?

Photo by APW sponsor Lisa Wiseman

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Laura C

    Oh, I totally disagree about the dress code question. While I agree that you don’t want to say something that will be so firmly worded people will feel excluded or scared, as a guest, I really want guidelines. I want to know if I’m going to feel more comfortable in my cocktail dress or my sundress, and I see it as a thoughtful step to be informed about that.

    One wedding that had no meaningful information on formality level, I actually put on my makeup, did my hair, and then loitered in the hotel lobby as people were arriving before dashing back up to my room to throw on one of the two options I’d laid out.

    • Jessica B

      I so feel you on this.

      I get really angry at any advice article that says black dresses are a no-go for brunch/afternoon weddings because black dresses look great in any situation. It is my go-to for any situation that I don’t know the dress code for.

      • Another Kate

        I don’t know. It’s a wedding. People generally are able to dress themselves appropriately for a wedding without being told a dress code. They take hints from clues like where it’s held, what time, plated dinner or not, style of invitations, etc., and then they can decide what to wear. If its black tie, you should let people know, but a standard wedding is pretty straightforward

        • I kind of agree with you, kind of not. *I* take the hints you mentioned, but I know there are plenty of people who just don’t understand those clues, or who fret over them endlessly. It’s a small percentage of people, but if they’re among your loved ones, a quick note on dress code can help make them more comfortable at the minimal risk of the vast majority of guests just saying “duh.”

        • Anon

          I disagree, there’s a large range of levels of fanciness one can do, and the difference between a sundress and a cocktail dress is pretty obvious in my mind. Which leads to worrying. “It’s in the evening, that means cocktail dress, right? But the venue is an outside garden, so maybe sun dress? But it’s a plated dinner… But the invites were a little cartoon-y….”

          And then whatever I pick, I’ll get there and worry that I didn’t pick a full length dress like person A, but person B is just wearing a flirty short dress, and… And yes, it’s infinitely easier to just write some level of dress code. Or talk to people and tell them what others are wearing.

      • ANON

        SO with you on the black dress thing.

        I found out a few weeks after the fact but apparently my (now)SIL was really mad that I wore a black dress to her wedding. I don’t get it. It was a great fancy lacy dress.

        • Jen

          I think people only associate black with funerals, so they’re a “no-no.” But I’ve seen some beautiful weddings where the bridesmaids wore black! Sorry your SIL was harsh over your party clothes choice.

    • One option that’s really good for this is “cocktail attire.” General suits for men, cocktail dresses or dressy separates for women. Encompasses a wide range without the pressure to find a tux or a gown that “black tie optional” can put on guests.

      Also “black tie optional” is infuriating for women because you can wear anything from a long gown to nice pants and a blouse.

      • Laura C

        Worse, to my mind: “business casual.” So…black pants and a cardigan? Because that’s my business casual. Except I’m pretty sure you meant business casual for men, and I don’t know what you’re thinking that translates into for women. And, yes, I got to that wedding and women were all over the map, but definitely not business casual.

        • Copper

          There IS no good business casual for women, which is why in every place I’ve worked the women wind up way more dressed up than the men.

        • Rachel

          Haha I’m a kindergarten teacher…my business casual is a khaki skirt and t-shit

      • In theory just something like “cocktail attire” should work, but I think some additional guidance is needed (and with wedding websites being common, it should be an easy, informal way to provide that guidance). I’m not sure if it’s a regional thing or a generational thing… but it seems like people get confused even by what I would think are fairly well-defined terms. For example, my high school reunion specified cocktail attire, and there were people in jeans!

        And as mentioned below, “business casual” really can mean so many different things, especially for women, but I think for men too.

    • I agree with most of what Liz said, but I would definitely put something on the wedding website. Being over/under-dressed can certainly make people uncomfortable, and for those people who overlap with “too shy/uncomfortable to ask about it,” the website is a good resource. No need to follow a specific code, just say what you do here: The wedding party will be dressed formally, but we want everyone to show up ready for fun, whether that’s in your sparkly, spangly best, your go-to cocktail attire, or your favorite casual party duds.

      I’d rather give too much information (or repeat what they’ve already heard through the grapevine), then risk someone who wants to know not getting the message.

      • This! Also, I’d *love* the chance to wear an evening gown, so would be pretty stoked to find out something was black tie optional (that way my husband (of 11 days, nbd) can wear his suit and I can go all out). But I’d never dare wear a long gown unless given express permission.

        • Yeah, if I had a chance to wear a formal dress, I would be excited too and would want to know so I could take advantage of the opportunity!

      • Jenny

        I agree, we handled this on our wedding website by saying that we wanted people to dress in whatever made them feel like celebrating, but that folks would most likely be more dressed up than usual. Based on talking to our friends and families, we said “most women will probably be wearing sundresses to cocktail dresses and most men will likely be wearing shirts and ties and some will be wearing suits.” Several people mentioned that it was helpful to have those guidelines.

    • MDBethann

      I put the wording on my wedding website that we recommended church and weather appropriate clothing – skirts/dresses/pantsuits for women and shirts and ties for men (jackets optional). I know that some guys own a shirt and tie but not a sport coat, but we got married in a church in May so I wanted to make sure people understood the formality but also that the church wasn’t fully air conditioned, which might impact dress.

    • Alison

      As an aside, the other thing I’ve found really helpful when it comes to dress codes or recommendations is when I am warned that the ceremony and/or reception will be on grass, in which case flats and wedges tend to work much better than pointy heels.

      • Copper

        This is part of why I listed attire as “garden party” for my wedding. That would make you assume wedges, flats, or sandals vs. heels, right? Or am I overestimating the amount people read into those words?

        • Emmers

          maybe be specific on your wedding website? I recently went to a wedding that was listed as being at “Witherspoon Park”, but I honestly just glanced at the invite. Since it didn’t actually specify “outside” I wore high heels and sank into the ground quite a lot. I also didn’t wear appropriate outerwear.

          Spell it out for peeps! Some of us don’t read into things :) and then we we end up doing dumb things. Maybe assume that some of your guests are the same and some of us don’t read like we should.

        • Caroline

          I think it’s always helpful to be explicit. I would not necessarily assume heels are a problem with garden party.

    • Anya

      Not to throw a wrench in this conversation, but I, for one, can’t stand dress code specifications. I know how to dress for a wedding, and to be honest, what dictates it is location, time of day, and what I have in my closet. Because let’s be honest, “cocktail attire” “dressy casual” “business casual” and yes, even “black tie optional” all end up looking the same, because no one knows what any of that really means for women anymore, and sometimes not even for men.

      • Laura C

        So some people, like you, will ignore any specifications people offer because you know what you’re going to do anyway. Some people, like me, will appreciate the guidance. So what’s the harm in saying something? After all, you’re going to ignore it anyway.

