Wedding Etiquette: Anna Post's dos and don'ts

Published February 28, 2009 6:00 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Do I have to give a gift on the registry? How do I trim the guest list without hurting feelings? Can we send our invitations by e-mail? Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and author of Do I Have to Wear White? Emily Post Answers America's Top Wedding Questions , took questions from brides, grooms and guests on navigating weddings with grace and good manners. Excerpts are below.

My cousin is having a weekday destination wedding. I would have to take a week off work to travel, attend the ceremony and travel home. I believe in this situation the bride and groom must expect that many guests won't attend, but other family members feel declining will cause hurt feelings. Is it rude of me to decline the invitation?

No, it's not rude to be unable (for reasons of vacation time or finances) to attend a destination wedding. Do send a gift, though, even if you can't make it.

How early before the wedding is it customary to send out Save the Date cards? We will know our wedding date roughly 18 months beforehand -- will people appreciate the early heads-up or is that weird?

It's OK to send them out as early as that to be sure that people get you on their calendars. (Especially if it's a destination wedding, so that people can save on airfare.) That said, balance your timing to also build momentum and excitement for the wedding -- you don't want someone to forget!

We plan to not have kids at our wedding reception. My family does not like the idea. Am I right for not wanting kids there even if one of them is my 18-month-old niece?

It's up to the couple and the hosts (as in, those paying, such as parents) to decide about kids or no kids at the wedding. So yes, it's up to you. But know that you may have to smooth some ruffled feathers or lose some guests who can't find child care. And be sure not to make exceptions -- it's not fair to those who do find child care.

What's a polite way of deterring guests from getting us gifts? We already have way too much stuff, and we want to give people a break in these tough times, but we know some relatives and close friends would love to get us something anyway.

In the end, the choice of gift is always up to the giver, so know that no matter what you do, you may still receive a few. Setting up a charity is one way to deflect guests from purchasing you gifts. Also, don't make any mention of gifts -- even "no gifts, please" -- on the invitation. Instead, spread this information by word of mouth: "To be honest, we have everything we need. Joining us on our wedding day is the best gift you could give us."

We've been in several of our friends' weddings; does that mean they should be in ours? Is it OK to not have a formal wedding party of bridesmaids and groomsmen?

Your guest list is your own to create; you don't have to invite all the couples whose weddings you were in. That said, if you were in their wedding, you are likely close, and it may make sense. But base your answer on genuine affection for these couples, not obligation.

It's just fine to forgo bridesmaids and groomsmen if you don't wish to have them (or to have just a maid of honor and best man).

My daughter insists that, according to etiquette, the parents of her attendants need to be invited to the wedding. Is that true?

There is no point of etiquette requiring the parents of a couple's attendants to attend. In the case that they are family friends, you might then consider them -- but because they are family friends, not because their child is in your daughter's wedding.

As the father of the groom, I understand my roles to be the three "ups" -- dress up, show up, shut up. Are there any other particular roles or functions that I have besides sharing the joy of our son and new daughter-in-law?

The first two are musts, but I think we all know the third one is just for humor. The best thing to do is to ask your son and his bride if there is anything beyond having fun that they would like you to do. It's possible they might ask you do give a reading or be ready to dance with the bride after she dances with her father (not required, but not uncommon).

If you and your wife are hosting the rehearsal dinner, you should discuss whether you will be giving a toast that evening as host (also common).

Is it weird if I don't invite co-workers who know about the wedding? What's the etiquette for colleagues?

It's OK not to invite co-workers, even if they know you are getting married.

If there are some people from work whom you would like to invite, treat them as friends and send the invitation to their home address (it's OK to ask for that), and don't discuss the wedding in front of those not invited.

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