        • Brenda

          I think the thing is, regardless of what you say on the invitation, people who are concerned about it will ask (“Aunt Mavis wants to know what ‘garden party’ means!”), people who aren’t concerned won’t, and your Uncle Bob will wear a Hawaiian shirt and sandals anyway.

          But I agree that people tend to assume things are less fancy these days – if you want people super fancy you probably need to tell them that.

  • Jessica B

    I had my wedding gifts sent to my parents house because we’re moving two weeks before the wedding (SMART, RIGHT??). This means my mom brings every package we get to my house, and I send them back with her without opening them because I a.) will want to use them b.) don’t want to pack them. I think I’m going to open them at our shower and just write thank you cards to all early/shower gifts then.

    Mom doesn’t really get/like/approve of this, but I’m willing to bend etiquette right now in favor of less stress while moving. I do hope all those early-gift-senders understand.

    • Katherine

      My gifts were also sent to my parents’ house because we moved right before the wedding. (Me a month ahead of time; my husband two weeks ahead of time.) I totally understand your pain…

      It was actually really nice, however, to set up the house with all the presents on hand. Trying to fit new things into my old kitchen would have been a mini-nightmare.

    • We will be moving from Madison to Boston two months after the wedding, and plan to have gifts sent to his parents’ place out there, if possible.

    • Hannah

      My wedding is in 10 days (!!!!!) and our registry is set to go to my parents because 1) the wedding is in their city, not mine, and 2) getting packages at my apartment building is damned near impossible, and having to pick up undelivered stuff at the post office requires taking time off work to go there and lugging it back in a granny cart (oh NYC). Don’t even get me STARTED on FedEx/UPS. But because of this, I’ve had people ask me “did xyz come?” thinking I should have received gifts and I’ve felt terrible about it because I honestly didn’t know they’d sent anything. I was told it was ok to just send all my thank yous when we got back from the honeymoon. Now I feel like a jerk!

      • Jessica B

        Don’t feel like a jerk. Just send a very nice thank you card, with a note saying “sorry this took so long! Wedding planning and moving is intense! Kind of like the awesome gift you gave me.” *

        *Obviously, not a real thank you note I would send to anyone but my closest friends

      • Wait, so how are the presents getting from your parents’ house in another city to your apartment building? Inquiring minds with equally unreliable building mail delivery would like to know!

    • Iz

      We received some gifts way before the wedding, but waited until after we got married to send all the thank-you cards – we wanted to thank people for coming to the wedding as well (plus had enough other stuff to do in the run-up to the wedding). I don’t know if anybody was offended, nobody has said so…

  • Mariah

    We didn’t invite children to our small (23 person) wedding – only applicable to one of the guests anyway. However, she got into such a huff that she refused to RSVP. Note: she didn’t refuse to attend, she refused to LET US KNOW if she was planning to attend. Various family members tried to convince her to respond to no avail. Since we didn’t like her much anyway, it wasn’t hard to ambush her by phone to demand an on-the-spot response. This was not a polite solution, but it’s easier to excuse rudeness when someone is being a total jack-a$$ :)

    • Holy cow, that’s ridiculous. Apparently she had the same maturity level as her kids.

    • Mallory

      My wonderful husband’s family likes to “play things by ear,” which translates to “hounding his family for RSVP’s up to the last moment.” Love them to death, but receiving a text from his mother less than 2 weeks out from the wedding that there with “6, maybe 8, 10” people from his side of the family attending is mildly infuriating. Then several didn’t show up at the last minute, 2 of which I didn’t know until I realized their seats were empty at the reception.

      TLDR; Some people just don’t like to RSVP, even if they’re not being rude.

      • When we were waiting for the RSVPs to come in, my sweet husband said to me, “Oh my friends don’t RSVP. Come to think of it, I don’t RSVP. None of us do. We all know that we’re going to be there so there’s no need.”

        Which they all thought was no big deal. Until it came to their weddings and crunch time with caterers and venues. Then the folks who didn’t RSVP to our wedding and others were posting these screeds on facebook about how rude people were for not RSVPing when they were given a SASE. I laughed…after I was snarky to my husband. Because I’m sweet like that.

  • Lauren

    I didn’t know we weren’t supposed to use the gifts until after our wedding! Opps – I have totally been writing on everyone’s thank you card about how we have really enjoyed using X item (because we *have*). How much of an etiquette sin have I committed here???

    • LWS

      Yes, I’ve been doing the exact same thing!! It never crossed my mind not to. I hope I haven’t inadvertently offended any of our guests.

    • Liz

      Not a huge one, don’t stress out!

      • Alison

        Yeah, I was really surprised to hear this is an etiquette issue. In this day and age, it seems pretty silly. The most recent two couples I’ve gotten wedding gifts for live in NYC, and the last thing they need is extra stuff inertly sitting in boxes taking up precious square footage, especially if the new gifts are replacing old stuff (like glasses for old jam jars, in the case of one of my couples).

        What is the thinking behind it? Is it because if you call off the wedding you should return the gifts? Is it random superstitious tradition something or other?

        • Liz

          It’s exactly that- the assumption that if the wedding doesn’t happen, you’ll need to return the gifts. (Which is a terrible thing to think about, isn’t it?)

        • Brenda

          I think yes, it’s because if you call off the wedding you should send the gifts back. I know you’re not going to call off the wedding, but it happens sometimes.

        • MK

          You got it–it’s in case the wedding doesn’t go through and you have to send it all back.

      • Copper

        oh GOOD. Because if anybody gets us the awesome luggage we registered for, you know we’re doing our honeymoon packing in it, and I don’t want to wait for that until after the ceremony!

    • Emmy

      We have definitely been using them. I think it’s silly to wait till after the wedding if they gave it to us now.

    • Ellen

      Our rule is that we can’t use them until the thank you note has been written and mailed. That helps motivate the note writing!

      • Rachelle

        Oh, I like that idea! Let’s be honest, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to let these new pretty kitchen items sit around for a whole month and not use them. That’ll totally help with the note writing!

      • Kirstin

        I think that seems much more practical!

  • I’m one of the picky meat eaters that don’t like fish but I love pasta, so I’d be fine. It depends on how big the meal is and what you really want. As long as the food is good, you should be fine.

    • KC

      Yes – no matter what you have, someone is going to be not-excessively-excited about one of the options, most likely. It’s great to take into account known allergies/intolerances/other-eating-restrictions (and to warn people ahead of time if your caterers really can’t manage it [since some caterers can’t guarantee peanut-free facilities, etc.] so they can bring granola bar or equivalent), but just “the people like meat” isn’t a good reason to extend things beyond fish or pasta as options. (some people like chocolate, but you don’t have to have a chocolate dessert; some people like Pop Rocks, but you don’t have to serve Pop Rocks [although… I would so be on board for that wedding if you did].)

    • Anonymous

      I’m allergic to seafood and I wouldn’t have a problem finding something to eat at your wedding! I think anyone who complains or makes harsh comments about the food at a wedding is kind of selfish. We’ve all been to weddings with terrible food, etc., right? I’m not there to eat or drink, I’m there to celebrate.

      • Alicia

        Seafood allergies are pretty common, so as long as it’s not all crab, shrimp, and lobster, I think it’d be fine.

  • 3CD

    Can female guests wear white to a wedding with two grooms, no bride?

    • Blimunda

      Interesting question. I’d say no, in case one of the grooms, or the wedding party, will be wearing white. Maybe it’s just easier to ask them.

    • Liz

      Huh! I would skip the white, if possible. But it’s an interesting question.

    • KC

      I would seriously dodge this, just in case one were mistaken for the “bride” in photos or by bystanders or wedding vendors.

      (I say this partly because of a photo of a friend and her friend hugging at her wedding that caused some people to conclude that it was a two-bride wedding, when it wasn’t. They’re just good friends and like hugging each other and were both wearing fancy dresses and the groom wasn’t in that particular photo.)

      • Alison

        I’m guessing the people who assumed this didn’t know the bride that well, lol, so maybe it didn’t matter too much what they thought? Point taken, though.

        • KC

          Yep, co-workers (if I’m remembering the story correctly).
          Sometimes significant-other gender just doesn’t naturally come up in conversation, though (and if you use “partner” or the vocally-neutral “fiance(e)”, then that doesn’t fix any mistaken impressions). Plus, if people have gotten an idea/image in their head, quiet little pronouns often just sweep past them…

    • Jade

      I’d just like to say as a bride-to-be (next May *squee*) that unless a guest shows up in a wedding dress I really wouldn’t mind them wearing white. So… ask the grooms?

      • Rachelle

        Really? I’m pretty laid back about a lot of things wedding-related, but women wearing white to weddings KILLS me. I explicitly put on our wedding website that the dress code is dressy casual/cocktail, so “anything except all white goes for the ladies.” It may be rude, but someone wore white at all three weddings I went to last summer and I will honestly be put off if someone wears white to mine. September 7 – officially one month out!

        You’re much less bridezilla-y than I am!

        • Jade

          *grin* this just isn’t my battle.

        • Jade

          I should clarify. I totally understand how this could be an issue for some people. It isn’t for me. And there are definitely issues that I am being… perhaps less than gentle… about. Like bringing kids. I LOVE your kids. Just not at my reception.

        • I have a big issue with this too. Though it bothers me more as a wedding guest than I think it would have as a bride. :) I also don’t like it when people wear light/bright colors to funerals. I mean, navy or grey is fine if you don’t have a black suit, but come on now …

          • Liz

            Haha, that’s actually the same way I feel about it. I don’t know/remember/care if anyone wore white on my wedding day. But I’m always APPALLED when I see it as a guest.

      • Anon for Now

        My sister’s BFF, whom I love like a 2nd sister, wore a short, slightly off-white cocktail dress to my wedding last year. My sister, her BFF, my BFF, and I posed for a picture together (sisters & their redheaded BFFs) and it looked kind of funny – 2 white dresses and 2 blue bridesmaid dresses. I’m not a Bridezilla by any means, but it is kind of weird wearing white to a wedding when the traditional color for the bride is white.

        (Then again, I have a cousin who wore a purple ballgown for her wedding so white wouldn’t have necessarily been an issue there).

        I think it really comes down to the couple – if you aren’t sure whether you should wear white to a wedding, ask in a “do you mind if I…” sort of way.

  • LILY

    I hit a snag just this week: how to tell my only sibling that I would rather he not invite his girlfriend of two weeks, to my wedding, which is in three weeks. I want him to be happy, and he called to see if it would be okay, but….really?! He knows that we are having a small wedding, that the guest list was difficult…so I appreciate that he wanted to ask, but I got the feeling he had already invited her. Plus: our wedding is in the absolute middle of nowhere, and we can’t just tack on another hotel room, because we’re all staying at a B&B, which is full. And my brother and I were supposed to share a room. So, there is literally no room at the inn for this girl.

    Any suggestions on how to phrase this conversation would be much appreciated…

    • Kestrel

      I’d really go at it from the logistics standpoint. I’m sorry, but we just can’t accommodate her because we’ve been planning for this super small wedding and everything’s full!

      I’d also suggest setting up a time to go out to eat just as a family with her so he (and she) knows it’s not that you don’t like her, it’s just that this wedding has been planned for a while and changes at this point aren’t really possible. But you’d love to spend more time with her!

    • I’d use the hotel room, and back that up with meeting the whole family (or closest fam and friends) all at once– that would be seriously awkward/overwhelming for a new gf, if you ask me:

      “Well, Brother, I wish we could make room for her, but I thought we were sharing a room at the B&B? Being this close to the wedding has me stressed out, and I’d rather not navigate sharing a room with Girlfriend the night before my wedding. How about this: can we arrange a fancy double date for you, her, me, and new husband when we get back from the honeymoon? We’d love to spend some time with her and get all fancy again if you’d like. Plus, does she really want to meet the whole family like this right away? If it were me, I’d be totally overwhelmed by that, and feel kind of left out of all the family jokes and stories.”

      Maybe he’s thinking this will just be a super-fun weekend away together? It might feel like that to him, but that’s because he knows everybody. She might feel stuck in the middle of nowhere with strangers. Or at a party where everyone is in the “in” crowd but her. Or completely overwhelmed trying to learn everyone’s name/relationship. Or freaked out to take such a serious step so soon in the relationship. . . . .

    • Liz

      Ditto both of the above. If there’s no room, there’s no room.

    • Just wanted to say this line made me laugh:
      “So, there is literally no room at the inn for this girl.”

      • Sarah

        I’m sorry but it’s totally rude to ask someone to tack on a guest to a wedding that’s set in stone at the last minute no matter how close the person is to you. It doesn’t hurt to ask, of course, since in some cases there is more flexible seating and buffet style that could happily accommodate another person. But for a case such as this one, what is he thinking?

        My fiance and I are also having a small wedding in the middle of nowhere and guests are staying with family and friends. We invited the partners our friends had at the time instead of a +1 and said (to ourselves) if they break up in the meantime they are not being replaced, which has happened actually. This was a bone of contention with my fiance who thought that all his friends should have a +1. My stance was that we are leaving out so many people close to us (our extended family and coworkers aren’t invited ) that I refused to have someone at the wedding that neither of us even knew. Besides that, the dance is not a huge focus of the wedding festivities. It’s not really a date-type thing anyway.

        As well, I disagree with the advice given above about the coworkers’ spouses. Considering the casual, mid-day nature of the event and the fact that the coworkers could all sit together I don’t see why it’s necessary to invite spouses. It’s one thing if you’re asking them to come from out of town or stay in a hotel without their partners but I don’t see anything wrong with these invites. Same with the no kids stipulation.

        • LILY

          I thought it was a little rude myself…but I think my mom was spot on when she said that my brother hasn’t been to enough weddings/these type events, and hasn’t learned the ‘sophistication’ that it can require. So glad to have my mom back me up on this!!

          Thanks for all of the advice ladies, it’s really helpful to read your words! I’m dreading the conversation, but at least now I have some starting points. And know that I’m not the worst sister in the world :)

  • Anon for this

    I have a snag right now, earlier this year I lost my uncle to cancer. I’m sending out my invitations next week and I’m so torn on how to address the invitation to my Aunt. Do I say Aunt so and so and guest?
    Part of me thinks it’s like rubbing salt in the wounds but at the same time I want her to feel free to bring someone (it’s a bit far to drive alone).

    Any advice team practical?

    • Corrie

      I would lean toward putting only her name on the invite, but maybe making a personal phone call once you know she has received it to see what her travel plans are and if she wants to bring a friend along. I think if you approach it that way she won’t get the impression that you’re ‘rubbing salt in the wounds,’ but rather looking out for her comfort and travel safety.

      • Liz


    • MUSHU

      We had this same problem with a very close family friend. I went back and forth on whether or not to include a guest on his invitation, and ended up not doing so. Turns out he is seeing someone already (which nobody knew!) and wants to bring her to the wedding, so then I felt awful that we didn’t include a guest on his invitation.

      I would err on the side of including a guest and maybe reaching out directly to your aunt to let her know she can bring a friend, or whoever makes her feel most comfortable, and explain it a little further than just the envelope.

    • Liz

      I’d call and ask her if there’s anyone she’d like to bring. I think that sort of… reminder… of the sadness would be better handled in a conversation, than in cold ink on an envelope.

    • Amy

      Could you just address the invitation to the Aunt alone, and include a handwritten note encouraging her to bring a guest if she would like? x

    • Sheila

      I don’t know about the official etiquette but my aunt also lost her husband earlier this year, and I think she would rather NOT get an invitation that said, “And guest.” Unless you actually know she is dating someone? Since she’s family, she probably knows other people who will be there, right? So it’s not like she needs a plus-one just to have someone to talk to. Of course it depends on what you know about your aunt, and I know what you mean about trying to be considerate with the long drive. But if it were me, I imagine that if I read “and guest” I would immediately think “and guest BECAUSE YOU’RE ALONE NOW” even though that’s not at all what you meant.

    • JJ

      I have a painfully divorced aunt who I know isn’t dating, but I don’t want to rub it in either, and would love to hear how others have handled it! :)

      • I think I would probably want the invitation just to be to me with a hand-written note inside that says I am welcome to bring a guest if I chose. Or a phone call to say that. But I think I would prefer the note, so that if the whole thing made me cry, I could do it (alone in the privacy of my home) and then move on without making the bride or groom feel bad…

      • MDBethann

        My one aunt had been divorced for a number of years by the time I married but to my knowledge (and my mother’s) she wasn’t seeing anyone so we addressed it to just my aunt, no plus one (we were only including guests if we had a name of the guest because they were in a LTR).

        Granted, she was related to half the people at the wedding, so it wasn’t like she didn’t know anyone, and she was out dancing with her children and grandchildren. She’s also an outgoing woman, so I don’t think not having a date at the wedding was a problem for her.

    • Anon Too

      So I am in a different twist on this situation, because it’s with my own mother. My dad died 7 years ago now, so it’s not super recent. My mom spends time with a man who she says she isn’t dating, and who neither my siblings or I can stand. He’s the worst and I know he would ruin my day. Because I don’t want him there, I had no intention of giving my mom a guest. If my dad isn’t there to celebrate in my day, I certainly don’t want him there. But is that totally rude? If they aren’t officially dating, I don’t feel like I have any obligation to him. Do I have to give her a guest?

      • Does she know that you dislike her not-boyfriend? If she does, talk to her. If she doesn’t.. that’s a bit trickier. If she is ‘insisting’ that she isn’t dating him, then her reaction may be a give-away to how she really feels about him.

        • Anon Too

          Oh, she knows. He has made some blatantly racist and homophobic comments in the past, and we have made clear that we are not cool with that. She invited him to attend a family celebration once without telling anyone, which made it really awkward when he showed up at the door.

          I would hope that out of respect for me and my guests, she wouldn’t bring him. I should probably have the conversation though, right? I’m just anticipating how awkward it will be, especially since she’s making a huge financial contribution to our day.

  • anonymous

    Our wedding is mid-day and what I would call “casually elegant.” I’ll be in a really basic floor-length white dress, groom and groomsmen will be in suits, not tuxes, mismatched bridesmaids, etc. — so definitely not black tie. The groom’s parents are aware of all this and seemed to be on board with the general atmosphere of the wedding …

    Then about a week ago I get a text message from his mom with a picture of the dress she’s planning to wear. It’s a floor-length, taffeta quasi-ballgown! It’s a lovely dress, but it’s really too formal for our wedding. I texted back something tentative, saying it was beautiful but she might feel overdressed and she texted back a long message about how she knew it was “a little formal” but she had tried on a lot of shorter dresses and nothing had felt “right.” I’m not sure how I feel about the groom’s mom wearing a dress that may actually be fancier than mine …

    • Liz

      While it’s a little, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” right now, I genuinely don’t think it’ll bother you on the day of the wedding. I couldn’t imagine her overshadowing you on your wedding day, taffeta or not.

      But then again, I think part of it is I would rather risk being less fancy than my MIL over having her irritated and resenting that she’s wearing something ugly/uncomfortable/whatever.

    • Everyone will still be there for you, not her. And your friends/family won’t really be paying attention to her or her dress much, if at all. Judging from what wedding graduates usually say, you may not notice much on the day-of, either.

    • KC

      That’s kind of strange. I wonder if your mom could work with her on wedding apparel (this is what happened at our wedding, I think? I expressed that I didn’t care what they wore, since I didn’t, but they cared [a surprising amount, I thought], so I think they chatted and worked it out from there).

      I would also note if she hasn’t shopped for semi-formal wear for a while, she may be having difficulty finding something that doesn’t make her feel either like she’s *her* mother or like she’s pretending to be a teenager. It can be rough hitting the right notes if the things you’re finding in the right “range” just look/feel incredibly unflattering on you, especially if the last time you shopped for something like this was when you had fewer wrinkles.

      Or maybe she’s just really wanted an excuse to wear a fancy dress for a while, and son’s wedding = best excuse likely to come up for a while.

      In any event, she’s unlikely to be confused with you, and you’re unlikely to be unflatteringly compared with her.

      It may be possible to haul up the outfits of the bridesmaids and your mother, etc., and say “I think that dress would stick out a lot in the wedding photos” or something like that? Or see if your mom is willing to coordinate/go shopping with her? I don’t know.

      Good luck!

    • TeaforTwo

      Oh, sister.

      Has she seen your dress? She might not understand what you mean by “simple,” and may be assuming that there is no way her dress could look fancier than yours. Maybe seeing what you are wearing could give her some valuable context?

      If she goes ahead with it, I wouldn’t worry too much about being out-dressed – eyes will still be on you, you will be the radiant bride and the only one in white. But showing her your dress may help HER avoid some embarrassment.

      • TeaforTwo

        (Adding: I say”oh sister” because I am also having a midday wedding, and am quite sure that my future mother in law will at the very least spend more on her dress than I am on my own, even if she doesn’t wear an evening gown. I have shown her sketches of my dress, and then decided to let it go.)

    • Lauren

      Has she seen your dress? Or at least a picture of it? If not, I’d suggest inviting her to a fitting or showing her a picture (just don’t do it in a way that clues her in on why you are showing her). That way she has all the information before wearing her chosen dress and can change her mind if she realizes how much fancier she will look than you. If she has already seen it and picked that dress anyway, I would say you may be better off dropping it, just to avoid future MIL drama. I agree that on the day of, you probably won’t even notice her dress and that it allows her to enjoy herself in a dress she loves. I also will second the comments relative to how difficult it can be for mothers of the bride/groom to find a dress that they love. My mom has bought 5 (!!) potential dresses for my brother’s wedding and is having trouble finding one that is perfect. Good luck!

      • anonymous

        She’s seen the picture of my dress (she lives on the other coast, so attending a fitting isn’t really an option). She’s also seen the picture of the dress my mom is wearing, which I’d describe as a knee-length cocktail dress.

        I sort of understand what’s going on here, which is that she was craving a sort of “Say yes to the dress” experience. She hasn’t really gotten it vicariously through me because I’m not super girly or into wedding planning. So I guess I’ll let it slide. As Liz said, it’s probably best not to alienate the MIL on the first day of the marriage :P

    • Teresa

      My mom bought her MOB dress before I bought my wedding dress and it was much fancier than mine! She started to really stress out about it and what people would think and she even thought about shortening it (the dress shop she purchased from was final sale, so she couldn’t return it). She asked me if I wanted her to buy a different dress, but I really didn’t care. She was more dressed up than anyone there, but no one said a word during our 11am brunch wedding! She’s the mother of the bride and that’s an important role, just as the mother of the groom is. I think you can probably just roll your eyes to yourself and just let her wear whatever she wants. In my mind, I just kept thinking of how glad I was that my mom was so excited for my wedding. It will be fine and no one will say a word except for how wonderful and happy everyone looks!

    • Jenn

      My MIL called me up long distance while I was at work (she lives across the country) to ask if it was okay if she wore a cream dress and jacket, as it was the only thing she had found that she liked and felt comfortable in. Personally I had no issue with the “no one else wears white” rule, and told her to go for it. She felt pretty and I guarantee no one mixed us up at our wedding. Everyone wins!

    • I dont see a problem with it. If it makes her feel comfortable, she should wear it. It’s not like she’s going to be in a ton of photos with the entire bridal party.

    • ANON

      God bless all you nice, much less shallow than me people. My MIL wore a TIGHT, overflowing dress and a giant hat to my wedding. I’m still mad. She was dressed completely inappropriately, to the point where other guests told me that she made them feel a bit uncomfortable during the wedding and the stupid hat blocked the photographer’s sightlines during the ceremony. I have a bunch of photos where important things are missing because they were blocked by this giant white hat.

    • AshleyMeredith

      You’re all so much sweeter than I am. I’m reading this whole thread thinking, but what about the pictures?? I lucked out with my MIL, who totally-unplanned wore the perfect thing to coordinate with my mom (Mom was in dull gold with rhinestones, MIL in pewter-silver with shimmer, of similar formality and length). But my step-MIL, who we love, showed up in a melon/orange linen sundress. It bugged me that day and it still screams at me from the pictures two years later.

      Also, obviously (judging by the comment threads on APW), I’m the only one who disagrees with the “but you won’t notice details on your day!”, but for the record, I totally did.

      I’m also a bit confused that the only options Anonymous’s mother-in-law has found are “ballgown” and “short.” There are so many long, but less over-the-top, options out there these days.

      That said, Anonymous, if you’re ok with it or are sure you can make yourself okay with it, then you’re taking the wise and right course to let it go. :-)

  • Gina

    Does sending out a “thank you” when we get the gift still apply when the thank yous that I have ordered say “thank you from [me] + [him] [new last name]”? I guess I didn’t really think that through when I ordered them.

    • Liz

      Would you feel funny scrawling a little handwritten “soon to be!!” or “almost!” or something on the front? I think that’d be funny and cute if I got it in the mail!

      And even if you don’t do that, I’d still use the special thank yous and send them early.

      • Gina

        Whoops responded to my own comment. Awesome idea and thank you!! :)

  • Gina

    I think that’s a great idea! Thank you so much :) I would not have thought of that myself.

  • I wonder how to let people know that they can be as dressed up as they like, but that the venue has a human hamster wheel and a giant climbing structure with a slide which they will be welcome to use…

    (In planning my dress, I am thinking “Can I climb the Hodgepodge Mahal in this?”

    • Copper

      put that pic on your wedding website on the venue page? That way you don’t have to tell anyone how to dress, but they can consider whether that’s something they’re interested in and would like to plan around themselves?

      • Weird. I thought I replied to your comment, but based on the threading, it looks like I made a new comment. Huh.

    • LMN

      I think that sentence you used to describe the situation takes care of it nicely! “Please come as dressed up as you like, but be aware that the venue has a human hamster wheel and a giant climbing structure with a slide which you will be welcome to use.” And maybe something about how you and your new partner will be planning to join them in the fun? :) Sounds like such a great time! I hope there will be photos of people in formal wear in the giant hamster wheel.

      This would be fun to include on your invites, if they are of a less formal nature, and/or very easy to work in to the text on your wedding website, if you’re doing one. For us, we didn’t have room for much text on our invites, so our wedding website was the perfect place to put notes about attire.

    • Rebecca

      Can I come? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?

    • Brenda

      I thought you were joking, and then I looked at the picture. Wow! I want to go there.

    • Kirstin

      Coolest wedding ever!

  • I was thinking the same thing, once I’d posted that. A general link to the Museum page and the Flicker page.

  • My only addition to the pescatarians being pressured to have a meat option is to consider who is paying for dinner and the local culture involved.

    I only say this because as a Midwesterner, not having a beef option is about as scandalous as (if not more than!) offering animal crackers and Coke in lieu of the Eucharist at a Catholic wedding service.

    I kid a little, but people do see steak as a sign of good hospitality, and the lack of it to be “cheaping out”, and people WILL be dismayed and gossip and frown upon the cheapskate who organized this shindig. For my own non-traditionally catered wedding (family style Spanish tapas) in the Midwest, since my husband and I were the ones shelling out for dinner, we were fine taking the heat for our choices. If my parents had been paying for it, and were worrying about “what people would think”, I’d likely have let them have some say (like adding a single beef dish to my pescatarian menu) so that they weren’t living in fear of their friends’ and family members’ insane judgement.

    Just food for thought.

    • What? As a midwesterner as well, I’ve only been to 2 weddings that offered beef. Everything else was chieken.

      • I suppose “The Midwest” is an awfully large place, haha. As the person below noted, it’s definitely a “know your crowd” sort of thing. And also a “do you even care what ‘the crowd’ thinks if it’s over something stupid like having beef?”

        My point was, really, if the parents’ are the ones paying AND are concerned about judgement (because the judgement about lack of beef can be very real, and some people don’t do well with being judged, even over petty things), it might not kill the LW to let there be a beef option.

    • KC

      This is definitely a “know your crowd” thing, since, in some places, fish is considered a lot more expensive/”nice” than beef is. I think what percentage of the wedding guests are friends-of-parents might play into this as well.

      (at my wedding: a wedding isn’t “nice” unless there are mixed nuts! Seriously, people? There is an actual meal immediately after the wedding (buffet, so people were served as they meandered in. I think. We were getting herded for family photos at the time.). And cake later. But, ultimately, it was easier to just say “sure, there can be bowls of mixed nuts on random little tables”, and some people probably enjoyed them, and my parents ate the leftover Costco tubs of nuts for… a long time.)

  • Amanda

    We are in the beginning stages of planning our destination wedding in Ireland. We want an intimate wedding with close friends and family (have not finalized the guest list). Here’s the dilemma: Is it still a giant fax-pas to invite people to a shower and not to the wedding?- even though you know that they wouldn’t attend even if they receive an invitation because of the distance? Over the years, my mom and I have attended many showers of family friends, and I always assumed that I would invite many of these people to my future wedding. I’m from Michigan, but now live in Alaska (where my to-be was born and raised). All of these family friends are still in Michigan, where my shower would be. I guess it’s selfish to admit, but I would be sad not to have a shower. We decided on Ireland because of our family history, and so both sides of the family travel and equal(ish) distance to meet for our nuptials.

    • Rachelle

      I’m in a similar situation with my bachelorette party and based on everything I’ve read (search the Miss Manners column about this) the short answer is that everone invited to your shower must also be invited to the wedding, regardless of the circumstances.

      Would it be possible to invite them all to the wedding even though you know they won’t be able to attend? If you’ve maxed out your capacity then there’s always the possibility of someone wanting a trip to Ireland and using your wedding to take it, so I wouldn’t do it in that situation. I understand the draw of an intimate wedding, but if these people are important enough for you to want them at your bridal shower, then why not extend a wedding invitation even though you don’t think they’ll come?

      • Lindsay

        I agree with this. Having a destination wedding is likely to keep your guest list even thinner than you expect it to be, so where’s the harm in sending out the invites as a gesture. My husband and I had two wedding celebrations, one in Maine for the ceremony, then another in a pub in Ireland after we’d moved there a month later. Everyone got the same invite regardless, and most of our RSVPs read yes for Maine, no for Cork and vice versa. I think in the end just letting people know that we WANTED them to be with us wherever we were celebrating meant a lot, even if they knew travelling was out of reach. Also, at the end of the day the people who decide to make the trip might surprise you (in a super heartwarming emotional way, I’m still shocked by the friends who travelled long distances to be with us on our day) and they’ll be thanking you for such a great excuse to take a trip. Good luck and slaintè!!

    • Kate

      If you are planning a celebration when you return from Ireland, and the shower guests are invited to that, I think it’s not a faux pas. That would kinda negate any faux pas and show that you want to celebrate with them, but that it is impractical to do this at your wedding. Then, nobody feels like you just want a present (sadly, some people do really feel this way), and nobody feels left out.

      I think it is generally still considered improper to invite people to a shower but not a wedding, since the purpose of a shower is for people to shower you with gifts to prepare you for your new life. It would also probably not be a good idea to invite them to a wedding that you knew most of them could not attend due to it being in a foreign country.

      My husband is from Ireland and we got married in the US, where we live. All of my family and friends could attend, and only his mother could make it over. Since we couldn’t pay for both the wedding and a honeymoon in Ireland where we could celebrate with his family, we are going to have a postponed party in Ireland next year. We almost didn’t have a shower since we lived together so long before getting married that my very traditional family figured (and told me) there was no point. If it’s a celebration you want, another alternative is to bill it as an engagement party instead of a shower. We did that and got gifts anyway. We got to hang with family and eat and drink and socialize, figuring that we would”t get to do this at the wedding.

    • Mezzanine

      What if you had precisely the same party, but didn’t call it a “shower”?

      As I understand it, Americans tend to see the basic point of showers being to give gifts – and therefore don’t invite anyone who won’t be at the wedding because it looks like you’re just trying to get more gifts. If you had a “pre-wedding party”, it might give that impression less. (And, truthfully, you’d probably still get given just as many gifts…)

    • Del678

      oh I’ve invited heaps of people to the shower who aren’t going to the wedding – preciously because I can’t afford to have everyone at the wedding. Likewise I have been invited to bridal showers and not weddings and I never think anything of it. I just think, oh that’s lovely I’d love to come.

    • I mean, are you having the shower because it’s a party to “shower” you with gifts? Or do you just want a nice gathering of loved ones to drink mimosas and be giddy that you’re getting married?

      Because if it’s the former (an expectation of gifts) then… yeah. You can’t really invite people who aren’t invited to the wedding :/ But if you really just want a celebration-type thing, I think you’re well within your rights to have one :) Perhaps just don’t call it a shower? And to avoid the “do I bring a gift?” confusion, maybe specify the guests bring you something else? (like a postcard with marriage advice to read the day-of, or an index card with their favorite cocktail recipe, or something tangible but basically free)

    • Marcela

      I had sort of the opposite happen. I had some family friends who we could not invite to the wedding because of a limited guest list and they insisted on coming to the shower. As in, found out I was engaged, learned about the unfortunate guest list situation, and then purchased a gift for us anyway. They told my mom about the gift and she invited them to the shower (which she and my sister threw for me! THE HORROR!). Later the family friends told us how special it was to be able to be there for the shower.
      Caveat: All those mentioned in the story who were totally cool with this were Brazilian immigrants to this country. In Brazil the etiquette is no where near as strict, as I found out to my chagrin during this blasted wedding process.

    • Jen

      I invited a bunch of people to my shower and not to the wedding…but it really had nothing to do with gifts, it was about celebrating with these wonderful people!! It was mostly people that I work with (and LOVE to death, but if I invited one to the wedding I would have had to invite a whole bunch, and quite frankly we didn’t have the space/budget for that…and if we had said yes to all these extra guests then my MIL would have insisted on invited more of her friends, and then I would have been sad for my mom only having one friend there and would have invited even MORE people and yadda yadda yadda…)

      Basically I knew that I would want to celebrate with whoever was getting married, even if that didn’t mean going to their wedding! I think lots of people just want to show how much they love you and support you and they want to hang out and drink wine and eat yummy desserts!!

      (side note: my wonderful co-workers ended up getting us an amazing group gift of a camera – SO PERFECT and it came on our honeymoon with us and was fantastic!! if they hadn’t gotten me anything that would have been PERFECT too!! It was really just great to hang out with them a few days before the wedding and to feel like they were able to be included in some way.

    • Ally

      Hmm… Considering you aren’t throwing the shower afterall… I’ve been invited to plenty of showers where I wasn’t invited to the wedding (or at the least there were people there not invited to the wedding) granted these were all cases of the entire church being invited to the shower being given by the women of the church, or to girls who had a shower at college but were getting married back home (I got three shower invites in college, only one was for a wedding i got invited to – one of the other two was for a girl i didnt really even know but i was friends with the girl throwing the shower whom i suspect just invited the whole dorm) or work showers…so not quite the same thing (though the church shower would really be the closest equivalent – but there’s still a sense there that the bride isn’t the one choosing to invite all the women of the church!)

  • C

    I’ve hit a bit of a snag… I work on a small marketing team at a university. They all know about my upcoming wedding (a little over 2 months away, yikes!), but there are a couple coworkers that I would rather not have at the wedding. I haven’t actually invited the ones that I like because my fiance and I are trying to keep it small, and I am just starting to receive RSVPs back in the mail, so we have no idea how many people are actually coming yet. My coworkers have, however, been asking me details about the wedding, and when it is, even going so far as to offer to help… one coworker today offered to make me chocolate dipped pretzel rods as favors for the receptions, which was just so nice. But I haven’t invited anyone from the office officially. So, what should I do? Do I wait to invite them? If I invite people from the office, do I have to invite everyone?

    • Rachelle

      The general rule-of-thumb is that you should invite everyone from a similar group. Basically, you can’t invite half of your direct team and not the other half. If it’s just a couple people that you spend time with outside work, I would say it’s fine to invite only them. Wait until you know how many you’ll be able to invite (once you’ve received enough no responses) and then decide if you can invite everyone, no one, or just the one or two you are in contact with outside work.

    • Anon Too

      I am struggling with this same thing (and also work at a university!). All of my coworkers know when my wedding is, and even though I try not to bring it up much, they ask about it all the time. I think there is an assumption that everyone is getting invited. Right now I was planning to invite the two people that I socialize with outside of work, but then may go back and invite everyone – but as an all or nothing thing.

    • Kate

      Miss Manners says that when people you don’t want to really invite start asking, just say how you’re keeping it “small”. Everyone’s opinion of what constitutes a small wedding is different, so it’s not a lie. You can also mention a small budget and not being able to invite as many people as you’d like. The super helpers can take a hint if you mention things casually. I am a teacher and everyone knew my wedding was coming. I invited two people from the staff that I was friends with outside of work, and I asked them to keep it on the DL because the wedding would be small and I couldn’t afford to extend an open invitation. Anyone who is a true friend will understand and won’t blab.

    • Aubry

      I have a co-worker who just got married last weekend (can’t wait to hear how it went!) and I talked detailes with her and offered to help knowing full well I wouldn’t be invited. I didn’t mind this in the slightest, because I knew from the detailed talk that they were having a tiny wedding of about 30 people. I wouldn’t have wanted an invite to that, but because I love weddings and crafting (and did I mention weddings) I was happy to help. I didn’t end up actually making anything for her, but many a conversation was had. I think she was grateful to have someone “in the know” about the process to vent to. I also offered with a clear statement that the help was there without an assuption of an invite, just so she didn’t end up feeling bad or anything.

    • MDBethann

      I invited 3 of my co-workers to my wedding, but all 3 are good female friends of mine with whom I go out to meals, museums, or the theater outside of work. And with the 2 who are married, I know their husbands too. So I had no problems inviting the 3 of them and not the other great people at work who I maybe eat lunch with but don’t socialize with outside of the work day.

      I hope that helps and good luck!

  • Rebecca

    “And just because it has to be said, there is no conflict between “traditional and formal,” and “thoughtful, progressive, personalized (yadda yadda yadda).””

    I can’t thank you enough for this today! I’ve just started planning, but my small backyard possibly self-catered wedding has already turned into probably a country club on the water wedding. I’ve been reading this website since he started dropping hints (so for a couple years honestly) and was super excited to DIY my tush off but his step mom wants to pay for the wedding and has a certain set of expectations. Since we’re just graduating from college with student debt, he’s convinced me to mostly go along with her, which honestly I’m okay with for the most part, but its been making me feel super guilty.

    She hasn’t given us a concrete budget but has been suggesting venues that will cost as much as our entire budget was going to be. While I’m super excited that this frees me up to be able to pay for some fun stuff I wanted to do (awesome bridesmaids gifts, welcome bags, etc) I’ve definitely been feeling like I’m letting myself and this community down (even though you guys didnt even know I existed)

    So thanks for the sanity! I should know to expect it by now :)

    • KC

      My sister ended up with a fancier-than-her-preference wedding, thanks to expectations and business associates and all that. They still snuck in a lot of community, though, and at the end of the day, they’re married, even if she would have preferred not to have *that much* money spent on a location with a chandelier, etc. It’ll be okay. :-) Bend where you can bend; stick to the core important things; and definitely don’t feel guilty about an enforcedly more-fancy party than you would have planned to have but that someone else is paying for. :-)

    • Emmers

      You are not letting people down! So awesome! Such a great gift that she’s giving you. Enjoy it, girl! Let her pay for the fun stuff. and enjoy! Guilt-free.

    • Aubry

      First of all, totally enjoy it guilt free! But, also consider she may not know what things cost. My mom started going on about how she was only able to give us 5k, but wanted a fully catered event for 150 people plus tents plus nice chairs plus…. Basically she totally didn’t know what things cost. Even though she should have had a grip on it as we throw big events for work sometimes. But without food and photographers I guess. Anyway, maybe a discussion with real numbers can help you both move forward realistically. Save yourself the arguments later and learn from my mistakes :)

    • MDBethann

      And FYI, she may think she knows what the places cost if she’s hosted other events at these venues in the past, but once you tell a venue/caterer/DJ/baker/etc. that your event is a wedding, the prices are often higher than they would be for a non-wedding event.

      I was very grateful that the restaurant we used for our wedding wasn’t like that, but A LOT of the other places we looked at seemed to have 2 different prices – 1 for weddings (because they assume every bride wants the white glove, black tie treatment) and one for all other events. Good luck trying to get them to use the “all other events” pricing and menu for a wedding.

  • Nicole

    Just in the beginning stages here. We’re planning a late afternoon public park wedding with a picnic-like dessert reception to follow. We live in Southern California and the wedding will (grad school graduation allowing) take place in June. I don’t expect heels and full suits, but I don’t want tank tops and shorts either. Should I assume people will still dress-up or do I need to be explicit somehow?

    • Jade

      I’m doing a “fancy picnic” reception and requested that the guys avoid jeans and tuxes and mentioned that there will be a lawn involved so maybe spiked heels might not be comfortable. I was explicit because I know my crowd tends to be causal and “picnic” probably doesn’t bring up images of Anne of Green Gables for anyone else.

      • AshleyMeredith


        I would err on the side of making a gentle suggestion. We got married in SoCal, in the morning, in the garden at someone’s house, in August. That doesn’t really suggest the sort of event for which the groom wears a tux (as he very nearly did) and expects people to look nice. I just went to look at our wedding website and what we said was,

        “The event is formal but not fussy. It will also be outside in the middle of an August day, so please be comfortable.
        Gentlemen, that means you’re welcome to leave the suit jackets at home.
        Ladies, much of the ground is uneven and paved with flagstones or loose bricks, so please take that into consideration when selecting shoes. The bride has already twisted her ankle more than enough for everyone.”

        We thought we were being very clever with the reverse psychology of leaving the suit jackets at home, which implies that they would be wearing suits without saying “wear a suit!” Obviously the older gents wouldn’t dream of coming without them, but while there was natural variation, everyone hit exactly the dress-tone we were hoping for. And the women who wanted to wear sky-high heels, including my bridesmaids, did anyway, but at least they were warned.

        As always, YMMV, but maybe that gives you some ideas…

  • Pipaa

    Pretty sure I know the answer to this one but just checking anyway – is it pretty bad form to only invite my cousins and not his? Or to invite some cousins and not all? We have a small budget and are already pretty maxed out, but I feel bad that some of our cousins won’t be there because we’re assuming the above options are kind of off so avoiding cousins altogether. We’re doing the right thing, right?

    • KC

      Depends on your families and stuff. (yet again, “know your crowd” – or, um, “learn what the parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/cousins would think about this”, because I would not have known who would care, necessarily)

      If it would cause ructions within your family to do an only-some-cousins invitation, then I’d go with no-cousins. But some families are okay with it (especially if side A has no siblings and 2 cousins available, and side B has 6 siblings and dozens of cousins available, then some people will consider it reasonable to have the “less represented” family get to have cousins and the “more represented” family not have cousins).

      Also, if there are friends there, exactly who is a Cousin vs. who is an Old Friend Who Knows The Family may be difficult for the “other” family to pinpoint unless it’s highlighted somehow. If it’s a really tiny wedding, it would be more likely that this would come up and be an issue, again unless the “sides” feel even/”correct” to whoever would be having kittens about such things.

    • Cait

      I think it just depends. My fiance was just a groomsman in his cousin’s wedding, and I was invited to the bridal shower for that cousin’s now-wife; my cousin who got married this year didn’t even invite my branch of the family. If we were limited in the guest list, we’d obviously, OBVIOUSLY invite his cousins, and we’d maybe put mine on a TBD list. We see his cousins all the time, do stuff with the extended family, etc., whereas that’s not the case for my cousins, who live 2000 miles away.

  • Keakealani

    Just wanted to toss out re: the last question – we did a “mostly vegetarian”/Levitical reception and it went over splendidly! We did have two meat entrées (chicken and lamb) but we could have done without it and also had a vegetarian entrée and all vegetarian salads/sides. So in short, you should never feel like you have to have someone else’s food preferences at your wedding. As long as you’re not forcing anyone to eat something they’re strictly morally opposed to or allergic to or something, you should be able to basically do what you want. And if someone’s desire to eat meat (or a certain type of meat, in this case) is more important than their desire to be there and support you on a special day for you and your partner… well, then they need to get their priorities straightened out, but that’s not your problem.

  • Cait

    Here’s a logistics question that I guess is sort of etiquette related:

    There are two hotels near-ish to our wedding venue, one on the same street, easily walking distance, with a view, BUT pretty mediocre/not good reviews. I think it’s kind of old and unrenovated, but the location is PERFECT, especially since we’re hoping to have guests stay late and dance/drink/celebrate.

    The other one is a few miles up the road–3, maybe? not walkable due to traffic/hills/etc.–without a view, not close to other stuff. But it’s a well-known, clean, well-maintained, nice hotel. Not super expensive either. The prices are within $15 of each other per night, actually.

    So for my out of town friends/family, I’d rather have them on the same street as the wedding AND closer to stuff to do the next day/earlier that day and the pretty view. But I also feel like, it is really bad to reserve a block of rooms at a hotel that has a 2.3/5 on the travel sites??

    I am conflicted!

    • Jillian

      Can you get blocks at both and let your guests choose their preference?

    • Carly

      If you wouldn’t stay there yourself, I would not recommend it to your guests. It sounds like the nicer one is still pretty close so I would go with that one!

  • Alia

    This comment is directed to the person who asked about only inviting coworkers and not spouses. I am by no means an etiquette expert, but I think there are situations in which it’s okay to bend the rules a bit, and this may be one of them. 3 of my friends are getting married in the next 3 months, and they are part of a larger group of about 10 friends, initially united by a common hobby, but now we do much more together and are pretty close with each other, and are clearly a distinct group unto ourselves. We all understood that guest lists can be difficult to manage and collectively expressed to the brides-to-be that there would be no hard feelings if they weren’t able to invite us. However, one of the brides-to-be asked the group if we would be okay if she invited just us and not any of our spouses/significant others, which would be the difference between 9 extra seats and 18. We all agreed that we were okay with it, because we’d rather be there to see her get married than be concerned about what the etiquette says she should do. Plus, we’ll obviously have plenty of people to hang out with at the wedding if the rest of the group is there too. The other two brides have done the same thing as well. So in your case, I’d imagine you could talk to your small group of coworkers, explain the situation, and see if anyone minds. There’s a good chance that they’ll be more understanding than offended.

    • Ms. Cardigan

      Thank you! I was the original poster, and it all worked out fine. I sent out an email letting them know (a) I understood if they couldn’t make it because it’s during the work day! and (b) apologizing for not being able to include their SOs because our venue was so small. Everyone responded that they were totally fine with going together as a group. After RSVPs came in, we had a lot of extra room, so I ended up asking folks if they want to bring their SOs after all and many of them will. I think it depends of the crowd, but my coworkers are so laid back and flexible, I never should have been as stressed as I was!

      • Alia

        That’s great! I’m so glad to hear it worked out! :-)

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